Monthly Archives: March 2014

Charity Massage Day for Macmillan Cancer Support at Huddersfield Spa

Alexandra House Spa is holding a charity massage day in conjunction with Ridley & Hall Solicitors on Thursday 22nd May, 11am-7pm in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Book in for a 30-minute back massage, Indian head massage or reiki session. There will be free refreshments and a raffle with some great prizes including a voucher for the Spa. All proceeds will go to Macmillan Cancer Support.

To book in, telephone the Spa on 01484 303786.

Alexandra House Spa Contact Details

Maxine Stead, PhD
Managing Director
ALEXANDRA HOUSE Holistic Health and Well-Being Spa

128 Halifax Old Road
Birkby
Huddersfield
HD2 2RL

Tel:  01484 303786
Email
Web site

 

Gwyneth & Chris – Conscious Uncoupling – In Love But Separate

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced on 26th March 2014 their intention to separate.

They announced it on goop.com and said:-

“It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our own space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent we will be able to continue in the same manner.”

Whilst the text might seem very “new age” the sentiment is to be applauded. It is very easy for separating couples to overlook the fact that they still have to parent children together and it is clear that Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow are trying very hard to ensure that they continue to co-parent their children.

This is easier said than done. Here are some top tips to try and assist in keeping things amicable:-

  1. If the children are old enough, try and sit down with them and see what they would like to happen and how they would like the arrangements between two households to look.
  2. Always try and keep the children informed – this does not mean getting the children to take sides but neutrally explaining to them what is happening and ensuring that the children know that the reason for the separation is between two adults and not because of the children.
  3. Always try and keep defined roles – be parents and not friends. Sometimes, with the best intentions, people either expect too much from their relationship. It is important to give each other space to come to terms with your new status. Don’t go planning days out, or holidays together.
  4. “Communicate, communicate, communicate” – this can be difficult at times – it may be that the other person has had a bad day and may react badly to something you have said. Whereas communication might have been a problem in the relationship, it is even more important that you try and improve communication now that you have separated.
  5. “Try to forgive”- this does not mean forget but try and be as peaceful with one another as possible – this is far better for the children.
  6. Make arrangements that best suit the two of you – frequently, I hear from client’s that they do not want to be “a glorified babysitter” or that the father has not had enough “parenting experience”. Parenting does not come with a manual sadly. It is important that both of you support each other even when things don’t quite work out.
  7. If you cannot agree on arrangements, try and mediate – mediation can help the two of you reach compromises in circumstances where the two of you on your own cannot. Mediation is about the two of you making decisions rather than a Court imposing them. It may help to be able to see things a little more clearly.
  8. Give yourself time to come to terms with your new situation. Some days will be easier than others.
  9. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We cant be perfect all of the time!

If you need some assistance from a mediator or family lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact Vicky Medd on 01484 538421 or by e-mail. Vicky Medd has over 20 years’ experience as a family lawyer and over 9 years’ experience as a family mediator. She is an accredited specialist with Resolution and Family Mediators Association.

Ridley & Hall’s Adam Fletcher Provides Input into Major Banks’ Benchmarking Report

The North remains the country’s second largest area for legal activity according to the latest Financial Benchmarking Report from NatWest and RBS.

The report – now in its second year – looks at the financial performance of small and medium enterprise (SME) law firms operating outside of the UK top 100.

According to the survey, commissioned by NatWest and RBS’ commercial banking division, law firms across the North East and North West achieved an 11% increase in profit from the previous year. This delivered partners profits at £20,000 above the national average – putting them second only to firms in London.

This year’s report includes financial results from over 380 firms (an increase of 12% compared to last year) as well as a survey of delegates from the banks’ 2013 Legal Conferences – attended by 400 legal professionals.

Adam Fletcher, Managing Partner at Ridley & Hall LLP in West Yorkshire, is featured in the report. He said: “With the legal market continuing to change at a rapid pace, never has it been so critical to ensure that focus is on profitability and financial stability.

“I am not aware of any other benchmarking report within the sector that has access to such a library of financial data providing a wealth of financial information.

“Last year’s report allowed us to fully understand how we were performing financially compared with other law firms. What has become apparent is that the issues identified as a result of reviewing last year’s report were often interlinked, and while only requiring small improvements have had noticeable impact on profitability.”

Peter Gray – Head of Professionals NatWest Yorkshire & North Derbyshire at Natwest, added: “Last year was another challenging one for the legal sector, however, optimism seems at an all time high with some great performances recorded across the country.

“As the largest and only free benchmarking report in this space, this report provides a truly representative picture. We hope firms will use it to help them interpret their performance compared to their peers and indentify areas where they can improve future financial performance and security.”

