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20

2016

May

Moving home this year?

As we all know, moving home can be a stressful experience. If you’re putting your house on the market, it’s natural to want to agree a sale as quickly as possible (and for the best price.)

This is where the old adage ‘Fail to prepare – prepare to fail’ comes to mind. Why? Because it also applies to selling your home -  presentation is key if you want to increase your chances of that quick sale.

It’s not just about giving your home ‘kerb appeal.’ It’s about making your home somewhere potential buyers can easily visualise living in themselves.

This is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this, people have different views, but there are a few simple rules we can follow to improve our chances of that quick sale:

 

  • Try to make sure all the bedrooms are just that - bedrooms - and not storage rooms or home offices
  • First impressions count. Ask yourself what is the first thing people will see when they arrive for a viewing? Maybe give the front door a lick of paint and make sure the garden is fresh and tidy
  • Try to keep the decor as neutral as possible. It can be hard to visualise living in a room which is painted in bright purple and green stripes!
  • De-clutter! (but still keep the ‘lived in’ impression) Try to give the feeling of space
  • It’s often said that kitchens sell houses. Make sure it is spotlessly clean and tidy. Show off as much work space as possible on the surfaces
  • Make sure the lighting is adequate. This can help give your home a bright and cheerful appearance
  • Subject to the weather, open windows and let some fresh air in
  • Pets are a difficult one, not everyone loves them. If you can, make sure they are out of the house for viewings and remove bowls, baskets etc.



...... and finally, smile - be friendly and cheerful. Creating a bond with the viewer might just tip the balance.

Good luck and do give me a call for a quote when you’ve agreed that sale. We'll do our best to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible!

Regards

Keely

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16

2016

May

The law is (sometimes) interesting!

As many people will know, legal aid has been abolished for many family law matters and this, in turn, has led to a steep rise in ‘Litigants in Person -  in other words people representing themselves in the family law courts.

A couple of recent case have caught my eye and I thought I would share these with you as, perhaps, they do highlight the need for legal advice.

The first involved a couple who had been married for over 20 years and had substantial assets.  Following the divorce, the husband was ordered to pay the wife a considerable sum.

The husband now sought to alter the terms of a divorce financial settlement on the basis that his ex-wife was now living with another man (it is interesting to note that he represented himself at the hearing.)

The husband argued that that his ex-wife and new partner are effectively living as ‘husband and wife’ and, therefore, he should pay a lesser sum - in effect reducing his support for her.

The wife argued that she was anxious to remain financially independent and should not have to rely on her new partner.

The Court agreed with her, ruling that the new relationship did not negate the husband’s legal obligation to his former wife.

The second involved an ex-husband who has won the right from the Court of Appeal to challenge the validity of his ex-mother-in-law’s Will.

The case centred on the divorce settlement between the parties which included a provision that if the wife inherited more than £100,000 from her mother, any sum over the £100,000 be split equally between the husband and wife.

Following the mother’s death, the Will left £100,000 to the wife with the remainder (approx. £150,000) going to her grandchildren.

The husband launched a challenge to this, including alleging the Will had been forged in an attempt to get around the divorce settlement.

Initially he lost as he was found not to have sufficient interest in the estate to bring a claim.

On appeal, the wife argued that only those with the right to administer an estate could challenge a Will. As such, the husband was a ‘stranger to the estate’ as he did not have this right.

The Court of Appeal rejected the wife’s argument, commenting ‘justice in the general sense requires the husband to bring a probate claim’ and that ‘he is not a mere busybody. He has a real interest in challenging the validity of the Will.’

The matter will now be heard as a formal challenge and it will be interesting to see the outcome.

However, the ruling does potentially open the doors a little further for those who previously had no right to challenge Wills in the future.

If you would like advice regarding any of the issues in this article, do get in touch to make an appointment.

Regards

Helen

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15

2016

April

Pre-nup Agreements to become the norm?

