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Auckland bereaved families at higher risk - lawyer

Auckland bereaved families may be at particular risk of being overcharged for preparing court paperwork, especially when someone has died suddenly without leaving a will.

‘Several people have told me they were quoted $3000 - or even more - for “letters of administration”,’ said lawyer Cheryl Simes, whose own firm Kiwilaw offers an inexpensive online document preparation service.

‘One woman told me three different Auckland law firms had quoted between $3000 and $3500. This was for a simple estate – Kiwisaver – less than $100,000.’

‘Another family had apparently been told $5000. They said the lawyer told them it was compulsory to use a lawyer to do all the estate administration, not just the application to the High Court for a grant of administration. If that is indeed what they were told, it is wrong and unethical.’

‘These are in straight-forward cases, with no legal or factual complications, no land transfers, no disputes. It is difficult to understand why the expected costs of letters of administration would exceed $1500, plus perhaps another hour at most for the rest of the estate administration.’

‘I know of other lawyers, including in Auckland, who charge less than $1000 for the same work.’

‘I would like the New Zealand Law Society to investigate whether such instances are exceptional or whether they occur reasonably often,’ Simes concluded. ‘Grieving families are particularly vulnerable. They should be able to trust lawyers not to take advantage. It should not be a lottery.’

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