Wheelchair Skills Training

MW Solicitors Ltd are extremely proud to have become the principal sponsors of the Back Up Trust Wheelchair Skills Programme.

Joining Forces to Help Spinal Injury Survivors Rebuild Their Lives

Every day three people sustain a spinal cord injury, through accident or illness and at MW our expert Personal Injury solicitors represent many clients with vital legal assistance throughout the personal injury claim process.  We are acutely aware of the tremendous resources provided by Back Up through wheelchair skills training, peer support and vocational rehabilitation. 

In addition to providing financial support for these vital services, we will also be providing hands on support in the form of volunteer assistants who will attend each and every wheelchair skills training session throughout the UK.

About Back Up

Back Up was founded in 1986 by the former British and European Freestyle Champion and James Bond stunt double Mike Nemesvary, whose life was devastated when he broke his neck during a training session. Despite being paralysed from the shoulders down, Mike was determined to get back to the life he enjoyed.  Back Up was initially set up to offer ski courses for those affected by spinal cord injury. Over the years, Back Up has expanded its services to challenge and empower people to get ‘back up’ to a place they were at before their accident.

Back Up exists to inspire independence in anyone affected by spinal cord injury and to encourage everyone to get the most from their lives.  They work with people of all ages, from young children to the elderly, whatever the motivation or background.    

Back Up relies on a vital family of volunteers, mentors and skilled professionals, who provide unrivalled support and enthusiasm and who help deliver services that rebuild confidence and self-belief. 

About MW Solicitors

At MW, our mission is "to make quality legal services accessible to everyone" and we aim to support clients throughout their lives with our teams of skilled, experienced lawyers. 

If you have experienced a no fault injury MW can provide pro-bono or discounted assistance, whatever your legal needs.  Where your injury has been caused by someone else’s negligence we have a specialist serious injury and medical negligence team with decades of experience acting for the most seriously injured in the UK and abroad.  After suffering a life changing injury we believe rehabilitation in all its forms is key.  We have case managers who can assist with practical issues from the start and then we are with you and those that rely on and care for you throughout the course of your claim and beyond.

If you or a loved one have suffered a Spinal Injury and would like to know more about how we can support you through your rehabilitation and through the claims process, call our expert Personal Injury team on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk 

 

Tending an Eledely Relative

Sharon Bell, Partner and a member of MWs Estate and Trust Dispute Team outlines the role of the Court of Protection and the circumstances when a Statutory Will may be necessary.

Statutory Wills and the Role of the Court of Protection


Sharon Leanne Bell
Sharon Leanne Bell
Partner & Acting Head of Estate & Trust Disputes

Statutory Wills are made by the Court of Protection. The Court of Protection is a specialist court set up to protect the interests of those who cannot make financial and welfare decisions for themselves because they lack mental capacity. 

A person who lacks mental capacity, by definition, is not in a position to make a Will or make any amendments to their existing Will. However, if the making of a Will or an amendment to any Will is considered necessary then the only way someone can make a Will on behalf of a person who lacks capacity is by making an application to the Court of Protection for a Statutory Will.

A Statutory Will may be considered necessary if:

  • the person making a Will has never made one before
  • the estate has increased in value and tax planning is required
  • the estate has decreased in value
  • a beneficiary has received a substantial gifts and the will should be adjusted
  • a beneficiary (or beneficiaries) under an existing will has passed away.

The Court of Protection is most likely to allow a Statutory Will if the person who lacks capacity has never made a Will or there has been a significant change in their circumstances.

The Court will consider whether or not it is in the vulnerable person’s “best interests” for a Statutory Will to be made. It is usual that the Official Solicitor will be appointed as an independent party to represent the interests of a vulnerable person.

The Court will always try to encourage the vulnerable person to be a participant in the proceedings if possible and the court will look at the criteria laid down in Section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 as to deciding what is in the vulnerable person’s best interests. The court will look at:

  • past and present wishes and in particular any previous testamentary wishes that may have been made when the vulnerable person had capacity
  • the beliefs and values that would be likely to influence the vulnerable person’s decision if they had capacity
  • other factors that the vulnerable person would be likely to consider if they were able to do so.

The court will also take into account how the vulnerable person may wish to be remembered after their death. It is arguably in their best interests that they are remembered with fond memories and affection.

Every case will be different and the court has a wide discretion as no one factor in the Section 4 criteria will outweigh any other. The court just has to be satisfied that the making of a Statutory Will is in the best interests of the vulnerable person.

We Can Help

At MW, Our Mission is “to make quality legal services accessible to everyone” including those who lack the capacity to act for themselves.  Our Specialist Estate & Trust Dispute Team have extensive experience handling Statutory Will applications.

If you would like more information on  a Statutory Will could be in the best interests of a family member who lacks capacity then take advantage of our FREE CASE REVIEW; call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk

hmrc

Solicitor and member of MW's Estate and Trust Dispute Team, Jane Flaherty, discusses the Governments recently announced plans to increase probate fees.

