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Where There’s A Will There’s A Crook : OFT say choose your will writing service wisely, consider costs, avoid making a solicitor your executor

will photo stockSurveys reveal consumers frequently make poor choices in will writers & executors. EVERY ONE of us should ensure our assets & financial affairs are put in order after we die, however the dangers of writing a will with an unscrupulous professional such as a crooked lawyer or an overcharging bank are well known to many families & relatives across Scotland who, after the death of their loved ones, have ended up being forced to deal with complicated complaints procedures put in place by biased self regulators such as the Law Society of Scotland or some rather dubious Ombudsman with little or no powers to put right the inevitable financial disaster for the beneficiaries, while the solicitor or bank pockets the remains of the will.

oft2OFT say consumers should not be led to appoint a professional solicitor as an executor. Today, the will writing services of the banks has come under wider public scrutiny as the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced the big four banks, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group & Royal Bank of Scotland have all voluntarily agreed to review and, where necessary, improve the way they sell will-writing and executor services. The move follows discussions with the OFT during 2010 as part of a wider effort to improve the will-writing market for customers and their beneficiaries, following concerns that some (well, most) consumers are appointing professional executors without fully understanding the likely costs and the alternative options.

The OFT’s announcement states the big four banks have agreed to meet three key principles, to ensure customers are able to make well-informed decisions.

  • Consumers making a will should not be led to believe that appointing a professional executor is essential or the norm.
  • Consumers should not be encouraged to appoint a professional executor unless it is clearly in their best interests.
  • Providers should be satisfied, before the will is drafted, that the consumer has the information necessary to make an informed choice. The consumer should understand the options around executor appointments and be aware of the likely basis of charging for the professional executor service.

The OFT reported all four banks are currently reviewing their product literature and processes and any necessary changes should be in place within six months at the latest. Barclays Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and RBS Group are the only banks that currently offer will-writing and executor services, however consumers may not always be aware that each bank outsources the preparation of wills to external solicitors, although the bank provides the executor service itself.

While the OFT survey applies only to will writing services of banks, services which are used perhaps more so in England & Wales than in Scotland, many Scots consumers who are thinking of writing a will usually end up blindly walking into a solicitors office somewhere in the country, with absolutely no knowledge of what to expect from their solicitor or bank in terms of what kinds of services are offered, how much a will could cost to be implemented after death, and what action could be taken by beneficiaries if there is poor or negligent handling of a will by the executor, the bank, the solicitor or the will writer who drew up the will in the first place.

If the lack of information on costs of handling a will and how to put things right if its handled badly isn’t confusing enough, the serious question of who to appoint as executor is often handled poorly by consumers, who, almost unbelievably in 2011, end up appointing the same solicitor who writes the will, which is almost like giving a blank cheque to a house burglar who will more often than not charge as much as they can for handling a will after death, to the point in some cases, there is no money left for anyone except themselves.

The OFT today reminded consumers there is no requirement in law to appoint a professional executor, although, according to a survey published by the OFT last year, some 43 per cent chose to appoint (usually through ignorance) the same professional will-writer or solicitor who wrote their will.

While the costs for preparing a will can be relatively modest, the costs for a professional executor to administer an estate can be high and vary considerably. For an average estate, consumers can pay between £3,000 and £9,000. Failing to shop around for executor services could be costing UK consumers around £40 million a year, according to OFT estimates.

David Stallibrass, Director in the OFT Services and Public Markets Group, said: “The wrong decision when appointing executors could mean a potentially expensive professional service is chosen, when a family member or friend may be quite capable of handling the task either alone or with professional support. We are pleased that each of the banks has agreed to review its selling practices and marketing literature to ensure customers are getting the information they need to make informed choices.”

When a will is prepared, thought will usually be given to who is legally responsible for administering the estate according to the provisions set out in the will. When appointed under a will, these persons are known as ‘executors’. Lay executors – such as friends or family members – can be appointed instead of appointing a solicitor who can end up charging what they like for administering the provisions set out in the will.

The alternative is that consumers can employ a professional executor, who will administer the estate in return for a significant fee – often a sizeable percentage of the value of the estate or possibly even the entire estate if the actions of some solicitors are taken into account. Any consumer ignorant enough to appoint such a person who is covered by their profession’s self regulator may end up appointing the same person or firm who wrote the will such as a solicitor. Bad decision in nine out of ten cases.

Speaking from a personal perspective as a victim of the legal profession over a will rip off, if you do end up appointing a solicitor as your executor, you may well end up with an Andrew Penman, or a Norman Howitt which means you are basically giving all your money, property, possessions etc over to a lawyer so they can enjoy it. Bad decision.

Don’t do it. Don’t fall into the trap of trusting the person behind a desk in a lawyers office just because they sit in an office and give the appearance they can be trusted. The experience of many people each year in Scotland indicates when it comes to wills and solicitors, the phrase Where there’s a will, there’s a crook has considerable weight.

SLCC LAW SOCIETYCase after case has proved the Law Society & SLCC take no action against lawyers who rip off wills & bereaved families. Do you really want to put your remaining family, friends or loved ones through the nightmare of dealing with a crooked lawyer, crooked law firm, or even worse, having to go through the self protecting Law Society of Scotland or the anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission ? Take my advice, avoid it all and make sure you never appoint someone such as a solicitor or an accountant as your executor, certainly not in Scotland, because there are absolutely no safeguards to poor, negligent or even the criminal handling of wills by Scottish solicitors.

Given the significant degree of negligence or even criminality in the handling of wills in Scotland, it is long past time for a review of will writing services offered by the legal profession, and wider public education of the real costs & hidden dangers of who you as consumers allow to write & implement your final wishes.

However, any such review of the disgraceful state of will services offered by the Scottish legal profession may well have to come from south of the border because most political parties in Scotland realise its just too much of a cash cow for their friends & donors in the legal profession, a cash cow for lawyers which is guarded to the death …

My previous coverage on the subject of wills, will writers, and the crooked lawyers who handle wills can be found here : Where there’s a Will, there’s always a crook, a crooked lawyer & a crooked self regulator

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Former lawyer jailed for embezzling £130K returns to run will-writing business as Law Society continues to protect still-working solicitors who rip off wills

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society refused to confirm whether victims of Valerie MacAdam had been repaid. A SOLICITOR who was jailed for three years in 2008 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after being found guilty of embezzling £130,000 of client funds has returned to Scotland’s legal services marketplace with a will writing business, according to an investigation carried out by the Sunday Mail newspaper.

Valerie Macadam, now Valerie Penny has been identified as running the “wills at home” website, which states : “A new service is available! After a successful career as a lawyer, Valerie Penny lectured in law for several years. She then moved to the traditional Craft Town of West Kilbride six months ago having married local man, David Penny. She has now established a new business that will be of use to the whole community.”

The website goes onto state : “The firm also offers preparation of documents in the comfort of clients own homes or another convenient place of their choosing. This is much more relaxed and personal, but no less professional than the service conventionally provided in an office environment. Clients are ensured not only confidentiality, but also safe keeping of deeds as documents are retained in a secure document safe.”

