Tens of millions of people love to place bets and wagers every year in the United Kingdom. Sadly, some of them die after placing those bets but before the outcome of the event that has been bet on is known. Somewhat unsurprisingly, what happens to the bets and the associated money is a somewhat complex affair, largely dictated by the terms and conditions of the bookmaker that the bet was placed with.
Claiming exisiting winnings or an account balance is straight forward, you simply need to inform the betting company of the death, send in a death certificate and prove you have the power to manage the estate. Following this money is returned to the people inheriting that persons estate. Claiming exisiting bets can be more complicated.
In short, ante-post bets placed before someone dies are usually allowed to go ahead as normal. They can be made void if the bookie is informed of their user’s death before the event has started, but often they will run as normal and if they win then the winnings will be added to the person’s estate. If no one is able to claim the winnings then the account is treated as a dormant one, with administrative fees charged until the money runs out.
What Happens To Ante-Post Bets
Ante-post bets are ones that a placed ahead of time. Often this can be as early as the following day or as far in advance as years or even decades. As long as a bookmaker is offering you odds on such an outcome, there’s a chance that you could win some money by placing the bet, even if you have to wait a while to find out if your selection was victorious or not.
Sadly, some people pass away before the event that the bet has been placed on actually happens. The decision to place such a bet was likely based on the fact that the odds on ante-post bets are usually longer than bets placed on the same day as the event occurs, but that is obviously not much use if the punter dies before it’s settled.
What happens in such an instant is entirely dependent on the terms and conditions that the bookmaker that the wager was placed with offer their customers. The placing of a bet forms a contract between the bettor and the company accepting the wager. These Ts & Cs can often be complex, with all sorts of addendums and alterations depending on certain things happening.
Most betting companies will have a default position of saying that the contract allows such a wager to be passed on to another person as part of the deceased’s will. This means that the stake cannot automatically be refunded but the recipient of the bet can claim the winnings if the thing that the person placed their wager on ends up being victorious.
Things become more complex if the bookmaker in question decides to add something to the terms of their contract that declares all contracts are terminated in the event of death. In this instance, a cancellation is activated automatically on the instance of a customer’s death, even if the company isn’t notified about it for some time.
In the event that, for example, an accumulator bet was placed on a Wednesday for the weekend’s football and the bettor dies on the Friday, the contract is terminated on the Friday. If the bet ends up being a winning one it doesn’t matter, with the wager declared void and the stake money returned to the account.
Not all bookies will pay out winnings, though which one is preferable will likely depend on the outcome of the event. Given that you can’t eat your cake and have it too, it makes sense that you’re unable to cancel the bet if it’s a loser but let it ride and take the payout if it wins. If the terms and conditions say that the stake doesn’t even need to be returned then there’s not much that can be done.
What Happens To Unclaimed Winnings?
The above scenario is one in which the relative or person named in the will is aware that a bettor had an account with outstanding bets attached before they passed away. If, however, this is something that goes unnoticed then the situation is quite different. Without the ability to claim winnings or money in an account, what happens to it?
If the bet placed on an ante-post market ends up being a winning one then the winnings would obviously just be paid into the account of the bettor. After all, it’s not as though you need to claim winnings like you would on bets placed in a shop. If the bookmaker has not been informed of the account holder’s passing then certain things will take place after some time.
Firstly, it will be flagged up to the brand by an internal system that the account has money in it but that it hasn’t been used for a given amount of time. In this instance, the company will attempt to contact the account holder using the contact details that they gave when signing up. Obviously a family member or friend could then find out about the account.
If that doesn’t happen, however, then the company will usually try to deposit the winnings back to the account that the customer used to deposit funds. How long it is until this happens will vary from operaror to operator according to their own rules, of course. If the bank account has been closed because of the person’s death, the chances are that the company will wait 12 months.
After a year of inactivity on an account, bookmakers usually reclassify it for the purposes of their own internal accounting. What this will do is allow the bookie to charge a fee for the maintenance of the account, which is usually taken from the money in the account’s wallet. Obviously this is done to protect the money of a player who isn’t dead but perhaps just forgot about the account.
This process will simply continue until such a point as the account’s balance hits zero, with all of the money taken going towards the company’s profit margin. At the point that the money runs out, the account will be taken off the dormant list and instead closed down permanently. All of this will be explained clearly in a bookies’ Terms & Conditions.
Can You Claim Back Losing Stake Money?
Not all ante-post bets will be winners. Some people will find out about their friend or relative’s account and get in touch with the bookmaker that hosts it, letting them know about the person’s passing. What happens at this point will once again be determined by the rules and regulations set out by the betting company in their small print.
