Divorce – don’t date until it’s finalised

A recent ruling in a Family Division case in Swansea has raised eyebrows, as High Court judge Mr Justice Mostyn took into account a new and undisclosed relationship when determining the size of the wife’s divorce settlement.

But in this instance, it was not an undisclosed relationship on the part of the husband that led to him adjusting the size of the payout, but a new relationship entered into by the wife after the couple separated, but before the financial disputes had been resolved.

The situation was made more complex by the pair’s financial situation: neither had sizeable incomes, with the husband having almost no income at all, while the wife was a hard-working journalist; the pair had an adopted child together; and the husband had several millions in family inheritance.

As a result, you might expect his former wife to receive a large chunk of this inheritance on the couple’s separation, but Justice Mostyn saw things differently.

Instead, he ruled that the wife’s new relationship, discovered through investigations by her former husband’s legal team, had put a “fly in the ointment” for his calculations.

He explained in a written ruling that although the relationship was new, entered into after the divorce, and could not be guaranteed to last forever – and indeed, the wife said she had no intentions to cohabit with her new partner – it still had a material effect on the case.

As a result, he awarded around £250,000 to the wife, despite conceding that this would not be enough to support her over the long term, if her new relationship were to collapse.

The case has raised criticism within the legal profession, but it serves as a reminder that all of a spouse’s circumstances can have a material impact on financial awards during divorce proceedings – making it important to be careful about entering into any kind of relationship that might be seen as financially supportive.

Pricketts Solicitors

Wills

Lasting Power of Attorney – The Digital Application System

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is now offering an online service as part of the Governments Digital Transformation Programme 2011-2016 which has been designed to allow the public to interact with government bodies in a similar way to the way we deal with banks and other institutions. With this in mind, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) have made it possible to complete the Lasting Power of Attorney documents digitally.

It is intended that the digital LPA application will provide a quicker and simpler alternative to the pre-existing paper system but will retain all of the safeguards needed to protect each individuals interests. allowing the OPG to cope more effectively with the current demand and projected volumes, therefore maximising the opportunities for individuals to plan ahead.

Thinking about what would happen if we lack capacity to make our own decisions is important. It often offers peace of mind if it is the people you trust the most making these decisions on your behalf.

If you would like to discuss this matter with our highly trained legal advisors at our Stoney Stanton office give us a call on 01455 274170 or pop in for a chat. Edward Hands & Lewis also have offices nationwide

By Claire Brown

EHL Solicitors

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Prepare for Floods

Last winter was named as the wettest winter for nearly 250 years. Around 6000 properties were affected by flooding last year and so we must be prepared for this coming winter.

One of the worst hit areas was Somerset which suffered major flood disruption causing many people to evacuate their homes.

The Environment Agency has launched a two week campaign urging home owners around the country to prepare for flooding risks. Their campaign named “Floods Destroy – Be prepared!” will run until 16th November and urges the community to take simple steps to prepare themselves. These are as follows:

  1. Use the environment agency’s maps to find out if you are at risk of flooding
  2. Sign up for free warnings in your area
  3. Prepare a personal flood plan.

Statistics show that one in six homes suffers from flooding. The Environment Agency has pointed out that with climate change the risk of flooding is increasing.

For further information and advice you can call the Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or 0845 988 1188.

By Nisha Gorania

H Pipes and Co

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Political party conference talks on “mansion tax”

At the recent Labour party conference, Ed Miliband raised the proposal that owners of properties worth more than £2m would face an annual charge. The introduction of the tax would raise many complexities. Whilst the traditional view of a mansion is a country home with acres of land and swimming pools with stables and tennis courts the reality is that there are many significant factors which contribute to defining a home as a mansion. The location of a home means that the mansion tax would apply to homes of very different shapes and sizes.

Whilst the price of homes the Labour party has proposed is £2million an example of the variation in sizes comes from properties advertised for sale on websites such as Rightmove. The differentials in sizes range between paying £2m for a two bedroom apartment in a fashionable building in London to a six bedroom four floor detached home in Greater Manchester. It is clear from surveys carried out by a variety of estate agents that the majority of properties affected by the tax would be in London and South East England.

