Tuesday 20 February 2018

Farmers fear hike in legal fees for land transfer

Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

FARMERS say they will be hit with rocketing legal fees to pass on land to their children because of a new requirement that every person involved needs their own solicitor.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association hit out at new Law Society regulations that will require a separate solicitor for every family member involved in land transactions from January.

Speaking at their AGM in Limerick, ICMSA President John Comer called on the Government to intervene to prevent the new measure being implemented as legal fees would at least double as a result.

"If parents wish to convey property to their four children – well then we will see no less than five solicitors and five sets of fees where up 'til now a single firm of solicitors was able to convey the property and advise on the respective interests," he said.

The Law Society should not be allowed to pass a regulation like this that would benefit its own solicitor members at the expense of people who wanted to transfer land to the next generation, he said.

"The Government cannot allow vested interests to introduce quite unnecessary costs that will undermine our competitiveness," he said.

Dairy farmer John O'Donnell from Ballina in Co Mayo said he was outraged at the new costs as he had seven children and intended transferring farm land and sites for houses to some of them within the next couple of years.

The new measure could cost his family thousands of euro extra in legal fees.

"I cannot see why you would have to take on a separate solicitor for each person when it should be simply handled by your family solicitor as it always has been until now," he said.

Mr O'Donnell said a simpler measure such as getting a second opinion from a separate solicitor would be enough to guard against possible exploitation of family members without major additional legal costs.

But the Law Society said farm transfers typically only happened once every 30 years, reducing the impact of the measure.

Worthwhile

"The actual increase in costs is small but the added protection of everyone's interests by separate legal representation makes that cost well worthwhile," said its director general Ken Murphy.

Having separate solicitors was standard practice in other countries, and a major HSE report into elder abuse in 2010 had found that 94pc of financial abuse happened within families, including situations where people were forced to sign over property, he said.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said that the new Law Society conveyancing requirements were based on the need to protect elderly or vulnerable family members and avoid conflicts of interest for solicitors.

Comment, Page 36

Irish Independent

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