Some years ago, a client made a will appointing our firm as their executor. Over time, the client moved away, but did not update their will. When they died many years later, their nearest relatives, believing there was no will, instructed other solicitors to obtain a grant on the basis of an intestacy.
During that process, a copy of our will was turned up, and we were contacted. Having passed their papers over to us, the solicitors in question have submitted an invoice for their time spent on the estate.
While I do not begrudge them reasonable remuneration for work done in good faith, is this a legitimate estate expense which I can settle without consulting the residuary beneficiaries? They were not instructed by the executors, and I could see an argument being made that the instructing relative should properly be paying for the solicitors he retained, irrespective of how unfair that may be.
Elliot, Bond & Banbury
If and to the extent that the other solicitors have carried out work which has advanced the administration of the estate then I would say it is an administration expense. They have passed the papers to you which has presumably been of some assistance. And we should not overlook that it was their efforts which bought the will to light. Depending on how much they have charged I’d be inclined as executor to pay it on my own initiative if it looked proportionate to the work done, if it looks a bit heavy I might refer it to the residuary beneficiaries.
On the basis that there is a contractual relationship between the
original solicitor and their client, they should bill their client and
it is for the client to negotiate any share to come out of the estate.
Having said that, they are no doubt acting on their client’s instruction
to reduce his/her loss.
I agree it would seem sensible to reimburse the disappointed family
member based on the reasonable cost of the work undertaken to the extent
the executor would have needed to undertake it in any event.
I would, however, tell the beneficiary(s) of my intention beforehand as
there may be tensions which would be exacerbated in just making the
payment. You would not want to be drawn into a family squabble if this
could be avoided.