Distressing situation turned out badly

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Two years ago my friend's mother died. She had been seriously ill with with cancer for several years and he had been nursing her through that time. To support themselves they had used her credit cards and run up a bill of approx 6,000.

She did not make a will and died in testate (I think the term is). The only asset was the house which was in her name.

My friend was told to seek a solicitor, who contacted the credit card companies. Instead of making any effort to have the debt reduced or writtten off, the solicitor offered to have the house (whose mortgage had been fully paid) sold to pay off the debt.

My friend is the non-complaining type who believed (and still belives) that the solicitor was doing his best for him. I thought the situation was scandalous but in the end my friend who is unemployed was forced to move from the home he'd grown up in. He was eventually given a small lump sum after the solicitor had taken his large fee.

I'd be interested in any comments you have on this matter.

-- Ash (ash1998@hotmail.com), June 15, 2002

Answers

I am sorry for your friend; there are usually more debts than anyone admits to in an intestate situation. My guess is that the single realisable asset (the house) would have to be sold to pay them off. Your friend, as next of kin, can request a break-down and challenge anything excessive. The Law Society may listen if the solicitor's fee is huge and broker a reduction. You should realise that the solictor belongs to a big club which protects itself to the hilt. I tried and failed to go up against an incompetent solicitor - even the one representing me agreed he was negligent but told me to drop it - costs too much to fight them.

-- Too scared to say (iwasduped@yahoo.com), June 15, 2002.

Under the laws of intestacy, any assets must be sold to pay of debts, funeral expenses, probate fees etc, so the solicitor, sadly, was acting correctly. This is why its so important to make a Will.

Your friend should have received a bill detailing all the solicitors charges. Unfortunately solicitors aren't cheap and they charge for every phone call, letter they read etc etc. But if your friend still wants to, he should ask the solicitor for a full breakdown. I think that with most solicitors the fees for a probate are a percentage of the value of the estate, but this isn't always the case.

If you think your friend has a complaint, then its the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors that they need to make a complaint to, not the Law Society. It doesn't cost anything to make the complaint, your friend just writes a long letter detailing the entire matter. There's no need for any further solicitors involvement.

Regards Pendle

-- pendle (pendle_666@yahoo.co.uk), June 16, 2002.


If your friend is unemployed or on low income then he surely shouldn't have to pay for legal costs, wouldn't he be entitled to free legal help/advice (legal aid).

-- Bal (baljinder_gill0@hotmail.com), June 16, 2002.

Oops sorry...

-- Too scared to say (iwasduped@yahoo.com), June 16, 2002.

Your friend should before he reports this to The Office For The Supervision Of Solicitors advise the solicitor involved that this is his his intention,I did this sometime ago when a solicitor chased me for an amount of money that I knew I did not owe and strangely the debt just melted away.I only did this because I was advised by a decent solicitor that if he was pulling a stroke this would stop him in his tracks,it certainly did!

-- David (stitsevol@aol.com), July 11, 2002.


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