Be Careful What You Are Paying For

When it comes to the very important matter of drafting your own or any persons ‘Will’ it is advised to engage the services of an ‘independent reputable firm or individual professional’ and not to just look for the cheapest option; after all you do ‘get what you pay for’ in the majority of scenarios faced in life. The example in this article illustrates the pitfalls and poor service that can arise from cheap ‘deals’ with regard to ‘Will Writing’.

Solicitor accused of being ‘Reckless’ and ‘Dishonest’

A solicitor who was responsible for the drafting of a client’s ‘Will’ in which provisions were made for a ‘£100 million pounds estate’, has been criticised and dubbed as “reckless” and “dishonest” by Mr Justice Michael Green.

In the case of ‘Reeves, Drew and Ors’ the judge found that solicitor Daniel Curnock had given erroneous evidence during the trial, and could face grave consequences.

The case involved a claim from Louise Reeves who was seeking to uphold the 2014 ‘Will’ of her father, property dealer Mr. Kevin Reeves who died three years ago. The ‘Will’ had been prepared by Daniel Curnock.

In the 2014 ‘Will’, Louise Reeves was to receive 80% of the estate, with her half-sister Lisa Murray receiving the other 20%. Family members however, have since opposed ‘Probate’ being granted on the grounds that the 2014 ‘Will’ had been the result of ‘Undue Influence’, given that a prior ‘Will’, prepared in 2012 had split the estate ‘more equally’ among family members.

The judge commented that Curnock’s preparation of the 2014 ‘Will’ was ‘strange’, and that despite his client’s wealth, Daniel Curnock argued that because Mr Reeves had negotiated a fixed fee of £140 plus VAT, he would not be able to provide ‘a first-class service’. Curnock compared the ‘quality of service’ he provided to his client to “the quality of clothes at Primark”.

In preparing the ‘Will’ the judge noted the ‘extraordinary practice’ that Curnock had amended the 2012 ‘Will’ with ‘annotations and deletions’, and could not explain his reasons for doing so.

The judge also referred to Curnock’s ‘behaviour as a witness’, stating that he insisted on reading every document in great depth, in an effort to buy time, and avoided answering questions by asking ‘counter-questions’ to counsel.

It was also noted that the ‘relationship between Louise Reeves and Curnock’ was ‘greater and more familiar than first disclosed’ and that a number of text messages had been exchanged between the two of them.

The judge stated that Curnock was:

a most unsatisfactory witness whose evidence cannot be tested by reference to his own attendance notes, because those attendance notes are themselves under challenge.”

“It is actually quite distressing to say that I cannot safely rely on the evidence from an officer of the court, but I do not think he was giving truthful evidence about how he took instructions, prepared the 2014 ‘Will’ and the relationship between him and the claimant,” added Mr Justice Michael Green.

It was concluded that the 2012 ‘Will’ was still valid, and that the claimant had not proved that the deceased knew and approved the contents of the 2014 ‘Will’.

‘What this case shows is the importance of paying a sensible price for the work instructed on’.

This substantial ‘Estate’ should have been thoroughly thought through, and any ‘Will’ such as this coupled with the importance of the ‘Will’, should have been firmly considered before any fees were agreed upon and paid.

If you would like any further advice, please do not hesitate to contact us:
3C Legal Limited
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