Spring 2022 Consumer Finance Update

Eddie Flanagan discusses the latest updates from the consumer finance world

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Now is a key time for both consumer protection and the effective use of regulatory bodies to protect everyday consumers

Key factors affecting consumers

  • Amid the cost of living crisis, and the surges in energy bills, what do we know about the impact on consumer financial behaviour?

  • What can consumers expect in the upcoming months?

  • How can consumers prepare for further forced tightening of their own and lenders purse strings?

Klarna is Reporting Consumer Activity to Credit Bureaus

What seemed to be a light touch and easily accessible form of finance could prove to have more negative long term effects on perceived credit worthiness. From 1st June 2022, FinTech organisation Klarna started reporting customer data to credit bureaus in the United Kingdom. This move was in preparation for BNPL sector regulations that will come into force shortly to try and quell the amount of debt owned by younger consumers. With 16 million people using Klarna within the UK, with options to pay in 30 days or split the payments into three, there is a perception that this is fuelling unaffordable spending and that regulatory intervention is now due.

TransUnion and Experian are two of the bureaus that are receiving Klarna’s data. This then influences individuals’ credit reports, and could have unforeseen consequences on the likes of mortgage applications.
Ryan Browne, writer for CNBC, says: “BNPL companies face a reckoning in the U.K. and other countries, as regulators look to crack down on such services amid worries they are encouraging consumers — Gen Z and millennials, in particular — to spend more than they can afford” (CNBC).

However, these regulatory interventions may leave unexpected adverse credit foot prints. This raises the question that the lead time for same should have been extended.

Credit Card Debt on the Rise amid Cost of Living Crisis

According to a report by Creditspring, the UK is forecasted to borrow a further £9bn on credit cards within the next six months, due to the cost of living crisis.

Bank of England figures give a breakdown of how lending currently looks:

  • UK individuals currently borrowing £1.5bn every month on credit cards;

  • This will increase by 18% to £68.9bn;

  • Monthly debt repayments have increased by 9% YoY;

  • Total balance of unsecured loans has increased by 13% YoY.

27% of UK households are feeling “financially unstable” due to rising costs. Only 10% felt this way during the pandemic, which speaks volumes about the worrying state the UK’s economy. Theodora Hadjimichael, the CE of Responsible Finance, says “Any one of the cost of living crisis, recovering from the financial impact of the pandemic, or the explosion of unregulated Buy Now Pay Later products would have sent shockwaves through society. All three together are causing a seismic shift in the consumer credit market” (Credit-Connect).

Cost of Bills to Overtake Wages by 2024

According to Credit Strategy, a new report from Yorkshire Building Society and the Centre for Economics and Business Research has found that monthly outgoings could overtake incomes, by £100 a month in two years.

Younger generations looking to start on the property ladder could face increasing interest rates, and a potential need to dip into savings just to “get by”.

With the adverse effect of Covid, the unprecedented rise in fuel costs, together with inflation at such rates that is unknown to many, consumers we are now facing a perfect storm.

It has been noted that many consumers are now starting to challenge energy companies for hiking up their monthly instalments.

Regulatory measures must be applied effectively to ensure that consumers are protected. Transparency, fairness and the good behaviour of creditors is key to the resolution of financial issues in this time of considerable uncertainty.

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Eddie and his team advise clients on a wide range of issues concerning leasing, hire, consumer credit, the FCA source book and the regulatory landscape affecting the UK finance and leasing sector.

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Now, more than ever, contingency planning has never been more essential. Our full-service team can offer technical expertise, commercial acumen and unrivalled eye for detail around your business options, funding arrangements or any other challenges you may currently be facing.

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Charity expert vows to ‘stand up for the sector’ after committee appointment

Blog | Charity

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Charity law and governance expert Catherine Rustomji has been elected to sit on the Charity Law Association executive committee.

As head of charities at full service law firm Shakespeare Martineau, Catherine’s position on the executive committee will see her play a leading role in improving knowledge and awareness of charity law issues, as well as working closely with the Charity Commission to pursue both technical and practical issues facing the sector.

The role of the Charity Law Association is to support charities of all sizes navigate the legal landscape of the third sector, providing a forum for members to exchange ideas and information as well as responding to consultations from government and regulators.

Working alongside other leaders in the sector including advisors, academics and charity professionals, Catherine will share best practice with the association’s 900+ members.

Catherine, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the charity sector, said: “I’m thrilled to have been elected to sit on the executive committee – I am looking forward to getting back into the thick of developments in charity law and discussions with peers about the latest issues affecting charities, and working as a team to stand up for the sector and make a real difference.

“This additional role will position me at the coal face of charity law, keeping me at the forefront of developments so that I can better support my clients too.”

For more than two decades, Catherine has been exclusively advising charities, social enterprises and not for profit organisations – specialising in charity law and governance, not for profit legal structures, trustee training and board development.

Over the years, she has supported national, regional and local charities, not for profit organisations, community groups, schools, colleges, churches, welfare and professional associations – operating across the health, education, arts, public and private sectors.

Nearly 1,000 members of the Charity Law Association were asked to vote for the executive committee, with appointments announced at the organisation’s recent AGM. Positions are voluntary and held for three years, subject to re-election by members.

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Catherine Rustomji is a partner and head of charities at Shakespeare Martineau. She has been advising charities, social enterprises and not for profit organisations exclusively for over 20 years.

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What’s in a childs name? Your family holiday could be riding on it

Blog | Family

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The main holiday season is fast approaching and for the first time in a couple of years, many people will be taking their children off to sunnier climes.

As well as packing the usual beachwear, sun cream and passports (do check they are still valid and have the required time left on them!), it could be necessary to take a little extra paperwork along for those people whose surname is different to their child’s.

A different surname might arise for a host of reasons, such as a divorce and subsequent name change, keeping a maiden name on marriage or re-marriage, or having a child with a double-barrelled surname.

If a child, who is coming on holiday with an adult, does have a different surname, it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls of not having sufficient paperwork to show that the child is perfectly entitled to be on holiday with that person.

As well as the child’s passport, taking a paper trail to prove who their parents are is vital.  This includes the child’s birth certificate, as well as the parent’s, and if they have changed their surname upon divorce, the change of name deed and a copy of the final order (old decree nisi) is also necessary. Bringing along an expired passport, which proves the name change could also be helpful.

Obtaining the written consent of the other parent or anyone who has parental responsibility for the child is another wise move. A properly drawn up consent form, or if that’s not possible, a letter from the other parent, confirming their full contact details, that they are the parent of the child and that they have given consent for the holiday, along with their signature, should suffice.

Having an awareness of the questions that might be asked at the immigration desk is important, as it allows a level of preparation between parent and child. They might be asked the identity of the other parent, for example.

Consent is not legally required by the other parent if the holiday is for less than 28 days and a Child Arrangements Court order is already in place to confirm the child lives with the parent taking them on holiday, but it is always better to have it, rather than run the risk.

If the other parent won’t agree to the holiday, it’s not too late, speaking to a family lawyer about obtaining an order from the court is an option.

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Helen works with clients to ensure that they are sensitively guided through the complex area of family and relationship breakdown.

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No-Fault Divorce -
Here's what you need to know

Guide

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No-fault divorce becomes legislation on Wednesday 6 April 2022

Despite the long awaited Act for “no-fault” divorce being passed in June 2020, it is finally becoming legislation on Wednesday 6 April 2022. It has taken years of discussion to reach this point, providing significant changes to the way couples apply for a legal separation.

This landmark legislation, formally called the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will allow married couples to divorce without assigning blame. Up until this point, couples had to have been separated for at least two years, or have to blame the other spouse for the breakdown of the marriage, which increases the animosity.

England and Wales have been a step behind many other countries when it comes to divorce with many opting for a more progressive approach. At present, one spouse must issue divorce proceedings against the other, potentially creating unnecessary animosity which can often lead to the divorce being contested by the other spouse.

Under the no-fault divorce system, couples will also be able to apply for divorce jointly which will hopefully lessen the chance of blame creeping into the equation. It will not be possible to contest a divorce, putting an end to traumatic situations such as the Owens v Owens case.

Cases such as Owens v Owens are rare. Removing the option to contest a divorce is a vital step forward, stopping people from being trapped in a marriage that they no longer want to be part of.

A statutory timeframe has been included in the new legislation, meaning that a divorce cannot be finalised in less than 20 weeks. Under current law, it is possible to conclude a divorce in a shorter time frame than this, however, it's rare for this to happen in less than four months.

It is important to remember though that complexities can arise that can add significant time to the process, such as financial claims that require negotiation, or concerns around child custody.

What terminology has changed as part of no-fault divorce?

Divorce terminology is also changing too, bringing the process into the 21st century. Making each element of divorce as clear as possible will reduce confusion and help people to understand the process they’re embarking on a little easier.

Previous terminology New terminology Description
Petition Application
Petitioner Applicant
Decree Nisi Conditional Order The order by a court of law stating the date on which the marriage will end
Decree Absolute Final Order The legal document that ends a marriage
(Judicial) Separation Decree (Judicial) Separation Order An order which confirms the parties to a marriage or civil partnership are separated
Decree of Nullity Nullity of marriage order A declaration of the court that the marriage is null and void

How will no-fault divorce work?

The announcement means that couples will no longer have to agree to be separated for two years, or have proof of their partner being at fault, in order to file for divorce. Only one person needs to desire the divorce, and their spouse will not be able to refuse the application.

