67 year-old Marlene Howes of Gloucester has been battling the courts to prove she did not commit benefit fraud. Back in 2005 Howes received an inheritance from her mother, an inheritance that she failed to notify the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions about. Despite the inheritance funds, Howes continued to receive pension credits for 7 years.
How did she justify her situation? Howes insisted that the funds had been left with the express intent of caring for her mother’s 14 Persian cats and kittens in order to ensure they had the “best of everything.” During the time in court, Howes was able to provide bank statements proving that all the inheritance funds had been used for was to provide care for the cats. In fact, she had spent approximately $287 per week for general care and nearly $48,000 on vet bills over those 7 years. She also built on additional space to her home to provide the cats with more living space and greater comfort.
The judge felt that Howes was not trying to be dishonest by not reporting the inheritance and that she did, in fact, use the funds only for the care of the pets according to her mother’s wishes. She was cleared of the charges of benefit fraud.
While we can not speak to the laws of the United Kingdom, this is somewhat similar to a situation that we have seen here recently in the United States. Michigan woman Amanda Clayton won a $1 million lottery and yet she continued to receive government aid through food stamps. She stated that “I thought they would cut me off, but since they didn’t, I thought maybe it was okay because I’m not working.” She also claimed that it was acceptable because she has two houses, no income and bills to pay. Unfortunately for her, those answers were unacceptable and she was removed from assistance as soon as this was discovered. In fact, a law is being passed to requires states to cross check the names of lottery winners over $1,000 to see if they are receiving government benefits.
The major difference here is that Howes was able to prove that the funds were intended and used for purposes other than her own care. That is what allowed her to continue receiving benefits and avoid penalties. Now, if her mother had set up a pet trust to dictate the exact amount to go to the cats and what manner of care was to be provided, the entire court proceeding could have been avoided. In fact, the funds could be protected under a trust to ensure they were not even under Howes’ name.
Most of us do not have situations such as these. However, it is important to ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes – whether you wish it to go to your children, your pets or a charity, it is your decision! For more information on how an MH Living Trust can protect and distribute your assets according to your wishes, contact us today at 888.222.1328.
Why Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall? First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters. Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones. We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership. If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.