Help for Domestic Abuse – Life in Lockdown

Answers by Sarah Perkins

Sometimes the more difficult something is to talk about, the more important it is that we do. At CJCH, we aim to be as accessible and supportive as we can be, and to assist our clients in their times of need.

Disturbingly, domestic abuse cases have increased over the coronavirus lockdown period, but the team at Women’s Aid said it best when referring to their recent survey  that “Covid-19 does not cause domestic abuse, only abusers are responsible for their actions.”  However, they found that 76.1% of survey takers said they were having to spend more time with their abusers, and a number of those already experiencing abuse reported that the abuse had become worse during this time (via Womanaid.org.uk).

Our head of Family and Matrimonial Law team, Sarah Perkins, recently participated in the Law Society’s twitter forum (Solicitor Chat) on Domestic Abuse. We wanted to share this information with everyone in the hopes that it could help more people. Before we outline the legal aspects to consider we wanted to remind you that if you or someone you know is in danger, or being abused, there are support organisations in place to assist you:

      • Emergency: 999 You are always able to contact the police for assistance
      • Refuge: 0808 2000 247 (The National Abuse helpline)
      • Women’s Aid (online support options)
      • Atal Y Fro: 01446 744755 (immediate help in Wales)

Q1: How can a solicitor help victims of domestic abuse during the Coronavirus pandemic?

Sarah’s Feedback: Although many offices may be closed during this pandemic, we as solicitors are still very much available and working to assist victims of domestic abuse.  We are offering virtual consultations by way of telephone or video calling applications and are contactable by email.  Depending on an individual’s situation, we can make applications to the Court for Non-Molestation Orders and Occupations Orders on an emergency basis.  We are also able to provide contact details for and assist in putting an individual in touch with Domestic Violence Agencies and other vital support services in their local area.

Q2. What are occupation orders and non-molestation orders and how can they help to protect someone suffering from domestic abuse?

Sarah’s Feedback: Both Orders are key in helping to protect victims of domestic violence, including individuals and any relevant children who are considered to be at risk. Relevant children are children under the age of 18 years who live with or are expected to live with either party or who are the subjects of any Family Court Proceedings linked to the application or any other child whose interests the Court deems relevant.

A Non-Molestation Order is a protective order and its aim is to clearly set out what a person must not do to another.  An Order can prohibit a person from using or threatening physical violence and from harassing, pestering or intimidating the Applicant.  Non-Molestation Orders can be very specific and prohibit a person from entering a certain area, for example, the street in which the Applicant lives or their place of work.  It can also specifically set out that a person must not contact the Applicant or encourage anyone else to do so on their behalf, either directly or indirectly via telephone, text message, email and other social media platforms.

The Court must be satisfied that the Applicant and any named relevant children would be at risk if an order were not made and that the health, safety and well-being of the Applicant and any relevant children require the making of an Order.

Non-Molestation Orders are made for a specified period of time, usually 6 months.  An application can be made to the Court towards the end of that term should further protection be required.

An Occupation Order allows the Court to decide who should live, or not live, in the home or any part of it. The Respondent could effectively be required to leave the home because of his/her violence or behaviour towards the Applicant or the effect that his/her presence is having on the children. When deciding whether or not to make an Occupation Order, the Court must consider all the circumstances, including:

      • The housing needs and housing resources of each of the parties and of any relevant child;
      • The financial resources of each of the parties;
      • The likely effect of any Order (or of any decision by the Court not to exercise its powers) on the health, safety or well-being of the parties and of any relevant child;
      • The conduct of the parties in relation to each other, and:
          • Whether the Applicant or any relevant child is likely to suffer significant harm attributable to the conduct of the Respondent, and;
          • Whether the harm likely to be suffered by the Respondent or any relevant child if the provision is included is as great or greater than the harm attributable to the conduct of the Respondent which is likely to be suffered by the Applicant or any relevant child if the provision is not included.

An Occupation Order can also include arrangements for payment of the mortgage and/or utilities relating to the property for a fixed period of time.

Q3: What happens if someone breaks the rules of an injunction or order?

Sarah’s Feedback: Breach of a Non-Molestation Order is a criminal offence and should be reported to the Police immediately.  The person in breach of the Order can be immediately arrested and if found guilty of the offence could face up to five years in prison.  Alternatively, an application could be made to the Family Court that made the order, to have the Respondent for contempt and arrested and / or punished.  If the Respondent is found to have breached the order they may be sent to prison, fined or be given a suspended sentence of imprisonment. The Family Court does not, however, have the range of sentencing powers that criminal courts have.

