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Where Taxpayers and Advisers Meet

Is this a conflict of interest. What would you do?

dominoman
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2016 6:41 pm

Is this a conflict of interest. What would you do?

Postby dominoman » Tue Jan 28, 2020 7:07 am

I am the executor for the estate of my father alongside my 2 siblings. The beneficiaries are the same 3 of us siblings, plus a lady, let's call her Sue.

My father and Sue were good friends with a solicitor who we are now using for probate. Most of the legwork we are doing ourselves, informing banks, collating valuations etc. The solicitor has been quite persistent in asking for updates and information on all accounts, holdings, contact details etc. My concern is that this solicitor may share information with Sue as we do the work. We don't want that because it makes the job harder for us, especially as some valuations are for illiquid assets and take expert opinions from valuers. We are very careful to do our job diligently and properly, but I suspect she is worried we won't.

The concern was triggered last week when Sue queried some specific and very precise handwritten amendments my father had made to the will in his past days. She could only have known about those from the solicitor (by my understanding he should not be sharing the will with her).

Is there a conflict here in us using a solicitor that is a close friend of a beneficiary? Should we use someone else or are we worrying over nothing.

Thanks.
p.s. I know this is a Tax forum and this question isn't directly about that, but it's such a useful group of people so I thought I'd ask

AGoodman
Posts: 1043
Joined: Fri May 16, 2014 3:47 pm

Re: Is this a conflict of interest. What would you do?

Postby AGoodman » Tue Jan 28, 2020 11:53 am

It's not really a conflict but the solicitor has a professional duty to keep estate matters confidential to his clients (the executors).

Easiest solution all round is probably to mention to the solicitor that Sue had asked this question, you weren't sure how she knew about it and could he/she confirm that he is keeping the matter confidential.

AGoodman
Posts: 1043
Joined: Fri May 16, 2014 3:47 pm

Re: Is this a conflict of interest. What would you do?

Postby AGoodman » Tue Jan 28, 2020 12:02 pm

I would add (not relevant to your question) that it can be quite frustrating for solicitors applying for probate where clients want to deal with banks etc themselves. Firms have their standard form letters which ask all the necessary questions and sending them off usually takes far less time than liaising with the family who may have queries and/or do not obtain all the necessary information. In that situation, and to avoid any drag (or complaints of delay), they may fall back on seeking regular updates. They may be operating to an IHT filing deadline, which puts them in a difficult position if they are not in control of the process.

(Can you tell I've had a bad experience? You may also be able to guess my profession)

dominoman
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2016 6:41 pm

Re: Is this a conflict of interest. What would you do?

Postby dominoman » Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:29 pm

Many thanks. That makes sense. The solicitor did seem a little hesitant when I said we'd do most of the work ourselves. Our reasoning was just that there are illiquid assets (EIS shares etc) that will take some judgment and fact-finding to estabish a valuation that can be justified to HMRC, and I assumed that could eat a lot of his time up. Advice I read generally also implied there was no need to use a solicitor to do all of the process.

As for the matter of confidentiality I think calling it out and requesting he keeps everything private is the best thing to do. If we were to switch to a new solicitor not know to Sue it could cause suspicion.

Thanks


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