There is no mention on the wills at home website of Ms Penny’s colourful history as a lawyer, nor are clients alerted to her conviction & three year jail sentence, which the Journalonline reported “was reduced from four years for an early guilty plea. Macadam took money from the bank accounts of clients and life savings of others as she handled their wills, stealing from five clients in total over a period of six years. Macadam had been banned from practising as a solicitor in 2004 following a Law Society of Scotland investigation.

Philip YellandPhilip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland’s Director of Regulation for over 20 years. Philip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland’s director of standards, said: “The Law Society of Scotland acted to protect the firm’s clients and Ms Macadam has not been able to practise as a solicitor in Scotland since 2004. Solicitors are trusted to handle millions of pounds of client funds each year. Honesty and integrity are absolutely paramount within the solicitors’ profession. Those who are suspected of stealing from clients will be investigated and, if they are found to be acting dishonestly or fraudulently, strong action will be taken against them, both by the Society and the courts.”

What a lot of rubbish Mr Yelland. You may as well have sent all her clients off to Andrew Penman at Stormonth Darling in Kelso to be fleeced again.

I covered Valerie Macadam’s conviction and side issues relating to solicitors ripping off clients for double fees in an article during late 2008, here : Lawyers stealing from clients to earn ‘double fees’ while Law Society looks the other way in vast network of legal aid fraud & embezzlement

The report from the Sunday Mail follows, although I feel I should emphasise some points to my own readers. The lawyer quoted in the Sunday Mail’s story, Bruce de Wert, who is an “Honorary Sheriff” and runs a will writing business (Scottwills) along with a divorce business (MyScottishDivorce) states : “When you deal with a solicitor, you will normally find they also offer a will storage service – usually for free. But the difference is solicitors are heavily regulated and, in the event they were to retire or go out of business, the Law Society ensures these wills are properly passed on to another solicitor.”

Many solicitors actually charge for holding wills & documents. I know this to be the case as I’ve had fee notes for this service. I have also had numerous readers come to me with examples of similar fee notes, with some solicitors occasionally refusing to hand over documents they are holding for clients until very dubious & usually very high charges and fee demands are paid.

The part about solicitors being heavily regulated is of course irrelevant because as we all know, solicitors are ineffectually regulated by the Law Society of Scotland & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, and that is why I have seen & reported on hundreds of cases of will fraud by solicitors over many years. If solicitors were so well regulated, I wouldn’t be able to write about such cases, and of course, if solicitors were so well regulated, there wouldn’t be so many Andrew Penmans out there doing much the same as those featuring in headline after headline after headline.

Personally of course, I don’t believe anyone should make tens of thousands of pounds out of a family member passing on their final wishes to their family or whoever they choose to leave their wealth.

After being dragged through the Law Society’s sinister complaints practices, and having a solicitor and an accountant basically put a gun to my family’s head, hound us for years, harass us, follow us, threaten us, make our lives a misery while they both got away with it, I am of course bound to say this, but I say it because I don’t want anyone else to go through it, so be careful who you trust your will to, and indeed for that, all your legal interests and remember, there are just as many criminals still inside the Scottish legal profession who will ruin your will & your legal interests, as those outside who might not be telling their clients all they need to hear.

For those readers concerned about their wills and other documents being held by their solicitors, I have written articles which readers might be interested in HERE

The regulation of will writers has entered into law as part of the Scottish Government’s Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 (pdf) Chapter Two specifically referring to regulation, and it may come as no surprise to all, the Law Society of Scotland is in the frame to regulate non-lawyer will writers, as I featured earlier, here : Scottish Government plan to regulate non-lawyer ‘will writers’ may see Law Society regulate all complaints against mishandled wills, legal business

I recently covered the subject of will writers, lawyer & non-lawyer, and their lack of effective regulation, here : R.I.P. OFF : Lack of independent regulation reveals solicitors, accountants & will writers should not be trusted on wills, final wishes & bequests

Now over to the Sunday Mail :

Where there's a will there's a crook - Sunday Mail November 28 2010Shamed lawyer who robbed clients out of jail and back in business

Nov 28 2010 Exclusive by Russell Findlay and Lauren Crooks, Sunday Mail

A CROOKED lawyer jailed for stealing money from dead clients is back in business, we can reveal.

Valerie Penny, 54, runs a slick website to lure customers into handing over £80 for wills. She is selling the same legal services she used to steal £130,000 from clients and their estates – a catalogue of dishonesty that landed her in prison.

The struck-off solicitor, who was called Macadam before her marriage, boasts of her “successful career”. But she makes no mention of her jail time for robbing clients’ cash or her shocking record of professional misconduct.

Last week Sunday Mail investigators caught her back in action touting wills and other legal services.

US-born Penny, who has practised law in Scotland and New York, was jailed for three years in December 2008 for stealing £130,000 from clients, some of whom were dead. She seized control of their finances through “power of attorney”, then syphoned their life savings over a six-year period. She specialised in conveyancing and wills at her law firm in Edinburgh’s posh Charlotte Square before her crime spree was uncovered.

After being freed from Cornton Vale prison in June, Penny launched Wills at Home from her house in West Kilbride, Ayrshire. She and second husband David, 50, a nuclear power station security guard, sell wills and power of attorney documents through online ads.

Her website states: “After a successful career as a lawyer, Valerie Penny lectured in law for several years. “North Ayrshire is the first area in Scotland to have the benefit of Wills at Home but Valerie plans to extend the service throughout the country quickly.”

Last week Penny and her husband met our reporters – posing as a couple – at a Kilmarnock hotel and offered two wills for £120. After making and printing the first will, she said: “Now do you have somewhere fireproof to keep the wills? No, well, we have a safe. We can keep them there if you’re happy for us to do that. It’s what normally happens.”

She handed a copy of one will to our team but forgot to print the second. She promised: “I’ll send it to you. Are you wanting to pay cash? If we’re holding the deeds, there’s a small extra charge of £15 per deed. But if you’re paying cash, we can make it £140 instead of £150.”

The Scottish Government are set to pass a new law to tackle the unregulated will industry.

Lawyer Bruce de Wert, a wills expert based in Wick, was stunned at our revelations about Penny. He said: “I am distressed to hear a convicted embezzler is offering a will-making and storage service.

“I can’t imagine anyone who knew her background would accept her service. Apart from the obvious concerns of dealing with a criminal, I do worry that the wills she has produced may never be found.

“When you deal with a solicitor, you will normally find they also offer a will storage service – usually for free. But the difference is solicitors are heavily regulated and, in the event they were to retire or go out of business, the Law Society ensures these wills are properly passed on to another solicitor.”

Penny first appeared in front of the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal in 2003, which found her guilty of a catalogue of misconduct but failed to strike her off. Two years later she was finally kicked out of the profession for another long litany of misconduct.

The SSDT found Penny “deliberately and fraudulently” forged a signature on a document relating to a dead client’s will and acted in a “dishonest fashion by misleading” another client. They also said she embezzled client funds in a “calculated and devious scheme”.

