Dishonest Probate Paralegal Damages Trust In Profession
Earlier this month, a dishonest probate paralegal was jailed for three years after she disgracefully stole from a number of deceased clients’ estates.
In total, Lucy Gunton stole in excess of £70,000 by exploiting her position of trust, accessing sensitive data attached to the estates and using the information to her advantage to deceive both beneficiaries and the partners in the law firm, Bate Edmund Snape (BES), which she was representing.
In one of these cases the deceased client, Ivy Holden, had instructed that her estate be divided between a number of charities and family members, including her nephew Stephen Lilycrop who was living in America at the time.
Distribution of the estate was delayed whilst waiting for a tax rebate. During this time, Gunton exploited the delay to commit her first fraudulent act.
Gunton wrote a hand-written letter, claiming to be a desperate Mr Lilycrop looking for an advance on his inheritance. The letter claimed that he had contacted The Law Society which had advised that he was entitled to the money without delay.
Using the sensitive information she was privy to, Gunton took the matter to a partner in her firm who initially felt unsure about releasing the funds. Gunton played on the trust placed in her by claiming she had spoken with The Law Society who had confirmed the advice the beneficiary had been given.
Following this assurance, Mr Taylor released the money to Gunton, acting as an intermediary for Mr Lilycrop. In this instance, £26,500 was stolen and spent on frivolous items like shoes and designer handbags.
In a further incident, Gunton impersonated the grieving widow of deceased client, Brian Gorman. Gunton claimed that the bereaved widow was in dire need of £16,750 for crucial maintenance works and home improvements/alterations to help her cope without her husband.
The unscrupulous and cold-hearted fraudster’s crimes were uncovered when an identical lower-case spelling error, made whilst writing the firm’s address, connected the crimes and ultimately led to Gunton receiving a prison sentence.
Incidents like this damage the credibility of the profession and could lead to fewer people accessing important legal services. When reputation is so important, it is imperative that your business is able to prove its expertise and, more importantly, highlight its trustworthiness.
The Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) and Institute of Scottish Professional Willwriters (ISPW) are able to document and prove the trust that Institute members’ clients place in its members.
IPW and ISPW members are able to proudly boast that they adhere to the Institute’s Code of Practice which has been approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. This indicates to members’ clients that the Institute and its members are committed to providing a fair, expert and trustworthy service.
This article was submitted to be published by the Institute of Professional Willwriters as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.