Longstanding Wanstead solicitors’ firm Wiseman Lee was shut down by regulators in September following the collapse of its parent company which had acquired the formerly independent firm earlier in the year.
In cases like this a firm’s assets are seized by the regulator to protect clients and others, but things do not move quickly and many former customers will have been put into limbo while affairs are sorted out. One, Jane, not her real name, wrote to us to explain the impact on her.
My name is Jane. I was named as a beneficiary in a dear friend’s will. My friend, Audrey, had been a nun and a librarian through her long 94-year life. But she never married and had no relatives or dependants. We were neighbours for 20 years. In that time, like anyone, we went through ups and downs. Health and family issues. All of these forged our friendship and I always felt Audrey was more a mother than friend to me.
Sadly, Audrey passed in July 2022, leaving her long-standing solicitors, Wiseman Lee, as her executors. It was a wonderful surprise to discover that she had thought as much of me as I did her, as she left me 30% of her house and assets. The other 70% were distributed between charities dear to her heart.
Long story short. I decided to buy Audrey’s house by selling my own investment property, porting my small mortgage and utilising the will funds to meet the gap. I instructed a firm to begin renovations on the property, but they obviously required a large down payment. My conveyancing solicitor – a firm in Billericay – managed with some difficulty to get Wiseman Lee to agree a completion date of Friday 15 September. However on Thursday the 14th, I received a call from my solicitor saying the money I was expecting from Audrey’s will would not be coming, as Wiseman Lee’s parent company, Axiom Ince, had had its assets frozen. My solicitor spent the whole day securing me the 30% of the property that I had been left, but this left me £18,000 short.
I can honestly tell you I was so shocked that day that I blacked out. I have never been in debt and have always been a good provider for my family. I am now in debt and living day-to-day. I have made a claim against the Solicitors Regulatory Authority [the organisation which seizes solicitors’ funds when they are closed down] and await a caseworker to pick up the story in 8 weeks.
I thought you might be interested in the end of this dreadful chain of events. Audrey lived a long and frugal life, leaving a kind gift to me and charities. Whatever happened with Axiom Ince, this solvent, secure by-stander has been pushed into debt. I am fearful every day. For example my car decided it would develop a catastrophic mechanical issue which I have been quoted could be up to £3000. Not a penny of which I now have. I hope you have been able to see how this ripple effect has changed my life.