I am writing to ask for your firm to put a letter together for me and send it to another lawyer in Barbados. I understand that this is probably an unusual request but to be honest I cannot get proper legal representation in Barbados as it is difficult to get a lawyer to criticise or even prosecute another lawyer hence this request.
The letter I need from yourself essentially is to provide a legal opinion on the distribution of assets to a particular person with regards to the will of a deceased person even if the opinion is based on just UK law.
Background to the issue
I am the executor of my grandmother, Ina Griffith’s Will and the legal firm used by my grandmother to write up her will was the same one that I used to assist me in the initial stages of probating the Will. The Will itself was a fairly straight forward document with 3 beneficiaries, myself being one, my aunt another and the great-niece of my grandmother. The Will sets out in clear terms what is due to the beneficiaries so I was surprised when the legal firm stated in a letter dated Jul10, 2013 that “Mrs. Griffith bequeathed the monies held in her Savings Account at First Caribbean & Royal Bank of Canada to her niece” Tia Collymore one of the three beneficiaries.
I believe that this statement is wrong and deliberately so hence why I am asking for essentially a second opinion.
I disagree with the statement for the following reasons.
1. The Will states (on the second page, last paragraph) the niece is only due saving from the Broad Street branch of First Caribbean (now CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank).
2. The bank confirmation letter from the bank in question states that there is one account in Ina Grifith’s name and two other joint accounts. In a letter dated January 27, 2014 (point 4) I managed to get the bank to confirm in writing that the account bequeathed to the great niece was actually the joint account she held with her deceased husband, Eustace Griffith.
3. The legal firm should have knew this as they were also assisting my mother with Eustace Grifith’s Will, as she was the executor of his Will. They advised her that joint account Ina Griffith held with her husband Eustace was part of Ina’s estate as he died before her.
Not only was I given incorrect advice but the niece, Tia Collymore (who is a minor) and her mother, Keisha Collymore were also given misleading advice. I have never spoken to either of these individuals so I don’t know what was said but when I went to Barbados to start probating the Will of Ina Griffith I was arrested by the police. Now the police at the time never provided a reason for the arrest other than they were investigating a complaint at the time. The fact that Keisha Collymore is a serving police officer made it likely that she was the complainant. Also I remember overhearing one of the officers at the time saying that this all came about because she had complained to the fraud department that I was stealing her daughter’s money. The fact is I was never allowed access to the account bequeathed to Tia Collymore and had used the main account of the estate to conduct affairs. But Keisha Collymore wrongly believed that main account of the estate belonged to her daughter based on the information above provided by the original Barbadian lawyers.
It is because I was arrested that the issue has become complicated and although I found a Barbadian lawyer to prosecute the police I initially tried to find a local lawyer to pursue legal action against the law firm who had provided me with incorrect legal advise, Charlton Chambers. However the lawyer essentially took my money and then said there was no case. Later another lawyer privately admitted to me that it would be career suicide for him or any other lawyer to take up a case against another lawyer and even though the bar does take on cases there is a backlog of years and the legal firm is too high profile for anybody to even risk rocking the boat. Hence why I am writing to yourselves.
At this stage I have given up on any possibility of prosecuting the lawyer but I wanted a UK lawyer to provide clear guidance on what was due to one of the beneficiaries as unfortunately there is a refusal to believe that the original lawyer was incorrect. To be honest it is understandable that certain people would hold such beliefs but when it results in an innocent member of the public being imprisoned that’s when it becomes unacceptable.
Please advise if you can assist with my query.
Letter to the lawyer
My client, Christopher Bynoe has informed us that he is the executor of the Will of Ina Janetha Griffith who died on 28th June 2012. As your legal firm had assisted in preparing the will and were also assisting with probating the will of Ina J Griffith’s husband, Eustace Griffith, it made sense to retain the service of your legal chambers. However some of the advice that my client had been given by your legal chamber my client was uncomfortable with and in some cases believed was inherently wrong. This culminated with my client’s mother, Eunice Griffith who was probating the will of her father, Eustace Griffith, severing ties with your legal firm and asking another legal chamber to instruct her on probating the will of her father. My client decided to stay with the firm despite protestations from his mother as he believed that legal firm of Charlton Chambers’ ilk and reputation would be the most suitable to facilitate the effective probate of Ina Griffith’s estate.
However his opinion of the chamber soon changed when on holiday in Barbados for his wife’s 40th birthday celebration he met with Miss Gooding and Sir Richard Cheltenham. During this meeting he was presented with an invoice for Bds 39,181.24 and a letter advising among other things how the will was to be distributed. I would like to draw your attention to following extract of the letter.