Because the deceased entered into an agreement with the bookmaker, most of them will allow the bets to stand unless it can be proved that they were impaired at the time that they placed the wager. Most of the time they will cancel future bets but ones that have already been settled will stand. That isn’t something that they’re obliged to do, however.
Given that the customer entered into the contract when they placed the bets, bookies are allowed to let them ride even after they’ve been informed of the bettor’s death. Claiming back lost stake money is virtually impossible, if for no other reason than bookmaker’s aren’t obliged to give the stake money back and are run as businesses.
Bets Placed In Physical Shops
Things are complicated even further in the event that a bet was placed in a physical betting shop. This is, in many ways, the more likely occurrence given the fact that it tends to be older people who bet in person and older people are obviously more susceptible to illness and the ravages of time. If you wish to void a bet or claim winnings, you’ll need the betting slip.
The reason it becomes more complex is that betting shops are, in essence, an anonymous enterprise. Whilst people can sign up for accounts that allow them to combine their bets in shops with online accounts, you don’t have to. The person that places the bet doesn’t need to be the one that collects the winnings and in the case of the bigger bookies you don’t even need to return to the same shop.
If you want to do things legally, however, then you’ll need to inform the betting shop that the person who placed the bet has died and provide them with proof. The betting slips will usually then need to be sent away, along with a copy of the death certificate, in order for the company to be willing to pay the winnings to someone other than the person who placed the wager.
In some instances you might not actually be able to get hold of the betting slip, so you’ll instead need to provide proof that a bet was placed. This could be in the form of a photograph of the slip, which should be accepted as long as the Transaction ID is clearly visible. The funds can be added to the person’s estate, whilst losing bets will simply see the stake lost.
Providing Acceptable Documentation
If you’re hoping to claim the winnings from an ante-post bet that was placed whilst an account holder was alive but settled after their death, you’ll need to ensure that you provide acceptable identification and documentation to the company that accepted the bet. You will need to send the bookmaker proof of the account holder’s death, usually in the form of a death certificate.
Whoever has the right to lay claim to the monies of the deceased will then be able to claim the winnings from the bookmaker, unless their Terms & Conditions say otherwise. Most of the top sportsbook operators will allow winnings to be claimed, either directly by the relevant family member or else via the family’s solicitor. Both winnings and funds that are in accounts fall under this bracket.
If you cannot provide the bookmaker with valid documentation then the funds will go through the process described elsewhere on this page relating to unclaimed winnings. Obviously a bookie is unlikely to release funds to someone that has told them of the account holder’s passing but is unable to provide any sort of proof of the matter, after all.
Paying Inheritance Tax
The bad news for someone who has discovered that a friend or relative has won some money on an ante-post bet placed before they died is that it won’t be treated in the same way as if they had been alive to collect their winnings. Normal betting is not subject to tax for the player because operators have to pay a Point Of Consumption tax instead.
This means that any winnings gained from gambling are not classed as income, meaning that neither national insurance nor income tax has to be paid on it. Money from a betting account of a deceased person, however, will be subject to the laws surrounding inheritance tax. Obviously this requires the estate to be of a sufficient value (£325,000 at the time of writing) to move it over the threshold.
What About For Those Under 18?
There is an interesting quirk of law in the United Kingdom that says that someone under the age of 18 cannot place a bet, but could still be the beneficiary of gambling winnings. People aged 17 or younger are only allowed to gamble if they do so on the National Lottery, with standard sportsbook betting an illegal activity for them to take part in.
If, however, a young person is the one that an estate has been left to by someone who has passed away and that estate includes ante-post betting slips, the person can be paid the winnings from those bets. Money that is in a betting account, whether it has been deposited there or is the result of a winning bet, is classed as cash.
That means that the money in a gambling account is classed as part of a person’s estate, regardless of who it is that the estate is left to. Obviously no one would wish for someone to die in order for them to benefit from a gambling win under the age of 18, but the law means that they would do regardless.
Dementia and Other Applicable Conditions
Someone does not necessarily need to die for you to need to access their gambling winnings. One example would be someone that develops a condition such as dementia.
In most cases people with these conditions will appoint someone with power of attorney. If you have power of attorney you can ask a betting company to pay out an account balance or winnings on their behalf. What you cannot do is bet on their behalf but you can claim the money.
If you think someone with a condition such as this has been betting and they shouldn’t (because they have diminished responsibility) then you can ask a betting company to refund stakes. This will require medical proof that the person was not of sound mind when they entered into the ‘contract’ with the betting company. The company will need to accept the person in question has lost their legal capacity.