Regular readers of our blog might recall, I wrote last year about how Pre-Nuptial Agreements are now becoming more popular for couples planning their wedding.

In general terms, a Pre-Nup agreement sets out the assets which you already owned and which your spouse would have no claim on should you divorce. These assets may include property, cash or other financial resources, an anticipated inheritance or even a pet – the list is endless!

I thought I would revisit this topic in light of a recent survey which suggests that one in ten married people in the UK wish they’d had a Pre-Nup in place before they were married.

That might not sound much until you consider that, according to statistics, there were just over 300,000 marriages in the UK in 2014.

Tying the two statistics together might then suggest that 30,000 of those marriages have one party who wishes they had a Pre-Nup in place!

Whilst the law does not currently recognise prenuptial agreements as legally binding, the Law Commission (the body tasked with keeping laws under review) has recommended that this be changed, though, until this happens, there is no absolute guarantee they will be upheld if challenged.

However, the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Radmacher v Granatino significantly strengthened the weight of Pre-Nups, saying they were likely to be upheld if they were not considered unfair.

Agreements will be examined on a case-by-case basis with the courts more likely to take them into account – seeing it as evidence of the parties’ intentions - when ordering a division of assets on divorce, unless there is good reason to disregard it

 

  • More general points the court will likely consider include
  • Have the parties had independent legal advice?
  • Have they entered the Pre-Nup of their own free will and do they understand it?
  • Did both parties give full disclosure of their assets?


So, a Pre-Nup agreement might help you avoid bitter disputes and high legal costs. Whilst the idea of arranging one may sound ‘unromantic’, pre-nups can be a useful way of actually reducing the tension when couples split by limiting the issues to argue over.

If you are considering a pre-nup, or would like advice on whether to make one, please call me to arrange an appointment.



Regards

Helen

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09

2016

March

Need help with Probate?

As regular readers of our blog will know, I specialise in Wills, Probate and Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) and have written a number of articles outlining the benefits of preparing for later life through Wills and LPA’s

I thought it was now about time I touched upon a subject we don’t like to think about - what happens to someone’s estate when they die, in other words, the legal area of Probate.

Specialising in this field, it seems death is something I encounter on an almost daily basis. Although a very natural part of the cycle of life, it is always extremely hard when you lose someone close to you. It is only natural for those left behind to feel lost. We all have own way of coping with death and, quite frankly, we don’t know how well we will cope until it has happened to us.

The last thing someone in these circumstances wants to be bothered with is dealing with the administration of the estate of the person who’s died.   

Here’s a few ways how Pudsey Legal can help should you find yourself in this unenviable position.

We can obtain a Grant of Representation (probate) for you (this is the legal document giving the Executor or Administrator (if no Will has been left) the power to administer the estate.) The cost of doing this is a lot more affordable that you might think. Our fixed charges start at £499 plus VAT and disbursements, and can include a HOME VISIT. Probate can normally be obtained within 3 to 4 weeks of you instructing us.

We can also handle the full administration of the estate for you (which involves the valuation and distribution of the estate) and, in most cases, we will be able to provide you with a fixed price at the outset of the matter, for your own peace of mind.

We can also advise on Inheritance Tax mitigation, which is often overlooked by people. For example, I have had many older clients who have inherited money which they didn’t require and wanted to pass directly to their children. This can be done in a tax efficient way by a Deed of Variation.

A few points to note:

 

  • Probate is not normally required for small estates of under around £15,000
  • Probate may not be required if everything has passed to the surviving spouse and all assets are in joint names
  • The Grant of Probate is effectively a court document giving the executor (the person appointed in the Will by the Deceased) power to administer the estate
  • Some providers of probate service may charge you a percentage of the value of the estate  -  consider whether this is cost effective



And finally...... 


We live in an age where people are extremely price conscious and are increasingly able to cut out the professional in favour of a DIY job. My adage has always been to leave things to the experts. Would I tile my bathroom or change the alternator on my car? No way!