Being able to apply for a no-fault divorce will spare couples the emotional stress and strain of finding blame for an unreasonable behaviour petition or when they can’t, or don’t want to, wait two years to divorce on the grounds of separation or five years if they do not have the consent of the other spouse.

It should be noted that under the new law, the statutory timeframe means that a divorce cannot be concluded in less than 26 weeks. Although it is possible for this to be shorter under the current law, it is still unusual for it to be less than four months, not including the time taken to resolve financial claims. As a result, the overall timeframe of the new system will be largely in line with the existing one. Plus, a fixed timeframe allows parties to reflect on whether the decision to end the marriage is the right one.

What caused the delay?

Following the tireless campaigning of family lawyers, the government has spent a significant amount of time over the past few years trying to make the divorce process simpler.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act receiving Royal Assent was a real breakthrough moment, with many hoping no-fault divorce would come into play by early 2021 at the latest. However, following delays, the act has now come into force on 6 April 2022. This was to allow time to become familiar with the new process, and for any necessary, IT changes to be made to HMCTS’s online divorce systems so that new process works as intended and is fit for purpose.

No-fault divorces will take a huge amount of anxiety away from the process, benefitting a significant number of people.

How we guide you through the divorce process

The introduction of no-fault divorce is one of the most significant changes in family law in the last 50 years. Ending a marriage is a monumental decision, and that won’t change. It’s important to remember that the actions you take in the early stages can set the tone for everything that follows.

If you’re about to start divorce proceedings, or currently going through the separation process, then speak to one of our divorce lawyers. We’re here to guide you through the maze of emotions and legal responsibilities, every step of the way.

You can also read our step by step guide on how to get a divorce. Find out more here >>.

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Helen works with clients to ensure that they are sensitively guided through the complex area of family and relationship breakdown.

Our family team is ranked as a Top Tier Firm in the Legal 500 2021 edition.

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Birmingham law firm’s family team bolstered with specialist partner appointment

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Leading full service law firm Shakespeare Martineau has welcomed new partner Aasha Choudhary to its family team in Birmingham.

Aasha specialises in high-value, complex financial matters, often with significant international elements, including assets abroad, jurisdiction disputes and third-party interveners. She also has a deep knowledge of wealth protection work, children matters, pre- and post-nups, and separation and cohabitation agreements.

With more than 13 years’ qualified experience, Aasha has joined Shakespeare Martineau after eight years at Mills & Reeve, where she worked her way up from associate to principal associate. Prior to this, she spent three years as a solicitor at George Green LLP and almost four years at Challinors.

Over the years, she has supported clients with significant wealth, including a high-profile pre-nuptial agreement covering assets worth £1.45 billion.

Aasha said: “I am thrilled to have joined Shakespeare Martineau at such an exciting time. I was drawn to the firm’s culture, nurturing environment and strong values, which focus on empowerment and unity – supporting each person to play to their strengths and allowing them to reach their full potential.

“The family team is well-established and well-respected, and the firm is on the crest of a wave – I am looking forward to being part of its growth journey and I am pleased to be bringing my experience to Shakespeare Martineau, helping to achieve the best possible outcomes for my clients.

Aasha will primarily be based at the firm’s Birmingham office hub but will be working with clients nationally.

She said: “I am excited to be working alongside the upcoming talent we have here at Shakespeare Martineau. My training and the support I received at the start of my career has made me the lawyer I am today, so I am always wanting to give back and share my knowledge with the next generation. I love watching trainees flourish.

“Family law has always been my passion. It is a distress purchase, so the satisfaction of seeing someone who starts the process following a relationship breakdown – typically in fragile place – become the person they are at the end of the journey is extremely rewarding.

Aasha’s appointment is the latest in a string of new partner hires as part of the firm’s growth strategy, broadening its footprint both north and south.

Victoria Tester, partner and life and business managing director at Shakespeare Martineau, said: “We are delighted to welcome Aasha to the firm. She has excellent experience advising on high-value and complex cases following relationship breakdowns, often involving multiple parties, businesses, trusts and foreign assets. Her knowledge will be a real asset to our already strong family team as we look to cement our reputation in the West Midlands.

Shakespeare Martineau – which was recognised as Family Law Firm of the Year in the Midlands and Wales in the LexisNexis Family Law Awards 2020 – is proactively seeking talented people to join the firm on its growth journey, including mergers, team recruitment and lateral hires nationally.

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Victoria sits on our Main Board and is responsible for our Life & Business, business unit.

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A simple guide to defamation – what is it and how to bring and protect against a claim

Guide

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The law has recognised for well over 100 years that individuals or businesses have a right to have the estimation in which they stand in the opinion of others, unaffected by false statements.  In simple terms, if someone says something untrue or damaging about you then you should have the right to stop them and to undo the damage.

How can a person be defamed? 

There are two ways:

  • Libel which involves words that are printed.  This includes messages written on social media, email,    text messages etc, and
  • Slander where words are spoken about someone.

Although there are some special rules for slander, both are equally serious.

Who can sue for defamation?

Individuals can sue for themselves; or businesses be it companies, partnerships etc subject to certain limitations.

Who cannot sue for defamation? 

Government bodies, political parties or people who have passed away.  The fact that a political party cannot sue does not mean that an individual politician could not bring a claim however, and indeed all too often it is politics that can be the basis of a claim.

What makes someone liable for defamation? 

Anyone who knowingly takes part in the publication of a defamatory statement can be liable for its publication.  Under section 10 of the Defamation Act, that will be the author, the editor of the publisher of the statement – unless that is not reasonably practicable.

There is a particular defence called innocent dissemination.  It protects for example a person working on the printing of a newspaper; or people who might operate an internet page where someone publishes a statement.

What needs to be established to bring a defamation claim? 

There are three key points:

  1. That someone has published a statement to a third party. That means they cannot sue someone who has simply said something only unless there is another party who will have heard or read that statement.
  2. Secondly, it has to be a statement that defames the person wanting to bring the claim.
  3. After the Defamation Act 2013 it now must have caused or be likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the person wanting to bring the claim. If it a business wanting to bring a claim this last element will require proving some financial loss.

There are special rules that apply to slander.

What does publication mean? 

‘Publication’ has a special meaning and it is not enough that someone simply wrote something or said something; it must be communicated to another person.

Is publication to just one other person enough to lead to a claim? 

Yes it can do, but if it is only one person, proving that enough harm has been done to a reputation becomes more difficult.  Of course the more serious a statement the easier it is to establish that; or the more relevant the individual; but if the scope of publication is very low there is a risk of a claim getting struck out.  It is necessary to understand the scope of publication very carefully.

How is defamation proved if publication does not use a name? 

The test is that a reasonable person who knew the person wanting to bring a claim, would reasonably understand the statement as referring to them.  A claimant need not be referred to by name; or even identifiable by the world in general; that makes sense because if someone does not really know them can a publication really affect their opinion?  Obviously not.  Obviously however the more prominent an individual is, say a celebrity or a politician, the larger the group of people will be able to understand that something refers to them.

Can publication refer to other people as well as the claimant? 

It is still possible bring a claim.  The fact that one person might understand it to refer to someone different does not stop a claim being brought but again be very careful.  In that situation the context of statement can be all the more important.

When is something defamatory or not? 

The answer to this is what do the words used actually mean?  Ultimately the court will determine what words do mean but there are two key things to consider.  What is the natural and ordinary meaning of the words?  If that comes over as something that would make someone think less of the subject then that natural and ordinary meaning could be defamatory.

What if the meaning is not obvious? 

That does not mean that a publication is not going to have a defamatory meaning.  Everyone knows how innuendo or suggestion can be used and if a person would still understand it to be defamatory, then an innuendo meaning can be found.

How can it be established how serious a statement is; or what is possible to publish? 

That will change from case to case but the courts look at how serious a statement is, using three particular levels; the most serious is imputation of guilt or saying someone is guilty of something; the second is that there are reasonable grounds to suspect someone might be guilty; the third and least serious is that there are grounds to investigate someone being guilty.  The more you tend towards the last serious meaning; often the less likely it is that a statement might be defamatory.  Remember though, saying that there are grounds to investigate can still easily be defamatory.

What is a defamatory statement? 

It is a statement which would seriously affect in a negative way the attitude of someone reading or hearing that statement towards the person or business that it is about; or it has a tendency to cause them to do that.  Again that is quite wide and can encompass a huge range of different statements but if it is not sufficiently serious a claim can again be struck out.

What was the defamation law change in 2013?

The changes were significant and section 1 of the Defamation Act requires a claimant to show that a publication of a defamatory statement has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to their reputation. What serious harm means will always potentially vary but assessing harm is now one of the most important things a lawyer must do.

What is different about defamation law affecting companies? 

Where a body ‘trades for profit’ as the Defamation Act defines it the test is whether the publication has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.  Again what is a serious financial loss will vary from business to business; what is a serious financial loss for an SME would be of little consequence to a large plc potentially.  Again the devil is in the detail and a business needs to consider this very carefully.

Are there any defences to a defamatory claim? 

Yes there are.  Assuming that the statement has been established to have been published; refers to the claimant; had a defamatory meaning and all the other elements are in play, there are still some defences.

The first and most important: truth. If what the statement says is substantially true then that can protect the defamatory publication.  Rarely however is a claim so simple.