Background

On 18th February 2016 the Government launched the Consultation - Fee Proposals for Grants of Probate canvassing public and professional opinion regarding an increase in fees when making an application for a Grant of Probate.

As a general rule, any estate which includes property requires a Grant of Probate,  and most estates with shares require a grant of probate.  The current fee is £155 where you obtain a grant through a solicitor and £215 where a personal application is made.  Where an estate is below £5000 there is no fee.

The Result of the Consultation

Despite an astounding 97.5% of respondents expressing that they were against the proposed increases, the Government has announced its intention to proceed with its plans to increase the fees at some point in May 2017. 

A date has not yet been set and any changes which come into force will effect applications in accordance with the date the application is lodged with the probate office and not by date of death. 

What are the New Charges?

The fees will be charged in accordance to the size of the estate as follows:

Value of estate (before Inheritance tax)  Proposed fee
 Up to £50,000  £0
 Over £50,000 but under £300,000  £300
 Over £3000,000 and up to £500,000  £1,000
 Over £500,000 and up to £1 million  £4,000
 Over £1 million up to £1.6 million  £8,000
 Over £1.6 million up to £2 million  £12,000
 Over £2 million  £20,000

 

The government claim that the majority of estates, those being valued at less than £50,000, will not be charged at all.  In practice, most estates valued in that threshold do not include property and therefore would not require a Grant of Probate in any event.

The reality of the changes to costs is that most estates requiring a grant will see a huge increase in the probate fees.  Beneficiaries will see costs escalate sharply between £300 and £20,000 despite there being no link between the value of the estate and the amount of work involved.

A really good analogy that has been put forward is to consider the cost of a passport.  We all pay the same price for a passport because the same amount of admin is required for each application.  Could you imagine the uproar if passport costs were based on each applicant's income?

When do The Charges Come into Force?

We have been informed that the changes will be in force in May 2017. The probate registry is set to raise £300 million pounds of revenue to support the costs of the wider Court and Tribunal services.  The increases are being labelled as ‘stealth tax’ or a ‘death tax.’

Whereas the Office of the Public Guardian announced that their fees are going to be reduced from April 2017.

The cost to register a single lasting power of attorney or enduring power of attorney will fall from £110 to £82 pounds.  The reason given for this reduction is that due to the increased amount of applications it is receiving it does not need to charge as much per application to be fully self funding.  

What are the main objections to the proposals?

  1. The fees are disproportionate to the cost to the Court in providing the probate service.

  2. The cost to the Court does not vary depending upon the size of the estate. The same amount of work is required for most matters.

  3. The cost does not take into account any inheritance tax that also has to be paid.  It is based on the gross estate.

  4. There will be no exemptions to this charge, whereas there are exemptions in place for estates passing to the surviving spouse or to charity or where the estate qualifies for business or agricultural relief. When you consider the value of property, particularly in areas such as London, some estates may be asset rich but cash poor and may have difficulty paying the probate fee.  Families that hold their property as tenants in common because they want to provide for children from a previous marriage or want to ring fence the amount of capital going towards care fees may find themselves in financial difficulty.

  5. Solicitors will not be able to fund this payment for clients and that might lead to executors having to take out bridging loans, particularly if there are insufficient funds in cash to cover the cost.

  6. The legal profession feels that this is another form of death tax

  7. People may make unwise decisions about their assets, without seeking advice, to prevent the probate fees.

  8. Unscrupulous companies may miss sell products to vulnerable clients on the basis of probate avoidance. Such companies don’t give advice in the whole to enable you to make an informed decision as to whether their products are in your best interests because they are sales people not professional advisors.

Let the Government Know What You Think

We believe that parliament should reject this unreasonable tax by the back door and start again in its consideration of increasing the probate fees.

To sign the petition please click on the link below https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/188175

 

dna

Kristi Ashworth, Trainee Legal Executive in the Estate and Trust Dispute Team discusses how paternity tests play a role in Inheritance claims.

DNA Tests are not just for Criminal Cases

Thanks to great crime dramas, it seems that we are all familiar with DNA and have some idea of how it works.  Questions of paternity can often arise after someone dies, and frequently do when there is a child or other relative claiming to be entitled to  a share of the deceased’s Estate.  What you may not know, are the different types of DNA tests that are available to help determine parentage and other familial relationships.

If your paternity, or that of other family relations, is being disputed there are several DNA tests that can be undertaken which could assist with your claim and thus help you succeed in securing your rightful inheritance as follows:

  • Maternity DNA test
  • Grandparent DNA test
  • Sibling (full sibling or half sibling) DNA test
  • Aunt/Uncle DNA test
  • Y-STR Genetic Test (or Y-Chromosome DNA test)  - males only, to show male lineage

Painless Procedure

DNA tests are painless and can be undertaken using saliva swabs or hair samples; blood tests are not necessary.  If other family members who could participate in DNA testing refuse, it may be possible to ask the Court to make an adverse inference (that the DNA test is likely to result in your favour) as a result of that refusal or, in extreme circumstances, it can be arranged for DNA samples to be taken from the remains of the Deceased.