Penny’s entry on the LinkedIn website for professionals had claimed she worked for global financial giant Bank of New York Mellon between November 2008 and May this year. But she was behind bars during that time. The dates were later changed to when she did work for the bank – from May to December 2008, when she was fired. A bank spokesman said: “As soon as we discovered her conviction, we terminated her employment.”

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Penny accused her first husband, lawyer David Macadam, 54, of driving her to embezzlement by his “bullying”. He was also rapped for misconduct by the SSDT in 2004. They ordered that he could only work as a lawyer under supervision for a five-year period.

When confronted last week, Penny said: “This will destroy me. The dates on LinkedIn are a mistake.” She then told her husband to snatch the will from our reporter’s hands.

 

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R.I.P. OFF : Lack of independent regulation reveals solicitors, accountants & will writers should not be trusted on wills, final wishes & bequests

Will fraud bkWill fraud by solicitors, will-writers & accountants prove many professions cannot be trusted with consumers final wishes. A CONCERTED CAMPAIGN by solicitors & other financial professionals to retain market dominance in the multi billion pound will writing & will handling business in the UK has been brought back into focus in the past two weeks after allegations were made by solicitors against ‘cowboy’ will-writing private companies offering the same poor, often extortionately costing & woefully under regulated services for will-writing & will handling as many people have already experienced from the legal profession, who currently dominate the will writing & will handling market.

Put simply, solicitors, accountants, will-writers and all their colleagues who are in the will writing & will handling business, should not be trusted by members of the public to handle wills, final wishes & bequests. All are as bad as each other, and all are as poorly regulated as each other. Not one to mend another – trust one over the other, and you are sure to be ripped off, either by the solicitor, the accountant, the bank, or the will-writer.

Sure, there are many professional bodies who openly & publicly guarantee their so-called professional members will never rip off your will, will never rip off your remaining family, will never ruin your final wishes & take what you leave behind for themselves, but the sad truth is all these guarantees are hollow, as hollow as a rotted tree with no innards. I covered this issue in more detail in November 2009, here : Consumer warning on wills : Don’t make your lawyer your executor as soaring cases of ‘will fraud’ show Law Society closes ranks on complaints

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanRipping off the dead – Guarantees from the Law Society of Scotland of professionalism of their solicitors on handling wills are worthless as the media reports time & again. Trust a lawyer to handle your will, and you may well get one of the many Andrew Penmans running around, more of which you can read about here : Solicitors who rip off dead clients : How Borders solicitor Andrew Penman ruined an executry estate Trust an accountant as your executor, and you may well get one of the many Norman Howitts running around, more of which you can read about here : Accountants who rip off wills & abuse their positions as Executors : How Borders accountant Norman Howitt ruined a will and a family

Last week, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners – the international professional body for workers in the trust industry and the (often overlapping) field of estate administration whose members are mainly solicitors, barristers, attorneys, accountants, trust officers and trust administrators as well as banking and insurance professionals in the trust field, issued a press release claiming that a Survey Reveals Incompetence and Dishonesty of “Cowboy” Will Writers. The Press Release from STEP, bearing in mind their membership includes solicitors, accountants & bankers, reads as follows :

Interim results from a survey published today by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), reveal the scale of the threat posed to the consumer from cowboys in the will writing market. The survey found that 75% of STEP members have encountered cases of “incompetence or dishonesty in the will writing market in the last 12 months”, and prompted STEP to again call for better consumer protection. Two thirds of respondents reported coming across hidden fees which were not outlined in the stated price for a will, and 63% had direct experience of cases where will writing companies had gone out of business and disappeared with their clients’ wills. Just over one third had encountered cases where incompetence had led to significant additional tax bills.

Chief Executive David Harvey said: “This research shows how widespread cowboy will writers have become and it is clear those who charge a fee for writing a will should now be regulated. They must have an appropriate qualification, and they must have proper indemnity insurance. Soon the consumer will be protected by new regulation in Scotland and this benefit needs to be extended to cover the rest of the UK.”

Examples of malpractice included a company which approached young mothers in shopping malls, telling them their children would be taken into care after they died if they failed to make a will. One consumer was charged £12,000 up-front for executor services only for their family to find the firm involved had gone out of business not long after, disappearing with their wills and money. In June the Legal Services Board launched a review of the threat posed to consumers in England & Wales by unprofessional will writers and is currently seeking evidence of consumer harm. The Scottish Parliament is currently going through the process of regulating non-lawyer will writers through the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.

Certainly an interesting Press Release from STEP, but it hardly tells the real story of what is going on in the UK will industry, where solicitors dominate the market. Notably, STEP use an example where one consumer was charged £12,000 up-front for executor services yet the Scottish legal profession can beat that hands down, where, to quote one example, Edinburgh law firm Turcan Connell charged fees of more than £16,000 to administer an estate with net assets of under £14,000 – and the Law Society then rejected a complaint from the deceased client’s widow, Dr Kate Forrest.

Legal bill wipes out net assets - The Herald January 02 2007The Herald newspaper reported : “[Dr] Forrest complained that the firm had told her only that it would charge £200 an hour, had entered into unnecessary work, and had failed to give her estimates, or issue itemised bills, despite repeated requests. She claims the firm then gave an undertaking to halt the charges, in a meeting with witnesses at the firm’s office, but this did not materialise. When the Law Society examined the complaint, it ruled that the meeting could not be taken into account as the firm had no record of it, and it accepted an explanation by managing partner Douglas Connell that the complaint had been based entirely on a “misunderstanding”. The £16,000 in charges had the effect of more than wiping out any assets in the estate, which had gross assets of £69,574 but debts of £55,731.”

Hardly a glowing recommendation for regulation by the Law Society of Scotland of solicitors handling wills, rather it proves deceased clients will be ripped off by any professional, with no recourse for their remaining family while the solicitor gets away with it – the perfect, ultimate, R.I.P. OFF.

BBC Panorama investigation on wills - no longer existsBBC Panorama report into corruption in the will writing industry omitted problems of solicitors ripping off dead clients. Coincidentally, the BBC’s Panorama programme ran a report on the wills industry, highlighting various rip offs by will-writing companies. The programme bizarrely implied while will-writing companies were quite obviously ripping off consumers to the tune of thousands of pounds, the situation was very different if a solicitor handled a will – something many victims of solicitors mishandling wills all across the UK could easily dispute. Curiously the BBC Panorama programme on this issue is now no longer available, although readers can still view a summarised text version of the report carried out by Panorama journalist Vivian White, here : Call for tighter will-writing laws as consumers duped

The new regulation in Scotland which STEP are referring to in their Press Release, relates to amendments contained in the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, which may well end up seeing the Law Society of Scotland regulate non-lawyer will writers. I reporter on the Scottish plans for regulation of non-lawyer will writers, here : Scottish Government plan to regulate non-lawyer ‘will writers’ may see Law Society regulate all complaints against mishandled wills, legal business

Consumers should be in no doubt the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill is turning into one of the biggest rip offs of consumer choice of legal services in Scotland, a far cry from the intentions of the Which? super complaint and the Office of Fair Trading’s report into lawyers dominance of Scotland’s legal services marketplace.