There is a defence of honest opinion.  To succeed it must be established that the statement is actually an opinion; why that opinion is formed and crucially it is an opinion that an honest person could have held at the time on the basis of the facts; and where there is not any element of malice in regard to that opinion.

There are some defences even if a statement is defamatory and cannot be protected as either truthful or an honest opinion.  One of those is the public interest defence.  This is where a statement is on a matter genuinely of public interest – not simply something which is interesting to the public which is an important distinction.  Most importantly the defendant must have reasonably believed the publication was in the public interest.  This is a very sensitive and complex defence and it will apply sparingly.

Is there ever a time where someone can say whatever they like and can be protected? 

Occasionally there is something called a privilege defence. Privilege means someone can speak freely without being able to be sued for defamation; these fall into two main categories:

  • Absolute privilege - something enjoyed by someone giving evidence to a judge in a court case; or a member of Parliament speaking in the House of Commons.
  • Qualified privilege – the more commonly used. Importantly however even privilege defences can be defeated by malice.  Qualified privilege effectively means that someone has a social or legal or moral or other duty to make a publication even though it might be defamatory.

How long have you got to bring a claim?

This area of law is very different to others; you only have one year from the date of the first publication by the person you want to sue.

What could be done to put things right if someone has been defamed? 

Here there is a difference between what a court can do and what lawyers can potentially achieve; a court can award damages i.e. a payment of money to the defamed party to compensate for the harm done; and this can include what is called aggregated or special damages in particular circumstances.  A court can require publication of the summary of the judgement to potentially undo some of the damage of the publication; can require publications to be taken down pages for example; and in the most serious cases can grant an injunction stopping further publication where there is a danger of that happening.

Can a court grant an apology? 

This is one thing that the court cannot do albeit there can be what are called offers of amends.  Lawyers acting for you can however potentially secure an apology which often means as much to a claimant as a court judgment.

Is it possible to stop something defamatory being published?

Unfortunately, the answer is usually no.  Ultimately what is called an interim injunction to stop someone publishing will only be awarded in the most exceptional cases.  That does not mean that a potentially claimant should give up and good lawyers can help manage this situation and it may be that someone has that exceptional case.  More often than not injunctions are obtained by the use of other elements of the law such as what is called malicious falsehood; or data processing breaches for example.

Defamation is a very complex area of law.  With the prevalence of social media however and the freedom and impunity with which certain people will feel that they can say what they like about businesses, people and can spread publications far and wide across the globe causing real damage in minutes, action is required.

Of course the best circumstances are for the person publishing to be very careful with what they say; or at the very least take some advice from a lawyer before they publish something that might be controversial or potentially defamatory.

Importantly there are often better and more appropriate options than heading to court, but ultimately however there are times when only court action is the right option.

If thinking of bringing a claim for defamation; or are being threatened with a claim for defamation however it is important to seek specialist advice.  Many solicitors will deal with litigation; few deal regularly with such a specialised area of law where if someone makes a mistake huge costs can be accrued very, very quickly and a reputation actually made worse, not better by litigation.

If you have any concerns about what is being said about you; your business; or what you wish to say, you should take advice as soon as possible.  Our expertise and experience means we can not only advise you as to how to deal with the matter legally but also how to manage a reputation through this and avoid some of the common pitfalls.

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Legacy loop: spring edition 2022

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Taking a look at the recent case of Higgins v Morgan and others [2021] EWHC 2846 (Ch) involving a 1975 Act claim brought by an adult step-son where the court considered the claimant to have both a “moral claim” and grounds for recovering their CFA success fee.

Background to the case

A claim was brought against the estate of Stewart Higgins by his stepson, Barrie Higgins. Stewart died intestate and under the intestacy rules his estate passed to his cousins as beneficiaries and Barrie was not to benefit. Barrie alleged that Stewart had promised that Barrie would be included in his will and subsequently the distributions under the intestacy rules were against Stewart’s wishes.

Barrie was encountering financial difficulties and depended upon his wife’s profession in wedding photography, which had been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Barrie subsequently brought a claim as a person treated as a child of the deceased under section 1(1)(d) of the 1975 Act. This was defended by the beneficiaries.

What was the outcome?

It was concluded that showing a need for maintenance plus a relevant relationship is generally not enough to be successful in such a claim, and that in instances where an adult child claims inheritance who is well capable of living independently, ‘something more’ was required. This included being able to demonstrate a form of moral claim.

Having regard to s.3 factors taken into consideration by the court when considering whether an award is to be made, the court awarded Barrie £40,800 for his claim, which was subsequently increased to £55,000 to take into account his success fee (as his solicitors were acting under a conditional fee agreement or “CFA”). The judge considered that the promises made to Barrie by the deceased constituted ‘some form of moral claim’ owed to Barrie. The judge also considered their close relationship in comparison to the existing beneficiaries.

What does the outcome of this case mean for charities?

This case demonstrates that something more than being a child of the deceased is required in claims where the child is now an adult. As well as having the relevant relationship to the deceased, an adult child must have a moral claim against the estate. If charity beneficiaries are faced with a claim brought against the estate by an adult child claimant, it is important to seek legal advice early to establish the true merits of that claim and the strength of the position to take in defending the claim.

The court’s attitude to recovery of CFA success fees

From a costs recovery perspective, the judgment in Hirachand v Hirachand [2021] EWCA Civ 1498 (the Re H appeal), handed down very shortly after Higgins v Morgan, provided further clarity on the Court’s willingness to consider a claimant’s CFA success fee when making an award. This significant court of Appeal judgment confirmed that awards under the 1975 Act can include a lump sum to discharge all or part of a claimant’s success fee. This decision may prove to encourage more claimants (and their solicitors) to consider pursuing a 1975 Act claim by way of a CFA.

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Jemima acts for both individuals and charities in resolving a range of contentious trusts and probate disputes and contested Court of Protection matters.

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Leaving money to charity in your will can ensure your chosen charity beneficiaries reap the rewards of your hard work, while you benefit from the financial incentives too. We can advise you on the best way to structure and approach your charitable affairs.

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What is harassment and how to stop it

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In this guide, we take a look at what harassment is and how to stop it

Harassment of any type can be a distressing experience if are a victim of it; or a difficult problem to deal with if a family member or employee has been accused of it.

To be able to deal with harassment it is firstly important to understand it,  Our simple guide looks at the different types of harassment, the burden of proof required to prove it and steps that can be taken to stop it.

Harassment – What is it?

The key definition of harassment is found in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which provides that ‘a person may not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another and which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

There is plenty of scope for bringing various different types of conduct within this definition.

One of the key issues that needs to be determined is what is a course of conduct. This is set out in statute again and it involves, in relation to the same person, conduct on at least two or more occasions; or in the case of conduct in relation to two or more people, conduct on at least one occasion in regard to each of them.

What conduct can count as harassment?

Actions such as stalking, up-skirting and other conduct that has been in the media, are now reasonably well recognised as potential harassment.  However, one of the most important forms of conduct which is not always considered is speech.  This can include written media and most importantly, in the current climate, can include social media publications.

Not only is there a right to be protected from harassment in a written or verbal form, there is a right to freedom of speech.  A court has to perform a balancing act and conduct has to be sufficiently serious before it can be found to be harassment.  For that reason, while claims can be brought for harassment alone, generally people do not regard something truthful being said about them, which is in the public domain and not private, as being harassing.  And for that reason often claims are brought in conjunction with defamation claims; or misuse of private information claims.

How do I make a claim for harassment?

  1. You must be able to show a course of conduct as above;

  2. You must be able to show if it is targeting an individual;

  3. Importantly it has to be calculated to and does cause alarm, fear or distress; and

  4. There must be conduct that is oppressive and unreasonable as opposed to merely unattractive, unreasonable or regrettable.

As mentioned above only two actions can be enough to bring a claim but the content of the action however is still critical to establish a claim for harassment.  It does not mean that will always be the case however and the fewer the events and the longer the time between them the less likely it is that they will amount to harassment. Recent judicial authority uses the helpful terms ‘persistent and deliberate’ and they are a good guide.

What if someone says they didn't know their actions were harassment?

It is not enough for someone to say they didn’t know. There is an objective test and key is often whether someone ought to have known their conduct was harassing.  It is a test however judged against not that specific individual as few defendants will ever say that they knew that they were causing alarm or distress to a claimant.

If a claim succeeds is someone found ‘guilty’?

No, there are three particular defences to a course of conduct which would otherwise be harassing and those are:

  • it was for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime;
  • it was under some rule of law or to comply with some other requirement imposed upon a person; or
  • that in the particular circumstances pursuing that course of conduct was reasonable.

When it comes to defences, inevitably for the vast majority of defendants, it is the third defence that needs consideration.

What does to pursue a course of conduct being reasonable mean?

Again this is an objective test and it is assessed at the time that the conduct took place and because reasonableness depends upon the circumstances of each individual action and it is therefore very much dependent upon specific facts.  For a start however, a court will always look at the exact type of conduct be it physical, publication of words or otherwise; the timing of it; the frequency of the conduct.

What are the consequences of a claim if it is successful?  Is a harassment claim worth bringing or something to worry about? 

The answer is yes.

In the first place financial damages can be awarded for anxiety caused and any financial loss that might have been suffered; but to be a claimant you do not need to have suffered financial loss.

