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Solicitor SHREDDED House Deeds!

You'd think a professional lawyer entrusted with your ancient historical entitlement would not destroy the original DEEDS, but there have been cases of such malpractice.

Without prejudice, this is not an indictment of the entire legal profession, just a whistleblowing versus a minority of bad cases.

I have now heard at least two horror stories amounting to "My solicitor shredded by house deeds!".

Well it just beggars belief! It's entirely wrong. There is no justification for it. It's like someone smashing a priceless ancient item of pottery in a museum and assuming they can replace it with a modern pot mug.

The thing is, your house Deeds are legal documents, but there's much more to it than that. The fact is that they are part of history, posterity, heritage. The older the house, the older the deeds, and these things give an insight into life a long time ago. Although from a purely legal perspective they can be replaced with a modern printed item from the Land Registry, that's not the point, is it?!

I hasten to point out that MY solicitor has not shredded my Deeds, and they've been looked after well for a long time. They were returned to me in good condition with the ancient papers and sealing-wax cared for in the way museum curators look after old documents. However, as soon as the Deeds came into the light of day and became a talking point, people started to relate each their own stories of house Deeds and the behaviour of solicitors of a variety of companies, and it soon became apparent that there were several horror stories of antiquities being destroyed.

Ooh, time for a sudden knee-jerk reaction of "Let's all keep our Deeds at home!". It would be like the Bank of Mattress! No, that's not such a good idea. For one thing, unless that home be a Stately Home then it's not set up for curatorship of ancient documents, and you know how difficult it can be when you've lost your driving licence, birth certificate, passport, etc? Also, there is a good commonsense principle which is that you don't store the Title Deed (or other key feature) to a thing inside that thing itself. It would be like leaving your car keys and log-book in the car. Anything that befell the property would also befall the documents, for example fire, flood, geological problems.

In a way the problem is similar to that of Sentimental Value Insurance where you need to insure something which can not really be insured! I suggest you make a digital backup of your house deeds. This is best done in bright lighting conditions with a digital camera. It can even be done outdoors on a fine bright day without much breeze. You take a photograph of every page of the original Deeds. The neighbours may think it's a bit strange, but never mind.

After making a digital backup copy, the original documents should be stored in the safest way possible. That might be at a solicitors, or in a bank vault, or in some other secure location. However, there needs to be some some sort of promise or pledge that there'll be no tidying-up or paperless sweeping-away of stuff. I've even heard of someone's divorce papers being shredded at a solicitor's office, the excuse being that the solicitor hadn't seen the client for five years and so they shredded all the client's documents. Entirely unacceptable.