Have YOU been ROBBED of an in­her­i­tance by a bungling BANK?

As haunt­ing story of a Holo­caust sur­vivor’s for­got­ten £130,000 trig­gers a ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tion . . .

Daily Mail - - Money Mail - by Victoria Bischoff v.bischoff@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

AMA­JOR in­ves­ti­ga­tion into in­her­i­tance pay­outs has been launched af­ter a bank dis­cov­ered it was sit­ting on al­most £130,000 be­long­ing to a Holo­caust sur­vivor who died 12 years ago.

San­tander is trawl­ing through data­bases af­ter re­al­is­ing it failed to con­tact the man’s solic­i­tor about two of his five ac­counts.

The bank ad­mits to poor record-keep­ing and fears it may have left other fam­i­lies or ex­ecu­tors of wills in the dark. A spokesman re­fused to say how many could be af­fected, but Money Mail un­der­stands other banks may have made sim­i­lar er­rors.

In some cases, be­reaved fam­i­lies could re­ceive thou­sands of pounds in in­ter­est to cover the de­lays.

The heart-rend­ing story of Karl Leno­bel, who spent much of his child­hood in Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps, is one of the first to emerge. Karl was cap­tured as a teenager in Vi­enna with his par­ents and moved from camp to camp un­til the war ended in 1945.

He sur­vived, but his par­ents per­ished at the hands of the Nazis. The last thing he re­mem­bered his mother say­ing be­fore she died was to look af­ter his older sis­ter, Kather­ine, who’d es­caped to Bri­tain be­fore war broke out.

So, when Kather­ine’s hus­band died in the Nineties, Karl, who had em­i­grated to Amer­ica to work as a sea merchant, moved to Lon­don. He stayed there un­til he died, aged 84, in Oc­to­ber 2004.

Be­cause nei­ther he nor Kather­ine, who’d passed away six months ear­lier, had chil­dren of their own, Karl left most of his sav­ings to three chil­dren’s char­i­ties.

He told his solic­i­tor, Geoffrey Green­house, that be­cause he hadn’t had a child­hood, he wanted to help make sure oth­ers didn’t miss out. Karl had been a pru­dent saver and in­vested the money he’d ac­cu­mu­lated over the years in the stock mar­ket.

His sis­ter had left him her life sav­ings to pass on to the char­i­ties, too. MR

GReeN­HOUSe acted on Karl’s wishes to the let­ter, clos­ing the three San­tander ac­counts in his will and dis­tribut­ing the money. Yet, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, the bank failed to in­form Karl’s solic­i­tor about two other ac­counts in his name.

Mr Green­house had no idea these ac­counts even ex­isted un­til last Novem­ber, when he re­ceived a let­ter from San­tander stat­ing that there was £127,338 in two In­stant Saver ac­counts be­long­ing to Karl.

The bank had made a note on the ac­counts that Karl had died, but had failed to con­tact Mr Green­house — even though it had his de­tails on file.

San­tander says the prob­lems first came to light around 18 months ago, when it be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing ways to im­prove its treat­ment of be­reaved cus­tomers, prompted by Money Mail’s Look­ing Af­ter Your Legacy cam­paign, which high­lighted the dif­fi­cul­ties griev­ing fam­i­lies face deal­ing with de­parted loved ones’ fi­nances.

The bank dis­cov­ered dor­mant ac­counts with what are known as ‘de­ceased in­di­ca­tors’ on them. This meant it knew the cus­tomers had died, but noth­ing had been done to dis­trib­ute the money in the ac­counts.

Now, the bank is work­ing to get those funds to the right peo­ple by trac­ing rel­a­tives and the solic­i­tors in charge of the es­tates and urg­ing them to get in touch.

The let­ter sent to Mr Green­house in Novem­ber says: ‘We write to in­form you that the ac­counts of the late Mr Karl Leno­bel are still open. We re­alise this is a very sen­si­tive mat­ter and we’re sorry for any dis­tress this let­ter may cause, how­ever we’d like to un­der­stand what you want us to do with the ac­counts.’

The bank re­quested that Mr Green­house com­plete the en­closed pro­bate form and re­turn it in a pre­paid en­ve­lope, along with a copy of his ID.

When Mr Green­house ques­tioned why the bank had not no­ti­fied him sooner, San­tander wrote: ‘Fol­low­ing an in-depth re­view of a num­ber of ac­counts, we found that some cus­tomers who are now de­ceased had money held in their ac­counts which was not paid out to their next of kin or es­tate af­ter their death. Please ac­cept my sin­cere apolo­gies for any dis­tress this may have caused.’

The bank is adding in­ter­est of 8 pc a year and says it will pay any rea­son­able ex­penses, such as for tax ad­vice. In Karl’s case, the in­ter­est has boosted his to­tal balance to £ 219,941 af­ter tax. Mr Green­house, of Green­house Stir­ton & Co Solic­i­tors in Lon­don, be­gan his ca­reer spe­cial­is­ing in re­unit­ing Holo­caust sur­vivors and their fam­i­lies with money in Ger­man and Swiss bank ac­counts.

He says: ‘I was wor­ried they thought I hadn’t done my job prop­erly, but the bank knew he had died — I’d closed three other ac­counts there. These char­i­ties should have had this money years ago. Karl also left some of his es­tate to the chil­dren of a man who had sur­vived the camps with him, so they will get a small share, too.’

Sue Wil­lis, direc­tor sim­pli­fi­ca­tion for San­tander UK, says: ‘ We recog­nise that the ser­vice we pro­vided the late Mr Leno­bel’s es­tate was not good enough. We are sorry for this.

‘It was a re­view of our pro­bate and be­reave­ment pro­cesses, in part trig­gered by the cam­paign run by Money Mail, that led us to iden­tify that two of Mr Leno­bel’s ac­counts were still open.

‘Los­ing a loved one is, of course, a dis­tress­ing time. We have re­de­fined our ser­vice fo­cus­ing on what the be­reaved cus­tomer needs at this time. Changes we have now put in place mean that the mis­takes we made in man­ag­ing Mr Leno­bel’s es­tate af­ter his death can­not be re­peated.’

San­tander has had prob­lems with miss­ing ac­counts be­fore. In 2012, Money Mail re­vealed that savers were be­ing fobbed off when they tried to with­draw cash from old pass­book ac­counts.

The bank ac­cused cus­tomers of with­draw­ing funds years ear­lier but, in many cases, later dis­cov­ered the sav­ings did still ex­ist. Many cus­tomers had pass­books from Abbey and Al­liance & Leicester, which San­tander took over in 2004 and 2008, re­spec­tively.

In the case of the dor­mant ac­counts be­long­ing to de­ceased cus­tomers, San­tander will con­tinue to send let­ters chas­ing the next of kin to take ac­tion.

If it re­ceives no re­sponse af­ter sev­eral at­tempts at con­tact, the money will go to the Govern­ment.

Claims can still be made if rel­a­tives were to come for­ward at a later date.

For more in­for­ma­tion, call San­tander’s ded­i­cated line for be­reaved cus­tomers on 0800 587 5870, or write to: Be­reave­ment Cen­tre, PO Box 524, Brad­ford BD1 5ZH.

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