The full report is available to download from this link.

What Will Happen to My Pension When I Divorce?

When a marriage breaks down a pension is treated as an important matrimonial asset; the value of which should be shared fairly between the separating couple.

Where parties have been in a long-term marriage, the matrimonial home and pension are often the largest assets, therefore careful consideration is required to ascertain how they will form part of any future financial settlement.

It is essential that the value of any pension is established. This is often referred to as the “cash equivalent value”.  This information is normally provided on an annual basis by the pension schemes.  Whilst this provides a good indication as to the value of the pension an accurate value can be obtained by instructing an actuary to prepare a report detailing an accurate valuation of the pension as well as any conditions and projected income of the pension fund.

Older couples may have their pension in payment where the pension will still have a cash equivalent value.  The income that derives from the pension can be treated as an asset that can be divided between the couple.

There are three options when considering pensions.  These are as follow:-

  1. Off-setting – One spouse retains all or part of their pension in consideration for having a larger share in other assets such as the matrimonial home, savings and policies.  The advantage of such an agreement is that the pension is not available as an asset immediately.  Pensions may fluctuate in value.  Such an agreement also allows for less disruption to the children and family at a time when emotions are often running high. The disadvantage of off-setting is that it creates short-term solutions but the long-term consequences and implications will require specialist advice from our family team.
  2. Attachment Order – This is where the monthly pension income or lump sum that the policy holder would receive upon retirement will be paid to the other spouse.  One of the great disadvantages of this option is that, if the pension policy holder dies before an order is made by the court or the spouse retires, the benefit is lost.
  3. Pension Sharing Order – Where the pension is split between the two spouses in accordance with the proportions that have been agreed or ordered by the court.  The spouse receives a specified percentage of the pension fund which becomes their pension and can either be placed in a new pension fund or added to their own existing pension fund depending on the circumstances of the scheme.  The difficulty with a pension sharing order is calculating the appropriate percentage split of the pension.  The complexities in this area due to arguments that a pension could have been built up before marriage and after separation for which specialist legal advice from our family team will be required.

For older couples who are divorcing the correct pension option is essential as this will determine their future income and standard of living into retirement.

    

For further advice regarding divorce, please contact the FamilyFirst team either by phone – 01484 538421 – or by e-mail.  For pensions, please contact our Elderflower service. Elderflower not only provides legal advice on divorce but also good financial advice for the short term and estate planning for the long term.

Calderdale Grandparents Win 11 Month Battle to get Support

Two grandparents from Halifax have finally reached a settlement with Calderdale Council in relation to their granddaughter who they have been caring for since March 2013.

Their granddaughter was placed in their care after the child’s mother told social services that she was unable to care for the child and wanted her to be placed in foster care. The social worker asked whether there would be anyone in the family who might care for her and the mother gave her our clients’ details. The social worker took the child to the grandparents’ house and asked them to take care of her making clear that the alternative would be for her to be placed with stranger foster carers.

The grandparents did not know where to turn and came to speak to Helen Jarvis of Ridley & Hall Solicitors, Huddersfield who advised them that they may have a case against the council.

Miss Jarvis commented:

“This case should never have taken 11 months to settle. The council had legal responsibilities which they were determined to duck.

Clearly the local authority placed my clients’ grandchild in their care and if they had not have stepped in, the child would have been placed in local authority care. As there were no private law orders in place, the local authority should have been paying my clients a weekly allowance for their granddaughter, at the current fostering rates.

I initially wrote to Calderdale on 9th December 2013 but received no response. A pre-action letter was sent to them on 7th January 2014 to inform them that we intended to issue court proceedings if the matter could not be resolved without court intervention.

Like many other grandparents in these situations, my clients were struggling financially with another mouth to feed and were finding it really tough.

My clients eventually received a phone call from social services at the end of January 2014 confirming that the child should be classed as a ‘Looked After’ child and that my clients should have been paid a fostering allowance since March 2013 when they placed her. They agreed to assess my clients as foster carers for the child.

Commenting the grandfather said:

“It has only taken 11 months! They are finally going to pay us what we are owed. Thank you to Ridley & Hall and Helen Jarvis. Never give up!”

Miss Jarvis commented, “Calderdale Council has now paid my clients a back dated sum of £7,350 and from now on my clients will be receiving a weekly allowance in line with the fostering rates for that area.”

For more information contact Helen Jarvis on 01484 538421.

The Trips and Traps of DIY Probate

With the UK economy still being far from flourishing, virtually everyone is looking to save money, with legal services being one area identified as being potentially expendable.