I have seen many clients who have tried to do legal work themselves and it has all too often proved to be a false economy. Mistakes had been made which have cost them time and money which can far outweighed the initial saving in legal fees.

I hope you’ve found this article useful so, if you feel I could help at such difficult times, please do give me a call.


Regards



Andrew

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10

2016

February

The month of love?

February is often described as the ‘Month of Love’ with our celebrating St. Valentine’s Day on the 14th.

There are a number of historical references surrounding St Valentine. My favourite, and perhaps the one linking the saint with romance, tells us that the roman emperor Claudius II concluded that single men made better soldiers than men with wives, so outlawed marriage! However, Valentine opposed this and continued to perform secret marriages for young lovers.


There are many other stories, yet I often find it somewhat ironic that the Month of Love immediately follows the month when Divorce rates traditionally spike.


There can be many reasons for this. Perhaps it’s because, couples who are already showing cracks in their relationship hold it together over Christmas, often for the sake of their children, but then the stresses of everyday life catch up early in the New Year and they reach breaking point.

Statistics from the National Family Mediation service showed calls to their helplines in January increased by some 26% over last year. They say that “January is ‘Divorce Month’ and is no media myth, but a proven phenomenon.”

If you have found yourself in this unfortunate situation and you feel you have reached the point where your relationship has irretrievably broken down then it is important to seek advice on your legal position and, hopefully, achieve a conclusion as amicably as possible.


I am a member of the Law Society’s panel of accredited family law solicitors as well as being a member of Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers committed to non-confrontational divorce, separation and other family problems and I am here to help guide you through the legal maze at what can be a very emotional stage of your life

We can also help with family Mediation through our collaboration with Allison Family Mediation Services.

Also, remember that we try to fix our prices on as many of our services as we can to give you peace of mind that the price you are quoted at the beginning is the price you will pay at the end.


Do give me a call if you would like to arrange an appointment for initial advice.


Regards


Helen

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12

2016

January

Resolve to tidy up your legal affairs

The start of a new year is often the time when many of us make resolutions to change our lives for the better - whether we try to give up sweets and chocolate or exercise more, we often forget them by February!

If this applies to you, there is one New Year resolution which can make a real difference and might be easier (and cheaper) than you think.

Tidying up your legal affairs might not be the first thing which springs to mind when planning your New Year resolutions, however, if you feel it’s high time you got around to sorting out things you have been putting off there are lots of ways we can help:

  • Maybe you need to make or update your Will
  • Are you thinking of moving house or buying a property to rent out?
  • Do you need advice or support with family law issues?
  • Perhaps you’ve had an accident - we may be able to help you get back on your feet whilst making your claim.
  • Have you or any loved ones considered making a Lasting Power of Attorney?
  • Are you worried about care home fees? – a Protective Property Trust Will can help to mitigate against these


It’s not as daunting or expensive as you might think. Our friendly and helpful lawyers are on hand to give you clear advice and reassurance just when you need it.

Also, don’t forget, we offer fixed fees across many of our range of services to give you peace of mind in knowing that the price you're quoted at the start will be the price you pay at the end with no nasty surprises.

So, whilst sorting out your legal affairs might be something you always put off until tomorrow, the New Year is an ideal time to include this on your resolutions list.

We’re only a phone call away and the kettle’s always on!

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01

2015

December

Legal rights of unmarried couples

Marriage trends over the last few decades certainly make for interesting reading.

Research has shown that in the 1960’s only 5% of couples lived together before marrying. This figure rose to 70% during the 1990’s. Currently, it is estimated there are over 3 million cohabiting (non-married) families in the UK.

The rise is cohabiting families is borne out by the fact that, statistically, marriage numbers have fallen. In 1971, over 400,000 marriages took place, this fell to just over 260,000 by 2012.

What does this mean from a legal point of view?

Quite a lot actually.  

There is still a common misconception that cohabiting couple have the same legal rights as married couples. In fact they do not, and this could have very serious and costly implications should a relationship break down.

