While the vast majority of legal professionals operate under a strict moral and ethical code, unfortunately we still hear about cases where less scrupulous individuals take advantage of a family’s vulnerability by overcharging for estate administration services.
A recent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) saw a solicitor struck off for significantly overcharging his clients in relation to work carried out on estates. A sole practitioner based in Pembrokeshire was described by the SDT as having “blatantly abused his position of trust in the most despicable way”, with one client being charged 50 times the estimated fee of £2,000.
The issue of overcharging by the solicitor in question had already been raised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and following the finding of the SDT, the offending solicitor has now been struck off.
The case was described as ‘not conventional’ in that it didn’t involve overcharging simply by ‘padding out’ a bill. Instead, the solicitor had possession and direct control of large sums of money belonging to the client. Under the guise of charging legal fees to his clients, he was effectively stealing their money.
Tom Curran, Chief Executive at Kings Court Trust said: “This is a particularly concerning case, with the solicitor charging for work that bore no resemblance to what was actually undertaken. Unfortunately, incidents similar to this occur from time to time and do nothing to build the public’s confidence in seeking advice from a legal professional.
One of the fundamental issues is that the around 86% of high street solicitors are sole practitioners or firms with a small number of staff. Whilst the overwhelming majority of practitioners will closely follow the rules surrounding client monies, it can be relatively easy for an unscrupulous individual to act improperly without detection before it is too late. As one of the UK’s largest providers of estate administration services, Kings Court Trust has accurately distributed over £1 billion in inheritance and has rigorous compliance policies in place to ensure that no individual is ever solely responsible for dealing with client funds.
Our customers also tell us that knowing the price we charge for our service is fixed and guaranteed not to change is hugely important to them. It provides them with peace of mind and a transparent view of how we are working for them. Families tell us this is of great help at a time of uncertainty and stress.”
For more information on our fixed price estate administration service, contact our client services team on 0300 303 9000 or visit www.kctrust.co.uk.