So when a relative dies, the increasing trend has been for the executors or administrators (known generally as personal representatives) to deal with the estate administration themselves. It is entirely possible to obtain probate and deal with the estate without ever having to see a solicitor, with personal applications to the probate registry costing approximately £100 – a noticeable saving on solicitors’ fees. This option also offers families the opportunity to deal with things between themselves, without the associated formality of going to a lawyer to discuss personal matters. The district probate registries are approachable and helpful, and can take some of the intensity out of an already distressing process. You can even now swear your documents at a local solicitor’s rather than having to attend at the registry itself.

However this route is not for the faint-hearted as it does carry some risks, as legal group Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) have recently highlighted.

Many professionally drafted Wills contain trusts to save tax, to avoid those who inherit paying care fees and to reduce the likelihood of potential disputes. SFE members have noticed an increase in ‘DIYers’ returning to them to seek advice when they have made a mistake or find the paperwork too tricky. Mrs A’s Will had included a tax saving trust, but when her husband administered the estate, he paid the whole estate to himself. The solicitor was thankfully able to sort out the matter and avoid future complications occurring when Mr A eventually dies. In Mr G’s case, he sold some shares that had made a gain during the administration of his late sister’s estate and had to pay tax. If he had transferred the shares to himself first, before selling them, he could have avoided the tax.

A specialist probate research company, Title Research, has also identified that DIY probates are increasing the risk of tax fraud and the incorrect distribution of assets. Having reviewed government statistics, they say that the share of probates undertaken by solicitors fell by 7% over the five year period between 2004 and 2009 from 72% to 65%. As the economy has floundered and the use of the internet has increased, the current figure is likely to be less again. In turn, an almost inevitable effect of fewer people using solicitors or other professional advisers is going to be the incorrect or even fraudulent distributions of estates and inheritance tax (IHT) evasion. The idea that relatives can save on solicitors’ fees might be an attractive one, but probate and IHT are incredibly complex areas and the chances of making a costly mistake are high.

It was also suggested that the rise in DIY probate could, in part, explain why there are an increasing number of legal disputes over inheritance that reach the courts and perhaps why HM Revenue & Customs are now so concerned over IHT evasion. There has been an 85% leap in the number of high court cases launched by claimants dissatisfied with their inheritance. Such disputes can dissipate the assets of an estate very quickly, so DIY probate can be a false economy.

A lot of these issues can be resolved over time, but it is obviously better that they be avoided altogether. As a personal representative carries a certain amount of personal liability in their role, they can be opened up to substantial legal claims. There are lots of ways to slip up, if corners are cut, or the personal representatives are unaware of the laws and their obligations, especially when the deceased did not leave a Will. The caveat should therefore always be that if in any doubt, seek professional advice, otherwise the £100 personal application may turn into a legal claim of thousands.

Here at Ridley & Hall, we have a qualified and experienced Wills & Probate team who can assist you deal with the administration of an estate as much as you need us to. We are always here to help you at a difficult and distressing time and can usually offer you a qu

Ridley & Hall Leads the Way in e-Conveyancing

In an age of ever increasing use of modern technology, solicitors firms can sometimes be seen as lagging behind other professions in making use of modern technology. However, at Ridley & Hall we are always looking at ways to make better use of technology for the benefit of our clients.

Land Registry, as part of the governments’ digital strategy have been one of the departments who have made considerable efforts to streamline their workflow by offering services to customers online, through a Portal.

The latest development from Land Registry is the electronic Document Registration Service, or e-DRS. This allows conveyancers to submit applications online through a portal, with the results being sent back electronically.

Currently, whenever we act for a purchaser, an application must be submitted to Land Registry following completion to register you as the new owners of the property. Traditionally, these were paper applications which were sent to Land Registry through the post; Land Registry processed the application and sent an updated copy of the register back to us through the post. In Autumn last year, Ridley & Hall trialled the electronic application process internally, with huge success.

The electronic application process allows us to submit applications much safer, with no risk of original documents being lost in the post. The application is received by Land Registry on the same day and processed much quicker. We have found that completed applications are being sent back to us within 24-48 hours.

As an incentive for all firms to move onto electronic applications, from the 17th March 2014, Land Registry are introducing a new fee structure with reduced costs for applications submitted electronically.  Currently, all applications attract a fee which depends on the value of the transfer (ie. the price you paid for your property.) Effectively, the new fee structure provides a 50% reduction in the application costs if submitted electronically. This is a saving we can pass on to you directly as our client.

