Monthly Archives: February 2014

Married or Living Together for the Over 65s?

Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the number of unmarried over-65s living together has increased from 177,000 to 250,000 in eight years, increasing by more than 40%. This is generally believed to be at least partly attibutable to a change in attitudes towards the “morality” of simply living together, as opposed to getting married.

Whilst attitudes are changing about the rights and wrongs of living together, it can be an informed choice on the part of couples who want to ensure that their family are provided for.  Relationships are formed either after the death of a long-term partner, or alternatively after a divorce, and couples are very mindful of the fact that they wish to preserve assets for their family.

So how does the court differentiate between married and unmarried couples?

Firstly, in terms of ownership of assets, the court has greater powers to make all sorts of orders about property in divorce proceedings, whereas they have less discretion with cohabiting couples.  The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 governs divorces and how the court make orders about properties.  The sorts of things that the courts take into account when making decisions about finances on divorce are the needs and financial resources of the couple, the length of the relationship, the needs of any dependant children, the standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the course of the marriage, the couples’ ages, the contributions made by each of them to the marriage any disability, and any other factor that the court thinks is relevant.  This means that couples are left wide open to claims by their partners when the relationships break down over assets which one may assert was “theirs” prior to the relationship starting.

The law governing cohabitees, by contrast, is dealt with largely on the basis of who actually owns what.  The court will look at who owns the property.  Is it joint names, or one person’s sole name?  If the relationship breaks down and one of the cohabitees wishes to change the way the property is held legally, they have more of an uphill struggle.  The length of the relationship, the standard of living, the needs and financial resources are not factors that the court can take into account.  The law dealing with cohabitees is dealt with under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.  It is a very complex area of law.  Essentially, to change the way a property is held (ie to make a claim over a property), the person making the claim must show that there was an intention to hold the property differently, and once they have established that, they must show that they have contributed money or “monies worth”.  “Monies worth” has to be labour, or work that has been done to the property, which is over and above general decorating.  The judges dealing with cohabitee cases do not have the wide discretion that exists in divorce laws.  This may well suit a person who has a property in their name, and children by a previous relationship, as it makes it more likely that they can secure their children’s interests.

For both married and unmarried couples, if they wish to secure their position effectively, then they should consider entering into a prenuptial agreement (for couples about to marry) or for unmarried couples, a trust deed or deed of agreement that evidences their intentions if they are to separate.  The courts in England are now more likely to uphold a prenuptial agreement than they were even 10 years ago.  The court would need to be satisfied that the agreement was made without any undue pressure being put on any of the participants.  They would need to be satisfied that it was done a reasonable period before the wedding was due to take place, and that both participants knew what assets (and liaibilities) the other person had.

So the answer – make sure you get an agreement in place to protect you and your family whether your are married or unmarried.

For more information on any Family matters, please contact the FamilyFirst team at Ridley & Hall either by e-mail or on 01484 538421.

My Property is Unregistered – Should I Worry?

Some time ago it became compulsory to register a transfer of ownership of property – in this area the trigger date was in the early 1970’s.  Therefore, property that has been sold subsequently is now registered at Land Registry.  The modern format of deeds is a title information document which includes registers of the property detailing the property itself and its address and the matters benefitting the property and those matters to which it is subject, the current registered proprietors and any mortgage lender with a financial charge on the property.  Registration was brought in with the intention that, eventually, all property will be registered and it will be possible to readily identify property owners.

There are, however, a number of properties which remain unregistered and these are generally properties which have remained in the same ownership since before compulsory registration came about or which, initially, may have transferred ownership by means other than a sale.

Provided the bundle of unregistered deeds remain safe and accessible and the bundle is ‘complete’ and no single document has become lost over time, there is no reason why the property cannot be successfully sold by reference to such documents.

There are, however, benefits to be had by registering presently unregistered property at Land Registry :-

  • It offers you easily accessible proof of land ownership which can be obtained from Land Registry for nominal cost.  Once registered, ‘losing’ the paper copies of your deeds is not ‘the end of the world’.  Unregistered title deeds are crucial to land ownership and the loss of these documents can create time consuming and expensive problems then re-constituting a title;
  • It may help prevent others claiming ownership of part or all of your land since Land Registry would notify a registered proprietor if another party was endeavouring to ‘claim’ part of your land/property;
  • It helps to identify your property since modern deeds include a plan of property based on Ordnance Survey maps (although not definitive) – unregistered title deeds may not be clear in this respect particularly if they are very old.

It is not necessary to transfer property for it to become registered.  It is possible to voluntarily register unregistered property at Land Registry.  Whilst this will incur a Land Registry fee, voluntary registrations are subject to reduced fees, the fee payable on the value of the property concerned.

