Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Divorce Rate

New figures released by The Marriage Foundation confirm that 39% of couples who marry today will seek a divorce.

What is the Divorce Rate?

The peak time period for couples who commence divorce proceedings is between the 3 year and 6 year anniversary, with divorce rates decreasing substantially once a couple has reached 20 years of marriage. Only 1 in 5 divorces occur after a couple’s 20th anniversary and that reduces to 1 in 100 following 40 years of marriage.

Couples who are in the first decade of marriage face the greatest risk of marriage breakdown. The Marriage Foundation is advising couples within the first decade to attempt to strengthen their marriage before commencing divorce proceedings, including advising couples to really consider the choices they make prior to marriage.

Ridley & Hall understands that, despite the best efforts of all parties involved, sometimes a marriage does break down and divorce is the only option. If you would like advice regarding the divorce procedure, likely timescales and costs, please telephone 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the Family team.

Alternatively you may email to arrange an appointment.

The Family team at Ridley & Hall also understands that when a marriage breaks down, there are other issues connected to the separation which will need careful discussion, such as children and finances. You may be anxious about these issues and uncertain of what the future holds. Our experienced Family team is here to offer you specialist legal advice and we will ensure that we resolve matters as swiftly and amicably as possible.

Alternatively, if you are contemplating marriage and are worried about protecting your assets and property in the event of a separation, please contact the Family team about a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement.

Choose your executors wisely

It is important to choose your executors wisely. It is an executor’s responsibility to deal with the administration of your estate after your death and it is usually recommended you appoint at least two executors in case one of them is unable to act due to their age, health or geographical location.

Anybody aged 18 or above can be an executor of your Will. A good idea is to choose a friend or family member and a professional, such as a solicitor. One of the advantages of choosing a professional executor is that you can get someone with specialist knowledge involved. It can also prevent an array of problems occurring where an executor acts outside their power. The following case highlights just one such issue.

A gentleman placed his entire estate in trust for his only child who was to inherit the money when she turned 21. He appointed his sister as his sole executrix. After his sudden death, his executrix spent over £30,000 of the inheritance for her own use within months of his death.

This was reported to the Police and led to an 8 month sentence for the executrix who did not realise she was personally liable in respect of the ways monies are applied.

The executrix incorrectly believed that she was entitled to spend some of the money in her capacity as the executrix. However there were no provisions made for her under her brother’s Will and she did not seek any legal advice in respect of her role.

This story shows the importance of choosing somebody that you trust and who understands they have to administer the estate strictly in accordance with the Will. If a solicitor had been appointed he or she would have ensured all monies pass to the rightful beneficiary.

If you do decide to elect friends or family members to be your executors, you must ensure they understand their role and the fact that they are accountable to the Court if they act with impropriety.  This may not be intentional as they will also be dealing with the loss of a loved one. As well as dealing with the grief of your death, they will also have to deal with the burden of extensive financial documentation and tax accounts.

It is extremely important to choose lay executors who can work together and get along with each other. Some people appoint individuals from different backgrounds who may never have met (e.g brother-in-law and aunt). They may never have met prior to your death and may have differing viewpoints in respect of the best way to deal with the administration of your estate.

In worst case scenarios co-executors have been known to fall out over who should be doing what, leading to needless arguments, resentment and acrimony. This has ended in unnecessary legal fees as separate solicitors are instructed in the last instance to untangle months of problems that have been building up.
Ideally your executors should know each other, be aware of their role and be able to work together during an intensely difficult time.

Choosing a solicitor as one of your executors is a good idea. They are trustworthy and experienced and they know their way around legal, tax and property issues.

For further information contact Nosheen Bukhari , she is a solicitor who specialises in Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorneys and Probate matters. She speaks fluent Punjabi and Urdu and is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly on 01484 538 421.

The Cost of Family Disputes

The latest “big money” inheritance dispute to hit the headlines involves South Korea’s richest man Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee.  On Friday 1 February he won a court ruling against demands by his family to hand over £642 million worth of shares.

Sarah Young, Inheritance Dispute expert

Sarah Young, Ridley & Hall

Mr Lee, 71,who has a personal fortune of $8.3 billion, was accused by his older brother and sister of hiding shares in Samsung Life Insurance and Samsung Electronics after the death of his father in 1987. Mr Lee, whose father died without making a will, took over chairmanship of Samsung. His brother Maeng-hee argued that Mr Lee inherited around $3.8 billion of shares without telling other family members who may have been entitled to some of them.