Since the Law Society of Scotland (dubbed by some as the World’s worst regulator) cant even regulate their own member solicitors when it comes to defrauding deceased clients, wills, executry estates & beneficiaries, I doubt the Law Society is going to be very effective in regulating anyone else who is involved in the rip off will writing & handling industry, unless of course, the Law Society simply use their regulatory powers as an excuse to wipe out the competition, ensuring everyone has to use a lawyer to write or handle a will.

This advice may be hard to swallow, but take it from one who has witnessed, investigated and been a victim of solicitors ripping off the dead – trust no lawyer, accountant, will writer, or any other so-called professional when it comes to your will & final testament, and never appoint one as your executor … its the sure fire road to perdition ….

 

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Law Society welcomes new President, firm has links to dishonest Borders solicitors who mishandled wills & executry estates

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland gets a new President, business as usual. JAMIE MILLAR, a partner with Edinburgh Law Firm Lindsays has taken over from Ian Smart as the new President of the Law Society of Scotland after what has been seen as one of the most problematic periods yet for the Scottish legal profession, who are facing everything from eventual regulatory reform to increased competition in the still-solicitor-monopolised legal services sector.

While the Law Society of Scotland have been kind enough to publicise the change of presidency by focussing on the usual self congratulatory messages, what Drumsheugh Gardens chose not to reveal was regulatory record, or the amount of client complaints made against the law firm of Mr Millar.

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanLindsays bought up Borders law firm linked to Law Society-Penman scandal. Lindsays, who, on their website describe themselves as “ a highly-regarded Scottish law firm. We combine high levels of service with legal expertise to tailor the best possible outcomes and results for you, your business, or your family.” purchased a law firm based in Jedburgh, named Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock in early 2007 which were heavily involved in the maladministration of my late father’s estate by Borders solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, which used to be a partner firm to Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock until the Scotsman newspaper began reporting on the Law Society cover up of my complaint against Mr Penman.

Philip YellandThe Law Society’s Philip Yelland personally handled complaints against Penman & Sturrock. As the Scotsman continued to report on the Law Society’s whitewash of the complaints against Mr Penman, Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock’s senior partner, Mr David Sturrock took over the administration of my late father’s estate, only to make the actions of Mr Penman and the accountant/executor Norman Howitt (still working as an accountant at JRW Group) much worse, resulting in several more years of financial damage & negligence which was carefully swept under the carpet by the Law Society of Scotland in the true cover up style we have all come to expect from lawyers investigating themselves.

Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock JedburghJedburgh based Turnbull, Simpson & Sturrock – Complaints of poor & negligent service to clients were whitewashed by Law Society of Scotland. Equally many other complaints made against Turnbull Simpson & Sturrock by locals in Jedburgh & the surrounding area received a similar whitewash treatment, but as with many Borders firms, they only continue to survive because locals have no one else to use when it comes to legal services, hence you can get a situation where one day, someone brings a large ornate gold mantle piece clock into a jewellers for valuation, allegedly owned by a solicitor, but which in reality was stolen from a house of a deceased client whose will was being handled by that very same solicitor who claimed to own it .. and nothing done about the incident (& many others) by the Law Society or the authorities, although in the case of the clock, it was apparently returned to the family after the conscientious jeweller told the relatives of the deceased … (details ring any bells ? – PC)

So, don’t expect any changes at the Law Society of Scotland this coming year which might benefit consumers, clients of solicitors, or anyone seeking redress or justice against ‘crooked lawyers’ … its more a case of ‘business as usual, burn the client for as much as you can, and if you do anything bad we will let you get away with it’ but you expected me to say that anyway, because its always the case with the Law Society … business as usual …

If you are in the Borders looking for legal services and want any recommendations, well .. I wouldn’t recommend any legal firms in Jedburgh – simply, you’d be much better off just opening your front door and letting the burglars walk into your house .. because you can expect the same treatment if you take on any of the town’s law firms as your legal representatives …

The Law Society of Scotland’s announcement of their latest President, Mr Jamie Millar :

New President of the Law Society of Scotland

Jamie Millar, a partner with Lindsays solicitors, has become the President of the Law Society of Scotland.

Mr Millar (61) has been vice-president since May 2009, and was the Society’s Treasurer for three years before that. He has been a member of the Council for six years and served as a member of a Client relations Committee for seven years from 1997.

A trainee with the then Tindal, Oatts and Rodger, Mr Millar qualified in 1973. He was a partner with the firm from 1975 to 1986. From 1986 to 2006 he was a partner at Bishops and from 2006 he was a partner at Brodies.

Jamie has over thirty years experience as a corporate lawyer specialising in acquistions/mergers, joint ventures, trade associations and corporate governance.

“The Legal Services Bill has been the major focus for the Society in the past year and will continue to be in the coming months as the Society looks at how it could regulate the new business models as well as supporting the profession during their introduction.

“The Society is continuing its modernisation programme to meet the profession’s needs now and into the future, and with that the profession continue to be consulted and asked for feedback as we develop services which will support them during this challenging time.

”Scotland’s solicitors play a major part in Scotland’s economy and I would like that to be recognised. The Society will continue to promote the profession to attract business to Scotland and enhance our economy.”

One of the key areas of work the Society is focusing on is the implementation of its review of education and training in 2010-2011.

Thursday 27 May

To sum up the latest President, his own quote seems appropriate : ”Scotland’s solicitors play a major part in Scotland’s economy and I would like that to be recognised. The Society will continue to promote the profession to attract business to Scotland and enhance our economy.” – Yes they certainly do, although not always in an honest manner, as the complaints statistics over the years have & continue to illustrate …

 

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How Law Society’s ‘cancelled’ prosecution of Borders solicitor Andrew Penman ignited moves to reform regulation of Scotland’s crooked lawyers

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland’s complaints whitewash provoked reforms. THE CANCELLED PROSECUTION OF BORDERS LAWYER ANDREW PENMAN, of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, by the Law Society of Scotland was one of the prime factors in starting a Scotland wide campaign to reform regulation of the legal profession, after the release of the investigation documents which revealed a Law Society Complaints Committee had been bullied into changing an original decision to prosecute Andrew Penman by Penman’s secret representative who attended the hearing, James Ness, a senior Law Society figure, now Deputy Director of Professional Practice.

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanScotsman newspaper in better days followed the Penman case, eventually leading to its own editorials calling for self regulation of lawyers to end. As a result of significant publicity in the Scotsman newspaper on the Andrew Penman investigation, further cases came to light where it transpired many solicitors facing serious complaints had been legally represented at Law Society Complaints Committee hearings, particularly on serious issues such as embezzlement, allegations of client fraud, almost all complaints regarding the handling of wills, and even in cases where clients had been convicted of criminal charges. In all of these cases, while solicitors had been represented before Complaints Committees, clients had been denied equivalent representation.

Indeed, the practice of ‘legally’ representing a solicitor in front of a Complaints Committee, had become so common, it became accepted practice, unquestioned by any solicitor or lay members of the Complaints Committees, although deemed so sensitive the policy was kept secret from complaining clients and the general public, fearing claims of unfairness & prejudice. That secrecy broke, however, when due to the publicity on the Penman case, the Law Society was forced to disclose most of the Committee’s deliberations on Andrew Penman, sparking many clients to eventually find out they too had been similarly maligned by a hugely prejudicial policy of allowing a crooked lawyer legal representation before a Complaints Committee, while denying the same right to members of the public.

