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A senior lawyer at London firm Kingsley Napley has been fined for mistakenly allowing the transfer of £1.5m from an estate to his client.
Matthew Duncan, who was the firm’s former head of private client, admitted enabling the payments to the spouse of a deceased foreign national, despite the client being in dispute with the dead person’s children.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) ordered him to pay a £15,000 fine and £7,500 costs, The Law Society Gazette reports.
The client had been granted administration of the English estate of the deceased, with the grant giving her the authority to get in the deceased’s assets, but not to deal with those assets or make payments from the estate.
Duncan, however, paid £750,000 from the estate to the client in October 2015 at her request. He knew the English estate was worth more than £9m and he felt justified in making the distribution because it was a small proportion of what the client would ultimately receive.
Duncan also made further payments of around £825,000 to or for the benefit of the client.
He said the first payment was made because the client was without income following her spouse’s death, while subsequent payments amounted to reimbursing expenses he honestly believed were permitted.
The tribunal noted the misconduct arose from Duncan’s errors, not from any malign motive, and that this was an isolated incident in an otherwise untarnished career.