Got a legal dilemma?

By Philippa Rudd, a partner with Cozens-Hardy solicitors in Norwich

My mother is in her late 80s and she is selling her large house so that she can move into sheltered accommodation. I live some way away and I am hoping to help her with the paperwork but her solicitor refuses to speak to me; what can I do please?

Your mother’s solicitor has a duty of confidentiality to her and he cannot discuss her matter with you unless she authorises him to do so. She should put this authority in writing to her solicitor.  He will then be able to deal with you direct. 

How do we the family know that she won’t be overcharged by him, or worse? 

Your mother should have a detailed breakdown of the solicitor’s estimate, including all the expenses such as stamp duty land tax and land registry fees together with their terms of business including their complaint handling process.

 How do we know that my mother will receive the full amount of money due to her from the sale? 

You can check the contract she will have signed and also the completion statement which will be sent to her once the property has been sold, together with a copy of the mortgage redemption statement (if she has a mortgage) and the estate agent’s bill. Solicitors are subject to very strict accounts rules. These rules state, for example, that clients’ money must be kept separate from the practice’s own money and strict systems have to be complied with. Most firms deal with hundreds of transactions every day and are scrupulous about observing these rules and all are subject to annual audit by an independent accountant who has to submit a report to the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority).

 Can I check to see if my mother’s solicitor is genuine? 

You can search on the Law Society website to see if the solicitor has a practising certificate and also on the SRA website to see if the solicitor has ever been disciplined for dishonesty. If you remain concerned you should speak to the senior partner at the firm or the SRA.

Philippa is on 01603 625231.

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