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Thread: Executor pocketed many items from the house & been rash with funds

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  1. #1
    Phys's Avatar

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    Default Executor pocketed many items from the house & been rash with funds

    Hi,
    I am new to this site, so I hope I am asking questions properly.
    My aunt died in 2014. I was awarded a lump sum outright as per the terms of the will, and am 1 of 4 beneficiaries. Money was handled by a lawyer, who seems to have charged 1.8% on an estate of 1.1 m.
    Remaining executor is one of my aunt's siblings, who is not a beneficiary, but who inherited 1/2 of the value of the house. One of my parents, the other sibling, who was supposed to be the other executor, died in 2013. The other 3 beneficiaries are myself, my sibling, and the executor's two children (so the next generation).
    The executor is now 89, and it seems that she (& one of her children, a beneficiary, who was paid to act as helper and is her LPA) have taken what the executor wanted from the house first and then tried to share out the remainder amongst the beneficiaries. Missing items include most of my relative's gold jewellery (gold rings, necklaces , bangles etc.)and many other items, which they say they never found. With regards to the accounts, there is payment to the executor's helper for her time (£2,500), two funerals!, costs incurred by them before my aunt died! costs associated with unnecessarily completely changing the grave etc. The lawyer handling the estate produced a costs document, but the costs are just listed - there is no justification of the costs, and no copy of the contract as to the lawyers fees, which the executor must have agreed to.
    Since my aunt died, I have written numerous letters to the executor & her daughter asking about the missing items and questioning the costs. I have received replies, but the situation hasn't been changed by the responses - excuses change with each letter. I think I have found it hard to believe that the executor could be deceitful.
    I want to submit a request for a court to get me an inventory of the house & more information about the costs. I have got the appropriate form I think, but I want to know how I communicate the details i.e. what is missing from the house, what is wrong with the costs etc. I must have to present a reason as to why I need to go to court.
    Hope someone can help,
    Thank you, Phys

  2. #2
    Kati's Avatar

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    Default Re: Executor pocketed many items from the house & been rash with funds

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  3. #3
    Peridot's Avatar

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    Default Re: Executor pocketed many items from the house & been rash with funds

    Hi Phys,
    Apologies for the delay I've been on leave and missed your post. Sorry.
    I'll try and deal with your points. I think I need a bit more clarity from you regarding the Will.

    Your Aunt has passed away, you are a beneficiary. It appears that you are saying you received a money legacy but that due to your parent (who was the co-executor) having also passed away you then became entitled (together with your sibling) to a share of the residue (your parent's share divided equally between you). Is this correct?

    Can you confirm the executors please. I think it was your parent and their sister (your Aunt). It appears that your Aunt who is the surviving executor instructed solicitors to deal with the estate. Is this correct? When was the estate finalised?

    With regard to the solicitor's fees I assume that they have dealt with the whole of the estate? If that is the case then up to about 2% of the estate value for dealing is not unusual. Particularly where an estate is complicated or of higher value, with property and items such as shares etc to deal with.

    If your Aunt instructed the solicitors to act then they would usually deal with the whole estate including obtaining valuations and administering all aspect before distribution of the estate to the relevant beneficiaries. Your Aunt would be just signing the necessary documents to enable the estate to be dealt with, but the solicitor doing the leg work so to speak.

    If you could provide a little more information regarding the Will it would be helpful. Who is your Aunt's sibling, is this not another Aunt or Uncle of yours? You indicate that they inherited half the property. I assume this is in the Will? Depending on how the Will was written this may include the contents too or your Aunt's personal chattels (personal belongings excluding business property) may have been left to someone specifically. In addition with individual items can you be sure they were still in existence. Could your Aunt not have sold them or given them away before she passed away?

    As far as 'paying' a helper is concerned unless the Will provided for this it shouldn't happen. Executors unless they are professionals appointed are not entitled to payments only to their reasonable expenses they have incurred, such as travel costs to deal with property, payments they have made from their own funds relating to the administration of the estate and the like. Paying for a 1st class train ticket for example, would not be a reasonable expense. Again it is important to know what the Will says.

    As far as costs before your Aunt died are concerned these are potentially debts of the estate. Do you know what the amounts were for? Was there an arrangement between your Aunt and her sibling that one would buy the shopping for example or paying for carers. If this is the case it would be reasonable to expect these sums to be refunded but they should be able to show this with receipts etc. Funeral costs are an acceptable liability that is taken from the estate funds. Moving a Grave may seem unnecessary but it may be your Aunt's wish to be in a particular location for example.

    If you are a residuary beneficiary then you are entitled to see a copy of the client care letter of the lawyers as well as the estate accounts. If you are not a residuary beneficiary this is not the case. What have you actually seen? Itemised costs would not be demonstrated in estate accounts. The lawyers may provide a print out of their time recording but in addition to the time element of the bill, I suspect the lawyers have included a value element, which they are allowed to do. Usually the estate accounts will include the costs of the solicitor separated into hourly rate, value element and VAT in the debts and liabilities section of the accounts.

    If solicitors were dealing with the estate why have you not contacted them? That would be the most sensible option I would imagine. If they haven't dealt with the whole of the estate this may be your reason in which case yes you would be right to question the bill (as a residuary beneficiary).

    I would think long and hard about taking matters to Court however, this cane be very stressful for all concerned and also costly. There is no guarantee that the Court would make an order that the estate foots the bill and you may incur thousands of pounds worth of fees yourself that would have to be paid.

    A full inventory is very rare. In the usual course of event an auctioneer may attend the property and provide a valuation of those items that may be sold at auction. Unfortunately a lot our belongings are worth very little, so much depends on the quality of the item and what is fashionable at the time. Yes every item has a value but weighing up the time of dealing with each individual item, posting om ebay etc can far outweigh the benefit in the costs obtained. It is unfortunate that items that you believed existed appear to have disappeared but again you need to consider the costs involved in pursuing this line.

    First step a bit more information about the Will for me. But also contact the solicitors who dealt with the estate and ask questions of them regarding the costs and their involvement. As I mention above however if you are not a residuary beneficiary you would not be entitled to this information.

    As far as missing items are concerned, is it worth your stress, time and money when it is unlikely they will ever be located. What is it you want to achieve? These situations are never easy particularly when dealing with family.

    I may be able to give you some more pointers once I have the requested information.
    I am a qualified solicitor employed by the LegalBeagles forum to provide guidance on a wide range of legal queries. I am happy to try and assist informally, where needed.

    Any posts I make on LegalBeagles are for information and discussion purposes only and shouldn't be seen as legal advice. Any practical advice I give is without liability. I do not represent people on the forum.

    If in doubt you should always seek professional face to face legal advice.

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