Lawyer Rebuked By The Solicitors Regulation Authority

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Lawyer Rebuked By the Solicitors Regulation Authority

Lawyers in the jurisdiction of England and Wales should be taking a keen interest in the recent decision of the Solicitors Regulation Authority where clients intend to bequeath gifts to a relative of the lawyer who was tasked with drafting the person’s will.

What Happened In the Case?

The lawyer has held a practicing certificate which permitted him to act as a solicitor for around forty years since 1972. The solicitor had received instructions to act on behalf of a client and requested for the last will to be compiled on his behalf.

Nothing To See Here Folks…Right?

Under normal circumstances, these instructions would not have been out of the ordinary or innocuous in any way. Each day lawyers up and down the country receive instructions of this kind, the will is then drafted to include the relevant content in return for a price paid, and the document is then filed away ready for when it is required on the inevitable demise of the person.

However, this case was slightly more unusual and appeared to have attracted the attention of the Solicitors Regulation Authority for all the wrong reasons. When the solicitor had received instructions from the client it would seemingly not have escaped his attention that the client had been a close personal friend of his for more than half a decade. Whilst going into detail with the client about the content of the will the client gave an unusual instruction. It became apparent that the client wanted to bequeath a legacy to a close relative of the solicitor. The legacy could not in any way have been described as minor. The client communicated his intention to give more than fifty percent of his estate to the solicitor’s close family relation.

As human beings, we only have a limited time to live and the client sadly passed away just under four years after putting together his last will. However, the matter did not end there.

Administration of the Estate

When it came to the administration of the estate of the now-deceased client this was carried out by two executors who had been appointed to the respective positions. However, the Solicitors Regulation Authority later accused the solicitor of breaching the Solicitors Code of Conduct for Solicitors as he had seemingly not communicated with the client that he could not take instructions from him and appeared not to have advised him to approach an unconflicted solicitor for the provision of independent legal advice. The Regulator made it very clear that questions over whether this affected the decision-making of the client or whether his actions were against his will (no pun intended) were irrelevant. This was because when the client proceeded to give his instructions there was simply no evidence to indicate that he would have made different decisions or could not make decisions.

The solicitor realized he had unintentionally breached the rules, and accepted a rebuke from the Solicitors Regulation Authority and a costs order in the amount of £300. This was reflective of his previously unblemished half-decade of service in the profession because it was a one-off event and on the basis that there would be no repeat of his behaviour.

What Should Lawyers Be Advising Their Clients?

Lawyers should be paying close attention to this case. When taking instructions and the solicitor drafting the will personally know or is related to beneficiaries lawyers should strongly consider withdrawing from acting for a client and suggest for them to seek independent legal advice to mitigate against the risk of the respective solicitor being rebuked.

The Legists Content Team

ASSESSING FIRM

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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES

[1] Solicitors Regulation Authority – Paul Ibbotson – Solicitors – 099661 – 4 May 2022 - SRA | Ibbotson, Paul - 099661 | Solicitors Regulation Authority

[2] Hyde, John – SRA rebukes solicitor whose work involved family members – Law Society Gazette - 5th May 2022 - SRA rebukes solicitors whose work involved family members | News | Law Gazette

[3] Rule 15 Guide of the Professional Conduct of Solicitors 1999

[4] Principle 2 Code of Conduct for Solicitors

[5] Principle 5 Code of Conduct for Solicitors

[6] Paragraph 7.3 Code of Conduct for Solicitors

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