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Buachaill, Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10954
Experience:  Barrister 17 years experience
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My uncle diesd intestate aged 93 years. My 12 cousins and I

Customer Question

My uncle diesd intestate aged 93 years. My 12 cousins and I are my uncles nearest relatives. Upon the recommendation of a close friend of my uncle we employed a legal firm to gather together my Uncle's assets, use those to pay any debts (funeral expenses, legal costs etc) and proceed to administration of the estate. After 6 months the legal firm we asked to administer the estate has said that the friend of my uncle's who recommended that firm to us has made a claim on the estate and as that firm wishes to act for my uncle's friend they have a 'conflict of interest'.They have advised us to employ another lawyer to advise us. The initial firm will not release the documents they hold that relate to my uncle's estate to another legal firm until we pay their invoice and will not deduct their fee from the estate assets. My cousins and I are reluctant to pay this invoice.
A) Can we just do nothing and walk away with no liability?
B) At this stage what do you advise us to do?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Buachaill replied 2 years ago.
1. I would advise you to do two things here. Firstly, you get another solicitor to act in relation to the estate. You get this second solicitor to give what is known as a solicitor's undertaking to the first solicitor that their reasonable costs will be paid upon completion of the administration of the estate. Once a solicitor's undertaking to pay the first firm's costs are given the solicitors are bound to release the documents. This enables the second firm to carry out probate and administer the estate. So you can ensure administration of your uncle's estate continues with the minimum of interruption.
Expert:  Buachaill replied 2 years ago.

2. The second thing you do here is you get the second firm of solicitors to sue the first firm of solicitors for breach of fiduciary duty. A firm of solicitors owes a fiduciary duty to their client (your uncles's estate) not to act in circumstances where their duty to the estate conflicts with a duty owed to another client, such as the friend of your uncles. Accordingly, the first firm can be sued for breaching this fiduciary duty they owed to your father's estate. They took on the job of representing the estate whilst also helping the friend make a claim on the estate. For this, they are liable to the estate in damages. The minimum that can happen here is it will reduce the solicitor's bill. Additionally, you may find that the "friend's" claim might diminish in extent or never happen. However, the solicitors here, rode two horses at the same time. So you should make them pay for them. Ensure the new solicitor is happy to sue the old firm before you give them the work to administer the estate.