If you know your property to be unregistered and is presently free of any mortgage and you would like us to assist in the registration of your property at Land Registry or for any other conveyacing enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact Liz Wallis, Alison Mason or Adam Fletcher at Ridley & Hall LLP on 01484 538421.

Tidying Up Your Affairs

Most of our resolutions may be pretty much forgotten about, but it is still the beginning of a New Year and a good time to take stock of our personal affairs. Use the motivation of the fresh start to look at the arrangements you have in place, as it will be Easter, Summer Holidays, then Christmas again before you know it!

Far too often however, people do not consider the future, thinking only about today, this week or the next couple of months at most. This can mean people fail to take the appropriate steps to ensure that their various assets and affairs can be dealt with in the event that they cannot do this for themselves – either during their lifetime or on their death.

It is therefore important for each of us to think about how our families and friends would cope in sorting things out if we were not able to do so. During later life, where physical or mental incapability may prevent us from dealing with our day-to-day things, such as paying bills, transferring money or sorting out our benefits, we need to think about who could do that for us. With direct debits being a popular form of payment and The Pension Service now crediting bank accounts directly, it is all too easy to assume that these things would take care of themselves. This is not necessarily the case, but if you think about these issues in plenty of time, you have the option of making a lasting power of attorney (LPA) which is a document that appoints a person or persons of your choice (your attorney) allowing them to deal with your property and financial affairs or your health and welfare and make decisions on your behalf. These documents can be as flexible or as rigid as you dictate, but can be very useful if you become incapable of dealing with matters yourself. Also, because you have put these arrangements in place whilst you still have the necessary mental capacity, it is much more straightforward and cost-effective than if your loved ones needed to make an application to the Court of Protection for deputyship had you not done made an LPA and then lost capacity.

Similarly, the same applies for making arrangements to deal with your affairs on your death. By making a Will and appointing executors, and specifying how you wish your estate to be distributed, this again makes things a lot more straight-forward. If you were to die without making a Will, this means that the intestacy rules set down who is entitled to receive your estate and in what proportions and also who can administer your affairs. If you have made a valid Will, it removes this uncertainty. Sometimes people mistakenly believe that all their estate will be dealt with by their spouse, or their next of kin, but this is not necessarily the case. It is therefore far more sensible to leave a Will which outlines your precise instructions and leaves nothing to chance. You can also use a Will to mitigate inheritance tax or protect your estate from future care home fees, for example.

So when you soon have that thought that it’s time to start your “Spring Cleaning” over the coming weeks, don’t just think about having a spotless house, but think about the mess you could avoid for your loved ones by leaving your affairs nice and tidy too.

Should you wish to discuss either of these matters in greater detail, please contact a member of the Private Client department who will be happy to talk things through with you.

 

For more information about Wills, powers of attorney or Court of Protection, please contact the Private Client team on 01484 538421.

Ridley & Hall’s Pep-talk for Businesses

Bosses are being offered a free pep-talk to pep up their businesses in the latest new initiative from Huddersfield’s multi-award-winning law firm Ridley & Hall.

The new Commercial Property department is offering the free consultations to give business leaders crucial legal advice as the economic recovery starts to take shape.

It comes as the government reports growth of 1.6% in 2013, with latest estimates that the economy is set to grow by 2.4% in 2014.

Head of Commercial Property Julie Devenport said: “This is the time when people need help to expand their businesses and make sure that they are not left behind as the economy picks up. Our free consultations mean we can come up with ideas and advice on how commercial property deals can work for you. And the best thing is that the advice is free, so businesses have nothing to lose by talking to us.”

Ridley & Hall on Market Street, Huddersfield, specialises in commercial property matters including landlord and tenant work, sales and purchases of freehold/leasehold and mortgages.

The free consultations will last 30 minutes and will cover all areas of commercial property matters – but they are only available for one month.

Ridley & Hall earlier this year announced a major investment in setting up its new Commercial Property department with its own dedicated team. As part of that move, they have recruited the vastly experienced John Royle as a solicitor. John has been a lawyer for 40 years and is well known among Huddersfield businesses for his exceptional commercial work.

Ridley & Hall has within the last twelve months won the title of Law Firm of the Year and senior partner Nigel Priestley was named Legal Champion of the Year.

Ridley & Hall Commercial Team – John Royle with Julie Devenport

To book a free business consultation, contact the new Commercial Property department by calling call into Ridley & Hall on Market Street, Huddersfield or phone Julie Devenport or John Royle on 01484 538421.

Pensioner’s High Court Battle for Support – Full Case Details

Following the success of a Bradford pensioner at High Court against Bradford Council, the full case details have now been published.

It has been described by one leading London lawyer as a “Good case on the section 20 local authority accommodation responsibility as against a private family arrangement scenario.” The grandmother’s story has struck a chord with many people. A record number of people have read the news story on our website. The full judgment is worth reading.

