It (should) be well-trodden practice for solicitors to advise their clients to seek independent legal advice should the client wish to benefit that lawyer under their Will.
This ruling demonstrates the need to consider this best practice more widely than perhaps previously thought. The client in question had been advised to take independent legal advice the first time the Will was prepared, however on each subsequent revision (and particularly where the amount of the legacy increased), the solicitor had not done so.
The tribunal also found that it was not sufficient for the solicitor in question to believe that the 'independent' advice sought was truly independent. The SRA rules were applied in this instance in an objective manner and the two advisers were found to be too closely connected. The standard to be achieved was that of an ordinary person.
A veteran solicitor who accepted bequests in clients' wills has been fined but cleared of acting dishonestly or without integrity. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found that Piers Matthew Beach, former sole manager of Hampshire firm Wills Chandler Beach, made an ‘honest error’ when he failed to advise a client to take independent advice when a gift was increased from £10,000 to £20,000.