Ed Miliband’s proposal outlines that although the annual charge would apply to homeowners with properties worth more than £2m it would be a progressive tax. This means that the homes with higher values would pay proportionately more than those just above the £2m threshold.

Debates have shown that there is a question on whether there should be a new mansion tax rather than reform to the existing unreformed and lacking council tax making it more proportional to current property values.

The fear of builders’ and estate agents’ alike have been that such a tax would curb building of new homes in London and South East of England where there is already a little supply which is partly responsible for the increasing prices. It is of strong opinion that rather than a global policy initiative it is more important that the weaker branches of the market, such as those outside of London, be nurtured without weakening the healthier areas.

The information provided in all of our blogs reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic.  The blogs do not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Please see our website terms and conditions for full details of our disclaimer.  If you are interested in obtaining advice, please contact one of our lawyers who will be happy and able to advise you on your own particular circumstances.

By Jenna Mistry

EHL Solicitors

What is mediation

Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution involving the participation of an independent third party whose job it is to analyse with each party the respective strength of its own position, the arguments put forward by an opponent and the strength of those arguments and to consider what solutions may be available to resolve the dispute.

Other forms of alternative dispute resolution include joint settlement meetings and without prejudice correspondence between the parties.

Cost Implications of a Refusal of Mediation

A successful party to litigation will expect to receive an order that their opponent pay costs. A failure to engage in appropriate mediation however may result in no costs being recovered or only a proportion of cots. An expensive mistake for those not prepared to take proper steps to try to settle a claim and who want their day in court.

The High Court in a recent case of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems Europe Ltd v BAE Systems [2014] EWHC3148 (TCC)  stated:

“Where a party to a dispute in which there are reasonable prospects of successfully resolving by mediation , rejects mediation on grounds which are not strong enough to justify not mediating then that conduct will generally be unreasonable.”

It should be noted that in this case the Defendant’s reasonable view that it had a strong case was said to provide limited justification for not mediating.

So does mediation matter? Yes. If mediation is requested, be very careful before refusing. Similarly, consider sending your opponent a request to mediate in all appropriate cases.

By Mary Brown

Marsh Brown and Co

Houses

Conveyancing Myths

Buying or selling a house can be very stressful and confusing and it doesn’t help when there are numerous myths surrounding this. Don’t be fooled. Please find below some common myths concerning conveyancing.

Conveyancing under £100.00

There is a myth that you can secure conveyancing services for under £100. Beware as this does not sound like a “one-off” fee. More than likely it will be the case that you will be charged for every email read, letter sent etc. If the price sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

Solicitors get a valuation report from your lender

A conveyancing solicitor does not usually receive any valuation report on the property. Conveyancers will rely on the clients to provide them with a copy of the valuation for them to check.

Once contracts have been signed they are legally binding.

This is not true. Commonly clients believe that once they have signed the contract it is legally binding. This is not the case. Contracts only become legally binding once they are formally exchanged. And this will not be done without the client’s authority.

Conveyancers arrange homebuyers surveys.

A very common myth is that conveyancing solicitors arrange a homebuyers survey as part of their usual searches. This is not the case and if purchasers wish to carry out a homebuyers survey or anything similar then this is something that they would have to arrange. Conveyancers do carry out searches but these are very different to a survey.

Online Conveyancing is wholly online.

The myth exists that conveyancing is a service that can be provided completely online. This is not true. Most of the transaction can be carried out online ie, form filling etc. However documentation still requires an original inked signature, with e-signatures and scanned images still illegal by point of law.

Deeds for the purchase property will be sent to buyer.

Since October 2003 the Land Registry has ‘dematerialised’ the deeds and so the title to the property is held electronically at the Land Registry. If there are any original documents they will be sent to the buyers following completion. Following registration at the land registry the legal owner of the property will be the buyer regardless of holding any paper deeds.

