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The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has struck off an experienced probate solicitor after he was found to have overcharged clients.
Keith Smart, of Cwmbran-based Keith Smart & Co, excessively billed clients more than £168,000 between 2016 and 2018.
The first major instance of overcharging occurred between August 2016 and February 2017, when Mr Smart charged £72,062.50 (excluding VAT) to administer an estate.
Following a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) investigation the total costs of administration in this case was reduced to £1,297.50.
In November 2017 Smart charged another probate client £40,066, exclusive of VAT, for his services. This figure was reduced by more than £36,000 following an investigation by the SRA.
The SDT report stated: “These were serious acts of dishonesty. The overcharging of clients was committed over an extended period of time and benefitted the Respondent [Smart] to the detriment of the executors and beneficiaries of the probate estates.”
Mr Smart has now returned £77,000 to two of the estates involved and has expressed his sincere apologies for his actions.
He was ordered to pay the SRA costs of £20,151.64 in addition to being struck off the Roll of Solicitors.