In April 2008 Mr Lee resigned in disgrace after being charged with tax evasion and breach of trust.  He was convicted of tax offences but was given a presidential pardon in 2009 and returned to lead Samsung in 2010.  The Samsung group has seen tremendous growth in the past few years and posted record quarterly profits of £4.2 billion for October to December 2012.

Mr Lee successfully resisted the claims brought by his brother and sister which – if successful  – would have forced a restructuring of a complex web of share holdings and weakened Mr Lee’s hold on the giant conglomerate.

The case brought longstanding family resentments into the open and led to public denunciations with Mr Lee calling his older brother “greedy” while Mr Maeng-hee described Mr Lee, 71, as “acting childish”.

Sarah Young, specialist in contentious probate law at Huddersfield firm Ridley and Hall comments:

“In this case the amounts of money involved clearly made it worthwhile for the parties to litigate, but there will have been an emotional cost to the family to washing their dirty linen in public. “ She adds “often family members are asked to provide witness statements.  This can result in old grudges being aired – it’s important to be sure that any allegations are relevant to the dispute and not just a matter of point scoring.  Litigation should always be a last resort”

If you would like further information about inheritance disputes please contact Sarah Young at Ridley and Hall solicitors: direct dial 01484 558838 or switchboard 01484 538421, mobile 07860 165850.  Sarah Young is a Partner at Ridley & Hall.  She specialises in personal injury and contentious probate.  She has a record of bringing the most complex cases to a successful conclusion.

Legal aid is being withdrawn for Will disputes from 1 April 2013; Sarah Young is one of the few specialists in this area who can offer legal aid. If you think you may have a claim, don’t delay, contact her now.

Aunt Wins £11,000 from Sefton Council to Care for Children

An aunt from Southport has been paid almost £11,000 from Sefton after she had two children placed with her by the council. Their mother had died and the father was deemed unable to care for them.

The children, initially went to live with the father when their mother died. The father had a new girlfriend but the relationship involved violence and alcohol abuse. Social services were aware of the problems in the family. The aunt was contacted by the new girlfriend as they could not cope with the children. The aunt then contacted social services to find out what she should do.

The children came to live with the aunt in April 2007, when they were 12 and 9 years old. Social services visited and made it clear that the children could not go back to their father due to issues of alcohol abuse, violence and police involvement. They asked the aunt to continue caring for the children. The aunt had her own child, who was aged 3 at the time. Social services said that if she did not look after the children and get a residence order then they would be placed into foster care. The aunt did not want the children to go into foster care so decided to care for the children. A residence order was granted in 2007.

She was on a low income when they first came to live with her and she had difficulty finding enough money to pay for their school uniforms. She asked for some help from Sefton Council. She was provided with a £100 to cover the cost of new school uniforms.

Rebecca Chapman of specialist law firm Ridley & Hall commented, “My client was not told of the possibility of a residence order allowance and when she asked for further financial assistance she was told that none was available.

The aunt who does not wish to be named said, “Although I wanted to care for the children my house was not large enough and so I had to move to a bigger house. This meant incurring higher rent, in order that I could care for the children. The children did not come with any essential items and I had to purchase these items on my credit card. I was not provided with any help from the local authority apart from the initial £100 to cover the school uniforms.

“As well as caring for two children who came from a difficult background, the elder child also had toileting issues which had to be worked through until they became more settled. No support was provided by the council in order to help me deal with this problem.

“Fortunately, the elder child made good progress and left home in 2011 to attend college. That’s the benefit of being a kinship carer – enabling a child to be brought up within the family.

“I couldn’t have done this without Ridley and Hall. Not only have I got a lump sum I’m also getting a weekly allowance which makes all the difference.”

Ms Chapman went on, “Although our client, who is now 37 years old, had approached social services for assistance, she had been told that none was available so she sought my advice as she continued to struggle to pay for essential items for the child who remained with her.

The local authority were approached in February 2012 and asked to complete and assessment for a residence order allowance. This eventually took place in April and she was awarded a weekly allowance of £127.70. However, there was a delay in payments starting with the regular payments starting at the end of December. Due to the delay starting payments, the local authority awarded a backdated sum to cover the period of time from when the request was first made. This sum came to just under £11,000.”

