Thursday, November 05, 2009

Consumer warning on wills : Don't make your lawyer your executor as soaring cases of 'will fraud' show Law Society closes ranks on complaints

Will fraud bkIf you made your lawyer an executor in your will, think again. Anyone who has written a will, making their lawyer an executor, either in a sole or joint position with another, are being urged to take immediate action to change their choice of executors after leaked complaints details revealed a huge rise in serious fraud committed by solicitors and other professionals against dead clients affairs they are charged with managing.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland 'regularly whitewashed complaints against solicitors acting as executors'. Figures revealed on fraud against wills reveal the Law Society of Scotland, the governing body of all Scottish solicitors, has blocked or dismissed up to 80% of complaints made against lawyers who have seriously mishandled the estates of their dead clients, and in many cases committed serious fraud with large sums of money simply going unaccounted for and families losing out on rightful inheritances from their loved ones.

The remaining 20% of complaints made against 'crooked lawyers' who have plundered the affairs of their one trusting, now deceased clients, usually end up in 'slap on the wrist' punishments with small fines or a weak reprimand, with the offending solicitor allowed to continue working, and only in the highest profile cases, do solicitors find themselves facing criminal charges, due to a policy of reluctance by the Crown Office to pursue members of the legal profession who actively, and it seems routinely commit crime.

A spokeswoman for one of Scotland's consumer organisations today recommended that if a member of the public has written a will and appointed their solicitor or accountant as their executor, they should immediately reconsider their choice, preferably appointing someone closer to them by way of a relative, setting out clearly a set of instructions and a timeline by which an executor should handle the duties set out in writing in the will.

She said : "Given we are seeing an ever rising tide of fraud committed by professionals such as solicitors & accountants who are openly abusing their position as trusted executors of dead client's estates, I would recommend that people take immediate steps to re-write their will, naming others more trustworthy as their executors.”

She continued : "Instead of appointing a lawyer you think you can trust as your executor, appoint someone closer to you such as a wife or another relative, ensuring there are clear written instructions on what they should do, how it should be done, exactly how much they can be paid for what they do if you feel they should be paid, and exactly how long it should take to wind up your affairs after death, passing on whatever it is you wish your family, friends, a charity etc to inherit, within a given length of time and with the minimum of fuss."

A legal insider today backed up the timely advice on wills, saying : "I am a solicitor, and I have clients who have written their wills with my firm. However I have refused all requests to be executor on an estate, and I can tell you from my own experience dealing with other legal firms in the cases of a deceased estate, there is no way I would ever appoint another solicitor to be my executor. It is a stupid move in today's society."

He continued : "Yes, it may be inevitable that a solicitor is needed to work on some aspects of a deceased’s estate, but for goodness sake, don’t put a lawyer in the driving seat of executor because that will almost always put a will in the slow lane for years to come, and cause problems far beyond any imagination.”

“To prevent problems, people should take the simple step of making someone they really trust as their executor, and giving them strict instructions and time limits on how their affairs should be handled. This is very easy to achieve, if people would only use a little common sense in making sure whoever they choose to appoint as executor is locked into a certain agreement on what they can and cannot do."

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanScotsman reported on Law Society’s protection of Andrew Penman who ruined estate. For years its been well known in the legal profession that handling a will is almost like having a license to steal because at the end of the day you know the Law Society will back solicitors up 100% against any complaints over what went wrong. Readers will be familiar with my own past on this issue, where a crooked lawyer by the name of Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darlng Solicitors, Kelso teamed up with an accountant (and executor), Norman Howitt now of Borders accountants JRW Group, to ruin my late father's estate, details of which can be read HERE here and HERE.

Many people, especially the elderly, can be lulled into a false sense of security by an oh-so-smart solicitor, making them believe believing their lawyer is always there to help them and will of course, act honestly after the client has died and do exactly what has been asked of them as an executor. Today however, some shocking examples of fraud committed by solicitors against their deceased client's wishes can be exposed :

Example 1

will photo stockSolicitor ripped off dead client & family, paid huge interest to his own Bank. An elderly man recently deceased had left his home, possessions & sizeable investments to his wife & family in what he obviously thought was a simple straight forward will, making the mistake of appointing his solicitor as his executor. The first thing the solicitor did was open up three overdraft accounts with a local High Street bank which coincidentally, the solicitor also deals with on a business & personal basis. Over the three years the solicitor took to process his deceased client's estate, the High Street Bank received a staggering £27,000 in interest alone on the overdraft accounts, despite there being no debts on the deceased’s estate. Documents also now reveal the solicitor negotiated some cheap personal finance from the same High Street bank to purchase a second home.