For this reason, it is important that cohabiting couples understand their legal position and consider whether they should take steps to protect themselves if the worst should happen.

Unmarried couples are treated differently to married couples when it comes to:

  • Tax – EG. Inheritance Tax or Capital Gains Tax
  • Pensions – distribution of pensions in the event of a separation
  • Death – the deceased partners assets do not automatically pass to the remaining partner (highlighting the importance of making a Will)
  • Property – if owned in one name only, the other party generally has no automatic rights, despite how much time, effort and money they have put into the home
  • Children – Quite often, only the mother has ‘parental responsibility’ in unmarried couples


Fortunately, there is a way to help to protect yourself in the event that your relationship breaks down.

If you have prepared a Cohabitation Agreement, this can formalise your intensions and give certainty as to the arrangements for your children and financial affairs.

The agreement may cover areas things as:

  • What will happen to the home – will it be sold or will one partner remain in it and how any mortgage and other bills will be split?
  • What arrangements you would like to make for your children (although a Cohabitation Agreement cannot give parental responsibility)
  • How any personal possessions or other financial assets (bank accounts, pensions etc.) are divided
  • How will any debts be repaid


As a Cohabitation Agreement is effectively a contract between the parties, they are legally enforceable. If you are thinking of entering into one is it advisable to have this drafted by a legally qualified specialist and also for each party to take independent legal advice.

Please give me a call if you would like to make an appointment to discuss making a Cohabitation Agreement.


Regards

Helen

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17

2015

November

Fundraising for PLAH

17 Nov 2015

We were split in two on Saturday 14 November in support of our nominated charity, the Pudsey Live at Home scheme.

The scheme supports the older members of our community and helps them remain independent in their own homes and we are proud to be involved with them.

On Saturday we helped out at their Christmas Fair at St Andrew's Church in Pudsey, whilst, at the same time, hosting a coffee morning at  Trinity Methodist Church in Bramley which raised a fantastic £272.30.

Huge thanks go to all who helped out  and attended, giving their time and money so generously!

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03

2015

November

Planning for Care Home fees

It’s estimated that over 400,000 elderly people are living in care homes with most expected to pay towards this from their income and capital.

The cost of care can vary by location and whether nursing care is needed. According to a 2013/14 report, average care homes costs can be:

  • £28,500 per year for a residential care home, or
  • £37,500 per year if nursing is required.


Generally, if your local authority has arranged your care home, your contribution will be means tested to assess how much you will pay. The current thresholds are:

  • Assets over £23,250 - you will pay your full cost of care.
  • Assets between £14,250 and £23,250 - you will have to make a contribution to your fees
  • Assets below £14,250 – you will receive maximum support (although you will still pay for your personal expenses.)


So, is there anything we can do to prepare for this?

When it comes to looking at our future years many of us are now starting to plan ahead. You may have already made your Will and regular readers of this column will know how highly I recommend a Lasting Power of Attorney.

But your planning can also help to reduce your exposure to care home fees by your Will including a Protective Property Trust.

For many, the main and only substantial asset will be your home. Having no doubt worked most of your life to pay off a mortgage and perhaps leave a legacy for your children, it's horrible to think that you could have to sell the home to fund future care needs.

Whilst your home won’t be included in the means test if a partner or close relative still lives there, if one partner has died and the surviving partner needs to go into care, the full value of the home will be taken into account when the assets are assessed.

This is where a Protective Property Trust Will can help.

These are only suitable for two partners who own a property jointly. Essentially, when the first partner dies, the property is held in trust for named beneficiaries (usually, but not always, children of the couple). If the surviving partner then goes into care, the half of the property in trust is protected from the means test because it is not an asset of that surviving partner.

Such a Will can also protect the share of the home of the first partner to die should the surviving partner remarry, as that share will still be held in trust for the original beneficiaries rather than passing to the new partner. Additionally, it can also potentially reduce your estates liability for any future Inheritance tax.

