There are a lot of different solicitors out there. One of these types of solicitor is a probate solicitor, and these are the people who are experts in dealing with any kind of probate dispute – no surprises there!
Unfortunately, this is not always realised, and there was a case recently when a woman hired a firm of lawyers to help her dispute a claim that had been made by family members regarding a will. She had been left a large sum of money, and the family members deemed it to be unfair. They disputed the will, and it went to court. So of course, the woman in question was right to hire a solicitor to help her. The problem was that she had hired a firm of conveyancing solicitors (those who help with the buying and selling of property), instead of probate solicitors. This caused a big problem for everyone involved.
The firm was not licenced to work on probate or litigation situations, but lawyers went ahead anyway. Unfortunately for the woman who hired them, the firm went into liquidation soon afterwards, so although they should have paid the fee (£87,000) back to the estate, they cannot, and it falls to the person who hired them to do so. This money should have been kept in a safe account, but it was moved to the general account of the conveyancing firm and lost when the business closed.
This equates to around £550 an hour.
Buying or selling a new home can be fraught with complications and stress at the best of times. Having an offer accepted is only the first stage in what is often a lengthy legal conveyancing process.
But what happens if the death of either party occurs after contracts have been exchanged but before completion has taken place?
If it is the seller who dies unexpectedly before completion, it may be that the transaction can still go ahead, with the buyer asking the deceased’s personal representatives to sign the transfer deed.
It’s not all good news, however. A transfer cannot be registered without proof of the grant of probate. In turn, the grant will not be issued until probate has been processed – a procedure which can take up to several months.
For buyers who incur substantial costs as a result of having completion delayed, a claim can be made for compensation.
Unfortunately, in cases where the buyer dies before completion, the conveyancing process cannot continue. The buyer’s representatives will not be able to carry it through to the final stage and neither they, nor the deceased, can be registered as proprietor of the property, which is required in order to complete.
In such instances, the contract is considered to be “frustrated” (or unable to remain legally binding), due to the death of the buyer.