Scientific Advances

A Y-Chromosome test is a much more recent development in the science of DNA testing which can be used as an alternative to the more traditional options listed above if you have male heirs in the family willing to participate in a test to assist your case. It can also be performed in conjunction with one or other of the more traditional tests to support the findings. The Y-Chromosome test doesn’t show direct paternity but it shows with certainty whether two individuals share the same male lineage – which can amount to the same thing if you are sure, for example, that a grandfather or uncle couldn’t be the father.

If family members continue in their refusal to accept the result of the test(s) then an application to the Court can be made for a Declaration of Parentage under section 55A of the Family Law Act 1986 which is binding on all institutions, and thus would bind a Personal Representative of an Estate to distribute inheritance according to the findings of the Court as to your paternity.

The Pringle Baronets of Stichill

In the very interesting case of the Baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill (referral under section 4 of the Judicial Committee Act 1833)[2016] UKPC 16, the Privy Council considered the reliability of a Y-Chromosome DNA test to determine the rightful heir to the Baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill. Although decided in the context of Scottish law the Privy Council made clear throughout the judgment that the outcome would have been no different under English law.

In this case, there were two claimants, Simon Robert Pringle (“Simon”) and Norman Murray Archibald MacGregor Pringle (“Murray).  Each maintained that he was the rightful heir to the Baronetcy.  Following a Y-Chromosome test (which was conducted for unrelated reasons), the results showed that the profile of Simon’s father Steuart (and his brother) did not match that of the profiles for Murray and all of the other male heirs tested in the family.  As such, Murray claimed that Simon was not the rightful heir because Simon’s grandfather Norman (who was enrolled as the ninth baronet) was not the son of the eighth baronet. This meant that the baronetcy had, up to that point, passed down incorrectly to unrelated males since the 8th baronet. Murray claimed that his father was the rightful male heir of the first baronet (the test for enrolment as the current baronet) and, as a result, upon his father’s death it was Murray who was now the male heir of the first baronet.

Confused?

The diagram below illustrates the male lineage of the Pringle family.

 The Baronets of Pringle of Stichill

The Result

The Court accepted expert evidence presented at trial as to the accuracy of Y-Chromosome testing and ruled that the DNA test showed a “high degree of probability” that Norman H Pringle, was not the son of the eighth baronet.  On 27th June 2016 Sir Ronald Steuart Pringle and his son Sir Norman Murray Pringle were admitted onto the Official Roll of the Baronetage, as the rightful 9th and 10th Baronets of Stichill respectively.

The case confirms that the Court will accept the reliability of Y-Chromosome DNA testing (even in the absence of other forms of DNA testing) to make an order relating to an inheritance.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is “to make quality legal services accessible to everyone” ” including those who seek to prove their entitlement to an inheritance via DNA tests.

Our specialist Estate & Trust Dispute Team are currently assisting several clients in relation to inheritance claims where parentage is being disputed. If you would like more detailed advice on whether a DNA Test and a Declaration of Parentage could help you with your inheritance or would like to take advantage of our FREE CASE REVIEW, call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

confused

In the recent High Court case of Seery v Leathes Prior (A Firm) Judge Sir David Eadya judge has thrown out a professional negligence claim lodged against a law firm by a former client.


Dan Carter
Dan Carter
Partner & Head of Professional Negligence

On the 24th January 2017, the Judge said "he had ‘no alternative’ but to dismiss the claim, brought by the former client against a full-services firm".

The claim

The former client brought the claim against the firm after a settlement agreement that stemmed from a dispute with two colleagues.

Among the claims made by the Claimant was that the Solicitor with conduct of the matter could have encouraged litigation, which might have led to a more favourable outcome.  However, the judgment said that although the option would have been considered by the firm, it would have been ‘a costly, acrimonious, long-drawn-out fight’, which was exactly what the former client wanted to avoid.

Why the claim failed

The Court said there was no evidence that the former client would have received a better outcome had he been encouraged to sue.

Importantly, the former client also suggested that he had suffered from stress and was unable to take on board the legal advice he was given, in particular, that which he had previously received from his former Solicitors (which pre-dated the defendant firm).

However, the Court said the former client did not tell his Solicitor at the time that he did not understand the advice and that much of the advice was in writing and could have been re-read at any time.

He added that a Solicitor will have fulfilled his duty of care to his client if he gives an explanation in terms the client reasonably appears to him to be able to understand, and to have understood, even if the client later alleges that he did not in fact understand what was said.

Concluding, the Court said that there was nothing to be gained by exploring the case on contributory negligence by the former client, or entering further into the arguments about expert evidence, an exercise which would have been in its view too speculative to have been of much practical use anyway.  The Court added that the former client received a ‘very good service from the firm in the difficult circumstances in which he found himself’.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is  is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" and we strive to ensure that clients have complete understanding of what can in some cases be complicated advice.  A client who does not understand the advice given to them will place themselves at risk in litigation in particular.

If you or anyone you know has received advice on a critical matter that they have not understood or has left them confused, call our specialist professional negligence lawyers today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

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