Even the most apparently trustworthy people can sometimes turn out to be anything but and that is one good reason why it is sensible to appoint a solicitor as executor of your will. In one case that proved the point, an ex-police officer took advantage of his position to steal his disabled cousin’s inheritance from her father.
The cousin was vulnerable to financial exploitation and, in the belief that the officer was well placed to protect her interests, her father appointed him as his executor. Following her father’s death, however, the officer took almost £130,000 from the estate and used a labyrinthine network of bank accounts to cover his tracks.
He also arranged for the bungalow inherited by his cousin, worth about £50,000, to be transferred to his son for just £1. His wrongdoing was ultimately uncovered and he was jailed for three and a half years after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud and four counts of theft. His son received a suspended sentence for conspiracy to defraud.
The facts of the case emerged as lawyers representing the Solicitor General asked the Court of Appeal to increase the officer’s sentence on the basis that it was unduly lenient. The Court accepted that his punishment did not sufficiently reflect the seriousness of his crimes. However, in declining to lengthen his jail term, it noted that he was elderly and had a wife and a sick daughter to care for. He had also restored everything that he had taken from the estate.
Peter Roberts from the Watson Ramsbottom Wills and Probate department commented “Cases like this occur all too frequently. When appointing an attorney or executor, the best way to ensure that your assets will be protected is to enlist the services of a professional, who can exercise oversight.” Contact us for advice on 01254 70 11 11 or complete our online enquiry form.