For more information on kinship care, please contact Tracey Ling on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.

Charity Summer Ball

We are hosting our Summer Ball in aid of our Charity of the Year, Macmillan Cancer Support.  The ball is taking place at Huddersfield Cedar Court Hotel on Saturday 14th June 2014 for 6:45pm start.  The tickets are priced at £40 per person.

We will be laying on some fantastic entertainment  as well as a three course meal, and there will be a charity auction, with all proceeds going to Macmillan.

If anyone would like to join us for what will be a brilliant evening, please telephone 01484 538421 and ask for Nicola Heaversedge or Sarah Brown or alternatively please email either Nicola or Sarah.  Tickets will be available on a first come, first served basis.

In addition, we are looking for donations towards our charity auction.  Any person or business who donates will be mentioned in our catalogue which will be displayed on the night and on our website a couple of weeks before.  Again please contact Sarah Brown for more information.

Useful Links

Cedar Court Hotel

Ridley & Hall JustGiving Page

MacMillan Cancer Support

Flood Misery for Home Owners

House purchases are falling through in flood zone areas because buyers are unable to arrange buildings insurance.

Many lenders require evidence that buildings insurance is in place before mortgage funds will be released.  Previously many lenders accepted assurances from buyers that insurance will be place.

Buyers trying to arrange insurance before the completion of a purchase are either finding that they are unable to obtain insurance or that insurance is much more expensive than they thought.

The problems are arising due to the fact that Britain continues to be effected by storm damage and flooding, leaving insurers exposed to potentially high payouts.

Many buyers believe that they will be able to get insurance cover and at a reasonable price so leave the process of finding a policy until the last minute.  We are now however seeing more house sales fall through due to the fact that buyers are unable to obtain insurance.

There are now thousands of homes in Britain that are at a high risk of flooding.  Lenders reserve the right to check that buyers have cover in place.  Whether or not the check is carried out can vary according to the Council for Mortgage Lenders (CML).

You can check the risk of flooding using the Enviroment Agency’s flood maps and then enter your postcode.

If your insurance premium escalates at renewal or if you are rejected for insurance go to the British Insurance Brokers Association for help in order to find a specialist broker.  The National Flood Forum is also a helpful website for information.

For more advice on buying property in flood zone areas, please contact Alison Mason, Liz Wallis, Adam Fletcher or Helen Dandridge in the Conveyancing department at Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421.

Ridley & Hall’s Royle Seal of Approval

Huddersfield’s multi-award-winning law firm Ridley & Hall has pulled off another major coup by recruiting the vastly experienced John Royle to its Commercial department.

John arrives at the Market Street legal firm as a senior solicitor with 40 years’ legal experience.

He will join forces with Associate Solicitor Julie Devenport, who has been running Ridley & Hall’s Commercial arm for the last 10 years.

A former president and secretary of the Huddersfield Law Society, he is well known among Huddersfield businesses for his exceptional commercial property work.

John Royle said, “This is an exciting time for Ridley & Hall and I am pleased to be bringing my experience and expertise to such a vibrant firm. Business people want solicitors they can trust and rely on and I am delighted to be joining such a respected team.”

Julie Devenport said, “It is great for us to be able to bring John on board with his vast experience and contacts. The timing is perfect because there is a huge buzz at the moment with the commercial property market in the region and we are working behind the scenes on some new and innovative ideas for the Commercial Property department.”

Ridley & Hall specialises in commercial property matters including Landlord and Tenant work, sales and purchases of freehold / leasehold and mortgages. Julie Devenport also deals with Commercial Law matters involving Shareholdings and Commercial Assets, Sales and Purchases of businesses, Company structures and partnerships and work with Clubs and Charities.

In the last few months Ridley & Hall has won the title of Law Firm of the Year and senior partner Nigel Priestley was named Legal Champion of the Year.

To contact John Royle call into Ridley & Hall on Market Street, Huddersfield or phone 01484 538421.

100 Not Out for Yorkshire and Humber Dementia Action Alliance

Ridley & Hall Solicitors have become the 100th member organisation to join the Yorkshire and Humber Dementia Action Alliance.

The regional Alliance was launched in November 2012 and has since attracted interest from organisations such as police forces, fire and rescue services, local authorities, professional services, care providers and health trusts, charities, high street shops, bus companies, taxi firms, faith groups, local associations and schools.

Simon Wallace, Project Manager for the regional Alliance, said, “I am really delighted to welcome Ridley & Hall as the 100th member of the Yorkshire & Humber Dementia Action Alliance. For many years the firm has supported age-related causes and they have introduced innovative services to support and advise older clients. Their commitment to become even more dementia friendly is simply the icing on the cake. What is more, they have been heavily involved in setting up Kirklees Dementia Action Alliance (KDAA) with Adam Fletcher taking on the role of Chair of this important community-focussed group.”

