Diary of a high street conveyancer: 29th January 2024

Conveyancing is not always about the law  – yes, we need the law to underpin the work we do each day but a lot of what we do is a process. But every conveyancing transaction is different and that is because all properties are different and all people are different.

How client X reacts to a situation is likely to be very different as to how client Y reacts, and part of the skill of being a good conveyancer is to understand that. That it is made easier if we get to know our clients and understand why they are moving and also get to know their nature. This helps us to pre-empt how they will react to a certain scenario.

A few years ago, I was instructed in the purchase of a house by a young single mum. She was a lovely lady but very nervous. She could see that she was making a big decision not only for her but for her four year old daughter. She needed to move to an area which had good schools and provided a good sense of community for her.

When the contract documents arrived, I noted that the house was being sold as part of a deceased estate. Now, without wishing to be morbid, Death Certificates are fascinating  – it is the only certificate for ourselves which we will never see – and I have seen over the years many causes of death noted on the certificate. It is reassuring when I see that the house owner died of frailty of old age as that makes me think that the owner had a good and long life .

With the house which my young single mum was buying, the house was in joint names and I had two death certificates, one for each registered proprietor. I was somewhat shocked when I saw the cause of death on the first certificate as it was clear that the owner had been murdered. I was even more shocked when I saw the second death certificate as the same cause of death was stated for the second owner. What to do? Both owners had been murdered and the place of death was the property. What would you do?

3 Responses

  1. That was an awkward one. It rather reminds me of the case that came in New York in the nineties, from which point it time it came necessary to advise buyers if the property had been declared to be haunted at any time in the past.
    I feel there is an obligation to advise the buyer. Whilst the owner was not able to do so, the fact that you had become aware of the situation, I feel, awkward as it may be, there is a duty of care. It has to be done in a caring way though. Communication is king.

  2. Wouldn’t the Sellers solicitor have been best having the property vested in the Seller as Executor at HM Land Registry

  3. Phone the client and let them know gently and see what they want to do. I had a similar situation involving a bad death of the owner in the garage of the property. I thought my clients would be horrified by they were completely matter of fact and said it didn’t bother them in the slightest. You can’t pre empt a clients reaction to something like that, just got to ask them!

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