Solicitors' Firm Appointed as Sole Executor; Who is the Client?

I have always understood that where a firm of Solicitors is appointed as Sole Executor and does not renounce, then the residuary beneficiary is to be treated as the client and as such receives the client agreement etc.However, I have been unable to find any authority to that effect.

What is the correct position and authority?

Hazel Jones

Under predecessors of the SRA Code of Conduct it was specifically provided that residuary beneficiaries were in these circumstances to be given the same information on costs and complaints procedures as executor clients- this did not of itself make the beneficiaries clients in the sense of being able to give instructions and generally to control the administration. I have not been able to find anything specifically to this effect in the current code or notes. The position is set out in Chapter 2 of the Probate Practitioners Handbook published by the Law Society (mine is the 7th Edition) which summarises the rights of beneficiaries to challenge costs and make complaints.

It is however prudent for the solicitor executors to pay careful attention to the wishes of competent adult residuary beneficiaries. It may be politic to offer to renounce if the reason for the firm’s appointment is no longer valid, particularly if the firm’s appointment as executor is likely to increase the costs.

Tim Gibbons

You are correct.

Simon Northcott

The firm’s client is the proving executor, even if the executor is also a member of the firm. The executor instructs the firm, and then accounts to the beneficiaries for their conduct of the administration in the usual way.

This is important, because while the executor will usually act in accordance with the wishes of the beneficiaries, this might not be possible where there are multiple beneficiaries with conflicting wishes. In those cases, the executor can (and generally should) exercise their discretion to resolve the matter.

Taurean Drayak
Elliot, Bond & Banbury

Regardless of the correct position I have recently provided Client Care letters and Terms of Business to all of the Residuary Beneficiaries on an estate where I am Executor (8 of whom are Charities), as I feel it better that they are aware of rates and terms from the outset.

Kathy Melkerts

Melkerts Solicitors

1 Like

Same here Kathy. In my experience charities tend to expect this anyway, though I also send the same to individual res benefs.

Karl Taylor
Graysons Solicitors