A new client who was advised to do a Will but didn’t get round to doing one has died. He was unmarried and a bit of a recluse. He was also an only child (parents both deceased) and indicated although not confirmed that he did not have any distant relatives. He had a partner of 3 years but they were not living together at his death.
His estate is estimated at £1m. No Will can be found amongst his possessions and enquiries with previous solicitors have not been fruitful. Searches of the Will Register have also not been successful.
We are due fees as a result of work carried out for the deceased. In addition his partner is due £1,500 following damages incurred in a car crash which he agreed to settle for her but was too weak to sign the cheque when he died.
This is all a bit of a pickle! The problem we face is that in order to apply for the grant as creditor we need to clear off the individuals entitled to the grant as per Rule 22 NCPR 1987. It seems that a genealogist report should be carried out to establish next of kin - but who would bear the costs of this? Would we be able to recover this as well as our time spent on this matter from the estate once the beneficiaries if any are found?
Have any of you come across this before and can offer some advice with the way forward?
Who is the client, following the death of the intestate?
It seems to me that if you have been instructed by the (former) partner, then they are the client, not the deceased, and if a creditors grant is to be obtained, it is the (former) partner and not the law firm that would have the entitlement.
Unless the beneficiaries can be traced and their agreement obtained as to your firm’s fees, I do not believe they are strictly recoverable (which would be an obstacle in it applying for a creditors grant).
Based on the information provided, prima facie, the estate may pass to the Crown, in which case it might be worthwhile contacting the Treasury Solicitor (Bona Vacantia) to see if, in the particular circumstances, you might be authorised to undertake further enquiries on its behalf and for your costs, etc. to be paid out of the estate. It may be, though, that you will be treated the same as an “heir hunter” so that the further costs incurred will be in the hope of identifying the beneficiaries and them agreeing to bear your costs.
Overall, it might be more pragmatic to hand it all over to the Treasury Solicitor and write off the possibility of recovery of your fees, etc.
I am sure that if you approach one of the big genealogy firms (e.g Fraser and Fraser) they will be able to assist you.