Law Watchdog faces threat of court fight - Scotland on Sunday 9 August 1999Former Legal Services Ombudsman Garry Watson changed recommendations on Law Society orders. As publicity grew around the Penman case, the practice of lawyers being legally represented before Complaints Committees, and being allowed to submit personal letters of pleadings to Committee members, while clients were denied similar rights, was criticised by the then Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, Garry S Watson, who recommended the Law Society halt the practice, which it did, for a few months, until the publicity died down, then apparently re-started in secret. Garry Watson also asked for full explanations and disclosure over Penman’s secret representations, which never happened after the Law Society ordered Mr Watson to change his opinion, cancelling his order clients should be informed fully of Committee deliberations. After the Law Society restarted the practice, clients were of course none the wiser as queues of lawyers lined up to send their legal representatives to Complaints Committees, pleading in the first instance, threatening legal action and judicial reviews against Committee decisions if the former did not work.

Scotsman 8 January 1999 Independent watchdog for lawyers proposedLaw Society’s reversal of prosecution helped bring consumer led reforms to regulation of lawyers. The Andrew Penman case, which clearly should have went to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal as a prosecution, with Mr Penman being struck off, but did not, through the Law Society’s determination to “Save Private Penman” as some have said over the years, did bring gains to consumers in terms of revealing the thoroughly corrupt practices of self regulation carried out by the Law Society of Scotland, and its will to keep such practices secret, and of course, long lasting until even the present day.

Would Granny Swear by the Law Society - The Herald June 5 2006Douglas Mill, brought down by his anti-client memos, and relentless policies to save crooked lawyer Andrew Penman from prosecution. ‘Saving Private Penman” helped bring two [costly] Scottish Parliamentary inquiries into regulation of the legal profession, the first one Chaired by Christine Grahame (a dud – the enquiry, I refer to, of course) and the second, chaired by David Davidson MSP, which after hearing of even more revelations of secret anti-client behaviour such as the Douglas Mill ‘memo’gate affair’, brought to light by the now Cabinet Chief John Swinney, resulted in the passage of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which created the hapless and Law Society controlled Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which would have been good, had perhaps someone such as John Swinney managed its formation process, instead of the hapless Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who simply allowed the Law Society to pull all the strings, and fill the SLCC with a slew of Pinnochios whose noses stretch from here to the planet Pluto.

Jury  still out on law in the dock - The Scotsman 2 March 1998Law Society covered up details of decision not to prosecute Andrew Penman. The failure to prosecute Andrew Penman for offences which many solicitors since have been prosecuted and even struck off for, some even sent to jail such as ex solicitor Michael Karus, still reverberates around the legal profession, and has given clients the strength to complain against many a crooked lawyer – a good thing. Penman has also shed a much needed light on the very secretive nature of Scotland’s legal profession and how the Law Society of Scotland controls, or denies access to justice to anyone it so feels like intimidating. Again, another plus, if a costly one to Scotland, as generally one can conclude, the Scottish legal profession are not a very trustworthy bunch, either in legal service to their clients, or when it comes to regulating their own colleagues.

Here, at the request of several law students who are studying ‘regulation’ of the legal profession in Scotland, is the full report on Borders Solicitor Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso. I would certainly not recommend anyone use that law firm, as reading the following will reveal.

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 1Law Society investigating lawyer found that Andrew Penman had tried to fake the files. The Law Society report said : “The reporter had found it extremely difficult to obtain from the file a clear picture of what had taken place in the executry. The files had not been well kept and it was noted that throughout the files there were correspondence and telephone notes which were not in chronological order. It was noted that at several points there was correspondence which appeared not to have been dealt with and not to have been put on file as it was received but to have been put on at a later date. The reporter noted a number of’ instances which suggested that correspondence had simply been accumulated off the file and then dealt with in a fevered bout of activity in order to deal with matters which had long been delayed. The reporter noted there was also evidence of what appeared to be a bungled and unsuccessful attempt to put the file into order. Correspondence of July 1990 and July 1991 had been put on the file at a point which clearly related to July 1992.“

“The reporter noted that the files disclosed numerous lengthy and unexplained delays and a repeated failure to respond to correspondence. There were dozens of letters on the files apologizing to third parties for delays in dealing with executry matters. These delays in many cases amounted to several months and in the case of the capital taxes office there were several delays, one of 18 months.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 2Law Society investigating lawyer found Andrew Penman deliberately mislead the Royal Bank of Scotland, amounting to professional misconduct. Page two of the Law Society report said : “The reporter noted there was a complete failure on the part of Messrs. P. & J. Stormonth-Darling to deal with this matter. They completely failed to acknowledge the instructions they had received from the Royal Bank in this connection and failed to take any steps to deal with the matter. The reporter was of the view that the substantial and unnecessary delays which had taken place in the executry might amount not only to an inadequate professional service on the part of Messrs. P.& J. Stormonth Darling but professional misconduct on the part of Mr Penman the solicitor dealing with the matter up until the time the complaint was lodged with the Law Society on 17th October 1994. Further the reporter was of the view that the apparent deliberate attempt to mislead the Royal Bank in regard to the Banco di Roma account may amount to professional misconduct.”

The Law Society investigating lawyer went onto demand a prosecution of Andrew Penman, saying : “In respect of the extraordinary delays and the repeated failures to respond to correspondence and the apparent, deliberate attempt to mislead the Royal Bank the reporter was of the view that the professional misconduct was such that it would warrant prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal The reporter was or the view that there had clearly been an inadequate professional service but in the, event of a referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal this would be incorporated into the complaint.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 3Law Society Complaints Committee said Andrew Penman mislead the Royal Bank, was a failure at handling an executry. The Committee’s consideration of the investigating lawyer’s findings revealed : “The Committee expressed grave concern at the way that this executry had been handled by Mr. Penman and the extraordinary delays and the complete failure to deal with correspondence in an adequate manner, The Committee were of the: view that there: had been very poor attention paid to the administration of this estate and that whilst the complainer’s uncertainty in certain matters might have caused some confusion there was a general lack of effort on the part of the solicitors to deal with matters in a reasonable manner.. It was noted in connection with the proposed loan by the Royal Bank. to the complainer there was a complete and utter failure to deal with the matter in any way or even to acknowledge the instructions. In connection with the Banco di Roma account the Committee noted the failure on the part of Mr. Penman to deal with matters in a reasonable way. They were particularly concerned at the terms of the letter written by Mr. Penman to the Royal Bank on 29th September 1992 which appeared to be an attempt to mislead the Royal Bank into believing that matters were being actively dealt with when they were not.”

“The Committee concurred with the views of the reporter in this matter indicating that the apparent attempt to mislead the Royal Bank persuaded them that Mr Penman’s acting in the matter were so serious and reprehensible as to amount to professional misconduct.”

