CLIENTS, bereaved families & beneficiaries of wills & estates handled by the now closed Glasgow law firm of Ross Harper stand to lose huge amounts of money and face many years of battles to secure any remaining funds for payout after it was revealed earlier this week the Law Society of Scotland ordered the sale of Ross Harper’s estates & wills business ‘to the highest bidder’ in order to help pay the fees of the Judicial Factor appointed by the Law Society and monies owed by the law firm.
The ‘highest bidder’ in a secretive bidding process not published by the Law Society turned out to be another Glasgow based law firm, Mitchells Roberton, who claim on their website to be “a highly respected and trusted Scottish law firm and one of the oldest in the country”, matching almost a similar claim put forward by the now defunct firm of Ross Harper, who are now caught up in allegations large quantities of cash were plundered from client accounts.
While the Ross Harper website still urges consumers “to trust” the now shut down law firm with their wills & executries, no formal statement has been issued by the Law Society of Scotland on its website about the sale of the wills & estate business to another law firm.
As of this morning the Ross Harper website said : Trust Ross Harper to help handle your bereavement...
Our Wills & Executries Team can assist you with
Preparation of Wills
Administration of Estates
Legal rights claims
Powers of Attorney
Establishing and administering Trusts
A legal insider speaking to Scottish Law Reporters this morning revealed that no clients, bereaved families or beneficiaries who were already dealing with Ross Harper over wills & related business were consulted by the Law Society who rushed through the sale to Mitchells Roberton.
He alleged the sale of the wills & estates business “was steamrolled through on Law Society orders in an effort to prevent further embarrassing headlines rather than protect what was left of any residual estates or cash from wills left in the Ross Harper client accounts”
The Herald newspaper has also reported on the sale of the wills & executry business of Ross Harper, noting that one client at least, managed to save himself from the bitter pill of having to fight the Law Society of Scotland for a decade to return any missing funds via the Society’s “Guarantee Fund” which itself is under scrutiny for decades long delays in payouts and the highest failure rate of claims of any insurance policy.
Scottish Law Reporter recently reported on experts claims that victims of fraud at Ross Harper face up to ten years of wait to recover any funds they have lost. Read more on that HERE. The original SLR report on Ross Harper which stirred up quite a bit of debate and input can be read HERE
The Herald reports :
Senior News Reporter
FORMER employees of stricken law firm Ross Harper have criticised a decision to sell off the company's wills and estates business to the highest bidder in order to help pay its bills.
Some have claimed the move will add further stress to grieving families trying to secure funds from a relative's estate.
The wills and estates business will now be handled by Mitchells Roberton, with clients due to be informed of the development in writing over the coming days.
Some families will, however, have to fight to retrieve contents of an estate secured by Ross Harper before April 5 – the day when financial investigators were called in and the company bank accounts frozen.
They will have to apply to the Solicitors' Guarantee Fund to access the money owed to them, but some could still be left out of pocket, given that the fund does not always cover the full losses incurred.
One former Ross Harper employee said: "If it wasn't bad enough dealing with a family member dying, they have the added stress of not dealing with someone they had built up a relationship with, and trying to recover money – and they may not get all the money back.
"The judicial factor should have just passed the files to the solicitor who has moved on to another firm so he could continue to deal with his clients."
Ross Harper, which was in business for 50 years, was once considered one of Scotland's most successful high street law firms.
It ceased trading on April 30 after a financial investigator, appointed following Law Society of Scotland concerns over the use of client accounts, found there was not enough money available to pay wages and keep the business going.
Thousands of former clients of the firm are owed money, and it has also left a string of creditors. It is known that Ross Harper owed £50,000 in rent for one of its premises, with the firm owing substantially more on the lease for its main office in West Regent Street, Glasgow.
Interim judicial factor Ian Mitchell, of Henderson Loggie, could not confirm yesterday how many former clients of Ross Harper would be affected by the sale of the wills and estates business.
He defended the move to sell the accounts, given his job was to "achieve the best outcome" for Ross Harper, its former clients and creditors.
He said: "I considered offers from all interested parties and engaged in extensive negotiations in order to achieve the best outcome for the firm. Mitchells Roberton presented the best offer and successfully acquired the work."
Work is continuing to find a suitable buyer for the conveyancing and civil arm of the firm.
Experts used by the firm in court cases, such as forensic scientists, are known to be among those who have been left without payment.
A total of 23 staff have been made redundant at Ross Harper, while others jumped ship as the company started to unravel. Its four partners remain suspended from practice as the interim judicial factor's investigation continues. Mr Mitchell's appointment is due to be made permanent this week.
One former client of Ross Harper has spoken of his relief that he did not pay the contents of his mother's estate into its company account.
The man, who asked not to be named, turned to the solicitors for help in finalising his mother's personal affairs after her death.
He said: "I went with Ross Harper because they had been around for a long time and they were virtually a high street brand.
"They went to court to sort out some title deeds and they wanted me to transfer the money from the estate to them so they could administer it. That is something I declined. I am so happy now I didn't give them the estate."