Pastor could be homeless by Christmas after bitter row over inheritance money
A Christian minister has said he could be homeless by Christmas after being unable to secure his inheritance 19 months after his mother's death.
Pastor Paul Burns said he has been left with nothing but a few thousand pounds to his name after his solicitor failed to secure the money he was due from his mother's will.
He says his uncle is disputing the will, and because of a long delay due to mistakes he maintains were made by his solicitor, Joseph Kelly, he now cannot even afford to claim the undisputed section of his inheritance.
Mr Kelly worked for the firm Donaghy and Carey. He has been suspended from practice by the Law Society while an investigation into him is conducted.
Thomas Carey of Donaghy and Carey has confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph that Mr Kelly no longer works for the firm.
Pastor Burns works to help homeless people, but now fears he will become homeless himself. His mother, Irene, died 19 months ago on March 28, 2014 but the pastor has not yet received a penny from her will.
He was initially represented by Mr Kelly and claims the solicitor confessed to having made a number of mistakes in pursuing his inheritance.
Pastor Burns has claimed that Mr Kelly broke down in tears when he told him he had made the mistakes and even made arrangements to donate money to the Adullam Christian Fellowship Church/Ministries, which the pastor runs from the Sandy Row.
He alleged to the Belfast Telegraph that Mr Kelly paid his church £100,000 in "compensation" from the firm which he says he spent on his church activities, including cars for pastoral work.
However, after Mr Kelly left Donaghy and Carey, Pastor Burns claims that the firm told him it had no knowledge of the compensation payments - which were made in instalments to his church, and said he would have to pay it all back to the firm.
"He (Mr Kelly) admitted his mistakes to us," Pastor Burns told the Belfast Telegraph.
"He was in tears, and promised to sponsor the church for a year as compensation. We accepted this and the money started coming through instalments.
"It paid for a computer system and we bought second-hand cars for church use. We sent him a thank you letter from the church.
"We also used some to pay bills and keep the church going.
"But it turned out the money had been taken out of the firm accounts and he (Mr Kelly) hadn't told anyone about it. The money came in cheques from the firm accounts."
Pastor Burns then met the firm and claims it told him he would have to pay back the money.
"They demanded the money back even though they knew I didn't have it," he claims.
He says he has barely enough money left to keep a roof over his family's head and fears they will end up homeless by Christmas.
"To claim even the section of the money from the will which is not disputed costs money, money that I don't have," he said.
Pastor Burns has approached a number of solicitors to ask for their help. Last night he revealed he was in talks with a solicitor who he hopes may be able to help him.
However, he feels angry at his experience with Mr Kelly.
"There is no justice for the poor," he said.
The Belfast Telegraph contacted Donaghy and Carey and put Pastor Burns' allegations to it.
Mr Carey confirmed that Mr Kelly was no longer with his firm.
"He is no longer with this firm and any further information you want about him should be directed to the Law Society," he said.
A spokesperson for the Law Society of Northern Ireland said Mr Kelly had been suspended pending an investigation.
"The Law Society of Northern Ireland confirms (subject to any appeal) that Mr Joseph Kelly solicitor has had his practising certificate suspended pending investigation," he said.