“As you are aware, Mrs. Griffith bequeathed the monies held in her Saving Account both at First Caribbean & Royal Bank of Canada to her niece…”
This advice my client and ourselves believe is totally incorrect.
1. Firstly the will of Ina Janetha Griffith states that great niece (and not the niece), Tia Tiffany Collymore is bequeathed “the balance of the monies in my savings account at the said FirstCaribbean International Bank, Broad Street in the city of Bridgetown in this Island”. The language here is very precise and refers to only one specific account FirstCaribbean Bank. However the above statement implies all the cash in the aforementioned bank accounts are to be bequeathed to Tia Collymore.
2. It should also be pointed out that the bank confirmation dated 14th August 2012 referred to 3 accounts at the time of Ina Griffith’s death. “One account “held solely in her name and the other two accounts were held jointly with other parties”. Now from your own investigation you knew that one of the joint accounts was held with Keith Bourne, Ina Griffith’s neighbour and nephew who is also a client of yours. The other account you would have known was held jointly with her husband, Eustace Griffith. This had been confirmed by the bank confirmation (dated 11th July 2011) you received relating to the estate of Eustace Griffith which acknowledges the fact that he maintained a joint savings account. It should be further noted that existence of the joint account had been mentioned to my client and his mother (the executor of the estate of Eustace Griffith) on numerous occasions so the joint account mentioned in the bank confirmation for Ina Griffith would have made up part of her estate. This therefore means that there are two bank accounts at FirstCaribbean that make up the estate of Ina Griifth at the time of her death however the advice from your legal chambers is that all the accounts should be given to Tia Collymore which is not as per the instructions of the will.
3. It should be noted that of the two FirstCaribbean bank accounts that made up the estate of Ina Griffith, the one she held soley was significantly larger than the proceeds in the joint account. Knowing the relationship that my client had with his grandmother, Ina Griffith, and based on information that would have been provided to you from others from purely a professional point of view it should have struck you as strange that Ina Griffith would have bequeathed all her cash effectively to her great niece who she saw infrequently as opposed to her grandson who she effectively looked after for a number of years. This lack of inquiry and follow up once is worrying.
4. Finally because your legal chambers were not prepared to follow up this line of inquiry effectively my client did and on 27th January 2014 received a letter from FirstCaribbean bank stating that “there is an account held jointly with Ina Janet(tha) Griffith and Eustace Griffith “Deceased” held at the Broad Street branch of CIBC First Caribbean International Bank”. This letter essentially confirms that Charlton Chambers had provided was incorrect.
However as you are aware this advice was not just given to my client but also the mother of Tia Collymore, Keisha Collymore. On Thursday 18th July 2013, Ms Gooding from Charlton Chambers called my client to ask why he had not paid the invoice and why he had not set up a meeting with Charlton Chambers and Keisha Collymore. The conversation didn’t go well and at the end of the call Ms Gooding stated that “do you know that Tia’s mother is a police officer”. My client believes that it is by no means a coincidence that the very next day he was picked up by the police questioned by them exclusively about Tia’s share of the will and then put in a cell when he refused to state that the larger FirstCaribbean bank account was not part of Tia’s settlement. It should be stressed that because of the actions of Charlton Chambers (either directly or indirectly) and Keisha Collymore my client had been detained by the police and as a Barbadian citizen he has been effectively exiled from Barbados.
As you can imagine our client is not happy about the situation and would like the following:
1. Charlton Chamber to advise if they agrees with my client’s assertion (and the instructions of the will) that Tia Collymore has been bequeathed in the will of Ina J Griffith the FirstCaribbean Bank account at the Broad Street branch and Royal Bank of Canada account foremerly at the the St. Lawrence Gap branch. No other accounts are to be included and that the account held solely in the name of Ina Griffith is not the FirstCaribbean account referred to in her will as the account held at the Broad Street branch of FirstCaribbean Bank.
2. The invoice dated 10 July 2013 for Bds $39,181.24 to be waived.
3. Discussions to commence regarding compensation for Charlton Chamber’s negligence regarding the distribution of assets to Tia Collymore.
4. Confirmation as to whether or not Charlton Chambers intends to prosecute Keisha Collymore as Charlton Chambers had previously indicated.
Our assessment on this matter is based on principles and practises in UK law and hence if there is a significant departure from Barbadian law we would happy to discuss further.
Finally, in the past my client has noted that Charlton Chambers has deliberated avoided providing effective responses to communication regarding this matter other than acknowledgement of receipt. However given that Tia Collymore will be soon approaching the age that she will be entitled to her share of the estate of Ina J. Griffith we would expect and welcome your participation in this matter.
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I have legal training and hence qualified of giving unbiased and informed advised which considers all laws including conflict of laws, jurisdiction and procedure. Thanks.