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Settling estate proves tricky for easily distracted lawyer

Settling estate proves tricky for easily distracted lawyer

A small town British lawyer has been suspended for being more than a little tardy in the winding up of a client's estate.RollonFriday reports that Guy Choat, a 70-year-old solicitor from Beccles…

A small town British lawyer has been suspended for being more than a little tardy in the winding up of a client's estate.

RollonFriday reports that Guy Choat, a 70-year-old solicitor from Beccles in Suffolk, has been stood down and fined after taking almost 20 years to finalise a spinster's affairs and pay her executors.

The long-winded affair started back in 1992 when poor old Muriel McCarthy fell off the perch, so to speak. Choat had instructions to settle her £294,000 ($475,000) estate and agreed to do so.

However, several years passed in which Choat was obviously distracted by other matters and absolutely nothing was done to wind things up.

Fortunately, the Beccles Parish Council was alert and in-tune with what has happening (or not happening) and had the good sense to move swiftly. Thus, nine years after instructions were given, the Council contacted Choat to express concern about the affair.

Choat allayed some of the Council's concerns by agreeing to repay the £7,000 he admitted to overcharging (oops!) and promised to prepare the estate accounts tout de suite.

But alas, by 2002 the accounts were still not completed (but hey, September 11 had happened and the world was a different place). In 2003 Choat blamed a viral infection for the lack of action, but claimed the case was "top priority". When 2005 rolled by Choat reassured the Council that he "remained committed to resolving this matter". In 2007 he was still very much committed and "chuntering through it".

When 16 years had passed (and many a tumbleweed), the Council had enough. It was time to get in touch with the Legal Complaints Service (LCS).

Once involved, the LCS broke the sad news to Choat that two of McCarthy's executors had actually managed to fall off the perch as well (probably due to old age).

Eventually, Choat found himself before the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal, pleading "bad luck" and dramatically likening himself to "a survivor from the Titanic ... clinging to any spar in the wreckage".

Obviously the LSC didn't like James Cameron's hit film, which was made a mere five years after the estate saga began, and the 19-year delay earned him a three year suspension and a £7,400 fine.

Folklaw is surprised Choat couldn't come up with a better argument to defend his actions, given he had so much time to prepare ...

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