The widow of the deceased, upon being told the investments in the will had been cut in value by three quarters, made a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland after discovering through careful investigation her late husband's investments had been changed around by the solicitor at his own discretion rather than being realised and handed over to the family as per the instructions contained in the will. Now the Law Society have backed the solicitor against the family, despite a £250,000 loss being incurred in the late husband's investments, together with the loss of title deeds to the home in which the widow still lives, while it seems the solicitor has experienced a remarkable increase in his own personal wealth, along with 3 recent top of the range cars.

Example 2

will photo stockSolicitor & accountant ripped off client’s charitable donations via her will. The result of the charitable intentions of a deceased elderly nurse who bequeathed her substantial entire savings including her house, in total valued at over £2 million to charitable causes, has so far resulted in not one of her wishes being respected by the solicitor and a long time friend, an accountant, she made executors of her will.

Charities who were named in the initial will have, after two years, yet to receive a penny, while again, a local High Street Bank has received over £18,000 in interest on several overdraft accounts opened by the solicitor allegedly to pay debts on the estate which never existed. Meanwhile the solicitor has also bought himself a second house, as has the deceased's' long time friend' the accountant, and the charities who were due to receive sums of money are now questioning whether they will receive anything, given a recent letter to one charity from the solicitor suggesting "there was little left in the estate to cover the charitable bequests" - this despite the fact the nurse had no debts whatsoever, and owned her own home.

The paralegal who brought this case to the attention of Law Society of Scotland has been sacked from solicitor’s law firm, and since there is no one to independently monitor how the solicitor and accountant, both acting as executor, have so fraudulently mishandled the estate of their client (and victim) nothing will probably be done against those who have so obviously plundered the estate of their dead client. Even the charities themselves are apparently reluctant to make a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, possibly because a fleet of solicitors wives and family relatives sit on one of the charities concerned.

Example 3

will photo stockSolicitor stole 400k from will, no action by Law Society. A solicitor named as executor in an estate of an elderly unmarried man who had no surviving family, dying three years ago, tore up the original will of his client, and replaced it with one he had created to cover up the fact that a whopping £400,000 has disappeared from his deceased client's bank accounts.

The will, which left a substantial bequest to a care home managed by the deceased's local authority, has also seen the usual huge payments of interest fees to a local High Street Bank, in one case alone of £14,000 of pure interest, the same bank handling the solicitor's law firm accounts.

The local authority had questioned when the bequest was to be made over to them, after being told by the solicitor there was little left to pay out his client’s wishes. The Law Society are supposedly still looking into the case, with as yet no action against the solicitor concerned.

Example 4

will photo stockSolicitor acting as executor stole over £30,000 from children’s trust. A deceased soldier who appointed his lawyer as executor, leaving everything to his wife & children, has unwittingly placed his family in the position of having to endure sickening refusals by the legal profession to do anything to recover over £30,000 of investments which were placed in a trust by the deceased client, for his children. The solicitor, acting as executor, cashed in the trust and used it to pay off gambling debts which everyone including the Law Society is now trying cover up.

Even serving one's country it seems, is no guarantee to not being ripped off after death by crooked lawyers out to line their own pockets, with the likes of the good old Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission sitting back and doing absolutely nothing.

Sadly, these are but a handful of cases brought to my attention recently where lawyers & accountants, mistakenly appointed as executors in wills by ever trusting clients, have ended up fleecing the funds entrusted to them, for their own personal gain. My own advice to anyone writing a will, or anyone who has written a will, is, if you have appointed a lawyer as your executor, go back and re-write your will immediately naming someone you really can trust to handle your affairs after death.

Please, also take the advice of consumer organisations to stipulate exactly how and who should respect your wishes after you die, ensuring you also place limits on, or forbid the use of overdraft accounts by solicitors which are ostensibly used by the legal profession to waste your money with High Street banks in bargaining to secure cheap personal finance for lawyers. Taking these steps and taking the time to carefully think through your final wishes will save your remaining family a lot of heartache and ensure what you want actually occurs, rather than allowing the legal profession and others to march off with what you may have wished to go to your loved ones.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why anyone would make a licensed ROBBER their executor I have no idea

Good advice anyway and I hope people have enough sense to follow it although it looks like from your examples most people are pea brained idiots just waiting to be taken for a ride on the "You can trust me I'm a lawyer" wagon.

Anonymous said...

I dont think all lawyers end up ruining their clients affairs but as long as the LSS do nothing about it the perception will always be there.

Anonymous said...

I would liek to knwo which piece of filth stole from the soldiers family so he cam be made to pay it back X4

Anonymous said...