Most people’s main concern is stopping harassment first and getting some sort of recompense second and an injunction is a legal way of saying someone must not do something and is one of the most common remedies people seek.

How do I get an injunction to stop harassment? 

if you are dealing with something not involving speech then it is the traditional requirements for an injunction that must be met, this is a matter of whether there is a serious question to be considered and where the balance of convenience lies – for more information on this burden you can see our guide to injunctions. If it was involving speech then you also engage the right to freedom of speech of a publisher.

Is it true that you cannot get an injunction for defamation where someone says they have a defence.  What is the difference here?

This is a very complicated issue but the ultimate difference is between the form of what is said and the manner in which it is said; this is one reason why claimants and their lawyers have in recent years sought to use claims for harassment; claims for data protection and other rights to succeed in getting injunctions where otherwise they might have failed.

Courts have suggested that (with the assistance of lawyers) that some degree of self-help is potentially to be expected.  The courts address this as follows; the first step is for example some self-resilience trying to shrug off unpleasant messages or comments which are part of day to day irritations and annoyances; secondly if communication is specifically directed towards someone then take advantage of practical options available to prevent unwanted contact – that can relate to the platform on which communications are made or other various tools for blocking content which might mean it is not necessary for a court to grant an injunction unless these have been explored.

So, can I try to get harassment stopped myself?

The short answer is yes but as explained above, people speaking also have the right to free speech and many platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or any other platform have to not only respect that but they also set great store by that freedom of expression and generally involvement of lawyers is necessary to succeed; unless the harassment is so blatant and so serious as to be so obvious that a strong claim lies there.

For more information or to consult us about a harassment claim, please contact Daniel Jennings.

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No-fault divorce preparation should start now

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With the landmark Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 coming into force in April, lawyers are expecting a busy start to the year as the first working Monday of January marks ‘Divorce Day - a day when lawyers traditionally see a steep rise in enquiries following the festive break.

Divorce Day 2022 holds particular significance, as on 6 April 2022 the long-awaited ‘no-fault’ divorce will become law, bringing in significant changes to the way couples apply for a legal separation.

What is the change in law?

This change in law has been a long time coming and is set to bring the ending of a marriage into the 21st century, enabling couples to divorce without having to apportion blame or fault.

Until this new legislation, couples needed to be separated for at least two years or be able to prove their spouse was at fault.  Apportioning blame when parties don’t want to can heap enormous stress and strain onto an already often emotionally charged situation, especially when children are involved.  It can also be extremely damaging to ongoing relationships between ex-partners. It also helps couples who cannot wait the two years to divorce on grounds of separation or the five years it can take if they don’t have the consent of the other party.

This new legislation now provides another option for couples and brings the UK in line with other countries around the world who have had a much more progressive attitude to divorce. It is hoped too that the opportunity to separate and divorce on a no-fault basis will end some of the stigma that families can feel around this difficult time.

What should couples do?

In the coming months, it is important that couples who have been waiting to separate on a no-fault basis begin plans and discussions.

Open discussions are crucial. While it’s unlikely that the process of choosing to go through a no-fault divorce will be any faster, couples should start talking about when they are going to do it and think about making the application together so there are no surprises or disagreements further down the line.

And while this new legislation is very welcome, but there are still improvements to be made to the divorce process in terms of equality. For example, adultery cannot be cited as grounds for divorce in same-sex marriages, as adultery is only recognised between two people of the opposite sex.

Currently, the accepted ground for divorce in same-sex couples are:

  • Unreasonable behaviour

  • Two years desertion

  • Parties been separated for two (consent required) or five years (no consent required)

Allocating blame is unfair and often results in more conflict. It can also lead to increased legal fees as people look to contest the divorce and the reasons for it.

This long-awaited and important change to the law is welcome news for many couples, there is still a long way to go in improving the process to ensure it is fair for all.

To discuss any issue of separation or divorce contact Caroline Elliott or another member of the family team in your local office.

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Caroline works with clients who have family disputes and problems to achieve an outcome which gives them peace of mind and a positive future.

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Music Royalties – ensuring the drums keep beating

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 12: Drummers drumming

The right to receive royalties from music, as for many other types of intellectual property rights, can be inherited as part of a person’s estate.

When a musician dies, the beneficiaries of their estate either named in their will or, if they do not have one, the beneficiaries determined by the rules of intestacy, will be able to receive the royalties throughout the period of copyright. This right currently lasts 70 years from the creator’s date of death.

As copyright has such a long term it is possible that rights to receive royalties can pass down through several generations. Where the intellectual property is of significant value, this can be directed to structures such as trusts during a creator’s lifetime or on their death to ensure that it is carefully managed by appropriate trustees for the benefit of a person’s whole family. Alternatively, a person with valuable intellectual property might consider appointing a literary executor with particular expertise in the relevant area, separately to the other executors of their estate.

People tend to focus on tangible and financial possessions when making their wills and can accidentally overlook valuable intellectual property such as copyrights, trademarks, designs, Artist’s Resale Rights or patents. This intangible property is often forgotten or not clearly and fully dealt with as part of someone’s estate planning.

If you have any intellectual property of significant value, it is important to get advice on the proper drafting of your will to ensure that all facets of the piece of original work or creation will be passed in line with your wishes on your death.

For example, although an item such as a painting may hold some value, it can be the case that the greater value is the intellectual property surrounding the painting. As such, intellectual property rights should be clearly defined and included in any gift of personal items where it is the owner’s intention that they pass with the physical item itself.

There can be several different intellectual property rights associated with a particular creation which can make dealing with these assets complicated. For example, copyright in a sound recording (lasting 50 years from when the sound recording was made if unpublished or 70 years from being made public within that period) exists separately from the works and performances included in that sound recording.

Having a properly drafted will that deals with your intellectual property can not only give peace of mind to the creator but also help prevent disputes after a person’s death as to the scope of any gifts in which intellectual property exists.

Another issue that can arise in respect of intellectual property is that people often do not keep good records of their creations, especially in an era where creations are often stored or created in the digital space. Therefore it is a good idea to keep a record of all works you have created and lists of any relevant experts or contacts who your executors will need to deal with after your death in respect of the works you have created.

Focusing attention on who will inherit your royalties can ensure your family continue the beat to the sound of your drum after you have died.

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As a specialist private client solicitor Virginia begins by making sure she understands the dynamic of her clients’ lives and then advises on all aspects of wills, trusts, probate law and inheritance tax planning.

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It can be difficult to envisage a time when you’re not there to provide for your family. However, we are here to guide and support you with preparing a will so your wealth is protected for your loved ones into the future.

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Pipe to your own tune

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 11: Piper piping

Navigating your independence after a divorce or a separation is such a difficult concept for so many people, especially if they have become used to following their own ‘pied piper’ during a relationship.

You may not have realised it at the time, but when you’ve been with your partner for so many years, you can often lose your own identity and slowly change your lifestyle to fit in with theirs. It’s only when the relationship breaks down that you may come to realise that you’ve been constantly seeking your partner’s guidance or approval for so much of what you do. Their opinion has mattered so much to you that you’ve lived your life around it and lost a part of ‘you’.

When a relationship ends, your ex-partner’s opinion won’t matter any longer, you don’t need their approval and you can ignore the criticism. Do what you want to do - as long as it’s legal.

This is an ideal opportunity to find your freedom and embrace your single status. You can make new friends, find a new hobby, join a gym, change your job, volunteer.

You can sing your own tune and let the pipers play elsewhere.

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Matt works with individuals and their families to help them negotiate the many pitfalls they can encounter when planning for their future by providing pragmatic, bespoke advice.

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Setting up a charity – a legacy for those with Inherited and earned wealth alike

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The recently published CAF UK Giving Report 2021 revealed that although the number of people giving to charities decreased in the last year, those that did were more generous. And there was a particular increase in the size of charitable donations amongst older adults.   

As people with significant personal wealth get older and start to think about their legacies, as well as taking care of their own families, it appears that many look to provide assistance to those less well-off.  

One of the ways that those with substantial wealth look to do this is through the setting up of a charity, either via their will on death, or during their lifetime.  

Why set up a charity?

While a person may decide to leave individual gifts to charities under their wills or make regular gifts during their lifetime, those with more substantial wealth may instead choose to set up a grant-making charity. This creates an ongoing legacy and ensures funds are managed to provide financial assistance to causes particularly close to their hearts for years to come.   

Setting up a charity can have a number of tax advantages too, both for the individual and the charity. Most of the income and capital gains of a charity are tax-free and charities can also claim back the Income Tax that has been deducted from donations through the Gift Aid scheme.  

From an estate planning point of view, gifts to UK charities on a person’s death can be appealing as they are free of Inheritance Tax. On top of this, if 10% of a person’s assets on their death are left to charities, the rest of the estate can qualify for a reduced rate of Inheritance Tax. This can, in certain circumstances, reduce the overall Inheritance Tax payable on a person’s death. 

Setting up a structure to give back to worthy causes can be fairly straightforward through the creation of a charitable trust. However, those considering this should take advice on the most suitable structure given their circumstances, the kind of activities the charitable will be undertaking, and the assets the charity will hold. 

The small print

It is important to remember that most charities other than the very smallest will need to be registered with the Charity Commission in order to be recognised by HMRC and gain the tax advantages that come with charitable status.  Those setting up a charity need to be aware of the requirements and conditions of registration from the outset when preparing their governing document and deciding on their objectives.  

