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Stay on the estate

Stay on the estate

By Legal Practitioners' Liability Committee

Dispute Resolution Wills 


Practitioners handling estate matters should not get involved in family disputes. As disputes between family members arise frequently in estate matters, practitioners need to be alert to their duties to executors and beneficiaries as well as potential conflicts of interest. LPLC has received claims where practitioners handling an estate were not proactive in distancing themselves from a dispute between beneficiaries. This left the door open to allegations they ignored a family member's rights or favoured one family member over another. Risk factors include situations where the practitioner has been the family solicitor for a long time and feels pressure to assist all family members. Mixed instructions from family members is another red flag. Practitioners can be overly optimistic about resolving disputes quickly or be enticed by the prospect of additional fees for handling the dispute. Dispute between co-executors In one claim, a practitioner acted on a deceased estate where the deceased's son and daughter were her executors. The son was a longstanding client of the practitioner's firm in other matters. Before obtaining probate, the daughter alleged the son had misappropriated money from their mother's bank account during her lifetime. The mother had authorised her son to operate her bank account and he said the money was a gift for being his mother's primary caregiver.

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