“The Committee thereafter considered whether the professional misconduct was such that it would warrant referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. The Committee were of the view that the administration of the executry had been so appallingly badly done as to take the issue out of service into that of conduct and coupled with the apparent attempt to mislead the Royal Bank the conduct was such that it would warrant prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal. “

Law Society Complaints Committee decided that Andrew Penman should be prosecuted : “The Committee were of the view that Mr, Penman’s acting in respect of the extra-ordinary delays and failure to progress the administration of the executry and in apparently misleading the Royal Bank of Scotland were so serious and reprehensible as to amount to professional misconduct. The Committee determined to recommend to Council that Mr. Penman be prosecuted before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal in relation to the professional misconduct and the service provided and any other matter which the Fiscal feels appropriate.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 4Andrew Penman begged the Complaints Committee not to prosecute, citing personal humiliation in the media as an excuse, while his legal representative at the Committee, Mr James Ness used his influence among the Committee members to derail the decision to prosecute : “Written representations were then made as to why Mr Penman should not be prosecuted. It was pointed out that the action of the complainer in referring matters to the media prior to the complaint being considered Mr Penman’s natural right to have the Tribunal or the Society decide whether the case was deemed fit for publicity had been denied. As a result of the complaint, and newspaper report Mr Penman had suffered personally and this had been a considerable punishment in itself. It was argued that a reference to the Tribunal would result in a fine and substantial cost to Mr Penman with little or no purpose beyond what the Society could achieve using its own powers given that the Society would be able to order a waiver of part or all of the substantial fee which could be charged for work done together with a compensation award of up to £1,000.00.”

A variety of further excuses were presented by Andrew Penman, through his legal agent Mr Ness, which persuaded the Committee not to prosecute, : “It was also pointed out that the complaint was from a beneficiary and not from the executor in the estate with whom Mr Penman had been working to resolve matters. The Committee considered the representations which had been made. The Committee were of the view that Mr Penman’s dealings with the matter undoubtedly amounted to professional misconduct. They thereafter considered whether in light of the representations which had been made the scale of the misconduct could be said to be so serious as to justify prosecution or whether a reprimand would be more appropriate. The Committee noted that Mr Penman clearly accepted that matters had not been dealt with in a proper manner by him and that there had been delays in progressing matters.”

The Complaints Committee, arm-twisted by senior Law Society official James Ness, and lacking any equivalent representation for my points, then changed their verdict to save Mr Penman so he could ruin some more unsuspecting clients : “Having re-considered the matter and taking into account the representations which had been made the Committee were unanimously of the view that whilst Mr Penman’s acting amounted to professional misconduct they were not such that would warrant a prosecution and a reprimand would be more appropriate. The Committee therefore determined to withdraw their recommendation for prosecution and to substitute a provisional finding of professional misconduct warranting a reprimand.”

Law Society of Scotland report on solicitor Andrew Penman Stormonth Darling Kelso Page 5 & 6Complaints Committee accused Andrew Penman of Professional Misconduct, and did nothing after Law Society intervention. The Complaints Committee in the lead up to their decision, began to excuse their change of mind over prosecution, stating : “It was noted that written representations had been received from the complainer dated 5th and 20th July. Representations had been received from Messrs. P & J Stormonth Darling dated 25th July and the Committee Secretary advised that Mr Penman had confirmed that he accepted the Committee’s preliminary view on matters i.e. that he be reprimanded in respect of the professional misconduct. Having considered the written representations the Committee found no reason to depart from its previous view and, therefore, confirmed their previous findings.”

In addition to the swathe of excuses to explain their failure to prosecute, the Complaints Committee even claimed there had been no financial loss to the estate, which had in reality been ruined through the actions of both Andrew Penman as the legal agent, and Borders Accountant Norman Howitt, acting as the Executor. The Law Society were therefore unable to explain the reduction of a 300K capital residual estate to zero.

The official decision of the Complaints Committee read as follows : “THE COMMITTEE HAVING CONSIDERED THE FURTHER REPRESENTATIONS WHICH HAD BEEN MADE FOUND NO REASON TO DEPART FROM ITS PREVIOUS VIEW AND ACCORDINGLY FIND THAT THE CONDUCT OF MR PENMAN IN RESPECT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS AND FAILURES TO PROGRESS THE ADMINISTRATIONOF THE EXECUTRY AND IN MISLEADING THE ROYAL BANK OFSCOTLAND WERE SO SERIOUS AND REPREHENSIBLE AS TO AMOUNT TO PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT. THEY REPRIMANDED HIM.”

“IN ADDITION THE COMMITTEE FOUND THAT AN INADEQUATE PROFESSIONAL SERVICE HAD BEEN PROVIDED BY MESSRS. P & J. STORMONTH DARLING IN RESPECT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS AND FAILURE TO PROGRESS MATTERS DURING THE PERIOD FROM THE DATE OF DEATH TO OCTOBER 1994 WHEN MR PENMAN CEASED DEALING WITH THE MATTER. THE COMMITTEE DIRECTED THAT THE SOLICITORS SHOULD ONLY BE ENTITLED TO CHARGE A FEE IN RESPECT OF THAT PERIOD TO A MAXIMUM OF £3,000 PLUS VAT IN TERMS OF SECTION 42A(2)(a)(ii) OF THE 1980 ACT. IN ADDITION THE COMMITTEE DETERMINED THAT THE SOLICITORS SHOULD MAKE A PAYMENT OF £1,000 TO THE ESTATE BY WAY OFCOMPENSATION IN TERMS OF SECTION 42A (2)(d) OF THE 1980 ACT.”

As a matter of record, the £1,000 payment Mr Penman was ordered to make, was taken by Norman Howitt, the Estate Executor, to pay bills Mr Penman and Mr Howitt had accumulated themselves on failed advertising.

As a result of the Complaints Committee’s spineless decision, Borders solicitor Andrew Penman was never prosecuted for his actions, and was allowed to continue working at Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso to this day. Insiders at the Law Society of Scotland have confirmed numerous complaints have been made by other clients against the Borders Law firm Stormonth Darling, since the Complaints Committee’s decision not to prosecute Mr Penman all those years ago.

You can read more about Borders Accountant Norman Howitt’s part in the Executry, and more, here : A picture is worth a thousand words – Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders and you can read about how the Law Society of Scotland prevent clients being able to recover financial damages or take any legal action against crooked lawyers such as Andrew Penman, and the Law Society itself, here : Law Society intervention in claims ‘commonplace’ as ex Chief admits Master Policy protects solicitors against clients

Looking on the bright side, much good came from the Penman case, even if the bad remained.

What ‘Penman’ did, was alert the public to the fact the Law Society of Scotland, as a regulator, are thoroughly corrupt, as is the Scottish legal profession, throughout its entire fabric. No solicitor will stand against another, despite claims to the contrary, and those consumers who dare take issue with their ‘crooked lawyers’ face losing any right to access to justice, simply because lawyers consider it their right to fleece their clients, when needs must. Take my advice – don’t let Andrew Penman happen to you …

 

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Consumer experiences required for Scottish Government’s consultation on regulating non-lawyer will writers : Help protect YOUR final wishes

Scottish GovernmentScottish Government announced snap public consultation on will writing. REGULATING NON-LAWYER WILL WRITERS is the subject of the recent snap consultation announced by the Scottish Government, where responses are being sought from consumers, consumer organisations & bodies representative of the law & business who turn over enormous profits from charging the public for writing a will and administering a client’s wishes after death.