Although running a charity can be very rewarding, it is important that the administration and reporting requirements are fully complied with and the charity is properly managed.  

If this is the route you would like to explore to ensure that your wealth is leaping into action for those less fortunate, the team can advise and assist with the setup and ongoing running of a charity. This will ensure that all taxation and reporting requirements are fully met with, allowing those that run the charity to get on with the work of benefitting worthy organisations and individuals leaving those charitable trustees leaping for joy! 

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As head of our contentious probate team, Andrew handles a wide variety of disputes for local, national and international clients. He has particular expertise in dealing with disputes regarding high value and complex estates, often including cross-border elements.

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Leaving money to charity in your will can ensure your chosen charity beneficiaries reap the rewards of your hard work, while you benefit from the financial incentives too. We can advise you on the best way to structure and approach your charitable affairs.

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Financial settlements – never a one size fits all

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 9: Nine ladies dancing

Every single family will have their own unique, different set of circumstances and these varied circumstances are always in evidence when family lawyers are looking at resolving financial claims for a separating couple. No two cases are ever the same in terms of a couples financial assets; property, savings, pensions, businesses, income, liabilities and so on.

Family lawyers must assess each case on its own facts, considering how those particular circumstances sit against the factors outlined in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. These statutory factors are not equally weighted across all cases (although needs of any children and the parties will always be the priority factor). In some cases, the length of the marriage is relevant, perhaps the health of one of the parties, or one parties contributions to the matrimonial wealth.

The point is there is no magic formula to produce the “correct” outcome, which is why it is so important to take early and ongoing advice from a family law specialist when separating.

If you are fearful your partner may “waltz” away with the assets, leaving you in a tight spot, get in touch so we can “(American) smooth” away your concerns.

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Anne has over 30 years’ experience in protecting clients’ wealth through wills and trust structures. She will always go the extra mile to ensure they and their family’s objectives are achieved as tax efficiently as possible.

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From drafting your will to advising you how to structure your finances in the most tax efficient way, we aim to be your personal tax partner for life, ensuring we can design a plan that is exactly right for you and your family to protect your personal wealth.

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Utilising Agricultural Property Relief

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 8: Maids a milking

What is Agricultural Property Relief?

Agricultural Property Relief (APR) is a form of tax relief that allows you to claim relief on land that can be used for agricultural purposes, (crops or livestock) and associated buildings such as barns, outbuildings and houses used in connection with the land. 

How does APR work?

To receive APR, the land or buildings must have been owned for at least two years prior to transfer. There is one exception to this rule - if the asset is inherited from a spouse and they too have owned it for less than two years, this scenario is added to that of the late spouse. If the combined period of ownership exceeds two years then APR relief should be available.  If the owner does not occupy the property (land or buildings) which is the case usually with a Farm Business Tenancy) they need to have owned it for seven years in order to qualify for APR. 

What qualifies for Agricultural Property Relief?

Typically, APR is available for: 

  • Land used for crops or livestock 
  • Farmhouses are included as long as they have been used as a base for operations and not just a house.
  • Cottages that have been lived in by someone/family working on the land and are under a tenancy agreement. 

APR is not available for: 

  • Livestock
  • Machinery and farming equipment
  • Harvested crops
  • Derelict buildings/ outbuildings on land 
How much APR is available?

Depending on how the property is owned, relief is due at either 50% or 100%. 

Agricultural Property Relief is a powerful form of tax relief and all options should be explored as it can provide relief of up to 100% after you pass away. If your assets qualify for APR there’s no reason why your maids-a-milking shouldn’t be able to continue to do so following your death. 

As with all areas of taxation, however, Agriculture Property Relief is a complex area and expert advice should be sought on estate planning. 

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Peter has specialised in farms and rural land since doing his articles at Burges Salmon. He has worked in the Midlands for the last 25 years, advising on all aspects of rural property and farm partnerships.

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How to cope with family tensions over Christmas

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 7: Seven swans a-swimming

Retailers and marketers would have you believe that Christmas is a time of year we all look forward too – precious time off work, Christmas parties, giving and receiving gifts, the perfect Christmas with family  - many of whom you do not see often at all.

Settling down to spend Christmas day together can be stressful and often doesn’t go to plan.  So how can you survive the day?  Here’s a few tips to help you through

  • Be mindful of what you say

    Show respect towards your family and expect the same in return. Often tensions can arise because of brutal honesty or unsolicited advice. Consider your words carefully before you open your mouth and don’t say anything you would not like said to you.

  • Be realistic

    If rifts exist already, they are not going to go away for Christmas day. Keep conversation light and hope that everyone finishes the day as happily as they can.

  • Let it go

    This time of year can be stressful and someone will know what buttons to press to get a reaction so pick your battles wisely and perhaps save them for another day.

  • Your guest list

    Playing the role of referee at Christmas is not good for the mind or soul, so scale it down this year and spread it out.  You don’t need to see everyone on one day.  Different relatives on different days makes for a calmer Christmas.

  • Focus on you

    At a time of year when time is precious and there is the opportunity to take a little time off hopefully, remember that you do not to do it ALL.  It can help to delegate jobs on Christmas Day, that can include asking for help with food prep, washing up, assistance with childcare etc.

    It can all seem a little overwhelming so focus on what makes you happy – and make plans accordingly.  If there is an expectation (as there often is), make sure you have those conversations early so people know what is (and is not) happening. 

    Also remember the basics of self care, like good sleep, fresh air, plenty of water, and all of this will help with the inevitable excesses.

At a time of year when it can all get a bit frantic and you feel a bit like you are paddling for your life, remember the seven swans a swimming and try to slow down and glide through the festive season. You will come out the other side feeling calmer and ready for the new year.

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Utilising Business Property Relief

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 6: Six geese a laying

What is Business Property Relief?

Business Property Relief (BPR) is a form of tax relief that allows you to claim relief on any business assets owned, which can include shares in a qualifying business.

How does BPR work?

If you are a business owner or have an interest in a business, your estate, upon your death, may be entitled to claim relief from Inheritance Tax (IHT).  This form of tax relief reduces the value of a business or business assets in the calculation of any inheritance liability.

To receive BPR, the business or business assets must have been owned for at least two years prior to death. There is one exception to this rule - if the asset is inherited from a spouse and they too have owned it for less than two years this scenario is added to that of your late spouse. If the combined period of ownership exceeds two years, then BPR relief should be available.

What businesses qualify for Business Property Relief?

Typically, BPR is available for:

  • A qualifying trading business or an interest in one
  • Shares in an unlisted qualifying company, including a minority holding
  • Shares in a qualifying AIM listed company

How much BPR is available?

Depending on the type of business, 50% or 100% relief is available.

Business Property Relief is a powerful form of tax relief and all options should be explored as it can provide relief of up to 100% after you pass away. You should ensure your goose that lays the golden egg can continue to do so for the benefit of your family following your death.

As with all areas of taxation, however, Business Property Relief is a complex area and expert advice should be sought on estate planning.

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Can I keep my engagement and wedding rings?

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 5: Five gold rings

When a couple goes through a divorce, the process of separating out the assets in the marriage can cover the basics, like the family home, savings, and pensions. 

But when it comes to household contents (also known as ‘chattels’) this is an area that is best dealt with directly between the parties as costs can quickly escalate when this issue is negotiated through solicitors. However, when high-value jewellery is involved, these items can cause conflict. 

Wedding and engagement rings, in particular, can hold both monetary and emotional value, and the giver of those rings may believe that they are entitled to half the value, or even to have them returned. 

In law, the giving of a ring is presumed to be a gift, and therefore it does not have to be returned. There may be an argument if an engagement is broken off, that the ring was given on the condition that it should be returned if the marriage did not take place. However, even though unfair, the recipient is not obliged to return it. 

Despite this, if the ring is of very significant value, this figure may be taken into account as part of the overall settlement. 

So, whether you have just the one or five gold rings from previous marriages, chances are they are yours to keep! 

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Nikki is known for her ‘no-nonsense’ approach, yet maintains her friendly and down-to-earth manner.

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Have you considered your pet in your will?

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Most people know the importance of ensuring that they have a will in place, to provide for their loved ones after their death. However, many people have not considered their “non-human” loved ones and who will care for those furry family members after their human carer has died. 

Although it may seem distasteful to some, legally speaking, pets are considered to be part of your personal “chattels”, like your clothes, car or your furniture, and will therefore form part of your estate when you have died. You should consider making provision for what will happen to your pets in your will. 

It is important to consider not only who you would like to care for your pets, but also the costs of caring for them and whether it may be appropriate to leave funds to those who will take on their care. However, it is essential to choose someone that you trust to ensure that not only will your pets be properly cared for, but also that any funds left to that person are used for the purpose for which they were intended. It is not possible to leave funds directly to a pet. 

For those who do not have family or friends who would be able to take on the care of their pets, there are charities who will care of them, usually as long as arrangements are put into place beforehand.  

It is therefore a matter that should be considered carefully and researched thoroughly, to ensure that your furry, feathery or even scaly family members will be properly cared for and that those French Hens will continue to live happily after your death. 

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A pre-nup is not just for the rich and famous

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 2: A pre-nup is not just for the rich and famous

It is common knowledge that two turtle doves are the symbol of love and friendship.  