If a power of arrest has been included in an Occupation Order, Police can arrest.  Otherwise, breach of an Occupation Order is contempt of court and an application should be made to the Family Court that made the order, as set out above.

Q4: What is the application process for an injunction or order and how can a solicitor help?

Sarah’s Feedback: In order to apply for a non-molestation or occupation order you must be associated to the Respondent. You are associated if you and the Respondent:

      • are or were ever married or engaged to be married
      • are or were ever in a civil partnership or had agreed to form a civil partnership
      • are or were living together (this includes same-sex and opposite-sex couples)
      • live or have lived in the same household, for example as a flatshare (but not as a tenant, boarder, lodger or employee)
      • are relatives including parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews or first cousins (whether by blood, marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation)
      • have a child together or have or had parental responsibility for the same child
      • are parties to the same family proceedings for the same child
      • are or were in an intimate personal relationship of significant duration

There are two ways of obtaining a Non-Molestation Order, “without notice” and “on notice”.  “Without notice” applications are emergency applications in cases where the risk is imminent or there is a real risk that the Respondent will cause you further harm if he or she were to know that you were applying for an Order.  There is no Court Fee payable on application

A standard application form (FL401) must be completed together with a  witness statement giving details of your relationship, any relevant children, past history of violence and the events which led you to make the application. The statement should also set out what you want the order to do. The documents are filed at Court.  If the application is “without notice” then the first hearing will take place almost immediately without the Respondent’s knowledge and an interim Order can be made with arrangements for a return hearing usually within a week or so.  Both parties attend the return hearing which gives an opportunity for the Court to review the position and ascertain whether or not the Respondent wishes to challenge the Order.  The Order must be personally served upon the Respondent and will only be effective and enforceable once served.  In the event that the Respondent wishes to challenge then the Court will make various directions for further documentation and set the matter down for a Contested Final Hearing at which both parties will be expected to give evidence, following which Final Orders will be made.

If the application is not considered to be an emergency application then the same application form and statement is filed at Court but both parties are informed of the Hearing date and the Respondent is served with the application in advance of the hearing taking place.

Solicitors will be able to provide advice to ensure that you are entitled to make the application, advise upon your prospects of success, that the correct applications are being made following the correct procedures.  We will complete the Application and prepare the witness statement, file the application and Court and represent you at the hearing.  Where necessary, we would arrange service of the Orders.

Q5: What Legal Aid is available for domestic abuse victims?

Sarah’s Feedback: Legal Aid is available for domestic abuse victims however, subject to a means and merits test, criteria set by the legal aid agency.  An individual’s financial circumstances require assessment.

If you need help, or would just like to discuss your options, contact the CJCH Family and Matrimonial Law team, full contact details here.

 

Mental Health Awareness Week: Unlocking lockdown

By Sarah Newport

We hope that our clients and their families are all keeping safe and well during the coronavirus crisis.

Sarah Newport

The Court of Protection team here at CJCH have been busy during the lockdown, continuing to represent vulnerable individuals and their families. We have been on hand to assist in ‘unlocking the lockdown’ to guide our clients through the emergent impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

There has been guidance coming from all directions across the legal, medical, and community care professions. All of which have been insightful and helpful, but can be daunting for an individual to review and understand. Our team has been keeping on top of the guidance to break vast amounts of information down to the crucial issues for our clients.

We are proud to have supported Mental Health Awareness week, seeing the initiative remain at full strength is a pleasure. It is important now more than ever that the promotion of mental health support is as prevalent as possible.

Lockdown and the rights of the individual

We are all feeling the effects of the lockdown and the separation from loved ones. However, the coronavirus has unfortunately impacted vulnerable individuals and those lacking mental capacity to a disproportionate degree.

Our team has been keeping a keen eye on ensuring that our vulnerable clients are not being inappropriately subjected to ‘blanket policies’ in care settings, whether it be in a hospital, care home, or supported living placements.

We have taken a strong stance in reminding public bodies of their duties in taking a person-centred approach.

We have been advocating strongly for family contact to be maintained in whatever creative, but safe, way possible. We have enjoyed checking in with our lovely clients via platforms such as Skype or Zoom and we appreciate the occasional guest star when pets or children make an appearance!

Question: What can I do if I have concerns about a person who lacks mental capacity?

