A solicitor who excessively overcharged for probate work has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Christopher William Edwin Greenman was found to have misappropriated fees of £90,000 from a £370,865 estate. Greenman had told the executor that at most, the total charge would be around 3% plus VAT. The tribunal found that he had actually charged around 26%.
This amounted to an approximate overcharge of around 574%, with these fees being requested in bills that had not been sent to the executor.
Opining that the fee charged was unreflective of work which had been undertaken was expert witness to the tribunal, costs lawyer Susan Corbin. She stated that a reasonable sum would come to around £4,168 plus VAT.
Originally the equity and senior partner at Leicester based firm, Dews Whitcomb, Greenman then went on to work for JS Law after the closure of the former.
The actions of Greenman were established when Robert Dews, his previous partner, reported his conduct to both the police and the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
As well as having drafted the original will in 2005, Dews was also the executor. Upon discovering that Dews Whitcomb was suffering from financial problems, Dews instructed new solicitors to take over the matter.
Overseeing the estate, Greenman claimed that a home which had fallen into disrepair was included in the estate, alleging that significant restoration was required.
Despite denying that he had breached accounts and conduct rules, the tribunal found that Greenman was not entitled to charge more than the initial estimation of 3%. It was found that the fees were “manifestly excessive” and dismissed the claim from Greenman that Dews had known the costs.
Acknowledging that his misconduct has been driven by financial gain and self-interest on a personal level, the tribunal stated that he had caused “considerable harm to the reputation of the profession” having departed for the expected standard of solicitors.
His sanction was also made in light of the estate’s main beneficiary being a charity, with the tribunal stating that to deprive it of bequeathed funds was disgraceful.
Greenman was struck off as a result of his “deliberated and calculated” actions which had been further aggravated by his “proven dishonesty”. Costs of £10,000 were also ordered to be paid.