Meaby & Co pleased to host the British Irish Chamber of Commerce

Meaby & Co were delighted to host the British Irish Chamber of Commerce and its members for a networking lunch at our Soho offices on Tuesday 9 October 2018.

John McGrane, Director General of the Chamber spoke to a packed room of existing, new and prospective members of the BICC about the recent developments in the Brexit negotiations and the Chamber’s involvement in advising and assisting businesses to better prepare for life after 1 April 2019. There was some very positive discussion about inward investment into Ireland, with John reiterating that Ireland is open for business. John spoke briefly of his concerns having attended the Conservative Parliamentary Party conference and seeing first hand the fractions within the party but also spoke of his hopes that the Ministers and politicians can now get on and have constructive discussions about what the Brexit deal might look like, and that they will emerge from the tunnel in mid-November, not into another oncoming train but into the light.

The discussion was opened up to the room generally, and there were conversations around the table about the Fintech industry in the UK and Ireland and also the continued need for clarity around the hospitality and food industries, both of whom rely heavily on foreign nationals from within the EU and the continued free movement of particularly fresh produce between Ireland and the UK.

After a lively discussion, we hosted a light lunch and networking drinks for all who attended.

Meaby & Co have a strong relationship with the British Irish Chamber of Commerce both in the UK and in Ireland, who have been instrumental in helping us to forge business relationships across the nations. Caoimhe Boyce and Chris Waters are both dual-qualified solicitors and work with a large array of Irish-resident businesses and individuals with interests in the UK. Our expertise is assisting in all aspects of UK law.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting afternoon and we at Meaby & Co would like to thank all who attended, particularly John McGrane and David O’Reilly from the BICC. We look forward to the next round of interesting conversation and hosting another successful event soon.

If you are interested in hearing about our events or would like to get in touch regarding the British Irish Chamber of Commerce or have business interests in the UK where you think we can assist, please contact Caoimhe Boyce on cboyce@meaby.co.uk.

The Law Commission publishes its consultation paper on “Leasehold home ownership: buying your freehold or extending your lease”

Life may become easier for leaseholders to buy their freeholds or extend their leases.

Following several months of review, the Law Commission is proposing reform to the existing legislation in England and Wales in an effort to provide a better deal for leaseholders as consumers.

The Commission’s proposals address concerns of unfairness, inconsistency, complexity and cost of the existing regime which tends to favour landlords.

A summary of the proposals for leaseholders of flats may be found here:

https://s3-eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/lawcom-prod-storage-11jsxou24uy7q/uploads/2018/09/Enfr-CP-Summary-for-leaseholders-of-flats-180920.pdf

Full details of the consultation paper may be found here:

https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/leasehold-enfranchisement/

The consultation closes on 20th November 2018.

The final report is due to be put before the Lord Chancellor and published in 2019.

It is certain to generate much debate amongst leaseholders and landlords and it will be interesting to see what legislative changes come from it.

For advice on all aspects of Leasehold please contact Dominic Danvers on 020 3861 5154 or ddanvers@meaby.co.uk.

 

Conveyancing partner Andy Roscoe recently captained Wales in the first ever Tri Nations Trophy of FootGolf.

How many law firms can claim to have an international sportsperson in their ranks?  Well, we now can!  Conveyancing partner Andy Roscoe recently captained Wales in the first ever Tri Nations Trophy in the popular and fast-growing sport of FootGolf.

FootGolf is, quite simply, what it says on the tin.  Usually played on a customised golf course, the aim of the game is to kick a football into a 21-inch hole in as few shots as possible.

Andy is currently ranked in the Top 100 in the UK, and qualifies to play for Wales through his ancestry.  He was approached by UK FootGolf to spearhead the team in their first ever international match, taking on England and Scotland in a team event on the eve of the FootGolf Welsh Open at Silver Birch Golf Club in North Wales.

The result didn’t quite go Andy’s way, with Wales finishing 3rd behind Scotland and the might of England who featured the World Number Ones in both Mens and Ladies FootGolf, but it was an experience of a lifetime for our colleague, and Andy is hopeful that it will only serve to assist the growth of the sport.

If you’re interested in trying FootGolf, feel free to contact Andy for a bit of advice.

Photo credit to www.facebook.com/lucindasteedfootgolfphotography

What is Legal Professional Privilege and how can it protect me?

