We took a look at Mr W’s complaint that a firm had begun charging an additional value element more than 12 months after it was instructed to administer an estate at an agreed hourly rate of £220.
The estate was worth almost £4million and the firm started deducting the one per cent value element without prior agreement from Mr W, the executor. Mr W wrote to the solicitor to complain that he was not happy with the additional charges, but the firm continued to deduct the value element, taking in total over £70k from the estate.
We decided that the firm’s service was unreasonable because the Code of Conduct and Law Society Wills and Inheritance Protocol required them to provide clear information about their costs at the outset, which would have included explaining in advance that they intended to charge a value element.
As Mr W had instructed the firm on the basis of being charged for time spent only, the ombudsman found the firm was not entitled to amend the terms retrospectively. The firm was therefore not entitled to deduct the money for the value element, and we directed that the £70,119 they had taken must be returned to the estate.