Attend to correspondence promptly

Practitioners are reminded of their obligation to respond as promptly as reasonably possible to correspondence from or on behalf of another party.

In Legal Services and Complaints Committee v Broadley,[1] a practitioner was nominated as executor of her uncle’s estate and as a beneficiary in the will of both a specific gift and a share of the residuary estate. The will included a provision for the practitioner to be paid professional fees in acting as executor as if she was employed as a legal practitioner to act on behalf of an executor, and she claimed professional costs in this capacity.[2] The conduct occurred in connection with the practice of law.

Several weeks following her uncle’s death in April 2017, a legal practice contacted the practitioner requesting a copy of the will on behalf of another residuary beneficiary. From May to November, the practitioner ignored several attempts of the legal practice to obtain a copy of the will. In response to a complaint, in September 2017, the Legal Services and Complaints Committee wrote to the practitioner advising that she was ‘required to be courteous in dealings with all persons involved in the estate matter, including responding to correspondence in a timely manner’.[3] The practitioner subsequently responded to the legal practice:

  • confirming their client was a beneficiary of the estate (but failed to disclose the nature of her interest);
  • informing them she was not obliged to provide a copy of the will;
  • advising that she was applying for probate; and
  • confirming that their client would be advised once the estate was administered and when the remaining assets would be available for distribution.

In the following months, the practitioner continued to not respond to or acknowledge further correspondence of the legal practice.

The tribunal found that the practitioner had engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct while acting as executor of the estate and she had an obligation as a legal practitioner to respond as promptly as reasonably possible to correspondence from or on behalf of another party, including a beneficiary of the estate.[4]

The practitioner’s conduct was recognised to fall short of the standard of competence and diligence that a member of the public is entitled to expect of a reasonably competent practitioner. The practitioner agreed to the terms of settlement of the proceedings which obviated the need for a hearing of the matter. The tribunal ordered that the practitioner be publicly reprimanded, fined, and ordered to pay the Legal Services and Complaints Committee’s costs.


Practitioners are referred to the following resources for guidance on communicating with other parties and delivery of documents:

[1] [2023] VR 64.

[2] Ibid 2.

[3] Ibid [18].

[4] Ibid.

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search by keyword