Ridley & Hall Managing Partner, Adam Fletcher, and solicitor, Helen Webster, have also been heavily involved in the creation of a Local Dementia Action Alliance for Kirklees.

Adam commented, “The enthusiasm of our staff during the preparation of our action plan to join the regional Alliance resulted in us taking a major role in the formation of an Alliance here in Kirklees. Surprisingly, the Alliance does not include many members from the professional services sector despite their regular interaction with those living with or supporting those with dementia. I would encourage all responsible organistations to consider how they can make not only the services they provide but also their general environment more dementia friendly.”

Helen Webster added, “The Alliance is a fantastic national movement trying to improve the lives of people living with dementia, by getting society to recognise their needs and to support them to live well with the condition, which in turn helps their carers and loved ones. This is an issue close to my heart, so to be part of that at regional level and in particular moving it forward in our own borough, is extremely rewarding both on a personal and professional level.

“Whilst the group is still in its early days, interest has been high and the response has been extremely positive. The KDAA are still looking for new members to bring a wider cross-section of the above organisations together, as the ethos of the KDAA is to involve as many people as possible in order to help make a ‘kinder Kirklees’ and a more compassionate community.”

  

(Helen Webster and Adam Fletcher receiving Ridley & Hall’s ‘Working to Become Dementia Friendly’ plaque from Simon Wallace)

If you care about people living with dementia, your organisation has an interest in helping to make life better for those living with dementia, or if your staff interact with or care for people with dementia, the Kirklees Dementia Action Alliance may be able to help you. For more information, please contact Adam Fletcher or Helen Webster on Huddersfield (01484) 558863 or 558878 or visit www.dementiaaction.org.uk.

Adoption Activity Days – a Solution for an Adoption Crisis?

Following a recent Channel 4 documentary about adoption and in particular ‘Adoption Activity Days’, there has been a lot of media coverage about this highly controversial concept which brings prospective adopters and children together in order to try and help them find their ‘forever family’.

Children awaiting adoption, along with their foster carers and social workers attend the activity days where prospective adopters are encouraged to view, talk to and play with the children.

Finding Mum and Dad followed the story of Connor and Daniel aged 4 and 6 who, due to a difficult start in life, were living with foster carers awaiting adoption. Connor and Daniel were neglected by their birth family so much so that Daniel could not speak at three years old; both had significant nightmares and were developmentally delayed.

Adoption Activity Days are an American concept which have been successful for decades with statistics showing that they are twice as effective as other ways of family finding. In the late 1970s/early 1980s activity days were popular however, quickly went out of fashion. In December 2012, the Department of Education announced that adoption activity days would be part of the government’s adoption reform agenda.

In the most part, the children who attend at the activity days are the ones who are considered hard to place and who, for one reason or another, have not been successfully placed with their forever family through various alternative and more traditional methods.

Critics fear that these already vulnerable children may face more rejection with some seeing these days as much like a cattle market for children. Despite their documented success, the question remains as to whether this is a solution to an adoption crisis with more than 4,000 children in the UK waiting to be adopted.

However, despite the criticism there is clear proof that these activity days are successful. Out of the 251 children who attended the pilot scheme activity days, 42 were subsequently adopted and British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) have at least 8 more dates set for Feb and March across the country.

Bournemouth Council held their first adoption activity day a few weeks ago and two out of the six children there now have a new adoptive family.

The outcome for Connor and Daniel however may not be as bright. Both boys remained unplaced at the conclusion of the programme and it looks likely that they will remain in long term fostercare rather than be adopted.

Whatever your opinion on adoption activity days, media coverage for adoption can only be a good thing. Debate is being sparked and there is news of many local authorities being committed to finding a solution to the adoption crisis one way or another, whether that be by endorsing the activity days or by finding other methods. For example, Durham County Council and Birmingham City Council are amongst a number of local authorities to launch a television advertising campaign to encourage more people to adopt. It was in the news last week that Bradford Metropolitan District Council is to receive £600,000 to improve their adoption services and Southwark Council has launched their adoption campaign ‘Find 40 Families’ which has already achieved a rise in adoption rates alongside a 150% increase in visits to the town hall’s adoption website.

However successful these methods are, the bottom line is that the children who go to the activity days are the ones who have been hard to place. Finding an adoptive family for these children is great but there needs to be a greater emphasis on the support needed in order to prevent these adoptions breaking down. Placements at greater risk of breakdown are older children and research indicates that these families will need skilled ongoing support in the future.

At Ridley & Hall we have a specialist team who can help with all types of adoption matters including; adoption applications, support and breakdown. Call to speak to an adviser on 01484 538421.