Monthly Archives: January 2013

Executor of an Estate? Three Things you Need to Know

It is an unfortunate fact that very cold snaps in winter increase death rates.  The recent cold spell will mean that many people will have taken on the responsibility of dealing with a loved one or friend’s estate and may be thinking of saving money by taking out a Grant of Probate and administering the estate without instructing a solicitor.

If you are in this position you should think twice;

1. You are personally liable to beneficiaries and creditors if you fail to carry out your duties.  It is important that you understand the statutory powers of an executor.  For example, if a beneficiary is under the age of 18 your duties and responsibilities towards that beneficiary have are different to those for adults.
2. If the relationships between you and beneficiaries are not good, the administration of the estate may be extremely difficult.
3. Then there is the tax man.  Do you understand the inheritance tax position?  This isn’t just a question of how much the estate is worth on death but also gifts of property and money made before death.  There is the income tax to sort out both before death and during the period you are dealing with the estate.  There may be capital gains tax to deal with as well.

Some estates are relatively small and uncomplicated.  Many are not.  It is usually cheaper in the long run to instruct an expert in the beginning than to start the process yourself, get into difficulties and then pay an expert to sort things out.

Instructing Ridley & Hall need not be expensive. You will be offered a range of options regarding costs which will be explained clearly.  We have a friendly, approachable team.  Please contact Jill Waddington (solicitor accredited by Solicitors for the Elderly) or our experienced paralegal Hilary Sisson for more information on 01484 538421.

Dramatic Legal Aid Funding Withdrawal – Make an Appointment with a Family Lawyer Now

You may not be aware that as of 1 April 2013, most legal help and full public funding (levels of legal aid) in relation to family law matters, are to be withdrawn by the government via the Legal Services Commission.  This means that AFTER 31 March 2013, if you are in receipt of state benefits and/or are on a low income, you may not be able to afford to instruct a solicitor in respect of your family law difficulties.

From 1 April 2013, in most cases, public funding will simply not be available for issues such as divorce/civil partnership dissolution, financial issues and private Children Act issues such as contact and residence applications (public funding will be available in public Children Act issues, eg where there are “care proceedings” and have the involvement of social services, child abduction cases and cases of forced marriage).

The only exception to the above will be where the person seeking legal advice and representation will be the victim of domestic abuse (or an adult seeking to protect an abused child) – but even then the Legal Services Commission’s criteria will be very strict and they will require firm evidence of this alleged abuse before the case can be pursued with the assistance of public funding.

This means that from 1 April 2013 in the majority of family cases, public funding, will not be available to assist individuals and families with their family law issues and will severely impede, from a financial perspective, their access to justice and the specialist expert legal advice and assistance that is available and necessary.

The greatest section of society that this will affect will be the children of separated parents.  Their parent will not have the assistance of a qualified legal individual to guide and advise them through an often very emotional and stressful procedure, which often end in court proceedings.  That child/children/grandchild, through absolutely no fault of their own, may lose contact with their parent or other family members, including siblings and half-siblings, simply because of the costs involved and the parent’s/grandparent’s prevention from obtaining legal assistance because of the demise of legal aid.

The courts are also concerned that because of this financial obstacle, the court process will be “clogged up” and slowed down dramatically due to people trying to represent themselves. In most cases, the delays will be because of a lack of understanding of the law and legal processes by those individuals.

If you are in receipt of state benefits and/or are on a low income and are experiencing family difficulties due to a breakdown of a relationship and require advice and assistance on divorce/civil partnerships, financial issues and/or children matters, then please contact us as soon as possible as the deadline for legal help and public funding ends on 31 March 2013.  We will be able to assess your eligibility and provide you with a wealth of advice and assistance in respect of all family law matters.

Now is the time to act.  Please call the office on 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the Family Team or e-mail us at

Ridley & Hall Launching New Initiative to Reclaim Care Home Fees


Are you or a family member or friend in a care home or nursing home and paying for or contributing to care home fees?  Are you worried that your home may have to be sold to pay the fees?

You should be aware that you or your loved one may be eligible to have care home fees paid by the NHS and it may be possible to reclaim care home fees already paid.

An NHS continuing healthcare deadline of 31 March 2013 has been set for reclaiming care home fees in England.  The deadline applies only to care during the period of 1 April 2011 – 31 March 2012.