Good points as always and those figures paid to banks in these "overdraft accounts" are horrendous.

How much would you estimate is stolen from estates and wills each year ?

Anonymous said...

Yes Peter robbing the dead is what lawyers do best and its about time someone stopped them in their tracks PERMANENTLY

Anonymous said...

These bastard banks need exposed too because obviously there is a big racket going on there with overdrafts for dead people.

Now if only people would sit up and take notice instead of being so bloody stupid in allowing a lawyer to take all their stuff for themselves !

Anonymous said...

I see you have put in the links to Penman again.Good.I talked to an old mechanic from Croall Bryson at Kelso who told me Penman had ruined him too.You should plaster that story all over the place so their little law firm gets no business.

Anonymous said...

Peter I am very worried about what you write here because I made my solicitor my executor on his own recommendation
I will be in tomorrow to cancel that will and wonder if you would like to be my executor instead ?

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 4.09pm

Exactly ...

Also I would never recommend anyone believe "You can trust me I'm a lawyer" ... such a phrase always spells disaster.

# Anonymous @ 4.55pm

The Law Society of Scotland always do nothing about it .. so the fact, rather than a perception, will remain for many years to come until people who write wills radically change the way they go about it.

# Anonymous @ 5.13pm

All in good time.

# Anonymous @ 6.29pm

The banks are as guilty as the lawyers in this case .. they know dead clients affairs are being plundered, and are happy to do nothing about it because they get their hands on large interest payments out of the estate ... and business from the lawyer.

I would estimate the figure taken from estates by lawyers acting as executors in Scotland upwards of £30 million a year. One lawyer I spoke to today said he estimated it may be as high as £50 million throughout Scotland, so it is a large scale and ongoing fraud which the Police, Crown Office, and the likes of the Law Society dont want to do anything about, and since clients are dead, the trouble is left with their remaining family to sort out. Very unfair and well, very despicable.

# Anonymous @ 6.57pm

I'm all for that.

# Anonymous @ 7.20pm

Yes, the banks are equally guilty, but dont expect too many admissions or inquiries as to why this has been allowed to go on for so long ...

# Anonymous @ 7.59pm

Tell whoever it is from Croall Bryson to get in touch .. had some nice days there as I remember and I will see what can be done to help.

# Anonymous @ 8.12pm

I approve of what you are doing, but I would recommend you nominate the person most close to you to be your executor like someone from your family. Follow the advice given in the article, and I am confident your will should be well handled.

Anonymous said...

Its a pity you didnt work for the SFO or something where you could bang these bastards up for fraud and let some jail time sort them out

Anonymous said...

If you could spare the time I think I'd like you as my executor too !

Anonymous said...

£50 million or more I'd say

You seem to have exposed a well organised fraud involving banks and lawyers.Hope the bloody useless Scottish newspapers get in on it and nice to see the Scotsman once did the right thing on these bent lawyers and their Law society.

Anonymous said...

Just along the road from us a neighbour died last year no family nothing and then his lawyer started using his house for prostitutes We reported it to the Police and nothing was done then we started getting threatening letters from him because they told him it was us who reported him Now the house is for sale but no one will buy it because it now looks like a drug den these people are disgusting

Sickened by scum lawyers said...

The thieving rat who stole from the soldier's kids should be sent straight to hell along with the rest of his robbing lawyer brethren.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your legal insider's (solicitor ?) comments and personally I have always refused to be a client's executor as in my view no good ever comes of it.

Reading the four examples you quoted I seem to have been proved correct.

If your readers want some free advice I would say follow what Peter has said here today and you will end up with a lot less problems for those you leave behind.

Anonymous said...

Little wonder all the top brass at the Law Society have fancy cars and multiple homes.
Also nothing more on the davinci painting theft.Have the cops been ordered silent on this while Angiolini's lot stuff the sham prosecution in some small backyard court because lawyers were involved in stealing it ?

Anonymous said...

Disgusting.The world has went bad allowing all these things to go unpunished.

Anonymous said...

I will make sure I never ask a lawyer to handle my will! What a bloody stupid idea anyway!

Anonymous said...

The Court of Session will not accept or rely upon precognitions -lawyers 'transcriptions' of witness statements - as evidence.

It simply does not trust lawyers to accurately represent the truth.

Let that be a lesson to all.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

£50 million or more I'd say

You seem to have exposed a well organised fraud involving banks and lawyers.Hope the bloody useless Scottish newspapers get in on it and nice to see the Scotsman once did the right thing on these bent lawyers and their Law society.

9:35 PM

Thats the Scotsman of the past you are talking about.Never again if you look at their legal hahahaha section today.

