Solicitor suspended after taking 19 years to settle spinster’s estate – during which two executors died
The above article recently appeared in the Daily Mail. After reading it, everyone at our office was gob-smacked.
The average timescale to administer an estate is between 6-12months. Obviously, there are estates where properties fail to sell within this time period or there are complications, however it is nevertheless very rare for the estate administration to take more than 2 years.
Unfortunately, the article above offers no explanation as to why this particular estate took such an abominable time to be dealt with. We can only speculate that the case must have been neglected by Mr Choat, constantly being pushed to the bottom of his to-do list.
This is the danger of appointing someone who does not specialise in Probate Administration, be it a family member or solicitor, as Executor of your Will. Although many solicitors are happy to act as an executor and deal with the estate administration, they may not have the necessary expertise. Appointing a conveyance or family law solicitor ‘in general practice’ to deal with probate is a bit like asking your GP to perform brain surgery. The appointment of a competent executor is vital and therefore we recommend that you consider this carefully before making your Will.
If it is the case that Mr Choat was not in fact a named Executor but was appointed by the executors to deal with the estate, then I cannot understand why his firm was not disinstructed long before now. Solicitors and other probate firms should be accountable to the executors and beneficiaries of the estate and have a duty to explain any delays.
The suspension of Mr Choat is clearly a satisfactory outcome; there is at least one less rouge trader practicing now.