By Nisha Gorania

H. Pipes & Co

 

Wills and Digital Accounts

When someone dies, the Executors need to gain access to the deceased’s property, accounts and other assets in order to pay taxes and debts, discharge legacies and distribute the estate in accordance with the Will or intestacy.

This may be difficult where such accounts (including email, social media, computer games, music, films, photographs and the like) are online accounts only and can be accessed only through passwords.  Technology has evolved and will continue to do so.

Executors and family members should not assume that they know where to look online

The Law Society recommends completion and maintenance of a personal assets log, including digital assets and how to ensure that those dealing with the estate will be able to access those assets.  The log must of course be kept up to date, noting, for example, changes to passwords or customer ID.

At the same time everyone with such digital assets must be extremely cautious about security, because the whole point of passwords and other protection is to prevent abuse of a person’s electronic ID. Details of passwords etc must be given only to those who can be trusted absolutely, and then only sparingly.

By Trisha Constable

Pricketts Solicitors

Residential-Conveyancing

Transferring a property or receiving a gift do you need Insolvency Act Insurance?

It is now becoming more and more common that couples are splitting up and transferring their share of the property they own to the remaining party. This may seem like a simple transaction however there are further issues to consider such as whether Insolvency Act Insurance is needed.

What is Insolvency Act Insurance?

Insolvency Act Insurance protects the insured against actual financial loss that might arise in the event of an attempted or successful setting of a deed of gift, transfer at undervalue of the property or a gift of a sum of money to facilitate the acquisition of an interest in the property completed on or before the start of the policy.

Situations where Insolvency Act Insurance may be need would be if a property was owned jointly and was transferred into the sole name of one of the parties for no value. It may be an idea to consider putting an Insolvency Act Insurance in place. if the person no longer remaining on the title is in debt or transferring the property to avoid assets being taken a claim can be made on the property. if Insolvency Act Insurance is in place the affected party could claim to stop them having to sell the property.

Alternatively if you were purchasing a property and receiving a large gift of money it may be an idea to put an Insolvency Act Insurance in place to protect you against any claims against the property if the money was being gifted to avoid creditors.

Insolvency Act Insurance can be obtained from many different company although it is always best to shop around as prices do vary.

By Sarah Hailes

EHL Solicitors

HMRC

HMRC improvements to bereaved service

From 13th October 2014, it is no longer necessary to submit a form R27 on someone’s death.

HMRC have replaced this with an automated process for PAYE customers and a tailored service for self-assessment customers.

The idea is that tax affairs of deceased persons will now be dealt with more quickly and efficiently by HMRC.

HMRC have made these changes as nearly 50% of the calls made to the bereavement team were in relation to these forms and they gave the personal representatives another task to complete which seemed unnecessary.

HMRC will retain their bereavement helpline and dedicated team who deal with all bereavement enquiries.

By Kate Godber

EHL Solicitors

The role of a Trustee and the decisions they make

When a Trustee is appointed to a Trust, there are various roles they must undertake and various decisions they may have to make regarding the way the Trust is dealt with and the funds or property held within it.

Normally the Trust document itself will provide guidance on what powers and obligations the Trustees have.  However for certain decisions a Trustee may require additional guidance on what they can and cannot do.

This scenario arose in a recent piece of case law and the court was asked to offer their guidance to the Trustees.

In the case of Cotton & Anor v Brudenell-Bruce & Ors [2014] EWCA 1312 it has been reported that “where a trustee seeks its approval before making a momentous decision, although it should proceed cautiously, it should not with-hold approval without good reason”.

This case provides us with a good insight into the Court of Appeals current stance on such matters.  Indeed it seems that “Trustees can take comfort from the court’s balanced approach and sensitivity to the sometimes acute problems they can face when making momentous decisions.”

If you would like to discuss any Trust issues please contact one of our specialists now on 01455 274170.  We offer free 30 minute no obligation consultations and have offices nationwide.

By Claire Brown

EHL Solicitors