Inheritance Professional Negligence
Can a Solicitor be sued for not preparing or executing a will properly?
If someone in ill health wants to leave money or assets to a friend or family member and they ask a Solicitor to prepare a will promptly, there is a reasonable expectation from the client that those instructions will be carried out in a timely manner. If unfortunately, the Solicitor delays drafting the will and it has not been completed or signed prior to death then the potential beneficiary may be able to bring a claim against the Solicitor for his negligence in not preparing or executing the will in time.
This is one example of how a Solicitor or will writer can make an error giving rise to a claim in professional negligence.
A further example is where the beneficiary to a will who has a reasonable expectation therefore of receiving money or assets, actually receives nothing due to errors in the technical drafting which allow a successful challenge to take place by a third party. These situations are becoming more common, as more and more contentious probate actions are being begun in the High Court.
Of course not all professional negligence actions in probate matters arise specifically around entitlement. Some actions are those brought by the estate when a large proportion of the assets being inherited could have been adequately protected against taxation or duties by the appropriate use of financial vehicles or instruments.
Often the Solicitors who drafted the will have been specifically instructed to minimise exposure of the estate and sometimes not. There is however, a duty on Solicitors to act in the best interests of their clients and this necessitates giving appropriate investment advice (even if not specifically asked for) where possible or arranging that such advice is available to the client by a third party professional such as an Independent Financial Advisor.
Such claims require a high degree of technical ability and we at Applebys have the necessary resources to be able to advise on breaches in this area. Bring your estate issues to us and we can discuss the same with you on a free of charge assessment basis.
Mistakes or misadministration in Probate
Solicitors acting as administrators for estates often find themselves in a situation where the costs of administration outweigh the advantages to the beneficiaries of the estate. For example 3 hours of a Grade A Solicitor’s time at £250.00 per hour in cancelling a subscription for a magazine with an annual cost of £12.00 is unlikely to be regarded as professional negligence by the Courts but is likely to be regarded as very poor service by the beneficiaries. The issue is not really one of the effective costs of employing a Solicitor (unless such costs are manifestly excessive) but one of “has that Solicitor made the appropriate decisions in the management of the estate”.
If a Solicitor has made use of investment products which carry a high degree of risk. Or financial products have been selected without appropriate advice or with too much dependence being placed on inappropriate advice, then a Professional Negligence action is definitely intimated.