Oh and about all these dodgy overdraft accounts well why isnt the FSA getting off their behinds and investigating this ?

Too much trouble to expose more criminal corruption in our financial and legal system for them that it takes a sole blogger to expose it himself ?

What a f*cking country we have become :(

Anonymous said...

If you are seeking to make blood boil on this you succeeded with me.Hate lawyers cant stand them

Anonymous said...

Easy to see why all this has gone on for so long and been kept secret- because it involves BANKS and LAWYERS
Now because we own the banks we are funding lawyers to steal from us!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice which I will take although I'm single anyway and no plans to marry/kids
Would rather blow it all before I go than let some lawyer get it!

Anonymous said...

I know of a similar case to your first example currently with the Law Society.
Rumour has it the solicitor involved took over 300,000 and then wrote to the Council warning them if he was prosecuted he would commit suicide.
Enough to make you sick ?

Anonymous said...

Peter this is a very important story because everyone has to write a will.
I would also like to know the names of the banks involved in those cases you refer to and I think probably everyone else would like that info too so we can avoid using them.
Thanks in advance.

John Burgess.

Anonymous said...

I called a friend after reading this late last night and he also intends changing his executor.He told me he originally wanted to make his wife and son executors but his lawyer persuaded him he would be best suited to it.
Now we both know why thanks to you

Anonymous said...

Are the RBS involved in this by any chance ?

Anonymous said...

People are generally stupid with their finances and in my view deserve to be 'ripped off' as you would put it by a lawyer or anyone else.
Serves them right for being so dumb in the first place if you ask me.

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 11.51am

I'd like to know more about that case you referred to ...

# John Burgess @ 1.29pm

All High Street Banks are involved in the deceased estate overdraft account racket with law firms & solicitors.

Usually its the same back the law firm deals with on a business basis.

# Anonymous @ 2.08pm

Let me know how he gets on ...

# Anonymous @ 3.10pm

Every High Street bank is involved in the deceased estate overdraft account racket.

Anonymous said...

Any of those lawyers sitting on the slcc rip off an estate I wonder ??

Anonymous said...

How long exactly has this been going on with the overdraft accounts created for handling wills ?

Is it a Fred the Shred thing or earlier ?

Anonymous said...

"All High Street Banks are involved in the deceased estate overdraft account racket with law firms & solicitors."

Bunch of bastards
You should keep on at this until there is an investigation into how much has been stolen from the dead by banks and lawyers

Its DISGUSTING

Anonymous said...

Excellent posting.I hope people are beginning to realise their money is never safe near or within the control of a lawyer.

Also to the person who commented this : Anonymous said...

People are generally stupid with their finances and in my view deserve to be 'ripped off' as you would put it by a lawyer or anyone else.
Serves them right for being so dumb in the first place if you ask me.

3:57 PM

I hope the same happens to you !

Anonymous said...

after reading your bit on wills I think lawyers should not be allowed to be executors
probably also exclude accountants too beause they are all in the same greedy boat

Anonymous said...

It seems you are spot on as usual Peter.
I called a solicitor friend of mine last night to check this out and he admitted this overdraft account thing is common when they handle a will.

I hope you succeed in getting this kind of thing stopped.

Anonymous said...

I agree with those who say this should be stopped and also there should be an investigation into how long this ripping off people's wills has went on

Anonymous said...

Finally someone who gives advice on wills who is not connected with the bloody lawyers !

I hope people take notice of what you've written here otherwise its their loss !

Anonymous said...

If I could make one observation from across the Atlantic.

You may very well be a candidate for the position of "World's most trustworthy executor" after what your family went through as reported by that Scotsman newspaper.

You should consider a career in law if you don't already have one but I suspect by your writing Scotland is too far gone for the likes of you.

Anonymous said...

put all this into a leaflet and distro it via the web so people know what they are up against when writing their will

good work as always

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice.I took it today and cancelled my existing will that names my lawyer as executor.He told me he no longer wants to work for me which is fine because after being told to read your blog at the weekend and seeing all this makes me suspiciuos of any lawyer.Maybe he had too much to hide for his intention with my will he refuses to work for me again?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure these lawyers wont be rushing to admit they open overdraft accounts on their dead clients affairs but now you've let the cat out of the bag we should be told just how much money has went into these leeches pockets !

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally there is a huge story in the Scotsman today about some widow who left all her cash to an opera house.
No word on who the lawyers are but you can bet they are in for the usual huge fees etc and the banks will be rubbing their hands.
Funny how you wrote this last week and now we are getting plied in the press with how great it is to go to a lawyer and write a will.Sounds awfully suspicious to me - do you think some of the sharks in the legal world fear for their wills rip off service ?

