Possible Negligence by Executor Solicitor

50_Hertz
50_Hertz Posts: 15
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edited 25 January at 5:18PM in Deaths, funerals & probate
I'll try to do this in bullet points.

1) A friend left me his house in his will.

2) The will appointed a named firm of solicitors as the executors.

3) During December a water supply pipe froze,  burst and flooded the house.

4) Extensive damage has been caused. Very extensive.

5) The solicitor has informed me that the unoccupied property insurance policy, arranged by them, is refusing to pay out.

6) The insurer's reasons for non payment are; they don't pay for water escapes from supply pipes between October and April. The water should have been isolated and the system drained from October through to April. This is in the Ts & Cs, but the solicitor didn't comply with them, hence no payment.

7) The solicitors are proposing to carry out a cosmetic repair, and re-market the house. 

8) The solicitors have stated that the cosmetic repair and their (the solicitors) time handling this additional work will be charged to the estate. 

9) The plan at (8) will substantially devalue the house and substantially reduce the the residual after the repair and solicitor's additional fees have been paid.

Q1) Can they do this?

Q2) Have the solicitors been negligent by not adequately safeguarding the estate asset (house)?

Q3) Is it reasonable to insist that an independent chartered surveyor draws up a schedule of work to rectify the damage and that the solicitor funds everything including their additional time?

Q4) Any advice on how to proceed?

Thank you.
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Comments

  • elsien
    elsien Posts: 32,278
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    What reason have the solicitors given for not having complied with the insurance requirements? Was it them who took the insurance out?
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • BooJewels
    BooJewels Posts: 2,714
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    @elsien asked exactly what I was going to.  I've done unoccupied insurance on 2 estate properties and got assorted quotes at the time and the policies always specified that you either drain the water systems or keep the heating on, with a specified minimum thermostat temperature.  So I would expect a firm of solicitors, that act as executors, to be aware of this.  Surely it's one of the executors responsibilities/duties to protect the assets of the deceased?

    If, by fluke, it's the first one they've ever done, then shame on them for not reading the terms of the insurance (if they did organise it, which seems likely as executors) - such things are usually highlighted as endorsements on the policy key facts and not just buried in small print.  They also usually specify how often the property must be checked and a log kept of all visits, with observations.  On one, I also had to open the loft hatch to allow heat to rise into it.  Or did they just renew the existing insurance without advising that the property was unoccupied?

    Do you know which insurer, as you can perhaps download the policy documents and see for yourself how obvious such a clause might have been and any other pertinent endorsements.
  • 50_Hertz
    50_Hertz Posts: 15
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    elsien said:
    What reason have the solicitors given for not having complied with the insurance requirements? Was it them who took the insurance out?
    Thelsien said:

    The solicitors took out the policy. When asked, they said they have complied with the policy, but it doesn't include water escaping from a supply pipe. When I asked them why they hadn't isolated the supply, they refused to answer and suggested that I was looking for someone to blame for an accident. When challenged about it being an accident, they said that we were heading for a state of "conflict" whatever that means and they would have to cease cooperation with me.
  • 50_Hertz
    50_Hertz Posts: 15
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    BooJewels said:
    @elsien asked exactly what I was going to.  I've done unoccupied insurance on 2 estate properties and got assorted quotes at the time and the policies always specified that you either drain the water systems or keep the heating on, with a specified minimum thermostat temperature.  So I would expect a firm of solicitors, that act as executors, to be aware of this.  Surely it's one of the executors responsibilities/duties to protect the assets of the deceased?

    If, by fluke, it's the first one they've ever done, then shame on them for not reading the terms of the insurance (if they did organise it, which seems likely as executors) - such things are usually highlighted as endorsements on the policy key facts and not just buried in small print.  They also usually specify how often the property must be checked and a log kept of all visits, with observations.  On one, I also had to open the loft hatch to allow heat to rise into it.  Or did they just renew the existing insurance without advising that the property was unoccupied?

    Do you know which insurer, as you can perhaps download the policy documents and see for yourself how obvious such a clause might have been and any other pertinent endorsements.
    They are refusing to disclose the name of the insurance company. I had a meeting with them yesterday and they flatly refused to disclose who the insurer is or even let me have sight of the Ts&Cs.

    I'm pretty sure it is an unoccupied house insurance policy suitable for probate situations, but they seem to have not adhered to the stipulations within the policy.

    Visiting frequency is interesting. During the period 25/11 to 03/12, historical Met Office data I have obtained for that area suggested that the temperature was between 0 and -8 degrees C for the whole period. It never got above 0. I know a visit was made on 02/12. After 03/12 the temperature rose and stayed well above freezing. The leak was discovered on 16/12, so that would suggest that no visits were made between 02/12 and 16/12 (14 days). Circumstances suggest that water started entering the property soon after 03/12 when the temperature rose and the damaged pipe thawed. The solicitors claim a visit was made on 09/12, but I don't believe that. The leak would have been found then if that was the case. Temperatures were well above 0 between 09/12 and 16/12.