The consultation has a limited lifetime of less than 12 weeks, as the Government are considering tabling amendments to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill which would introduce regulation of non-lawyer will writers & companies which provide such services. Responses must be in by 19 February 2010 and if you value your family and how you wish them to deal with your will after your death, I suggest all readers submit their thoughts, or even experiences in already writing their will, with either a lawyer, or a non lawyer so that any new regulation applied to handling wills in Scotland is inclusive of actual consumer experiences, and protective against any possible malpractice by unregulated individuals & businesses who offer will writing services.

Details about the consultation and the present situation of will writers can be found here : Section 1 Background and current situation, Section 2 Views on the regulation of will writers and please also read Section 3 Options and consultation questions before you fill out the consultation form.

The consultation form can be downloaded from the Scottish Government’s consultations website page here Regulating non-lawyer will writers with a direct download available (in pdf format) here : Regulating non-lawyer will writers: a consultation paper

You can also complete an online version of the consultation paper, which can be found here : Annex A Consultation questionnaire and don’t forget to fill out the Annex B Respondent information form

All responses on this consultation should be emailed to steven.day@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or mailed to : Steven Day, Legal System Division 2W, St. Andrew‟s House, Regent Road, Edinburgh, EH1 3DG and if you have any queries contact Steven Day on 0131 244 2691.

Consumer Focus ScotlandConsumer Focus Scotland have already responded to the plans to regulate non-lawyer will writers, stating : “”We would at this time suggest that the Scottish Government also give consideration to the potential to introduce regulation for individuals or organisations offering will writing services. Whilst such will writing firms have had little presence in Scotland in the past, we are aware some of them have begun to advertise their services here. The Institute of Professional Willwriters has concerns that the recession will lead to an increase in the number of unscrupulous willwriters. Whilst we have no specific evidence of consumer detriment caused by willwriters in Scotland, we have concerns that bad practice will not be discovered until a person has died, by which time it is too late and the family must deal with the consequences of the bad practice.”

In February 2008, Citizens Advice warned people to be wary of adverts and cold calls promising cut-price wills. Which? covered the story in an article in April 2008. Citizens Advice Bureaux reported increasing numbers of people who had been conned into parting with many hundreds of pounds by bogus will writers cashing in on people’s desire to make sure their financial affairs are settled according to their wishes after they die. More recently, Citizens Advice has suggested that the case for independent regulation is considered, but cautioned that it would need to be proportionate to keep small, specialist will-writing firms in the market whilst enabling mass providers, such as banks, to develop will-writing services.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society’s member solicitors currently cause most of the ‘will fraud’ in Scotland. The Law Society of Scotland said : “The Society has serious concerns about the way in which will writers are currently able to operate without being subject to any form of regulation. A number of our members have reported incidences where they have received visits from clients who have been charged substantial sums of money by will writing companies to have wills drawn up that have either not achieved their intended testamentary objective or have lacked legal competence altogether. The Society would therefore urge the creation of a regulatory scheme for will writers, including requirements such as an entrance qualification, complaints handling through the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, indemnity insurance and CPD to ensure greater protection for the public.” – laughable comments from the Law Society, since it is their member solicitors who each year, rip off millions of pounds from dead client’s wills & bequests …

The Society of Will Writers has summarised its position on the regulation of non-lawyer will writers in Scotland as follows:

* all will writers should be trained to a minimum standard and be required to maintain that standard through the use of Continuing Professional Development;
* all will writers should carry and maintain professional indemnity insurance to a minimum agreed to meet today’s consumer needs;
* all will writers should comply with and adhere to an agreed Code of Practice;
* suitable disciplinary measures, including independent arbitration, should be in place;
* the consumer is held at all times at the heart of the Will Writers code of practice.

I am certainly in favour of regulating will writers in Scotland, as at present there is no regulation of these businesses & individuals who charge a fee for writing up wills and potentially going onto help handle a deceased’s estate after death. In the interests of consumer protection, regulation must be applied to the will writing industry, but certainly a more effective form of regulation than that offered by the Law Society of Scotland against solicitors who mishandle wills (currently & for many years, the cause of most will writing & will handling fraud in Scotland).

With regard to this consultation, we must remember that one of the highest incidences of fraud in the Scottish legal profession itself comes from lawyers administering wills of dead clients, which I have written about in an earlier article, here : Consumer warning on wills : Don’t make your lawyer your executor as soaring cases of ‘will fraud’ show Law Society closes ranks on complaints.

Despite the Law Society of Scotland’s claims to regulate the legal profession effectively, it usually does nothing when a ‘crooked lawyer’ rips off a client’s will. Over the years, Scotland’s lawyers, and many accountants, have milked the estates of their dead clients to the tune of many hundreds of millions of pounds, where an army of unchecked crooked lawyers such as Andrew Penman”, who habitually ruin estates of dead clients in case after case, run around in Scotland wiping out their dead client’s last wishes for the solicitor’s own personal profit & financial gain, often leaving families facing years of difficulty and horror in dealing with the final wishes of their departed loved one who only wished what they once had was passed onto their remaining family & beneficiaries.

Scotsman coverage of some of the stories relating to Andrew PenmanScotsman reported on Law Society’s protection of Andrew Penman who ruined estate. For years its been well known in the legal profession that handling a will is almost like having a license to steal because at the end of the day you know the Law Society will back solicitors up 100% against any complaints over what went wrong. Readers will be familiar with my own past on this issue, where a crooked lawyer by the name of Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darlng Solicitors, Kelso teamed up with an accountant (and executor), Norman Howitt now of Borders accountants JRW Group, to ruin my late father’s estate, details of which can be read HERE here and HERE.

Indeed, frauds committed by lawyers against a client’s last wishes appear to know no bounds of depravity, with even charitable bequests by individuals being pocketed by lawyers & law firms, rather than the intended organisation or charity the money has been bequeathed to.

It is reasonable to expect that, since lawyers are so crooked when it comes to writing, and even handling a client’s will … non-lawyers who are not regulated can in some cases, but not all, get up to the same tricks, scams, and wholesale theft their counterparts in the legal world have fine tuned to an art over many decades, under the wing of the ever crooked self regulating Law Society of Scotland, who will whitewash any complaint made against their member solicitors who just happen to rip off yet another dead client’s will.

Here are just a few examples on what happened to wills handled by solicitors, where the Law Society of Scotland did nothing after fraud had been discovered.