One of our experts in the Community Care team will be able to assess your case and let you know whether you could have a claim.

Why might nursing or care home fees be reclaimable?

A large number of care home residents in England are self funding their care home fees.  This can cost up to £1,000 per week.  It has forced many people to sell their homes to meet these costs.

Incorrect funding decisions may have been made, leaving people paying for their care and accommodation when they are in fact eligible for fully funded NHS continuing healthcare.  This funding covers not only nursing fees but also the cost of accommodation, personal care and healthcare costs.

A person may meet the eligibility requirements for NHS continuing healthcare if they have a primary health need.  Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) must take reasonable steps to ensure that an assessment for NHS continuing healthcare is carried out in all cases where it appears that there may be a need for such care.  PCTs may use a process for screening to decide if an assessment is required called an NHS continuing healthcare checklist.  PCTs may fail to carry out a full assessment when they should or may make an incorrect assessment of eligibility.

What you can do

Funding decisions for care and nursing home fees can be challenged but it is important not to delay in taking action due to the NHS Continuing Healthcare deadline of 31st March 2013.

You may qualify for free legal advice under the Legal Help scheme depending on your means.  We also offer our services on a fixed fee basis and are happy to discuss this with you.

If you would like to find out if you could have a claim, a member of our Community Care team will be happy to speak to you.  Please contact Tracey Ling on 01484 538421.  Our specialist advisors are able to assess your case and advise if you could have a claim.

Welfare Benefits News

As the government makes significant changes to our benefits system, many people are left wondering which changes will really affect them and when? We get many enquiries from people who are confused about what they are reading in the papers.

It is important to plan for the changes as much as possible. If your family will be much worse off, especially if either you or any family members are disabled, then you may wish to let your local MP know. This way the evidence can be passed on when policies are being debated.

Legal Aid changes

We provide welfare benefits advice on range of issues mainly under the Legal Help scheme. The government has changed the rules on legal aid in many areas of law. As a result I will not be able to take on such cases any more after April 2013.

Currently, we can help you with your case if it involves the following issues:

  • ESA and DLA Appeals to First Tier Tribunal and to Upper Tribunal
  • Overpayments of Social Security Benefits, Housing / Council Tax Benefit or Tax Credits
  • Social Fund Reviews
  • Tax Credits disputes and complaints
  • DWP maladministration
  • Pension Credit disputes
  • JSA sanctions
  • Advice on DWP policies or human rights issues

Please contact the office on 01484 538421 if you have low income or benefit income and would like help under the Legal Help scheme before April 2013.

After April 2013, you are welcome to contact me to discuss what help you need and we will advise further on the options available.

Benefits Changes Timetable:

April 2013

  • Local housing allowance rates are increased with the lower of the Consumer Prices Index or the increase in the lowest 30 per cent of market rents.
  • The ‘appropriate maximum housing benefit’ for social sector rents is introduced.
  • Council tax benefit is replaced by ‘localised support’.
  • Personal independence payment is introduced as a replacement for disability living allowance. Claims will be transferred between 2013 and 2017.
  • Crisis loans and community care grants are abolished and replaced by ‘localised support’.
  • The ‘benefit cap’ is introduced.

October 2013

  • Universal credit is introduced.
  • No new claims for income support, income-based jobseekers’ allowance or income-related employment and support allowance.

April 2014

  • No new claims for housing benefit or tax credits.
  • Claims will be transferred to universal credit between April 2014 and 2017.
  • During this period, housing benefit is abolished and a housing credit is introduced in pension credit with a capital limit.


  • Bereavement benefit reform.

From April 2013, there will be a limit on the amount of benefit you can get if you’re of working age. This is called the benefit cap. Some people will get less benefit than before, although this will only affect you if you are getting housing benefit. Some people will not be affected by the cap at all, for example, if you qualify for working tax credit or you’re on some disability benefits.

Even though the cap doesn’t come into effect until next year, it is important to know about it now. If the cap affects you, your housing benefit will go down in April 2013 and you may need to plan for this.

If you been told your housing benefit will be cut you can apply to your local council Housing Benefit department for a discretionary housing payment. However, councils only have a limited amount of money and will have to weigh up the priorities.