So, if you think it’s the right time to review your later life planning, please give me a call.


Regards


Andrew

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14

2015

October

Flight delayed or cancelled? Your rights explained

The day has finally arrived! The holiday you’ve been looking forward to for months has finally come round. You’re elated! You arrive at the airport in good time, luggage in hand and can’t wait for some well deserved down time.

Holidays are to be looked forward to, however the start (or end) of a holiday can be ruined if your flight is delayed or cancelled. This can take precious time away from your holiday and undo all the de-stressing holidays can bring.

Hopefully it is not something many of us have experienced, however what if it has happened to you?

A recent European Court judgment has clarified the rules on compensation for delayed flights.

Depending on the circumstances of the delay, it is possible to make a claim for compensation (up to €600 per person) under EU rule 261/2004, providing that the airline is to blame.

The rules only apply to flights departing from an EU airport or any flight arriving in the EU as long as it is with an EU airline. If this is not the case, you will need to check the terms and conditions of the airline company you travelled with in order to see if there is any other way you can claim.

In addition the delay must be three hours or more. Note the delay applies to your arrival time, not to your departure time, so if you are 4 hours delayed leaving, but arrive at your destination 2 hours and 55 minutes late then you will not be entitled to compensation.

The amounts of compensation payable are fixed depending on the distance of the flight and the length of the delay.

It is also possible to claim for cancelled flights depending on a number of factors including the reason for the cancellation, the notice given by the airline, the distance of the flight and the timings of the new flight.

One final point to bear in mind is that you have 6 years to claim from the date of the original flight.

So, if you’re unsure whether you’d be eligible for compensation or wish to enquire with regard to making a flight claim then please do not hesitate to contact me. Remember we can deal with this for you on a ‘No win – No fee basis.’


Regards

Sophie Watson

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25

2015

September

Make your Will with Pudsey Legal

Research by the charity Will Aid, indicates that more people are now giving greater thought to their future financial planning, particularly when it come s to making their Will.

The survey was carried out across a broad age range (25 – 84 years old) and the findings were encouraging, showing an increase in the number of people saying they have made a Will.

However, of those who had yet to make their Will, the reasons given make for interesting reading:

  • Almost half of people say they simply haven’t got around to it 
  • 42% of 25-34 year olds feel they are too young to write a Will
  • 23% claim they have nothing to leave
  • 13% think there is no need for a Will because their loved ones will automatically inherit.


Making your Will could be one of the most important things you ever do and it’s a lot easier than you might think.

There’s no downside, however, there are plenty of upsides:

  • Making your Will ensures your estate (however small) is divided up exactly as you want it. If you don’t make a will, your estate will be shared according to the law and this may not be how you would want it.
  • Whilst disputes over Wills do happen, leaving a clear Will can help to remove any doubt over your wishes.
  • A Will can sometimes help to reduce inheritance tax and also mitigate against care home fees
  • Your Will can specify your funeral arrangements


Also it’s not as expensive as you might think. Our Wills start at £99 + VAT, so if you’ve not yet made your Will, call me or pop in for a chat

Regards

Andrew

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04

2015

September

How do you choose your Solicitor?

When you are looking for, let’s say a new car, what makes you choose the make and model?

It might be price, you may have owned one before, you might have read a magazine review. There are many reasons which affect our decisions when choosing our next car.

But what do you look for when choosing professional services eg. solicitors, accountants or financial advisors?

You may have used them before or they may have been recommended to you. But what if you haven’t had any experience of this? What would drive you to pick one company over another?

It could be price, location or service standards, but how do you measure the quality of the service you will receive?

Whether we are in a restaurant or supermarket, we all want the best possible service and perhaps this should be your most important consideration when choosing a professional.

But how do we measure the service a company will give if we have no experience of them?

Here at Pudsey Legal, we take the quality of the service we provide seriously. We hold a number of quality accreditations to give you peace of mind in knowing that our systems and processes meet the rigorous standards imposed by our professional bodies.

