I am dealing with an estate which now seems to be insolvent. The deceased had only a small estate and the Executor cannot be located (it was a solicitor at a firm that has ceased trading, but was a personal appointment). The first residuary beneficiary has died and the second residuary beneficiary was to make an application for Probate but the Probate Registry rejected their application and said we need to trance the Executor. We only have a name and business address so the quote for this is in excess of £500 plus VAT for initial searches into tracing them.
Prior to the testators death, their affairs were being managed by a professional deputy at a firm of solicitors. The estate is only one bank account with £13k in it. The professional deputies fees come to £15k.
Given that their fees have essentially bankrupted the estate can my client now decline to deal with the estate, since they will end up paying out for tracing and professional fees on a insolvent estate? The deputies can apply as a creditor of the estate for a grant and have their fees settled from that.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Gemma Van Duke
While I cannot answer the question directly, I would like to know how the professional deputy managed to rack up £15K of fees? There are fixed fees in the COP for assets over £16K but if the assets are under that figure, professional deputies (as in, solicitors - there are different fees chargeable by local authority deputies) may only charge 4.5% of the total assets at the anniversary of the deputyship order. The file may have been costed by the SCCO of course, but it would take a vast amount of work to result in a £15K bill once the SCCO has reduced everything in sight.
In addition to the annual deputyship report OPG103 which details decisions made over the year and basic accounts (on this level of assets), deputies must also submit form OPG105 annually which details the fees that have been charged over the previous deputyship year and what the fees will be over the coming deputyship year. Anything other than fixed fees has to be detailed.
I would start by requesting sight of the deputy’s bills - you may find the estate, while small, should not be insolvent after all. If the deputy does not co-operate, go to the Office of the Public Guardian with some questions.
Unless the beneficiary and the deputy come to some arrangement to share the value of the bank account between them, I can see no benefit to the beneficiary entitled under the will seeking a grant.
I do not believe that a creditor needs to be able to trace the executor when obtaining a creditors grant, so the cost of the (former) deputy obtaining a grant could be less than for the beneficiary doing so. Such costs could be factored into any division of the bank account.
However, I can see no compelling reason for the deputy to share the bank account when they are already losing nearly 20% of their due. The beneficiary may best be advised to “walk away” rather than potentially incur further costs.
Thank you for your reply - they have had their bills assessed by the COP for the work they have had done, so there is not any scope to change the bills. I did look into this as I was shocked by the level of billing but it seems to have been cumulative over a few years.
Gemma Van Duke
Thank you for your reply. This is as I suspected. I will advise the beneficiary to leave this and advise the solicitors that we will not be seeking a grant in the estate. It is then up to them to obtain a grant to close the account.
Gemma Van Duke