New Zealand Law
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From your description there does appear to be a conflict of interest. The solicitors cannot act for the estate and also for the partner who survived him, if there is any issue in relation to a conflict of interest between the two. The contracting out agreement will stand because there is no expiry date. Your father's partner may however have a claim against the estate subject to the contracting out agreement. This again illustrates why there is a conflict of interest. You can make a complaint to the lawyers complaint service and you can find the link for doing so here:-
If they acted for the estate, I am not sure they ever were able to act for your father's partner. The best practice in this situation would be to send away both the estate files and the partners files to alternative lawyers. If they acted for both together initially there would be grounds for a complaint. Sending the partners file away is the correct course, although your reply implies that the firm may act for her on other matters, other than any potential claim against the estate.
The executor may also have a problem although removal of an executor of an estate is a more difficult exercise. He must act impartially whatever his views on the situation, but he cannot charge as an executor for the time he spends on this, unless there is a specific clause in the will which entitles him to charge.
It is a conflict of interest if she is acting contrary to the specific wishes of your father
I would have thought that an issue like this is clear since your father made his wishes expressly known. The executor should be getting on with the distribution of the specific items and administration of the estate rather than getting into the issues of whether the contracting out agreement is up-to-date. So you may want to suggest to the estate solicitors that you will be looking at their bill of costs very carefully to ensure that only estate administration is charged, and that issues where the executor feels personally involved, are billed to him direct. The lawyers bill of costs can be revised by the Law Society if necessary
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