Example 1

will photo stockSolicitor ripped off dead client & family, paid huge interest to his own Bank. An elderly man recently deceased had left his home, possessions & sizeable investments to his wife & family in what he obviously thought was a simple straight forward will, making the mistake of appointing his solicitor as his executor. The first thing the solicitor did was open up three overdraft accounts with a local High Street bank which coincidentally, the solicitor also deals with on a business & personal basis. Over the three years the solicitor took to process his deceased client’s estate, the High Street Bank received a staggering £27,000 in interest alone on the overdraft accounts, despite there being no debts on the deceased’s estate. Documents also now reveal the solicitor negotiated some cheap personal finance from the same High Street bank to purchase a second home.

The widow of the deceased, upon being told the investments in the will had been cut in value by three quarters, made a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland after discovering through careful investigation her late husband’s investments had been changed around by the solicitor at his own discretion rather than being realised and handed over to the family as per the instructions contained in the will. Now the Law Society have backed the solicitor against the family, despite a £250,000 loss being incurred in the late husband’s investments, together with the loss of title deeds to the home in which the widow still lives, while it seems the solicitor has experienced a remarkable increase in his own personal wealth, along with 3 recent top of the range cars.

Example 2

will photo stockSolicitor & accountant ripped off client’s charitable donations via her will. The result of the charitable intentions of a deceased elderly nurse who bequeathed her substantial entire savings including her house, in total valued at over £2 million to charitable causes, has so far resulted in not one of her wishes being respected by the solicitor and a long time friend, an accountant, she made executors of her will.

Charities who were named in the initial will have, after two years, yet to receive a penny, while again, a local High Street Bank has received over £18,000 in interest on several overdraft accounts opened by the solicitor allegedly to pay debts on the estate which never existed. Meanwhile the solicitor has also bought himself a second house, as has the deceased’s’ long time friend’ the accountant, and the charities who were due to receive sums of money are now questioning whether they will receive anything, given a recent letter to one charity from the solicitor suggesting “there was little left in the estate to cover the charitable bequests” – this despite the fact the nurse had no debts whatsoever, and owned her own home.

The paralegal who brought this case to the attention of Law Society of Scotland has been sacked from solicitor’s law firm, and since there is no one to independently monitor how the solicitor and accountant, both acting as executor, have so fraudulently mishandled the estate of their client (and victim) nothing will probably be done against those who have so obviously plundered the estate of their dead client. Even the charities themselves are apparently reluctant to make a complaint to the Law Society of Scotland, possibly because a fleet of solicitors wives and family relatives sit on one of the charities concerned.

Example 3

will photo stockSolicitor stole 400k from will, no action by Law Society. A solicitor named as executor in an estate of an elderly unmarried man who had no surviving family, dying three years ago, tore up the original will of his client, and replaced it with one he had created to cover up the fact that a whopping £400,000 has disappeared from his deceased client’s bank accounts.

The will, which left a substantial bequest to a care home managed by the deceased’s local authority, has also seen the usual huge payments of interest fees to a local High Street Bank, in one case alone of £14,000 of pure interest, the same bank handling the solicitor’s law firm accounts.

The local authority had questioned when the bequest was to be made over to them, after being told by the solicitor there was little left to pay out his client’s wishes. The Law Society are supposedly still looking into the case, with as yet no action against the solicitor concerned.

Example 4

will photo stockSolicitor acting as executor stole over £30,000 from children’s trust. A deceased soldier who appointed his lawyer as executor, leaving everything to his wife & children, has unwittingly placed his family in the position of having to endure sickening refusals by the legal profession to do anything to recover over £30,000 of investments which were placed in a trust by the deceased client, for his children. The solicitor, acting as executor, cashed in the trust and used it to pay off gambling debts which everyone including the Law Society is now trying cover up.

Even serving one’s country it seems, is no guarantee to not being ripped off after death by crooked lawyers out to line their own pockets, with the likes of the good old Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission sitting back and doing absolutely nothing.

The few examples above (just four out of hundreds), show that even lawyers, supposedly guaranteed & regulated by the Law Society of Scotland, are incapable of honestly handling the affairs of their deceased clients – so any regulation brought in to oversee non-lawyer will writers, must be much more effective than the dismal offerings of regulatory guarantee by the legal profession.

Don’t let your will and what you leave behind to your family fall victim to another crooked lawyer such as Andrew Penman or any unregulated individual or business who can offer no guarantees your final wishes will be handled properly without your family being ripped off. Give your views on this consultation and help all Scots to ensure their wills are afforded the proper respect & honesty they deserve.

 

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Consumers will have little protection from accountants working in Scottish legal services market as ICAS promotes more closed shop self regulation

ICAS LOGO 2Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland gave evidence on Legal Services Bill. TUESDAY of this week saw officials from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland appearing before the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee to make pleas for Scottish accountants to become more involved in the expanded legal services market, promised by the Scottish Government’s Legal Services Bill, currently receiving a rocky ride from MSPs.

In response to opening questions from Justice Committee Convener Bill Aitken on how ICAS’s regulated non-member model, which the notoriously closed shop accountants regulator claims could be applied to the legal profession at a cost that would be lower than that of the current proposals by the Scottish Government & Law Society of Scotland, ICAS Executive Director of Regulation & Compliance Vivienne Muir laughably claimed her institute‘s approach to regulation had worked well for the accountancy profession, but as we all know, has not worked very well for clients of accountants.

Vivienne Muir said : “ICAS operates a fairly comprehensive regulatory approach for its members. Our chartered accountant firms comprise non-members as well as chartered accountants. In order to bring those non-members into the regulatory structure, they can become regulated non-members—there are contractual arrangements under which non-members come to the regulatory fore.”

“The advantage is that when we go out to a firm we can monitor the whole firm, as opposed to looking just at our members. We are therefore bringing non-members into the regulatory framework. It is a simple way of doing things and means that we can go out and assess the firm for quality and competence. The method has worked well for the accountancy profession.”

ICAS goes to Holyrood but fails to impress on accountants legal services roles :

You can find out more about the Legal Services Bill HERE and the full written report of the 5th January 2010 meeting is here : Legal Services Bill 5th January 2010 Official Report

In reality, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland have as much a closed shop, protective, ‘crooked’ self regulatory set up as the Law Society of Scotland, and are well known to protect their own members from complaints even when accountants have carried out criminal acts. Among little known facts regarding ICAS is that senior Law Society of Scotland members sit on its governing body, something I’ve covered in an earlier article worth reading here : Fears over corrupt self regulation as accountants regulator draft in ex Law Society President and solicitor as Public Interest members

More of my previous articles on the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland can be read here : Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland – not a trustworthy regulator or role model by any means and if you don’t want your legal services to be ‘Norman Howitted’ I’d suggest you read THIS and make sure your accountant is as far away from your legal affairs as possible.

It is evident the ICAS role model for regulation, as presented to the Scottish Parliament, works no better than the Law Society of Scotland’s closed shop routine for complaints against solicitors, demonstrating yet again that only fully independent regulation will serve the interests of Scotland’s consumers when it comes to a reformed legal services marketplace.

However since the Legal Services Bill as it currently stands has no provision for fully independent regulation of legal services in Scotland (principally because the professions don’t want it, and actually fear it), we as consumers cant expect much to change in terms of the public’s access to justice, instead rather this bill now appears to be more about the professions’ increased access to money and the continued right to control who in Scotland has access to justice and who does not.

 

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