It cannot be emphasised enough that the protection offered by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 prevails. The principles of the legislation and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLs) remain unchanged during the pandemic. Groups of individuals who lack capacity cannot be treated the same, restrictions must be considered on a person by person basis.

If somebody is deprived of their liberty under a ‘DoLs’, any greater restriction during the pandemic must be lawfully authorised. The relevant public body must conduct an appropriate review.

If there is any dispute about a person’s best interests, an application to the Court of Protection remains the appropriate route to resolve this. The Court of Protection has adapted to lockdown quickly and efficiently with cases are being heard remotely every day.

If you are worried about a vulnerable person at this time, the CJCH Court of Protection team is available to assist, click here for our contact information. CJCH Here for you. 

Lockdown Justice – Family and Children matters

By Sally Perrett

On the 23rd of March, we went into lockdown procedures for our own safety and the safety of our community, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, at the end of our 8th week of “stay at home” precautions, we face a minimum of two more weeks at home, followed by a period of uncertainty as we adjust to the “new normal”.

Sally Perrett

The lockdown has not been easy for anyone, and we have seen tremendous acts of selflessness and dedication from our various key workers who have stepped up and kept our essential services functioning. Thank you to all of you.

All through this period, our clients at CJCH Solicitors have continued to need assistance in matters relating to various family and childcare scenarios.

How, for example, do separated partners with shared custody of their children make arrangements for access to their children, or seek enforcement of their rights? In a Covid-19 world, these are not easy situations and take a new way of thinking to address.

That said, we continue to be here for you, the courts are still proceeding with hearings and cases are still being resolved. Today, Sally Perrett answer some of your questions in the hopes that this assists others with their concerns, Q&A below.

Sally is a senior solicitor at CJCH, and is the head of our Childcare Law department, bringing years of specialist experience to advise her clients on these often difficult situations.

Q: Are the courts still functioning, will my legal matter be heard during lock down?

Sally Says:

The Family Courts are still operating, and so far we have seen cases already listed taking place as normal albeit ‘remotely’ by way of telephone hearing or video meeting.  New applications can still be made but may take longer to be listed as emergency applications are being prioritised.

Q: I have custody of my children and my ex would like to see them/have them visit. Can I allow this?

Sally Says:

The Government has issued specific rules on staying at home and away from others, ‘The Stay at Home Rules’. Guidance has been issued alongside these rules specifically dealing with child contact arrangements “ where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes”.

This does not mean that children must be moved between homes. The decision whether a child is to be moved between parents and homes is ultimately a decision for the parents following a sensible assessment of the circumstances, including the child’s present health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other.

Q: My ex has custody of our children and is refusing me access. What do I do?

Sally Says:

If you have a Court-Ordered Child Arrangements Order in place and a breach of the child arrangement order occurs there is the option of applying to the Court to have the order enforced, however, there is a strain on Court services currently and your application may not be dealt with urgently unless there is a child protection concern. The Court is unlikely to make an order for enforcement if it is satisfied that the parent refusing access had a reasonable reason not to adhere to the child arrangements order. 

That being said the Courts are aware that parents could potentially use the current situation to frustrate arrangements that have previously been Court ordered and it is, therefore, possible that a sanction could be issued. 

Q: I think my neighbours are abusing their child/children. What do I do?

Sally Says:

You should contact your local Children’s Services department who will investigate the situation further. You can do this by contacting your Local Authority’s general number and asking to be put forward to Children’s Services to make a referral. You will then be put through to the duty team. You can choose to remain anonymous if you wish to do so. Some Local Authorities are giving out an email address to contact so you may want to contact the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) on 0808 800 500 who will make the referral to your local Children’s Services department for you. If you think it is an emergency situation and a child is at immediate physical risk, contact the police.

 

For more information, or to arrange a consultation, please contact our  Family and Childcare team. Contact information provided here.

 

 

 

 

24 March 2020 – Update on Corona Virus status

As we posted recently the CJCH team will continue to support our clients where possible to do so, however, we have now closed our offices as per the guidelines regarding the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. Even though our offices are shut for the time being, for your health and safety and ours, we will continue to provide our services as far as possible if needed.