At Christmas time, many lovebirds decide to take the next step in their relationship and pop the big question. This is an extremely exciting time for couples and so it comes as no surprise that the more pragmatic things tend to get overlooked. For example, if you are entering a marriage with all of the wealth and your future spouse has very little in comparison, neglecting to have a pre-nuptial agreement is one crucial wedding item that could end up costing you thousands if not hundreds of thousands (or in some cases) millions of pounds! 

Imagine working hard all of your life, accumulating a sizeable pension, a nice home and substantial savings and then picture having to split all of that 50:50 with a cheating ex-spouse. It does not bear thinking about, but sadly this is the reality for many people who enter into marriage without taking the necessary precautionary steps to protect their wealth prior to the big day.  

Sure, a pre-nuptial agreement may not be the most romantic thing on the wedding “to-do” list, but it is something that will pay dividends later down the line, in the unfortunate event the marriage were to irretrievably break down and two turtle doves become single. 

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What is inheritance tax?

Quite simply, it is a tax on a person’s assets when they die. It can also be applied to the recipient of a gift that costs over a certain amount and the giver has then died within seven years. The gift does not have to be monetary; it could also be property or possessions.

What’s the limit?

Per tax year, a person is able to give away a cumulative total of £3,000 to whoever they choose. They can also give as many small gifts under £250 to different people as they like.

What’s the seven-year-rule?

The seven-year-rule becomes relevant when a person gives away over £3,000 in one tax year. It states that the giver must survive for seven years after the gift for it to be exempt from inheritance tax. If not, the value of the gift is counted back into their estate when calculating the inheritance tax due. Such gifts will use up the tax-free allowance (nil rate band) available on their death and, if the value exceeds this, the recipient is liable to pay inheritance tax. However, the tax payable does start to taper if it has been more than three years since the date of the gift.

Are there any gifts that are exempt?

Donations to charity and some gifts for marriages or civil partnerships are not liable for inheritance tax, depending on how closely related a person is to the happy couple. All gifts between married couples or those in civil partners are also exempt.

Is there a way to avoid inheritance tax for certain?

Unfortunately, unless a person is psychic, there is no sure-fire way to avoid inheritance tax on gifts over £3,000.

Nevertheless, there is the option of using ‘excess income’. If a person can prove their income meets all their living costs, and that their standard of living can be maintained after the gift, then it may be possible to claim an exemption for inheritance tax. However, to qualify, there must be a regular pattern to this gifting.

All this being said, as long as the giver communicates effectively with the recipient about the potential risks of an expensive gift, generosity does not need to be feared. If in doubt, seek advice from an expert.

Contact Suzanne Leggott on 0116 257 6130 to find out more about how our private client team can help you.

For advice or guidance on any other commercial or legal issues, a member of our team can walk you through everything. Click here to discuss.

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Looking after yourself at Christmas

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 1: A partridge in a pear tree

For many of us, Christmas is a time for family celebrations – to relax, unwind, and spend our days enjoying the festivities along with a mince pie and a glass of something delicious.

But for others, Christmas is not the joyous time of year that marketing campaigns would have you believe.

Perhaps you’re going through a divorce, been recently widowed, have strained family relations or are spending the holidays alone. Or perhaps you don’t celebrate Christmas due to your religion

There are many different ways to spend your time during the festive period that don’t necessarily fit the traditional mould.

Let’s take a look at some alternative ways to spend Christmas:

Volunteer

Not everyone is having a great time at Christmas for all sorts of reasons.

That’s why volunteering can be so rewarding over the Christmas period. Not only is it beneficial for the person you’re helping, but is also a valuable use of your time and can help your wellbeing, too.

Here are a few different things you can do:

  • Deliver food parcels
  • Help at a soup kitchen
  • Organise donations at a shelter

For an extensive list of volunteering opportunities in your area, visit Do IT | Connecting people to do good things

Take yourself somewhere memorable

Christmas doesn’t have to mean staying in.  Draw up a list of quirky places you’ve never visited before. Most places indoors are closed, but there are many fascinating places of interest, like this art sculpture in the Northwest.

Join an online party or event

If you can’t leave the house for any reason, you can join a virtual party instead. There are plenty to choose from – just do a quick search online.

If you’re feeling in the mood for some Christmas-themed entertainment, you can join a virtual Panto online to take you back to your youth. Or why not try a virtual Carol service? There are plenty to choose from this year.

Become a house-sitter

Just like Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, you can use the festive break to house sit for someone else. It doesn’t cost a penny, and you can go and stay somewhere else.

You can either just house sit or pet sit, so you’ll be looking after a cute kitten or some adorable friendly dogs. Or perhaps, just a couple of monsteras or cheese plants.

For house sitting opportunities, visit House Sitting | TrustedHousesitters.com.

Plan your perfect day

Although the media tells us that Christmas is a time for family and connection, in truth it can be whatever you want it to be. Instead, why not make the most of this time?

Plan out your perfect day to the hour– what you will eat, what you will watch, how you will take care of yourself. Remember to add in time for pampering and self care too. Gather together some of the funniest comedy shows you have, arm yourself with some delicious food and drink, and get cosy on the sofa.

Reframe the narrative

Just because it might seem like everyone around you is spending time with other people, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily having a great time – it could be the opposite.

Think about how you can view the day in a different way instead – as an opportunity to relax or to eat food you enjoy. The day is completely yours so why not become the partridge in your very own pear tree!

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Here are some top tips to hopefully make this difficult time a little easier:

• Try and agree the arrangements for the children in advance:

This will reduce the chances of an argument in front of the children on Christmas Day when handover or collection times can’t be agreed upon.

• Don’t have a ‘present competition’

Share the children’s Christmas list with the ex-partner and agree on who will buy what. It’s never a good idea to try and “out-present” the other parent. This will only lead to more arguments and could end up causing the children a significant amount of distress.

• Do not bring the children into an adult dispute 

Children don’t want to hear their parents speaking in a derogatory manner about each other. It’s really important for parents not to criticize or argue with each other in front of the children, if at all possible.

• Let the children take presents from one home to another

Insisting that the children can only play with their toys at one home will only serve to highlight the parental conflict to them.

• Suggest alternating the years:

Switching every year who gets to spend time with the children could be a good way of minimising arguments. If children aren’t coming on Christmas Day this year, why not celebrate on a different day and still do all the traditional festive activities that they love? They will certainly not complain about celebrating Christmas twice – double the presents and double the pigs in blankets!

For more information about navigating the complexities of a divorce or agreeing children arrangements, contact Stephanie Kyriacou on 0116 257 4401 or another member of the family team.

For advice or guidance on any other commercial or legal issue, a member of our team can walk you through everything. Click here to discuss.

Why business owners should have an up-to-date will

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Making sure you have an up-to-date will

Having an up-to-date will in place is the only way that you can guarantee that your wishes are carried out on your death.  Dying without a will means your estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules. And iyou are a business owner and this happens it could have massive implications for your business and your family.   

What having a will in place means for your family

There are several scenarios to consider: 

  • What happens if your business assets are inherited by your spouse, civil partner, or other family members who are not “in the business” and know nothing about it or, worse perhaps, do not have the knowledge or skills to run it. Your business which you have spent years building could be damaged following your death and it may no longer be able to continue providing for your family into the future. 
  • Consider whether your business partners could work with your spouse, civil partner or other family members. Would they be prepared to bring them up to speed with the business or would they have the means to buy them out? 
  • If your business is run as a partnership, the death of a partner who has no will in place could lead to the business being dissolved automatically if there is no partnership agreement drawn up either. Regardless of the surviving partners’ wishes, they would need to sell off the business and its underlying assets. 

Having an appropriately drafted will in place could mean that the most suitable people can continue to run the business and family can still benefit from the value of the business. 

If your family have no desire to inherit the business, your will can stipulate that your business partners inherit the same and the cash value is inherited by family instead. 

It is important that, where possible, Business Property Relief (BPR) is available to your personal representatives in order to exempt the business assets from Inheritance Tax (IHT) and crystallise this relief as soon as possible ideally having had the position agreed by HMRC following your death. 

To do this, it may be necessary to pass your business assets into a trust structure. A trust, unlike a surviving spouse or civil partner, is a non-exempt beneficiary for IHT purposes and as such, BPR would be claimed by your Personal Representatives to ensure that no IHT is payable still. 

Other options for your will

Your surviving spouse, civil partner or family can benefit from the business assets while they remain in the trust but the value of the business assets is outside of their own estates. Alternatively, your family could purchase the business assets from the trust using assets they have inherited from your estate swapping BPR assets in the trust for cash (which then falls out of their estate). Once they have owned the business assets for two years they will then again potentially qualify for BPR on their own deaths.  

Be aware, however, that even if you have a will that deals with business assets, there should still be a shareholders agreement or partnership agreement in place and all business partners should be aware of what happens when one of them dies. 

Consider putting in place a cross option agreement if you leave your business assets to anyone other than your business partners as this will enable the surviving business partners to purchase the business assets from your family under the terms of a shareholders agreement or partnership agreement. 

There is a lot to consider and many options available and it is essential that you get the right advice to ensure the survival of your business, and the best outcome for your employees and your family.

 

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Going through a divorce? The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

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Going through a divorce

When going through a divorce, it can be easy to be tempted to post about how we’re feeling on social media. After all, social media is part of our lives and in its best form it can be a wonderful tool to connect, inform, and entertain people.  However, it also has the opportunity to cause harm, distress and hurt and be used in a vindictive, spiteful and unhealthy way. Divorce can be an incredibly emotional time for both parties involved and their families – so don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.

