Call 01279 215580

Why Solicitors Can Be The Worst Executors In the World

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

There was an interesting(and sad) article in the Sunday Times yesterday(Money Section) about the seven year battle a son had had trying to claim an inheritance on his mother's estate, in which a solicitor was a jointly appointed executor.

The newspaper revealed it had been more than seven years since the son's mother passed away and he had not received a penny of his inheritance despite judicial intervention and the lawyer's practice shutting down.

It is worth considering that wrangles over estates are the third most common complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.

I am a solicitor but I have to be honest, appointing a solicitor is not a good idea in most instances as an executor.

Here are some reasons:

1. After you pass away, why restrict the beneficiaries to having a paid professional as an executor? Your(lay) executors may very well do just as good a job as a solicitor and will be a lot cheaper.

2. If you appoint a solicitor as executor and the beneficiaries do not want them to act, it is very hard to get rid of them. Yes, the solicitors could renounce as executor (if they have not intermeddled) but the carrot of conducting a probate can be too hard to resist for some solicitors.   

3 . Solicitors come and go. Often I have come across solicitors firms who shut. This can be particularly damaging if you leave the will for storage with the solicitors and effectively invalidates the appointment of the solicitor.

4 Not all solicitors do not have a great track record on service delivery and cost information. Despite high obligations on solicitors to deal with both issues, I have come across overcharging and poor service far too often to be surprised. That said, I have come across some very impressive conduct from solicitors as well.

5. If you need legal help, you can always get it later. 

Given this, are there any instances win which you should appoint a solicitor as executor?

1. When you have complex estates where the solicitor is a trusted advisor and respected by all close family members and the relationship is ongoing.

2 When there are resentments/tensions in the family structure and the solicitors' negotiation skills help resolve this. In this case, what would be (much)worse than appointing a solicitor would be two family members who do not get on. That is very difficult to unpick and can lead to(expensive) judicial intervention.