For further information please contact Sangeeta Enright or call 01484 538421.

Government to Trial Personal Budgets for Adoption Support

Adoptive parents would be able to choose type and provider of support under latest package of adoption reforms.

Nigel Priestley whose firm Ridley & Hall specialises in providing advice to support for adopters commented on the government’s proposals for personal budgets said:

“The government’s announcement of the trial of personal budgets to allow adopters more choice over the type and provider of adoption support is an important step. The government appear to have recognised that calling for more children to be adopted isn’t enough. Adopters need more.

Experience shows appropriate support packages are vital to ensure adoptive families are fully equipped to provide a permanent, stable and loving home to some of the most vulnerable and traumatised children in our society. Currently, 72% of adopted children were neglected, abused or both by their birth families.

The news may also encourage potential adopters to put their names forward knowing that help may be available if they need it.

It is only a step in the right direction. Cuts in local government and the NHS could mean that insufficient services are available. Many families may ask – “Even if we have this money, are there enough experts available who understand the problems that adopters can face? Will it mean that we get the right level of support they need when we need it?”

Local Solicitor Joins Key Government Adoption Research Panel

Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner with Ridley & Hall has been asked to join a government advisory panel on adoption breakdown.

The advisory group is made upon researchers carrying out the research for the government and representatives from local authorities and the key adoption support organisations including British Association for Adoption and Fostering and Adoption UK. The meeting takes place at the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Nigel Priestley is the only solicitor from private practice represented on the advisory group.

Commenting Mr Priestley said “It’s a privilege to be involved with this panel. Both this government and the previous Labour government have tried to increase the number of children. Adoption is at the heart of this government’s plans.

The government’s overhaul of the adoption system is designed to speed up the approval process and make it easier for people to adopt. But the latest Department for Education statistics for England reveal that the number of children waiting to be adopted has increased by around 15% since 2011.

In March 2011, there were 6,240 children with placement orders, a year later there were 7,160. A placement order is granted when a local authority plans for a child to be adopted. At the same time, the number of children placed with adopters has decreased by 1% since 2011 – and 6% since 2008. This suggests that while more placement orders are being made, not enough adoption placements are being found.

He went on “It’s important to realise that most children who are placed for adoption have been involved in care proceedings. Currently, 72% of adopted children were neglected, abused or both by their birth families.

In a comment to the Guardian, Alan Burnell, director of adoption agency Family Futures said “Many children we see are scared and need help to adjust. Even though they’re in safe, new environments, they need help to rewire their brain so that they can accept the love and the care that they’re getting in adoptive families,”

“Local authorities are obliged to assess adopters’ support needs, if requested, but not to provide any specific services identified by those assessments. “The key to adoption success is in the post placement support and therapeutic input,” said Mr Burnell

Mr Priestley commented “It’s vital that the research is available to understand what causes adoptions to break down – and just how often it happens. In my experience quality support for adopters struggling with some of the emotionally damaged children whom they have adopted is in short supply. Sadly it’s hit and miss and is dependent on a postcode lottery. Cuts to local authorities must put at risk the little support available.”

Ridley & Hall are developing a specialist team to advise adopters about the responsibilities of local authorities to provide post adoption support.

For further information please contact Nigel Priestley or call 01484 538421.

Christmas Came Early for Grandparent

A London grandmother is delighted to find out that the local authority will pay her just under £23,000 for backdated special guardianship allowance.

The grandmother (TT) cannot be named for legal reasons.

TT had been requested by social services to care for her son’s ex-girlfriend’s child, C, from a different father.  This is because both of C’s parents had received long prison sentences after he was born.  At first he went into foster care while London Borough of Merton Council tried to find a more permanent placement for him.  Unfortunately his family were not willing to look after him, therefore the council approached TT.

When TT agreed to look after C the council asked her to get a court order which would give her parental responsibility for C, known as a special guardianship order (SGO). In certain circumstances when a SGO has been made the council can have a responsibility to provide support to the child and their carer, which can take the form of regular financial allowance (SGO allowance).

TT was also caring for her granddaughter who shared the same mother as C.  Both children had significant difficulties including post traumatic stress disorder and behavioural issues.  TT gave up her job to look after the children and was in receipt of benefits.  She had a very low income and was struggling to maintain the children and she asked the local authority to consider her for a SGO allowance for C.

