Consumer Champion
Katie Morley
Woman holding five children in her arms
Our reader became a widow with five children after her husband passed away unexpectedly  Credit: Veronica Grech for The Telegraph

Dear Katie,

Without warning, my husband died suddenly of a heart attack on May 1 this year. He was just 33. We have five young children and I am left to look after them on my own. I will also have to pay our outstanding mortgage of nearly £300,000. I am in a state of utter shock. This is the sort of thing that you imagine only happens to other people, but it has happened to me.

That said, we had planned for this eventuality by taking steps to protect one another financially. We had put in place a life insurance policy with Vitality, which we took out in 2015 when we bought our first house.

My husband had always assured me that this would pay off the mortgage if either of us died. But when I tried to claim on the policy I had a nasty shock. Vitality told me that despite the fact that ours was a joint policy in both our names, my husband was the sole “owner” and therefore his estate would be the beneficiary of the payout.

This means that instead of going directly to paying off the mortgage, it has gone to probate, and will be paid to his business which unfortunately has some large debts outstanding. By the time these are paid, there may not be much of the £300,000 payout left to pay off the mortgage.

Being a full-time mum of five children, I cannot work, which means I won’t be able to pay off the mortgage in full. Consequently I will end up losing our family home. I feel Vitality has been very misleading with the way the policy was set up and has misrepresented our wishes.

It was very clear, from our point of view, that it was to be set up as a husband and wife joint policy to enable the surviving spouse to pay off the mortgage. On our application form a box is ticked to confirm the policy is connected to our mortgage, and the payout is shown to decrease in line with the mortgage balance. It makes absolutely no sense to have set up the policy for it to be paid into the estate of just one person.

Our financial adviser believes our intentions were made sufficiently clear to Vitality from the outset and has been petitioning Vitality on my behalf, but with no success. This has been a nightmare on top of a nightmare, and I just don’t know what to do. I’d be so grateful for anything you could do to help.

– Anon

Dear Anon,

When you and your family hunkered down together at the start of the lockdown, you never thought you’d be emerging at the other side a single parent, grieving for your beloved husband. But you did, and I cannot even begin to imagine the pain you have suffered. It is so much to bear.

三级成人视频Your five children have just lost their father and you are having to carry on washing, feeding and clothing them to maintain a sense of normality and stability. You have your work cut out, to say the least.

三级成人视频I was angered to see that you had been royally stitched up over this life insurance policy. You and your husband originally set it up specifically to pay off the mortgage if one of you died. It is crystal clear from the forms you have shared with me that this was the intention.

三级成人视频Yet, unbeknown to you, the policy was also set up to enable the joint policy to be owned by one person, your husband. You feel this contradicts the very essence of a joint policy and I am inclined to agree. You say the significance of ticking this box was never emphasised or made clear to either of you when the policy application was submitted.

三级成人视频You have complained to Vitality with the help of your financial adviser, but it wasn’t budging. I asked you if this financial adviser was the one who sold you the policy, and you said that yes, he was. He was a friend of your husband’s, although you say you don’t know him quite so well.

三级成人视频As your appointed representative with specialist knowledge of mortgage-related insurance policies, you were paying him to ensure this policy was set up in the right way. He would have helped you fill in the application form and should have checked it thoroughly for mistakes.

I have checked with Vitality, which confirmed that on your application form, a box was actively ticked to say the policy was to be owned solely by your husband. You and your husband couldn’t have been expected to understand the significance of this as you have no financial training, but your adviser should have. Ensuring you avoided a perilous mistake such as this one was the main reason for his existence in the application process.

三级成人视频He had one job and it appears to me that he has failed at it. That said, I have no reason to think that his mistake was intentional. In fact, I imagine he is mortified to have let you down in this way. He has offered to help you fight Vitality to put this right, but perhaps unsurprisingly, has got you nowhere. So here you are, asking me for help.

I took your case to Vitality, explaining your predicament, and it investigated it again as an urgent priority. It said that due to the way the policy had been set up it was legally bound as to how and where it could pay out the money. As per the instructions received on your application form, the money must go through probate and then into your husband’s estate. As it stands, it cannot be used to pay off your mortgage straight away.

Recognising that this would come as a devastating blow, Vitality has offered you an upfront sum of £10,000 to help you pay your mortgage in the short term. You have accepted this money, although you know it won’t solve your longer-term problem of paying off the mortgage in full. I asked you if you wanted me to confront your financial adviser about what happened, but due to the sensitive nature of the situation, you didn’t want me to.

To my mind, the only way you can solve your problem of paying off the mortgage is to put in an official complaint to this financial adviser. Once you know the size of your losses as a result of the £300,000 payout going into the business, instead of straight into your mortgage, you could demand to be fully compensated for this, plus interest.

三级成人视频I know it will be awkward, and this isn’t what you wanted, but I’m struggling to see another way forward for you here. The adviser will have public liability insurance in place to cover the cost of customer claims such as this. If your claim is upheld, the insurer will put up the money to compensate you. If the claim fails there is always the Financial Ombudsman, or you could take legal action. If you feel you need guidance and advice through this process, I have offered my full and ongoing support.

This nightmare is truly the last thing you need to be dealing with right now, as you move through the hardest period you will probably ever endure. Each time we’ve spoken on the phone I’ve been taken aback by your sense of calm and your practical approach to life.

I hear your children playing in the background, and I’m full of admiration for you, thinking what a strong person you must be to cope with all this. I suppose none of us know how robust we are until we’re really put to the test. Once this financial mess is fixed I hope you can rebuild your life and, in time, find happiness again.

The full Katie Morley Investigates column will appear in print every Saturday and Sunday. You can get an early taste every Friday at 12:00