    The insurance policy stipulates a visit frequency of 7 days.


  • doodling
    doodling Posts: 937
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    edited 25 January at 6:19PM
    Hi,

    Unfortunately I think that the only way forward here is to obtain legal advice from a different firm of solicitors.

    On the face of it they failed to take reasonable measures to protect estate assets so I would expect them to have some liability (especially since their insurers probably told them what measures they had to take).  How they insured it and what the conditions were are not things you should concern yourself with as they don't affect you - if the solicitors are liable then they are liable, even if they didn't insure it at all.

    If the property is being sold then you can't say how it should be repaired, all you would be due is the value of the house in its previous undamaged state.  The solicitors would be at liberty to sell it in its current state and make up the difference themselves for example.
  • BooJewels
    BooJewels Posts: 2,714
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    50_Hertz said:
    BooJewels said:
    @elsien asked exactly what I was going to.  I've done unoccupied insurance on 2 estate properties and got assorted quotes at the time and the policies always specified that you either drain the water systems or keep the heating on, with a specified minimum thermostat temperature.  So I would expect a firm of solicitors, that act as executors, to be aware of this.  Surely it's one of the executors responsibilities/duties to protect the assets of the deceased?

    If, by fluke, it's the first one they've ever done, then shame on them for not reading the terms of the insurance (if they did organise it, which seems likely as executors) - such things are usually highlighted as endorsements on the policy key facts and not just buried in small print.  They also usually specify how often the property must be checked and a log kept of all visits, with observations.  On one, I also had to open the loft hatch to allow heat to rise into it.  Or did they just renew the existing insurance without advising that the property was unoccupied?

    Do you know which insurer, as you can perhaps download the policy documents and see for yourself how obvious such a clause might have been and any other pertinent endorsements.
    They are refusing to disclose the name of the insurance company. I had a meeting with them yesterday and they flatly refused to disclose who the insurer is or even let me have sight of the Ts&Cs.

    I'm pretty sure it is an unoccupied house insurance policy suitable for probate situations, but they seem to have not adhered to the stipulations within the policy.

    Visiting frequency is interesting. During the period 25/11 to 03/12, historical Met Office data I have obtained for that area suggested that the temperature was between 0 and -8 degrees C for the whole period. It never got above 0. I know a visit was made on 02/12. After 03/12 the temperature rose and stayed well above freezing. The leak was discovered on 16/12, so that would suggest that no visits were made between 02/12 and 16/12 (14 days). Circumstances suggest that water started entering the property soon after 03/12 when the temperature rose and the damaged pipe thawed. The solicitors claim a visit was made on 09/12, but I don't believe that. The leak would have been found then if that was the case. Temperatures were well above 0 between 09/12 and 16/12.

    The insurance policy stipulates a visit frequency of 7 days.


    I looked, out of curiosity, to see how buried this information might be, as I knew it had a significantly wordy policy document - and this is a screengrab from page 2 of the 5 page 'schedule' summary document.  The other insurer I used for another property had the same endorsements.  It also stipulated, just below where I cropped my image below, under 'security' that it had to be inspected every 14 days and an accurate record kept of inspections.  How do you know it specified 7 days if you haven't seen the policy - did they tell you this earlier?



    I can concur that it was very definitely cold and below freezing around 2nd December (at least where I was in Northumberland - we'd just gone on holiday) - I slipped on some ice that had become covered with snow and fractured my leg in 2 places - I couldn't even get to A&E until the following day, as we ended up snowed in that night.  It did warm from later on the 3rd - enough for un-gritted tarmac to clear by itself and was above freezing for the rest of that week (damp and foggy) - so yes, I would suggest the leak would likely have shown itself by 9th.  That's a particular weekend I won't forget in a hurry.
  • BooJewels
    BooJewels Posts: 2,714
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    doodling said:
    Hi,

    Unfortunately I think that the only way forward here is to obtain legal advice from a different firm of solicitors.[snip]
    I'd concur.  If the OP is a beneficiary, they don't as such have any relationship with the solicitors - their responsibility is to the estate and the deceased.  So independent guidance might be the only way to get any forward movement.