Here are few Dos and Don’ts of using social media, especially during divorce proceedings. Remember much of this information will be available to a court and could have a bearing on any outcome.

Do's: What to do on social media during a divorce

  • DO change your passwords

    Be sure to take ownership of any social media accounts eg Facebook, Instagram etc.  Do also change the passwords of your email accounts.  Remember, whether the split is amicable or not, you do not want your partner to have access to accounts that could contain sensitive information. 

  • The same goes for bank accounts, credit cards, music streaming services etc.  There have been occasions where these have been used and manipulated in divorce proceedings.

  • Even if you know your partner’s passwords, do not log into their accounts. Everyone has a right to privacy and you could be in breach by doing this.  Unauthorised access to your partner’s computer may be breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

  • DO check, and if necessary change your privacy settings:

    Make sure that if you do post, however innocently, only your friends list sees it and you cannot be tagged into any posts without your permission.

  • This applies to all social media so minimise the risk on all platforms. If you work in the same organisation as your partner, also check your company’s social media policy.

  • DO turn off any location tracking features on apps you may use:

    It is a ‘feature’ of more apps than you might realise.  This could cause an embarrassing and hurtful meeting or unfortunately, in more sinister circumstances, can provide your partner with your exact location from a stalking / abuse perspective. 

  • If you are a victim of domestic abuse and continue to feel vulnerable, you can change your mobile number to avoid receiving nuisance calls or messages from them, but beware that many apps acc ess the contacts from your phone or email address.  So block their number.

  • DO follow people and organisations that can offer help and support:

    Seeing how people have come through this crisis can be motivating and beneficial. There are lots of organisations and charities who can offer free guidance and support too.

Dont's: What not to do on social media during a divorce

  • Don’t bad mouth your partner online:

    Tempting as it might be – do not bad mouth your partner online, especially if children are involved.  Remember children could read and learn more than you’d like them to and be hurt or distressed by it. 

  • This is also the case with wider family too.   Remind friends and family not to post negative comments about your partner online. It can also play a big part when looking to come to an agreement with your partner.  An upset partner can make things very difficult, drawn out and expensive.

  • Don’t share any personal data you have about your partner:

    As you may breach data protection laws.  This includes intimate and sensitive details of the relationship.

  • Don’t chat about court proceedings, children or financial information:

    By doing so you could be in breach of legislation which could be classed as a serious offence AND anything you share online can and could be used against you by the other party. 

  • Don’t post pictures of children you share online:

    This is a very emotive issue and one that comes up time and time again in proceedings. Parents often have polar opposite views on how, when and if this should happen.  

  • Send any photos directly, not on a public platform, especially if you are aware of your partner’s objections.  Posting pictures without consent can have data protection implications and affect a person’s right to a private life.  Err on the side of caution.

  • Don’t be tempted to share a new romance on line:

    Thrilling as it may be, be discreet and remember that if the shoe was on the other foot, how hurtful it would be to read/see this.

  • More seriously, if proceedings have not yet started adultery could now be cited as a reason on the petition.  Any pictures of you and your new beau together could evidence possible habitation and have a big effect on any financial settlements and child arrangements.

  • Don’t be tempted to stalk, follow or trail your partner:

    This can be exhausting, upsetting and often fruitless.  Social media can be all-consuming, particularly if you are the injured party.  Give yourself some time to rest and recover.

Remember – keeping things amicable is almost always the best route but if your inner calling bird is getting the better of you….take a deep breath and move away from the keyboard.
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Dipika provides clear advice from the outset.  She is particularly adept in understanding the emotional complexities in matrimonial disputes and the impact this will have on reaching resolutions.

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Teachers’ Pension Scheme – strategic issues independent schools need to think about

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When is a dishonest claim not a dishonest claimant?

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Dishonest claimant, or dishonest claim?

The High Court recently dismissed an appeal against a county court ruling, concerning the issue of “fundamental dishonesty”. The case involved a low-level RTA where liability had been admitted, but the defendant alleged that the claims for credit hire, injury and other associated losses by the claimant were fundamentally dishonest.  

The Honourable Mrs Justice Stacey upheld the Recorder’s County Court decision that, while a claim had apparently exaggerated the losses, the claimant himself had been ‘perplexed’ by the damages being sought and was not complicit in the dishonesty. 

The case of Michael v I E & D Hurford Ltd (t/a Rainbow) is interesting and explores in detail the appeal for the claimant being “fundamentally dishonest.” 

The situation

The claimant, Luul Michael, was involved in an RTA while working as an Uber driver, in the process of taking a passenger to their destinationAn employee working for the defendant was driving a Land Rover Defender, provided by the company, which was travelling very close behind the claimant. The driver of the Land Rover Defender then accidentally drove into the back of the claimant's vehicle as it was moving off from traffic lights.  

The initial valuing of the claim

The County Court judgment was handed down in 2020, at Leeds County Court. The judge awarded the sum of £3,624.18 to Luul Michael. The defendant appealed this, arguing that the Judge should have found that the claimant was fundamentally dishonest for the claims for physiotherapy and credit hire. 

The High Court stated that the recorder had concluded that the claim had been put together by solicitors, and the claimant (who did not speak English as a first language), was not entirely familiar with parts of his witness statement. The recorder also stated that the claimant was “confused by the procedure adopted by this court”, while accepting that the claimant gave unhelpful information including that “he had attended only one physiotherapy session rather than the eight claimed for.”  

The appeal and ruling

Appealing to the Queen’s Bench Division, the defendant argued that “the recorder had been wrong not to decide fundamental dishonesty.”  

Mrs Justice Stacey said, regarding the appeal: “It is too bold a submission to assert that an inaccurate pleading or defective disclosure statement is synonymous with the respondent’s fundamental dishonesty…and if the defendant solicitors consider that potential dishonesty lies with a claimant’s solicitor and not their client then surely their attention is better directed at the solicitor firms, rather than the hapless client who has instructed them.” 

Mrs Justice Stacey dismissed the appeal, commenting that it was a “classic” example of when it is best to trust the trial judge, who has had the benefit of listening to the witness first-hand and reaching their own conclusion.    

The High Court stated that the recorder had concluded that the claim had been put together by solicitors, and the claimant (who did not speak English as a first language), was not entirely familiar with parts of his witness statement. The recorder also stated that the claimant was “confused by the procedure adopted by this court”, while accepting that the claimant gave unhelpful information including that “he had attended only one physiotherapy session rather than the eight claimed for.”  

What was the outcome?

The recorder at first instance concluded that the claimant was not dishonest. In fact, he ruled that he had been involved in a genuine accident and had not intentionally sought to exaggerate his injuries. 

This being said, it is important to note here the difficulties that can arise from investigating the credibility of claimants. In this instance, the perplexed nature of the claimant and willingness to give unhelpful information despite the signed list of documents (physiotherapy invoices and others) seemingly disproved the argument of dishonesty. But in other cases, could allegations of dishonesty made by defendants give rise to scrutinising claimants’ legal representatives on a deeper level? 

This case demonstrates that while the solicitors may have been “dishonest” in putting the claim together, it is not necessarily the claimant that is driving the fundamental dishonesty.  

However, what recourse is there for defendants in claims of this nature? Bringing the dishonest solicitors in as an interested party to the action? Reporting the dishonest solicitors to the SRA?  

If you wish to discuss a matter concerning a defendant claim please contact Rav Johal.  

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Ravinder works with both insurers and self-insured companies, defending a range of claims and providing sound legal advice.

Ravinder has over 13 years’ experience of dealing with claims from straight forward RTA’s to multi-million pound fire damage and brain injury claims. Ravinder’s down to earth approach for clients is precise, friendly and commercial.

Litigation and dispute resolution

Our experienced litigators always start by listening to your needs first and we promise to give you well-considered advice based on our expertise and where possible we will guide you to find a way to resolve the dispute amicably, at an early stage, particularly if we think you could gain from doing so.

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Teachers’ Pension Scheme – strategic issues independent schools need to think about

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Inheritance - a gift or a curse?

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Inheritance - avoiding the pitfalls

 

James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, has publically stated that he finds the concept of inheritance “quite distasteful” and will not be leaving his £100 million fortune to his children. Baroness Karen Brady has told her children “they will always have a roof over their head and food in the fridge but the rest is up to them”.

Bill and Melinda Gates have pledged the majority of their wealth to charity. Those with significant wealth often worry that by passing it directly to their children they are gifting them something of a poisoned chalice.

Who wouldn’t want many millions in assets and no terms or conditions on how to use it?
Sadly, many wealthy families who pass their wealth down to the next generation without structure leave their children vulnerable to external forces, corrupt influences by those with their own agenda, and ultimate temptation.

An outright gift of significant value when in the hands of an inexperienced beneficiary can lead to the very worst outcome, wealth lost and a child in rehab or worse.
By leaving that wealth in trust for the children with a full letter of wishes and experienced trustees at the helm, the parents can see a future plan and the child has the support they need.

Trustees can be professionals well versed in the role of family trusts, friends or family members, or indeed a combination of all of these. Trusts can take many forms –a fully flexible discretionary trust or cascading life interests for example.

Leaving a gift in a trust ensures levels of guidance and protection are in place but also opens up the opportunity for significant tax planning for the entire family.

