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Avoid financial tangles after a compensation payout

Correction and clarification - 8th April 2015

Following the publication of this article we have been contacted by Angela Nangle. We are sorry that Ms Nangle has taken offence at what was intended to be a sympathetic commentary. Ms Nangle has pointed out to us the following and requested rectification. She states that:

  1. The Council was informed about the personal injury trust on four occasions by her and by her personal injury solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, in 2009.

  2. The claim that the money was spent “on fine wine, fine food, male companionship and escorts” was made by the prosecution rather than her own legal team.

We are happy to provide the clarifications requested. However it is fair to point out that in the original article we stated: “Back in 2009, Ms. Nangle informed the local authorities in her home town that she would be receiving a large compensation settlement, over the £16,000 limit that would affect her ability to claim housing benefit”. According to the prosecution, in August 2013, Ms Nangle failed to declare that any money was being held in a trust fund on a review form.

The prosecution of Ms Nangle had to be stopped, according to the Council, as the result of a legal technicality. However the Council has stated that legal processes to recover the alleged overpayment from Ms Nangle are ongoing.

In an article in the Brighton Argus published on 25 March 2015 Ms Nangle is reported to have said that the money was spent on “…food, wine and, yes, one male escort – basically things I needed”. She is also reported to have said “The problem with a male escort, especially this one, is that it is akin to buying a huge slab of chocolate and one square is never going to be enough”.

Original Article - 30th January 2015

The case of woman who spent £50,000 of compensation in a misguided attempt to avoid losing her housing benefit should serve as a warning to us all according to Rebecca Brown and Dawn Joughin from Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors.

You may have seen in the national press this week the unfortunate case of Angela Nangle, a 62-year-old woman who blew £50,000 of a personal injury compensation settlement she had been awarded so she wouldn't lose her housing benefit.

Back in 2009, Ms. Nangle informed the local authorities in her home town that she would be receiving a large compensation settlement, over the £16,000 limit that would affect her ability to claim housing benefit. The compensation money was placed in a trust fund, with the intention that it would not be taken into account if her eligibility for benefits was re-assessed in future.

A review into her financial status was conducted by Ms. Nangle’s local authority in 2013, when council officers were surprised to note that she failed to declare that she had any money being held in the trust fund. Understandably, questions were asked by these officers, who discovered that in a misguided attempt to avoid losing her housing benefits, she had spent all of her compensation.

Perhaps the most surprising element of the case was the speed at which the money was spent, at a rate of up to £3,000 a day. In little over a month between May 27 and June 29 2012 Ms. Nangle withdrew all £50,000 from her trust fund, spending it, in the words of her legal team “on fine wine, fine food, male companionship and escorts.”

Despite blowing through her cash, “because it was more trouble than it was worth to keep it”, Ms. Nangle’s efforts to dispose of the case seemed to have been in vain, as she found herself in court late last year on a charge of failing to notify the authorities of a change in her circumstances.

Legal and financial advice on large compensation payouts

This intriguing case should serve as a reminder to anyone who is currently making a compensation claim of the importance of getting professional financial advice on what to do with your money in the event of a successful claim. Often receiving a large amount of money can have unintended consequences and it is vital you get the proper advice to allow you to plan for your future without having to worry about whether your entitlement to claim benefits has been affected.

Here at Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors, we asked Rebecca Brown, a Solicitor from our Personal Injury Law team for her thoughts on this case:

“This is an odd situation where the lady and her legal team did the right thing in setting up a personal injury trust to safeguard her compensation but then made the mistake of not telling the housing benefit department that she had her compensation held in a ‘trust’.

I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for her as £50,000 compensation means she probably had a serious accident. She might have gotten a bit confused - I know from my professional experience that lots of people can't quite believe they can still claim benefits despite receiving a big lump sum of compensation.

A trust is a legally valid way of protecting money received in a personal injury case. Although the money has to be declared when claiming housing benefits or DWP benefits, the money is then ‘ignored’ when the benefit calculation is made.

There is an initial cost of setting up the trust fund when the claim settles (usually less than £1000) but it can quickly become cost effective as the accident victim can still claim their various benefits.”

Dawn Joughin, Head of our Wills & Probate department, who has extensive experience setting up trusts for clients who have received Personal Injury compensation, added her views, saying:

“In my view, the woman in this particular case hasn’t committed an offence under the Social Security Fraud Act 2001 as she could argue that the change in her circumstances is, in the words of that Act, ‘a change that is excluded by regulations from the changes that are required to be notified’.

That is of course, provided that she placed her compensation monies in a Personal Injury trust. As long as the monies were in a trust then they would be excluded from any calculations done by her local authority that could affect her housing benefit. She could also have held a portion of the compensation money in a normal bank account, provided that amount was below the £10,000 lower capital limit.

As a Personal Injury Trust lawyer, one thing I did note about this case was the apparent ease with which the woman was able to withdraw money from her trust. Usually a trust should have between 2 and 4 trustees who should keep records of the amounts withdrawn by a beneficiary or beneficiaries and what that money is to be spent on.”

For advice on Personal Injury Claims and Personal Injury Trusts, speak to the Solicitors and legally-qualified experts at Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors today by calling 0151 239 1000.

By Rebecca Brown