03 July 2012
Heir locators’ fee successfully challenged
B P Collins LLP acted for three beneficiaries of an estate who challenged the enforceability of a contingency fee arrangement with an heir locator asking for a large proportion of the estate as a "finder's fee".
Litigation partner, Craig Williams, specialises in contentious estate cases and carefully considered the contract in place with the heir locator. Craig advised the beneficiaries regarding the legal and factual issues in play and sought additional advice from specialist chancery counsel.
B P Collins LLP concluded the heir locater was not entitled to the full extent of their finder's fee for a number of reasons. In subsequent correspondence, it was detailed that the heir locator had also appointed themselves as administrator of the estate and had drawn up accounts which were inaccurate and incomplete. Our initial correspondence therefore also required the heir locator to step down as administrator and clarify the anomalies in the accounts.
When the heir locator refused to accept the points set out in the initial correspondence, B P Collins LLP drafted and issued a High Court claim on behalf of the beneficiaries. Very shortly after that, the heir locator agreed a settlement which resulted in an Order removing them as administrator and substantially reducing the level of their finder's fee. The heir locator also agreed to pay all of the beneficiaries costs incurred in the litigation.
As a result of the advice from B P Collins LLP, the beneficiaries immediately gained control of the estate and achieved a substantial saving on the finder's fee claimed by the heir locator. The early settlement also meant that the beneficiaries could take advantage of their inheritance within a matter of months of instructing B P Collins LLP, whereas a fully contested High Court action could have resulted in a delay of up to 12 months.