Two sisters given a £100,000 windfall after their dad’s death have been forced to pay it all back – after an insurance company sent them the WRONG man’s money.
Elaine Briscoe and Sandy Millington received the six-figure cheque after a three year battle to track down the missing pension of Rob Gent.
They immediately split £40,000 between his four grandchildren – as former grave digger Rob had wanted – and spent around £20,000 more.
But within a month their joy turned to horror when Friends Life announced they had given them the pension belonging to another customer with the SAME name.
Two months later the pensions and insurance company threatened the sisters with legal action unless they handed it all back.
The devastated pair were forced to sell their father’s house – which they planned to keep as an investment – to repay the money they had spent.
They also had to borrow from friends and other relatives to make up the full amount of £108,895 and paid it all back within a year, by last October.
But Friends Life hauled them to court earlier this month and obtained an order to get even more from them – £6,000 in costs plus £1,000 in interest.
The company admitted making an error but said they were forced to launch legal action when the money was not immediately repaid.
Mum-of-two Sandy, 45, a teaching assistant from Stockton, Teeside, said: “It has just caused us untold issues and heartache.
“It has been horrendous and caused arguments within the family.”
She added: “We got quoted a point of law which says that no one should gain from a mistake, which we accept, but surely no one should have to pay for one either.
“We feel like Friends Life Group just did not want to listen to us.
“We did our best to get back the money as quickly as possible but it takes time.
“It feels as if they did not believe that we were trying our best to sort it out, it was extremely stressful and some people have stopped talking to us.”
Elaine, 48, who also has two children, from Newham Grange, Middlesborough, said: “We don’t care about the money, it’s about the injustice.
“After three years of looking for dad’s pension, we finally thought we had found it – although it was too late for him to enjoy.
“We thought it was all behind us but then we got the letter and it was like a bad dream.
“We just could not believe what we were reading.”
The sisters had spent three years in vain trying to get the pension for their dad after he
retired at the age of 65 in 2008.
They had still not managed to track it down by the time he died three years later but vowed to continue looking for it in his memory.
They were overjoyed when Friends Life sent the cheque to their solicitors in October 2013.
Friends Life Group said: “”In October 2013 a significant overpayment was made to the executors of Mr Gent’s estate on a claim.
“This was a result of human error.
“In November 2013, having established that this error had occurred, we contacted the executors’ solicitors to explain the situation, offer our apologies for the distress caused by the mistake, and to request repayment of the money that had been paid out through our error.
“We understand that requesting repayment of such a significant sum of money at a difficult time may have been upsetting for the family and we sincerely apologise for any distress caused.
“Given that the error had been discovered within a month and that the estate in question appeared to be of significant value, it was hoped that the matter could be rectified with the minimum inconvenience and distress.
“In response to our request for repayment of the money that had been paid out by mistake, the executors advised that the estate had already been distributed, and that accordingly the money would not be repaid.
“As per our standard procedures, we instructed our solicitors to take up the case on our behalf.
“Having failed to negotiate a settlement, we commenced legal proceedings, as a last resort.
“The main proceedings were concluded when the executors paid the full sum claimed.
“In January 2015 the court ordered that the executors make a further payment to cover a portion of the costs we incurred.”
They added: “We offer our unreserved apologies for the initial overpayment error and the subsequent distress this caused.
“It is regrettable that we were not able to resolve the situation amicably.
“Given the substantial nature of the overpayment, seeking repayment of the funds as per standard industry practice was necessary.
“We appreciate that financial matters of this nature require sensitive handling, which is why we only ever take legal action as a last resort.”