Legal Professional Privilege refers to Legal Advice Privilege and Litigation Privilege. It attaches to communications between a solicitor and client, and its purpose is to protect the client (and not the lawyer). It can attach to communications between the lawyer and a third party in certain circumstances, such as reports prepared on instruction in the course of and to assist in litigation.

Legal Advice privilege covers communications which are confidential, which came into existence for the purpose of giving or obtaining legal advice, regardless of whether litigation is contemplated or not. It protects those confidential communications from being demanded by a third party during litigation. For example, communications between a client and his solicitor prior to any dispute arising can be privileged, which means that they cannot be required by the other side in litigation to be relied on. They are confidential and privileged as between the client and his legal adviser.

Litigation privilege developed to allow parties to investigate potential disputes without worrying that the correspondence and documents created during the investigation period will be made available to the other party. A privileged document can be withheld from the other side in litigation. While legal advice privilege usually exists over the correspondence between a lawyer and client, litigation privilege subsists over documents created by third parties which does not form legal advice but which is created in contemplation of litigation, for example expert reports or documents from third party advisers.

There are strict criteria setting out what can be protected by litigation privilege. The document must be either:-

A communication between a lawyer or client and the third party;
A document made by or on behalf of the of the client or lawyer;
Be confidential;
Made for the dominant purpose of litigation;
Litigation must be pending, reasonably contemplated or existing.

If these criteria are not met, then privilege may not exist.

Speak with your solicitor if you have a potential dispute and you want to check how your correspondence or documents may be affected by Legal Professional Privilege.  Better yet, contact our litigation department, Caoimhe Boyce on cboyce@meaby.co.uk to see if we can help you.

 

Can I amend my will after it has been signed?

Any will can be amended after it has been signed, but it is important that this is done in the right way.   It might be that a last minute change is made to a will before a person passes away, or the testator might write a quick letter setting out an additional asset which should be added or a beneficiary who should be considered.  This can have untold consequences when it comes to administering the estate and considering whether the original will is still valid.

A will, and any alterations made to the will, must be made in accordance with the Wills Act 1837.  Section 21 of the Act requires an alteration to be initialled by the testator and two witnesses (for example, in the margin or on some other point of the will close to the alteration).  If a testator has simply crossed out a legacy of “£5,000” and replaced it with “£1,000”, the amendment will be ignored (and the beneficiary will receive  £5,000) unless it has been properly signed and witnessed.  If a client wishes to make a number of amendments, we would either recommend that they make a new will or set out the amendments clearly in a codicil, which is a separate document to be read in conjunction with your will.

Of course, a codicil also needs to be signed in accordance with the Wills Act 1837, and it should be clearly expressed that it is a codicil and that it is not intended to revoke your earlier will.  Problems do arise where letters are drafted on somebody’s death bed and it is not clear whether the letter should be construed to revoke the earlier will (in which case a partial intestacy could arise) or whether it is simply to be read as a codicil and the terms of the will should still stand.

A point to note: your witnesses should never be a beneficiary under your will.

If you are unsure about whether  making an amendment to your will is going to be effective, then please do seek legal advice.  If you have any questions, Laura Sentkovsky in our private client team is always happy to assist laura@meaby.co.uk or 0207 703 5034.

Dealing with digital assets in wills and probate

The majority of the population now have a range of smart phone devices, laptops and social media accounts, all with their own passwords, and mostly containing digital records such as photographs and music.  Personal information is shared on “the cloud” and uploaded to a variety of different websites.  The question is how should these assets be dealt with upon death?

How do my executors deal with my digital assets?

The executors that you select in your Will have a duty to collect in the assets of the deceased’s estate.  It will therefore be necessary for the personal representatives to gather all the relevant information with regards to digital assets that you own.  Due to the increased use of protected digital information, we recommend that you leave a sealed envelope containing a list of your digital accounts, usernames and passwords, not to be opened until after your death.  Alternatively there are secure “digital lockers” which release such information to your nominated recipient after your death.

Is accessing such data online a breach?

Under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, an executor can be guilty of an offence if he accesses online accounts without authority.  Most online companies have explicit policies on what happens when someone dies, and it is recommended that these are reviewed.  For example, to access a PayPal account, where money may be held, a personal representative needs a cover letter, death certificate, grant of representation and photo ID.  Facebook have dealt with this by introducing a “Legacy” page where a person can be nominated to deal with your account after you die.  In any event we recommend that the grant of representation is obtained and the terms of the service provider reviewed before access is attempted.

What can be gifted under a will?

