Is a beneficiary entitled to challenge a solicitor’s costs of administering an estate?
Can a beneficiary challenge a solicitor’s costs incurred in relation to the work they have undertaken in administering an estate, even though those costs have been paid by the estate, rather than the beneficiary themselves?
The courts in England and Wales have confirmed that a beneficiary under a Will is entitled to seek what is known as a “Solicitors Act assessment” of the costs incurred by solicitors in administering the estate.
In Kenig v Thomson Snell & Passmore LLP  the Court of Appeal upheld a decision of the High Court that a beneficiary of an estate was indeed entitled to an order that a solicitor’s bill for administering the estate be assessed under the provisions of Section 71(3) of the Solicitors Act 1974.
In the Kenig case the solicitor’s estimate of their fees was between £10,000 and £15,000. However, the final bill was in excess of £50,000, plus disbursements.
The beneficiary under the Will challenged the solicitor’s costs and applied for an assessment of their bills. The court ordered an assessment of all the bills that the solicitors had rendered.
The solicitors argued that it was not open to a beneficiary to challenge legal fees that had been paid from the proceeds of the estate, and took their case to the Court of Appeal.
However the appeal was lost when the court confirmed that a beneficiary can challenge a solicitors costs of administering an estate, even if those costs were paid by the estate rather than the beneficiary directly.
If you would like to read the judgment in the Kenig case you can do so by following this LINK.
While it is not usually cost effective for us to deal with disputes over legal charges, we can often assist where the sums that are being disputed are substantial, or form part of a wider series of complaints about how an estate has been administered or the interests of a beneficiary have been prejudiced.
Call us on 0333 888 0407 or alternatively send an e-mail with brief details to [email protected]