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know after being told about your blog I took your advice on Wednesday I went in and cancelled my will that made my solicitor as executor
Will be writing a new one and any tips you could offer would be appreciated

Anonymous said...

Honestly after reading what happened to those poor people if anyone rung their lawyers neck I wouldn't blame them one bit.
The law should be altered to make this all criminal stuff and take the power away from the lawyers to cover up for each other.

Well done Peter for writing about it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Honestly after reading what happened to those poor people if anyone rung their lawyers neck I wouldn't blame them one bit.
The law should be altered to make this all criminal stuff and take the power away from the lawyers to cover up for each other.

Fantastic ! I also agree about the neck wringing !

Anonymous said...

Mr Cherbi I have to thank you very much for this advice because I had a will with my lawyer but found out last week he had taken over the house of someone in the village and sold it to cover his gambling debts this was over 5 years ago and the family are still fighting to get back what they lost including everything that was in the house and I only found this out when I mentioned I had read this blog and the advice on writing a will.I cancelled my will on Monday and going to write a new one with another executor so many thanks for your advice.
R.Burt

Anonymous said...

and look what happens if you leave it to charity !

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1252213/Judge-slams-RSPCAs-court-attempt-double-300-000-left-generous-animal-lover.html

RSPCA's court attempt to double £300,000 left in will of animal lover slammed by judge as 'patently wrong'

By Arthur Martin
Last updated at 4:30 PM on 19th February 2010

The RSPCA was criticised by a judge today for taking the heirs of a wealthy donor to the High Court in an attempt to increase its share of his estate.

George Mason divided his £1million estate between the animal charity, his brother John and two friends, Norman and Patricia Sharp.

But, under Britain's complicated tax laws, the RSPCA was concerned it was going to have to pay inheritance tax on its share of the estate.
High Court of Justice

'Incredible': A judge today slammed the RSPCA for taking the heirs of a wealthy donor to High Court to try and nearly double its share of his estate

So it took Mr Mason and the Sharps to court to try to get them to pay some of the tax out of their bequests.

However Mr Justice Peter Smith said the RSPCA's claim was 'extremely weak' and 'patently wrong'.

'It is a matter of regret that this action was ever brought,' the judge said today.

'It clearly caused great distress to the Sharps and John Mason and I cannot believe the deceased would have been happy to see arguments by the RSPCA designed to erode the largesse in favour of his friends and relative to their benefit in this way.

'The RSPCA really ought to have considered that the legacy I have determined it is entitled to was generous and ample provision out of the estate.'

At a previous hearing Mr Justice Smith dismissed the RSPCA's claim and ordered it to pay the costs of the legal action.

He refused the charity permission to appeal and said he hoped it would accept his decision because if the case went to the Court of Appeal it would 'cause more concern and stress' to Mr Mason, 85, and the Sharps, who are in their seventies.

The case centred on the order in which the benefactor's bequests should be considered, which would affect the tax bill faced by the RSPCA.

The RSPCA argued that Mr Mason's will should be considered in such a way that it would receive £651,820. However, the judge ruled that the charity was only entitled to £370,153.

Mr Mason's brother John - his only surviving relative - will receive £66,000, while Mr Sharp and his wife will receive around £400,000 between them.

Had the RSPCA been successful, Mr Mason, of Enfield, Middlesex, would have received only £28,820 and Mr and Mrs Sharp, of Southsea, Hampshire, £271,000.

Clare Kelly, Mr Mason's solicitor, said she thought it was 'quite disgusting' that a donation which had been left in good faith by an elderly animal lover had been used to pursue his relatives for more money.

'You'd think that a charity that had essentially had a windfall of £370,000 would not then think: 'Let's go for more',' she said. 'I don't know why they're playing such a tough game.

'My view is that it's a complete misuse of the funding they're getting. In this case they were left several hundred thousand pounds, and they were trying to get several hundred thousand more.'

Ms Kelly said Mr Mason would have struggled to cover the costs if he lost, and found the proceedings 'very distressing'.

'People leave money to charity to do good,' she added. 'But had [George Mason] known that this was how his brother would be treated then he probably would have thought much more carefully about what he did with the money.'against Christine Gill, who was disinherited by her mother’s gift to the charity.

Judge James Allen QC punished the charity for refusing to negotiate before the case came to court

Diary of Injustice said...

In response to an unpublished comment made by Injured Party @ 19:14 on 20 March 2013 could you please email more details of your case to scottishlawreporters@gmail.com Your case would be better suited to a media article.