James Allie, a partner with London-based firm Spence & Horne has been fined and struck-off the roll for transferring ownership of a client’s home into his own name following her death.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard how Allie, 52, had transferred ownership of his late client’s £1m home within five months of her death and then moved more than £820,000 from his client’s estate into his personal bank account. Allie, who was the executor of the will, then used the cash to buy a flat worth £586,000, which he moved into after being evicted from his own home.
Allie did not attend the haring but claimed during correspondence with the SRA that the reason for his actions was that he aimed to increase the value of the client’s estate by converting her home into flats and by using her money to invest in more property.
Acting for the SRA, Andrew Bullock, commented about Allie:
“This is in reality an exercise done entirely for his own benefit, not for the benefit of the trust and the story of this all being about maximising value to the estate is something he comes up with when his actions are discovered,” and cited Allie’s explanation as “a pack of lies”.
Allie’s client died in June 2016 and he had by November 2016 transferred her home into his own name, prior to grant of probate. It is reported that the bank transfers followed two months later, without the knowledge of any beneficiaries of the estate.
Bullock addressed tribunal members stating that:
“You will have come across instances of quite sophisticated frauds perpetrated by solicitors moving money around and running sham ledgers. Mr Allie took client money and the client’s estate and put them into his name. It really is very much as simple as that.”
Allie was found by the tribunal to have acted dishonestly and was struck off the roll, as well as being ordered to pay £25,000 costs.