Probate solicitor complaint sees pensioner evicted
It was recently reported in the Lancashire press, that a pensioner is having to sell his home, following complaints he made about a probate solicitor.
Mr Paul Cowdrey from Rochdale, felt that his probate solicitor was billing him for too many hours during the probate process following the death of his father. He sought assistance from Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk – but was then dismayed to find that he was also being billed by the same solicitor, for the investigation of his complaint.
Mr Cowdrey's final bill arrived at £130,000 – meaning he is having to sell his home, which formed part of his late father's inheritance, in order to pay the bill.
Although the battle reached the attention of the Prime Minister, Mr Danczuk was informed that Mr Cowdrey's solicitor was perfectly entitled to invoice for the work he put in, as part of the investigation.
The legal regulators, the "Solicitors Regulation Authority" (SRA), have subsequently written to Mr Danczuk to apologise, but state that they in fact are unable to do anything about this large bill and its knock on effect, as the solicitor has worked entirely within the law.
In a last ditch attempt to rectify matters, the Prime Minister is trying to arrange a meeting between Mr Danczuk and the minister for legal services, to discuss any potential remaining options.
The firm of solicitors in question has posted a public response on its website, criticising Mr Danczuk and the SRA about which, it says it is making a separate complaint. It emphasises that it acted within the law at all times and states that it will be seeking a public apology from Mr Danczuk, via the Speaker of the House.
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.
With the Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme due to open for applications on 31 October, it appears that Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) practices are not in themselves regulated well enough in order to gain the trust of the consumer.
The scheme is encouraging such law firms to sign up, in order to offer additional security for the person looking for will writing and probate services – presumably in the absence of any current enforced regulations within our specific industry.
It offers SRA practices relevant guidelines and requires them to undertake compulsory training.
Whilst I feel that regulation is absolutely the way forward for the will writing and probate industry, this particular step by the Law Society does seem rather short sighted. Closing themselves off from other practitioners within the sector (and remember, there are many types of practitioners – not just law firms and solicitors), I ask why it feels there is a need for additional regulation when its firms are already regulated?
If you look in the newspapers most weeks, you’ll see why. Inevitably, you’ll find articles relating to individual solicitors who have been charged with misconduct or fraud – hardly great press for the legal eagles.
I suspect that when regulation is introduced – and I fully believe that it will at some point – this particular scheme, which will have cost the Law Society no small sum, will fall by the wayside.
Rather than the legal sector trying to differentiate and promote itself in this way, why not work together with accountants and independent professionals to offer a high level of service to all clients?
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a professional to prepare a will or carry out probate, just be sensible. Ask your friends and family. Research relevant, self-regulated specialists on the web and ensure they offer clear, fixed fees – check out any good or bad reviews. The internet can be exceptionally revealing so if there are any complaints about the firm, you’ll be likely to find them very easily!
As a businessperson as well as a probate professional, it makes perfect sense to me, to cater for public demand as much as possible.
I am confused therefore, to learn that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has decided to withdraw its genealogical tracing service, due to unforeseen demand.
The problem as far as I can tell is that its call centre is struggling to cope with the amount of calls received, so instead of identifying and allocating additional resources, it has instead decided to shut down the service.
The service level self-imposed by the SRA was to answer a call within 60 seconds (which seems a long time to me, anyway). However, research showed that only 17% of calls were being answered within this time.
In future, all genealogical tracing calls will be dealt with by the Law Society library, leaving the SRA call centre to focus instead on its other, presumably less popular services. If you need help with Genealogy services please do not hesitate to get in touch
Research released yesterday by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has revealed that thirty out of the top two hundred law firms in England and Wales are considered to be financially unstable. Contrary to the confidence they normally attract in clients or at least seem to portray to the public, the SRA has put in place immediate supervision for all 30 of these law firms which have not yet been named. 160 law firms are now known to be in what is known as “intensive engagement” with the SRA, with eight considered to be at “immediate risk” of collapse. This shocking revelation comes at a time when solicitors are campaigning to limit probate activities solely to law firms. An opinion which has always been contested by professional probate practitioners such as IWC and one which it appears, will do little to serve the purpose of regulation.