As a starting point, if a client has a lot of information contained electronically, then an appropriate clause can be added to their will to leave “digital assets” (including files and information stored online) either to a named individual, or to the executors with an accompanying memorandum of wishes.  Most digital assets can therefore be dealt with as if they were personal chattels.  However, bear in mind that a library of music or books contained on, for example iTunes or a Kindle, is merely a licence to use that information, and such property dies with the person who bought it.

What about creating a digital will?

Wills made in the United Kingdom must meet the requirements of Section 9 Wills Act 1837, which require it to be in writing and signed by two witnesses.  Although there has been some consultation on the introduction of a digital will, it is unlikely that this will change in the near future.

If you need any assistance with setting up a will or forming a trust, do not hesitate to contact Laura Sentkovsky or anyone in the Private Client team at Meaby & Co.

Blogs

I paid the second home stamp duty and I have now sold my previous main residence. How do I claim the SDLT refund due to me?

A claim will need to submitted to HMRC within 3 months of the completion date of the sale or within one year of the date on which the stamp duty was filed on the purchase whichever comes later. The form is completed online and submitted by post to HMRC. There will be certain information required in order for the claim to be submitted and this information can be provided by the conveyancers who acted for you at the time of the purchase.

HMRC aim to process the repayment within 15 working days from the date they receive all the information which is requested in the form. If the claim is unsuccessful, HMRC will issue a letter explaining the reasons why.

Here is a link to the claim form for stamp duty refunds, please visit HMRC website.

If you have any queries regarding any aspect of residential conveyancing, please contact Abu Valimahomed on 020 7703 5034 or email abu@meaby.co.uk

Ensuring your new property is adequately insured.

Most residential sale and purchase contracts incorporate the Standard Conditions of Sale (5th Edition). Under standard condition 5, the property is at the risk of the Buyer from the date of exchange of contracts. If you are purchasing a property where this standard condition applies and has not been varied in the contract, you must insure the property you intend to purchase before contracts are exchanged.

Here are a few points to note:-

  1. The insurance must cover the rebuild cost of the property. The rebuild cost is likely to be referred to in your mortgage valuation report or your private structural survey/homebuyer’s survey report.
  2. If you are buying the property with a mortgage, your mortgage lender’s interest should be noted on the policy.
  3. The mortgage conditions you receive from your mortgage lender may set out the standard risks which they expect to be covered under the insurance policy and may set out more specific further requirements. (Such as, a requirement that the excess payable on any claim for subsidence, ground heave or landslip under the policy must not exceed £1,000.)
  4. Your solicitor may ask to see a copy of your buildings insurance policy schedule to ensure there is cover in place which meets your mortgage lender’s requirements before contracts are exchanged.
  5. If you are purchasing a leasehold property where buildings insurance is arranged by a landlord or managing agent, your solicitor will request a copy of the buildings insurance policy schedule from the seller’s solicitor and you do not need to take any further action in respect of the buildings insurance however, please note that you will still need to arrange separate contents cover.
  6. If you are purchasing a new build property which has not been fully constructed at the time of exchange, it is likely that the contract will reflect that the risk in the property remains with the seller until legal completion.
  7. If you decide to carry out any extension or substantial renovation works following completion of your purchase, you should inform your insurance company of your plans before commencing work. The works you plan to carry out may invalid your standard buildings insurance cover. Your insurance company may need to amend your existing policy to take into account the intended works and update their records once the works have completed.

If you have any queries regarding any aspect of residential conveyancing, please contact Varsha Varsani on 020 7703 5034 or email vvarsani@meaby.co.uk

Divorce Reform

The family law world has welcomed news that the justice secretary, David Gauke is preparing a consultation on the reform of divorce law.

Currently, if couples who have not been separated for a minimum period of two years, wish to divorce, one of them must issue divorce proceedings against the other on the basis of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Details of the adultery or unreasonable behaviour have to be provided on the Divorce Petition.  This can often create hostility in a separation that was previously amicable.

In cases where the Petitioner (person initiating the proceedings) is unable to prove the adultery or unreasonable behaviour, it may mean that they are unable to obtain a divorce until they have been separated for two years, or even longer if their spouse will not consent to a divorce. This problem was brought to the fore in the recent Supreme Court case of Owens – v – Owens where Mrs Owens was denied a divorce as she was unable to prove that her husband’s behaviour was sufficiently serious to amount to unreasonable behaviour.