    @50_Hertz - do you have legal cover on your own household insurance - that can often be a good starting point to get some initial guidance as to how you might proceed.  Not sure this would be covered as they're often 'contract' based issues they cover and that doesn't apply here.
  • 50_Hertz
    50_Hertz Posts: 15
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    BooJewels said:
    50_Hertz said:
    BooJewels said:
    @elsien asked exactly what I was going to.  I've done unoccupied insurance on 2 estate properties and got assorted quotes at the time and the policies always specified that you either drain the water systems or keep the heating on, with a specified minimum thermostat temperature.  So I would expect a firm of solicitors, that act as executors, to be aware of this.  Surely it's one of the executors responsibilities/duties to protect the assets of the deceased?

    If, by fluke, it's the first one they've ever done, then shame on them for not reading the terms of the insurance (if they did organise it, which seems likely as executors) - such things are usually highlighted as endorsements on the policy key facts and not just buried in small print.  They also usually specify how often the property must be checked and a log kept of all visits, with observations.  On one, I also had to open the loft hatch to allow heat to rise into it.  Or did they just renew the existing insurance without advising that the property was unoccupied?

    Do you know which insurer, as you can perhaps download the policy documents and see for yourself how obvious such a clause might have been and any other pertinent endorsements.
    They are refusing to disclose the name of the insurance company. I had a meeting with them yesterday and they flatly refused to disclose who the insurer is or even let me have sight of the Ts&Cs.

    I'm pretty sure it is an unoccupied house insurance policy suitable for probate situations, but they seem to have not adhered to the stipulations within the policy.

    Visiting frequency is interesting. During the period 25/11 to 03/12, historical Met Office data I have obtained for that area suggested that the temperature was between 0 and -8 degrees C for the whole period. It never got above 0. I know a visit was made on 02/12. After 03/12 the temperature rose and stayed well above freezing. The leak was discovered on 16/12, so that would suggest that no visits were made between 02/12 and 16/12 (14 days). Circumstances suggest that water started entering the property soon after 03/12 when the temperature rose and the damaged pipe thawed. The solicitors claim a visit was made on 09/12, but I don't believe that. The leak would have been found then if that was the case. Temperatures were well above 0 between 09/12 and 16/12.

    The insurance policy stipulates a visit frequency of 7 days.


    I looked, out of curiosity, to see how buried this information might be, as I knew it had a significantly wordy policy document - and this is a screengrab from page 2 of the 5 page 'schedule' summary document.  The other insurer I used for another property had the same endorsements.  It also stipulated, just below where I cropped my image below, under 'security' that it had to be inspected every 14 days and an accurate record kept of inspections.  How do you know it specified 7 days if you haven't seen the policy - did they tell you this earlier?



    I can concur that it was very definitely cold and below freezing around 2nd December (at least where I was in Northumberland - we'd just gone on holiday) - I slipped on some ice that had become covered with snow and fractured my leg in 2 places - I couldn't even get to A&E until the following day, as we ended up snowed in that night.  It did warm from later on the 3rd - enough for un-gritted tarmac to clear by itself and was above freezing for the rest of that week (damp and foggy) - so yes, I would suggest the leak would likely have shown itself by 9th.  That's a particular weekend I won't forget in a hurry.
    Hi, thanks for this and I hope you are recovering. It sounds nasty!

    The solicitor did tell me the visit frequency had to be 7 days. It was one of the few questions they did answer. I still don't know why the leak wasn't discovered on 09/12, if they visited. It's probably not that important overall, but it does raise questions regarding their integrity.
  • 50_Hertz
    50_Hertz Posts: 15
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    BooJewels said:
    doodling said:
    Hi,

    Unfortunately I think that the only way forward here is to obtain legal advice from a different firm of solicitors.[snip]
    I'd concur.  If the OP is a beneficiary, they don't as such have any relationship with the solicitors - their responsibility is to the estate and the deceased.  So independent guidance might be the only way to get any forward movement.

    @50_Hertz - do you have legal cover on your own household insurance - that can often be a good starting point to get some initial guidance as to how you might proceed.  Not sure this would be covered as they're often 'contract' based issues they cover and that doesn't apply here.

    I don't have legal cover on my home insurance, but fortunately, I do have a specific legal insurance policy which I have found since making the original post. It's paid up to date and a quick read through it would suggest it covers, amongst other things,  legal fees for matters concerning wills and probate for up to £100000.00 There has to be a 51% or greater chance of success. I'm going to contact them first thing tomorrow morning. It has to be worth trying. 
  • BooJewels
    BooJewels Posts: 2,714
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    @50_Hertz thanks for the good wishes - it's an experience I could have done without. But I start physio tomorrow, so I'll find out a bit more then. 

    Lucky find with the insurance policy - that's almost certainly better than the household version would have been for you.  My husband and I had several successes with our insurance version - we had very good service from them.  If nothing else, if you ring the helpline, they'll usually discuss your situation and give you a good idea of what can be done and maybe make suggestions of what to try before they'll take it on.
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