A sole practitioner who failed to ensure his client took independent advice before leaving him part of her legacy has agreed to be removed from the roll.
Stuart Quail Murphy, 65 and a solicitor for almost 39 years, acted for a client in preparing a will in which she left him 5% of the residue of her estate.
Murphy, who was also appointed as co-executor, had advised the client to obtain independent legal advice when the will was being drafted, but failed to ensure she had taken alternative advice before she signed the will in 1996.
Murphy subsequently acted for the client in the amendment and making of new wills over the next 15 years, drafting four new versions in total, but failed to advise her again of the need to take independent legal advice.
A regulatory settlement agreement published by the SRA this week confirmed that when the client died aged 90 in 2017, Murphy administered her estate together with her co-executors. A year later, a deed of variation was created in which the Surrey-based solicitor gave his share of the will, amounting to around £43,000, to his two children.
Murphy admitted failing to advise the client to obtain independent legal advice and/or failing to ensure she took it. This was in breach of regulations which state that clients looking to leave a significant amount to their solicitor should be told to take independent advice – and the solicitor should stop acting for that client if they refuse.
In his mitigation, not endorsed by the SRA, Murphy said the client had left him the money as gratitude for the work he had done in dealing with her husband’s estate. He did not take advantage of her and she initiated the gift. He said the client appeared healthy and knew her mind, although he accepted he should have discussed the issue with her more deeply. Her will included provision for 12 beneficiaries who were to receive between 3% and 32% of her will.
Murphy, who retired two years ago, has applied to have his name removed from the roll. He was also fined £2,000 and agreed to pay £1,130 costs.