Trusts can be created during lifetime or through your will to take effect on your death. Remember, leaving a gift to a child by a will pass to them when they are just 18 years of age if you do not specify a later
age. Well drafted wills with the appropriate trust provisions included can give much needed peace of mind to a parent wanting to provide for their children. A letter of wishes can outline when the trustees should
consider appointing wealth out to a child to assist in property purchase, education or other milestone events.

The child can request an early distribution of funds and if satisfied the reason is one their parents would have endorsed, often trustees have powers to release assets to the beneficiary early.

However, if the reason is unsound or unsafe funds are retained until the child is older and, one hopes, a little wiser.

Our private client team can advise if you need further support or assistance.

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Lesley works closely with her clients to assist and guide in all aspects of complex estate planning and asset protection including trust and estate administration after death, Wills and Powers of Attorney.

Private Client

Trusts come in many forms. They can be incorporated into your will, which only come into existence when you die (a Will Trust), or lifetime trusts which are established while you are still alive. Lifetime trusts can outlive you and continue to be effective after your death, often for the benefit of your family.

Our trusts solicitors can guide you through your options to help you make the best decision for your situation.

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Seasonal worker visa and other options introduced for farm workers post-Brexit

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Visa options for farm workers introduced

Pre-Brexit, EU nationals were able to move and work freely within Europe. While farm labour shortages have been an issue for several years, there is no doubt the situation has worsened since Brexit restricted the influx of seasonal workers.

Now freedom of movement has come to an end, the number of EU nationals in employment in the UK fell by almost 5% – from 2.3m to 2.2m – since the end of 2019 to the end of June 2021, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

As a consequence of Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme was created to secure the rights of European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their families living in the UK by 31 December 2020.

Applicants acquire either settled or pre-settled status, depending on whether they have lived in the UK for five years or more, or less than five years respectively.

While this has been helpful to securing an existing pre-Brexit workforce, it does not fully help with the labour shortages in the agriculture sector as historically, many seasonal workers from the EU would travel to the UK for a particular season and then return home.

Some farms have hit the headlines for offering workers £30 an hour to pick produce, which shows how difficult recruitment has become since the UK’s departure from the EU.

To try and ease workforce shortages, the government has introduced a seasonal worker visa and, more recently, announced a temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers and poultry workers. There are also numerous other visas and permits farming businesses may be able to benefit from.

Temporary Seasonal Worker visa

Short-staffed farmers are claiming they need more migrant workers to harvest their crops, which is classed by the government as “low-skilled” work.

Pre-Brexit, the majority of these workers would typically come from the EU on a seasonal basis; in October 2020, the National Farmers Union said only 11% of seasonal workers in 2020 were UK residents.

In response, the government introduced a Seasonal Worker pilot scheme in 2019, initially for two years. It was extended in December 2020 for a further year.

The Seasonal Worker visa enables the recruitment of a limited number of temporary migrants – 30,000 in 2021 – for specific roles in the edible horticultural sector. This means that, in order to meet the requirements for the visa, the type of produce being farmed must be either: protected vegetables, grown in glasshouse systems; field vegetables grown outdoors; soft fruit grown both outdoors or under cover; top fruit; vines and bines; or mushrooms.

Workers must apply through an operator that has been approved by Defra and the Home Office, which will sponsor migrants for UK visas. Currently, there are four licenced operators: AG Recruitment and Management Ltd, Fruitful Jobs, Concordia Ltd, and Pro-Force Ltd.

Once a temporary Seasonal Worker visa has been secured, workers are able to come to the UK to carry out their specified farm work for a maximum of six months in a 12-month period. They aren’t able to bring dependents with them and there is no route to settlement.

While this will help the sector in the short-term, it doesn’t go far enough as only specific roles are covered. At some point, it’s likely this route will be pulled altogether too.

Skilled Worker visa

Farmers looking to recruit “skilled workers” could sponsor an EEA or non-EEA national via the government’s skilled worker route.

Employers must check whether the job they are recruiting for is eligible for this type of visa. They can do this by finding the job’s occupation code via the ONS’ occupation coding tool and checking this against the government’s Skilled Worker visa eligible list.

In the agricultural sector, skilled workers could include farm managers or owners, agricultural contractors or technicians, crofters, farmers, herd managers, arboricultural consultants, bee farmers, gamekeepers, and poultry butchers or processors, according to the list.

If the job is eligible for the skilled worker route, the salary paid must be at least £25,600 per year, £10.10 per hour or the ‘going rate’ for a particular role – whichever is the highest. In some circumstances, sponsors may be able to offer a lower salary if certain criteria are met, but no lower than £20,480.

Workers must also prove they can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Skilled Worker visa applicants will need a job offer from a farm willing to employ them before they can apply. The first step for a farm is, therefore, to secure a Skilled Worker sponsor licence, which enables a business to issue certificates of sponsorship to applicants so they can get their visa.

Applications for a sponsor licence can be done online. They require a business to prove it is a genuine employer with a lawful trading presence in the UK, as well show it can offer genuine employment that meets the skill and salary thresholds of the skilled worker route.

The Home Office also requires the organisation to nominate certain individuals, primarily based in the UK, to take on roles – including an authorising officer, key contact and level 1 user – in respect of the sponsor licence.

There is a fee involved too, which depends on the size and type of organisation. Medium and large businesses are required to pay £1,476, which reduces to £536 for small sponsors.

Once a licence is approved, which usually takes around eight weeks, it will be valid for four years with the option for renewal. The application fee will be payable each time the licence is renewed.

Larger employers sponsoring migrant workers are likely to have a dedicated team dealing with sponsorship duties. However, a lot of agricultural businesses are small, family-run organisations, so the entire process can be very admin-heavy.

Temporary visa scheme

Last month (September 2021), the government announced temporary visas for 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers to attempt to ease the supply chain burdens both in the haulage and food industries.

The move aims to ensure HGV drivers will be able to come to the UK for three months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief for the haulage industry. It also hopes that farmers and food producers will have access to the necessary workforce to mitigate any potential risks to Christmas food supply.

Since then, the CLA has also called on the government to step in and support the pig sector, which is experiencing labour supply issues at pork processing plants.

Temporary visas are not a long-term solution and are part of the government’s package in an attempt to resolve an existing problem that has been aggravated by both Covid and Brexit.

How the visa scheme will work in practice and whether a temporary visa will in fact relieve the pressure on supply chains just before the festivities will no doubt be revealed over the upcoming weeks.

Frontier Worker permit

The Frontier Worker permit was launched in December 2020 via the Citizens’ Rights (Frontier Workers)(EU Exit) Regulations 2020 to enable cross-border EEA citizen workers to continue with their flexible arrangements, without having to make applications under the post-Brexit points-based system.

A person is a Frontier Worker if they were immediately before the end of the transition period (11pm 31 December 2020) and have been continuously since the end of the transition period an EEA national; not primarily resident in the UK; either a worker in the UK, a self-employed person in the UK or a person treated as a worker or self-employed person in the UK by virtue of regulation 4 of the Regulations.

Applicants will be regarded as being not normally resident in the UK if they have been in the UK for less than 180 days in the 12-month period before the relevant date; or they have returned to their country of residence at least once in the last six-month period or twice in the 12-month period before the relevant date, unless there are exceptional reasons for not having done so. The relevant date can be any date from the end of the transition period.

Applicants need to demonstrate the work they carry out is genuine and effective and not marginal and ancillary to their situation as a whole in the UK.

As a Frontier Worker must have worked in the UK before the end of the transition period and continued to do so since the end of the transition period, the permit is quite limited. Someone new to the labour market wouldn’t be able to apply, for example.

There is the potential for farm businesses to benefit from this route, but it does depend on a worker’s circumstances as it won’t help everyone.

Youth Mobility Scheme visa

Those aged 18 to 30 who want to live and work in the UK for up to two years can apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa, providing they have £2,530 in their bank account to show they are able to support themselves.

The visa is currently only eligible for a British Overseas Citizen, British Overseas Territories Citizen, British National (Overseas) or nationals from Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino. Nationals from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan must apply for a ballot to receive an invitation to apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa. Nationals from Iceland and India are soon to be added to the list. There is no sponsorship required by a business employing someone via this visa route.

The Youth Mobility Scheme visa tends to be utilised by young people without their own families who want to travel around the UK. An applicant will not be eligible if they have a child under the age of 18 who is either living with them or financially dependent upon them. Youth Mobility visa holders are eligible to work to support themselves, so there is the potential for farmers to benefit from this.

Looking ahead

Many farms have said the shortage of labour has made their business unviable and the National Farmers Union has repeated calls for more support from the government. In response, a spokesperson said the government was looking at ways to help the sector recruit more domestic labour.

The temporary measures that have been introduced may help the industry in the short-term, but many believe they won’t work to solve the problem in the long-term.

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Calum is an immigration law expert and offers advice to individuals and businesses across a variety of sectors including agriculture, manufacturing and sport.

Agriculture

Our agriculture team can support on all aspects of property law, commercial development opportunities, commercial diversification, family law including wills and succession planning, farming partnerships, contract law, employment law, immigration law, energy and renewables, financial company and taxation law.

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Dealing with the practical, legal and emotional process of a relationship breakdown is difficult and stressful enough as it is, without the added complexity of a pandemic. From family court hearings to financial divorce settlements and maintaining child arrangements, we can help you. Whatever the situation.

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