We are accredited by the Law Society under both the Conveyancing Quality Scheme and the Wills & Inheritance Quality Scheme. Our Personal Injury Department is an accredited practice by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (of which Paul Kaye is an Emeritus Fellow.)

Our family law solicitor, Helen Starmer, is accredited by the Law Society under the Family Law Scheme, whilst Wills, Probate and Lasting Power of Attorney specialist, Andrew Gullett, is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly.

But apart from all that, if you want straight talking, no nonsense advice at a sensible price give me a call or pop in to see us – the kettle’s always on!

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16

2015

August

Support with Family Law issues

In April 2013, the Government introduced the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act commonly known as LASPO.

Whilst the Act continues to have far reaching consequences for the legal industry, it is the effect on the users of legal services who have, arguably, felt the full force of its impact.

The devastating effect on Family Law, with the removal of legal aid for most areas of family issues such as divorce and children and financial arrangements, has perhaps hit the hardest.

Figures from Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) showed that between April 2014 and March 2015 there was a 27% drop in new private law cases from the previous year.

So is the removal of legal aid the reason for the fall in family law cases?

Family lawyers have warned that firms have closed due to the abolition of legal aid leaving separating couples with restricted access to legal advice.

Indeed, the chairman of the Law Society Family Law committee has commented, ‘The cutbacks in legal aid meant a lot of firms are now disappearing. If someone has a family law problem, there are no lawyers in the local community anymore.’

Despite this, help is still hand at hand on a local level.

Here at Pudsey Legal, we believe that legal services are a resource everyone should be able to access. We understand family problems can be an incredibly stressful time in life and are available to help and guide you through the maze of the family law process.

We can offer fixed prices on many of our services and our family Law solicitor, Helen Starmer, is accredited by the Law Society under their Family Faw scheme.

Helen is also a member of Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers  committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes by promoting a non-confrontational approach to family problems. Members encourage solutions which consider the needs of the whole family - and in particular the best interests of children.

So don’t think you have to go it alone, call us to arrange an appointment.

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11

2015

August

Pudsey Carnival

18 May 2015

It was all the fun of the fair on Saturday 16 May as we once again took part in the annual Pudsey Carnival.

This year we were part of a team challenge to cycle the 'Pudsey to Paddington Bear Dash' - a 200 mile static cycle ride to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.

Beginning with our taking part in the parade at 12pm, we successfully completed the challenge at around 4.30pm.

Once again , the local community gave us fantastic support throughout the challenge and we thank everyone for their incredible generosity.

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31

2015

July

Wills & Inheritance accreditation for Pudsey Legal

31 Jul 2015

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded accreditation under the Law Society's 'Wills & Inheritance Quality Scheme' (WIQS).

The scheme is aimed at law firms which offer Will drafting, Probate, and Estate Administration services.

Accreditation allows us to demonstrate our commitment to the highest standards of client service.

Eligible forms have undergone a rigorous assessment by the Law Society to gain the WIQS accreditation.

In endorsing the scheme, the Law Society president Nicholas Fluck said:

'WIQS is an important tool in reinforcing the importance of using a solicitor for will writing and estate management.  It offers reassurance to consumers and helps law firms stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

Anyone can set themselves up as a will writer, but only a law firm with qualified solicitors meeting high standards can be a member of WIQS.  Accredited firms can use the branding to promote their business, while consumers can make informed choices about who is best placed to write their will or administer probate.'


We believe strongly that such accreditations are not merly badges, but do give real reassurance to our clients that we have standards in place which allow us to be awarded these kite marks.

That's why we already hold accreditation under both the Conveyancing and Family Law schemes and are also an accredited practice with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.

Contacts

Telephone
0113 254 9733

Pudsey Legal
Cringlebar House,
415 Bradford Road, Pudsey,
Leeds, LS28 7HQ

Pudsey Legal
Trinity House,
32 Church Lane, Pudsey
Leeds, LS28 7RF


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