probate process

Mistake in will leads to Supreme Court dispute

Mistake in will leads to Supreme Court dispute

A mistake in a will has led to a family disagreement which has now led to a Supreme Court dispute.

It is a shame that Alfred and Maureen Rawling's kind heartedness has led to this awful disagreement.  Terry Marley, a school friend of the couple's son Michael, was taken in as a teenager and treated for over 30 years as a member of the family, although he was never formally adopted.

Mrs Rawling died in 2003, with Mr Rawling's death occurring in 2006.  At that time, it was revealed that Terry had been left the entire estate, which included £70,000 and the £400,000 family home.  The couple's real sons were understandably upset at this discovery and it was at this time, it emerged that Mr and Mrs Rawling's solicitor had mistakenly allowed them to sign each other's will, so there was no valid testator signature, making the wills technically invalid.

Although Terry offered to share the £70,000 among the three "sons", the other two declined, insisting that if the wills were indeed valid, then the estate would need to be classed as intestate, and they alone would automatically be the beneficiaries.

A lengthy court case then began, which last week saw Terry's request to have it heard in the Supreme Court, granted. 

So far then, the probate process has taken seven years, with all assets remaining frozen until a legal decision has been reached.

Probate solicitor stole money over 12 years

 

A probate solicitor and coroner from Cheltenham stole over £2m from clients over 12 years, it has been revealed.

Alan Crickmore, who ran his own legal practice in the town, in addition to undertaking the role of coroner for Gloucestershire, used the money to fund a lifestyle which was well beyond his means.

It is believed that Mr Crickmore, who was regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, dealt with probate and the winding up of estates. However, instead of supporting executors through the probate process and ensuring that all debts and beneficiaries were paid accordingly, he siphoned off some of the money.

The investigation, which took over two years to complete, revealed that the solicitor was guilty of at least 24 charges of theft and fraud, taking money out of the company to fund exotic cruises and the purchase of a house in the country. He used the misappropriated money which should have gone to beneficiaries, to balance the books at work.

Unfortunately, although he was suspended from his role as coroner at the very beginning of the investigation, it was later discovered that he continued to be paid his £60,000 salary.

Personally, I am astounded not only at the length of time it took to bring Mr Crickmore to justice, but also that the fact he was effectively given an extended holiday with pay rather than actually being suspended, was overlooked. He will be sentenced later this month.

Banks sign up to probate protocol

How many times have you heard of banks and building societies dragging their heels during the probate process?
 
This problem has been addressed in recent weeks, with several regulatory bodies including the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), supporting a new protocol, which will go some way towards regulating communication between banks and estate practitioners during the vulnerable probate period, allowing practitioners to have more power over when and how a bank or building society should release assets held by the deceased.
 
Major financial institutions including Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, LloydsTSB, Halifax and NatWest have all signed the new protocol.
 
This move should mean that with smaller, less complex estates especially, executors and beneficiaries should see estates being wound up and assets released faster.

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