The local authority’s policy for SGO allowances was based on paying two thirds the rate of the core fostering allowance.  This went to court in June 2012 where the policy was found to be unlawful.  The local authority was ordered to draft a new policy by December 2012 which they have recently completed.

Under the new policy the local authority have calculated that TT was due £22,978.08 as backdated pay.

TT said:
“This is the best Christmas present I could have wished for. I took the children on out of love and I wanted to give them a good start in life.  I brought the proceedings out of necessity as I could not afford to keep the children.  I have been living through a financial nightmare. I had to give up the car and went into debt, to the extent that I could not even use catalogues to buy things.

“I am absolutely delighted with the payout and I could not sleep when I first found out.  It will make a wonderful Christmas for the children.  I intend to wipe away the debt and buy a car and I will then be able to secure the children’s future with me”.

Rebecca Chapman of Ridley & Hall Solicitors, acting for TT, said:

“I am really pleased that TT has received the increased allowance and will be able to continue to look after the children without the financial worries which have existed since 2010.

“However, TT should have just been paid the right allowance from the beginning. It is unfortunate that she had to take the matter to court, which has meant that the council have had to pay legal fees, at a difficult financial time for councils.”

The court case is TT v London Borough of Merton [2012] EWHC 2055 (admin) and can be found at

If you require anymore information please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Chapman on 01484 538421 or email

Judge gives grandma the right to challenge Derbyshire County Council’s residence allowance policy

A high court judge has given a 67 year old Derbyshire grandmother permission to challenge a key policy of Derbyshire County Council.

The grandmother has been caring for her grandson who is now 13 since 2000. At one stage she was also caring for her grand daughter as well. The children had been placed with her by Derbyshire Social Services and they had encouraged her to apply for a residence order.

The County Council agreed to pay her a residence allowance. This was on the basis that if the grandmother had not stepped forward the children would have gone into foster care. The children’s’ parents were not able to properly care for the children.

Commenting on the case Nigel Priestley Senior Partner at Ridley and Hall, the specialist grandparent carers solicitors said “The grandmother was caring for 2 very demanding and damaged children. For over 12 years she worked closely with Social Services to get them the support they needed. I enquired as to the level of payment my grandparent carer was receiving. Alarm bells began to ring.  I was surprised at how low the residence allowance payments were.

It was then that I found, firstly, Derbyshire County Council’s payments in respect of fostering allowances and secondly, a report dated the 26th July 2011.

Foster carers who are “mainstream fostering” for children aged 11-15, get a fostering allowance paid by Derbyshire of £156.00 per week.

I found a report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Strategic Director. A decision was made in July 2011 to increase the special guardianship allowance to the same level as the fostering allowance.  The report contained a warning that the cabinet chose to ignore. The county council made a decision, that “all other adoption and residence order allowances will be maintained at 58% of fostering allowances although it is possible that these allowances will be subject to future legal challenge”.

If this was a prophetic remark by the Deputy Chief Executive, it is a prophecy that has come true!

Derbyshire appear to have a habit of moving grandparents caring for their grandchildren onto residence orders within care proceedings. The county council at best then pays a residence allowance, is 58% of the fostering allowance, just over £70 per week. Derbyshire has deliberately chosen to get child care on the cheap.

I wrote to Derbyshire about their policy. It’s my view that their policy is unlawful. The letter back failed to address the issues in the case.

We then issued a judicial review application. The county council’s response again failed to deal with the central issue.. His Honour Judge Behrens sitting as a high court judge has granted permission for the grandmother to challenge the county council’s policy.

This is an important case – Derbyshire are not alone in paying grandparent carers with residence orders significantly less than foster carers. I bam staggered that at a difficult time for local authorities the county council is spending council tax payers money to defend the indefensible.”

Commenting the grandmother who cannot be named for legal reasons said “I am 67 and survive on my pension. I am shocked that the county council can treat me and other carers like me in this way. I have to count every penny. It would have cost the county council a fortune if they had had to put my grandchildren into foster care”

For further information please contact Nigel Priestley or call 01484 538421

Front page of Derbyshire Telegraph: click here to view