It is understood that the consultation will consider the introduction of no fault divorce, where neither party has to allege bad behaviour on the part of the other. We have been here before though. The Family Law Act 1996 provided for no fault divorce for couples who had attended preliminary information meetings. Unfortunately, this part of the legislation was never implemented.

Joanna Toloczko, Head of Family Law at Meaby & Co commented as follows:-

“In my view, it cannot be right in a twenty-first century secular society to prevent  two adults who no longer wish to be married to each other from divorcing, nor can it be ethical to force one of them to allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour against the other. The emphasis in family law these days is on helping couples to reach agreement and make their own decisions for the future but, if one of them is forced to make these allegations, it can often severely reduce the chances of this happening”.

For help on all family law matters, please contact Joanna at jtoloczko@meaby.co.uk or on 020 7703 5034.

 

 

What do I do if one of my employees raises a grievance?

The number of employment tribunal claims being issued by disgruntled employees is currently on the rise following the abolition of employment tribunal fees – declared unlawful last year.  Similarly this is also leading to an increase in the number of grievances being raised by employees in the workplace, sometimes as a prelude to issuing legal proceedings.

These days many employees are only too aware of their employment rights and their legal right to raise a formal grievance at work.    Employees are one click away on their laptop from finding out about such rights.

In simple language, a grievance is a complaint that can be raised by an employee at any time during the course of their employment.  A grievance can be about any aspect of the employment and can be about working conditions, pay and hours of work, and colleagues.

It is a statutory right for an employee to raise a grievance  and ACAS have issued guidance and a voluntary code of practice setting out the minimum requirements in implementing a fair grievance procedure.

Any failure to follow these ACAS minimum standards can result in an uplift in any employment tribunal compensatory award up to 25% if for example an unfair dismissal claim is issued by the employee and is successful.

It is also a legal requirement for all employers in the UK to set out their grievance procedure and to issue it to all employees.  Usually this forms the subject of written employment particulars or a contract of employment.

Here are some handy tips on how to successfully deal with any  grievance(s) issued by an employee and to ensure compliance with those minimum requirements:-

  1. If the grievance is minor then see if it can be dealt with informally without the need to go through any formal procedure.
  2. If it is not possible to deal with the grievance(s) informally then it will need to be treated formally. Ensure that you follow any written grievance policy that you have issued and that it is compliant with ACAS recommendations and that all managers are trained and are familiar with it.
  3. The employee needs to present their grievance(s) in writing and in full setting out the issues clearly and with any relevant examples.
  4. If you have the benefit of HR support then do include them in the process so that they can communicate with the employee and arrange the grievance meeting.
  5. As soon as the grievance is received the employer should investigate the matter and undertake a fact finding exercise to establish the full facts. If the grievance(s) involves other members of staff then they should be informed and given an opportunity to provide their own evidence.
  6. After the investigation the employer should invite the employee who raised the grievance to a grievance meeting. The employee should be given a full opportunity to expand on their grievance and to explain their complaint(s).  It is also important to ask the employee what they are seeking as a resolution to their grievance.  The meeting needs to be genuine and not a sham exercise.
  7. Remember that the employee is entitled to be accompanied at any grievance meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative even if the company does not recognise the trade union.
  8. After the grievance meeting the employer will need to go away and consider the evidence and information and whether to uphold or reject the employee’s grievance(s).
  9. Any decision should be communicated to the employee in writing with full reasons as soon as possible.
  10. If the grievance is upheld in full or in part then the employer needs to inform the employee what action it proposes to take and how it will be implemented in order to resolve the grievance.
  11. If the grievance is not upheld then the employee should be informed in the letter that there is a right of appeal.
  12. The employee should be given 5 or more working days to issue an appeal setting out their grounds of appeal in full and in writing to a named individual.
  13. Any appeal hearing should be dealt with by an independent and impartial senior manager not involved with the original decision. The appeal hearing should be in the form of a review not a rehearing, but can do so if there are any procedural flaws in the initial process.
  14. At the end of the appeal the employer will need to consider the issues and reach a decision. The decision and reasons need to be communicated to the employee in full and in writing.
  15. Arrange full minutes of the grievance and appeal meetings as evidence and place on the employee’s HR file. Remember to provide the employee with copies of the minutes.

If Employers follow these guidelines then they will be able to successfully handle a grievance and hopefully minimise any legal exposure in the event that the complaint ends up in the employment tribunal.

If you require any advice on issuing and implementing a grievance policy then contact Steven Eckett our Head of Employment and Senior Associate.  seckett@meaby.co.uk