Miss Chapman concluded, “I am very pleased that my client now has enough money in order to pay for the essential items for the children who were placed with her by social services. However, I think it is a disgrace that it required the assistance of a solicitor to obtain an allowance instead of the local authority automatically complying with their lawful duties.”

For further information please contact Rebecca Chapman by email or telephone on 01484 538421.

Northumberland Grandparent Carers Win £14,000 from County Council

Northumberland County Council have agreed to pay an ongoing weekly allowance and backdated payments for grandparent carers.

The grandparents from Blyth were caring for two of their grandchildren.  The children were placed with them by social services as their parents were unable to look after them.  Social services encouraged the grandparents to obtain residence orders and then refused to provide any further support to the family.

The family were on a low income and had retired from work.  The children were placed with their grandparents as a direct alternative to foster care. The first grandchild was aged 6 when he went to live with the grandparents in 2005, he is now 14 years old. Social services asked the grandparents to care after his mother said that she could not look after him. Northumberland also encouraged the grandparents to obtain a residence order which gave the rights of a parent.

A few months later the second grandchild was abandoned at school by his mother. Northumberland Social Services again requested the grandparents to look after the child and obtain a residence order, which was granted in 2006. He was 6 years old when the order was made. He is now 13.

The grandparents were in their late 50s when they were asked to care for the children and were planning for retirement. When the children came they had to move to a larger house to make enough space. They  had to buy new clothes for the boys as the clothes they came in did not fit and were not suitable. They also had to buy new beds and bedroom furniture for the boys. The grandmother had recently been made redundant and spent her redundancy money on kitting out the boys and making the new home comfortable.

The grandfather said, “We requested some assistance from social services but we were told that they were unable to provide any financial help and all they could do was give us some advice about issues in the future. We did not receive any help for either kitting out the children or with the move to the new home.”

“In around 2009 we were speaking to another carer who informed us that we might be eligible for a residence order allowance. We telephoned social services and spoke to the duty social worker who told us that we would have had to apply for the allowance at the time of applying for the residence order and because we did not apply at that time we were not now eligible for the allowance. We were not aware of the possibility of applying for a residence order allowance when we applied for the orders. They also said that the local authority does not have money for funding such allowances.”

“We contacted social services again during the summer holidays in 2011 as we were struggling to pay for the children’s school uniforms but we were told that social services do not provide such funding.”

Eventually the grandparents instructed Rebecca Chapman at Ridley & Hall Solicitors. She advised them that Northumberland were wrong. She contacted the county council in February 2012 requesting the local authority assess whether they would be eligible for an allowance.  Further letters were then sent but the local authority ignored the requests for support. Eventually judicial review proceedings were issued in September 2012.

Once proceedings had been issued, with the threat of further legal costs, Northumberland decided that they would eventually conduct the assessment in order to see whether the grandparents were eligible for a residence order allowance.

The assessment took place and the grandparents were awarded a weekly residence order allowance of £321.06 for both children and the allowance was backdated, leading to a sum of just over £14,000.

The grandparents reaction was, “We are absolutely delighted that we have been granted the allowance. It will make a huge difference to the boys’ lives. The boys will be able to take part in more after school activities. Also, they have always been embarrassed about the bedrooms and clothes so have been reluctant to invite their friends over. Hopefully with this money we will be able to decorate their rooms to their liking which will encourage them to have their friends over. The money will ensure that they will have a decent start in life.

“Although we are happy with the allowance we are very disappointed that we had to fight to get it. When we were first asked by social services to care for the children I believe they should have looked at what support we needed in order to be able to give them a normal and comfortable home. This did not happen and every time we asked for help we were told it was not available, only when their actions were about to come under the scrutiny of the courts did they act to promote the children’s welfare.”

Rebecca Chapman of specialist law firm Ridley and Hall said, “The grandparents were delighted to receive the allowance and backdated amount, however, they remain annoyed that the council did not respond to their request for help.  They wanted to be able to provide the children with a good future and allow them to attend local football clubs and swimming lessons and to make sure they were clothed adequately.  However, the local authority was unwilling to provide this assistance even though they had placed the children.  It was only when the local authority were faced with a legal challenge and high legal costs, were they willing to even consider conducting the assessment to see if they were eligible for such an allowance.

It is disgusting that the council were not willing to provide support to those people who really need it without legal proceedings having to be issued.”

If you would like some more information please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Chapman by e-mailing or by telephone on 01484 538421.