Question: My husband and I are buying a house. We don't need a mortgage because my mother, who died a couple of years ago, was a very successful businesswoman and she left me a lot of money. We have been travelling a lot since she passed away, but now wish to settle down in London. We are using the solicitor the estate agent recommended and not the one who dealt with my mother's estate. This new solicitor is asking us an awful lot of personal questions about where our money has come from and it is making us feel uncomfortable. How far can she push this?
Answer: I am afraid she can push it quite far. Solicitors involved in property transactions are at particular risk of being used by people trying to launder money — where criminals try to hide the proceeds of their crimes.
Your solicitor has to be satisfied as to the source of the money that you intend to use to fund the purchase of the property. She will also need to carry out due diligence to establish your identity, so you will be asked to provide photographic ID, such as a passport or driving licence, and also utility bills confirming your address.
It should be relatively easy for you to prove the source of your funds as you should be able to provide your property lawyer with a copy of the estate accounts showing the money you inherited. Or, with your authority, your property solicitor could directly contact the solicitor who administered your mother's estate.
You could also provide bank statements showing your inheritance has been deposited into your bank account or, if the money was invested, perhaps your financial advisers could confirm.
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email email@example.com or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a legal director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey (www.footanstey.com).