In addition to electronic applications saving our clients money, there is also a positive impact environmentally because we no longer need to photocopy documents; we simply scan them and upload them to Land Registry portal.

To find out more information regarding our conveyancing services, please contact Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421 or fill out our feedback request form online and we will contact you.

Death of Cyclist on a Yorkshire Road Caused by a Pothole

Back in June 2011 experienced cyclist Martyn Uzzell, 51, took part in the famous cycling challenge, Lands end to John O’Groats in aid of Macmillan Cancer.

His tragic death happened whilst he was travelling on the busy A65 Bypass through Giggleswick in North Yorkshire when he fell into a 10cm pothole around a drain and was thrown into an oncoming vehicle. He was killed instantly.  Last week at the inquest the coroner, Rob Turnbull, said he had, “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause of the accident”.

One twist to this catastrophic tale was that police had warned North Yorkshire County Council about the pothole one month earlier, but the Council failed to repair it!

Samantha Hirst, a paralegal specialising in cycling accidents at Ridley & Hall, said, “Leeds City Council have introduced a programme of road maintenance which includes road resurfacing at five sites in preparation for the Tour de France Grand Depart route.  Although the council’s efforts are a positive step to reduce accidents on the Tour de France route why are they isolating one event to repair Yorkshire’s roads? Surely it should be an all year round project to secure cycling safety, and not just when the whole world is watching for the Tour de France?”

Mr Uzzell’s distraught widow, Kate Uzzell, criticised the council for failing to take action, telling the Yorkshire Post: “It is simply disgraceful that a pothole on such a busy road was allowed to go unrepaired. We lost a husband, a brother and a brother-in-law, a dear friend and a son. Martyn’s death was entirely avoidable.”

The CPS has decided not to criminally prosecute the council for their failings.

Samantha Hirst commented, “Councils and local authorities are required to take reasonable steps to protect users.  They often use the section 58 defence whereby the council will say that they had a reasonable system of inspection in place.  This defence can make bringing these types cases difficult.  I would imagine Mrs Uzzell is now pursuing a claim under the civil procedure.  I do hope the council steps up and takes responsibility for this tragedy that happened on their road that they had a responsibility to maintain.”

It is clear that Britain’s roads are not in an acceptable state.  According to the Daily Mail, compensation claims to councils for injuries or damage to vehicles from potholes rose to 39,249 in 2013 from 25,977 in 2012. Only a fifth of claims were successful with the average payout falling to £375 from £1,565 in 2012.  With one of the wettest winters on record, councils have a huge task to make Britain’s roads safe, especially for vulnerable road users like cyclists. Council’s should adopt effective road maintenance projects rather than sporadically repair a pothole when someone makes a complaint or is injured.

Samantha is a paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases. For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

Do you Have Property at Risk of Fraud?

On 4th March this year Land Registry launched a new service called Property Alert aimed at anyone who thinks their property could be at risk of fraud.

Property fraud can happen in many ways. For example, fraudsters may attempt to acquire ownership of a property by using forged documents, or by impersonating the registered owner. The fraudsters may then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge before disappearing without making repayments, leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.

Land Registry’s award-winning Counter-Fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud. Between September 2009 and January 2014 they stopped fraud on properties worth more than £62 million.

Land Registry hopes that many homeowners will want to sign up for this new free service to help them protect what is probably their most valuable asset.

People can sign up and register up to three properties to be monitored. E-mail alerts will be sent when Land Registry receives an application to change the register as well as for official searches. They can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious and if they should seek further advice. For example, if you receive an alert that a bank has lodged a search on your property but you have not applied for a mortgage, you may want to seek legal advice, contact Action Fraud, or contact the bank in question to tell them you are the owner and have not applied for a mortgage. Investigations into the authenticity of the mortgage application can then begin much earlier in the process.

Liz Wallis at Ridley & Hall LLP comments:-

“Those in the conveyancing profession are alive to the risks of property fraud and this new service launched by Land Registry should be a useful tool in the fight against this particular type of fraud.

Land Registry’s criteria are:-

  • The property you want to monitor must be registered with Land Registry.
  • You must create a Property Alert account to use the service
  • Alerts are sent by e-mail
  • Alerts are sent when official searches and applications are received against a monitored property
  • If you receive an alert about activity that seems suspicious you should take swift action. The alert e-mail will signpost you to who to contact.
  • You don’t have to own a property to set up an alert
  • The same property can be monitored by different people.”

In the event you want to apply for the service but your property is currently unregistered, Ridley & Hall can assist with your voluntary registration of property at the Land Registry.  Enquiries in this regard should be directed to Liz Wallis, Alison Mason or Adam Fletcher.