Our telephone lines are still open, and you can reach us at:

  1. Cardiff: 02920 483 181
  2. Barry: 01446 420 043
  3. Bridgend: 01656 457 466
  4. Blackwood: 01495 227 128

Our emergency 24-hour line: 07967 305 949

 

And you can reach our direct departments via our email contacts:

  1. Residential property, Wills, and Estates: privateclients@cjch.co.uk
  2. Family, Matrimonial, Divorce, and Childcare: family@cjch.co.uk
  3. Mental Health Law, Deprivation of Liberties, and Court of Protection: mentalhealth@cjch.co.uk
  4. Criminal Defence Law: criminal@cjch.co.uk
  5. Commercial Property, Litigation, Employment, and Corporate Law: commercial@cjch.co.uk
  6. General Enquiries: admin@cjch.co.uk

The CJCH team will continue to help all our clients across childcare, family, mental health, court of protection, deprivation of liberties, wills and estates, property, commercial, criminal defence, and intellectual property matters wherever physically possible to do so. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Stay safe all – CJCH Team

Here for you – CJCH Solicitors to continue providing services for clients

The CJCH team are monitoring the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation closely and are adhering to the guidelines put in place by the government and public health authorities. The personal health and wellbeing of our staff, clients, and the communities in which we operate are of the utmost importance to us, and we will continue to do everything in our power to reduce risk where possible.

Currently, CJCH is operating as per usual, albeit with heightened protective measures. We wanted to provide an update of additional precautions we have put in place as part of our business continuity plan. 

We are asking staff and clients to minimise the needs for in-person meetings over this period and to use other options (outlined below) to correspond with clients where possible. We are also asking staff, clients, and visitors not to shakes hands or come into any form of personal contact with each other where avoidable.

Our staff will ensure they are fit and healthy when they come to work and perform their duties, and will self-isolate if they feel unwell prior to coming to work, as per the symptoms outlined by the Government and Department of Health.

We always promote a healthy work environment with high standards of hygiene, and to address the seriousness of this situation we have increased our hygiene precautions further. All four of our offices have anti-bacterial soap and other hygiene amenities required, and staff have been briefed to wash their hands regularly, reduce personal contact, and sanitise their work stations.

We understand that the services we provide can be critical to the wellbeing of our clients and their livelihoods, and we, therefore, commit to continue to provide these services in any format that is safe and reduces possible risk to all involved. As such, with immediate effect we are offering our clients the following options to replace in-person meetings:

  • Video conference meetings – our team have the facilities for Skype, FaceTime, Whereby Meetings, MS Teams, Google+ Hangouts, and Zoom. They will set up a video meeting with you and assist you with the details if you are not familiar with these services or try to accommodate another format you are more comfortable with.
  • As always, you have the option of conference call/telephone discussions with your solicitor. Please see a full list of our contact numbers at the end of this message.
  • Email support for your matters – please find the list of departmental contact details at the end of this message.

If we are required to close one, or all, of our offices for whatever reason, we will endeavour to continue to provide our services to our clients in any reasonable format, and to the professional standards, our clients are used to. We will monitor the operations of the courts, tribunals, and other related organisations to advise clients of any impacts or delays to their matters where possible.

For more information and advice on COVID-19, please follow this link from the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

CJCH Direct contact numbers:

  1. Cardiff Head office: +44 (0) 29 2048 3181
  2. Barry Office +44 (0) 14 4642 0043
  3. Bridgend Office +44 (0) 16 5645 7466
  4. Blackwood office +44 (0) 1495 227 128
  5. 24 Hour emergency line : +44 (0) 7967 305949

CJCH Department direct contact emails:

  1. Residential property, Wills, and Estates: privateclients@cjch.co.uk
  2. Family, Matrimonial, Divorce, and Childcare: family@cjch.co.uk
  3. Mental Health Law, Deprivation of Liberties, and Court of Protection: mentalhealth@cjch.co.uk
  4. Criminal Defence Law: criminal@cjch.co.uk
  5. Commercial Property, Litigation, Employment, and Corporate Law: commercial@cjch.co.uk
  6. General Enquiries: admin@cjch.co.uk

CJCH Solicitors will always operate with our staff and client’s best interests at heart, and we are positive we will be able to continue to support you during these uncertain times.

All work-related travel is put on hold for our staff, including locally to major cities such as London. We are also asking staff to reduce persona travel and to inform us of any personal travel they have planned to allow us to assess the impact.  

Please do everything possible to ensure your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you. 

International Women’s Day – Celebrating the Women at CJCH

In support of International Women’s Day 2020, we interviewed Fuen, Allison, Sally and Rebecca from our Cardiff, Blackwood, Barry and Bridgend offices to talk about why it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day and how we can achieve gender equality in the legal profession.

Why is it important to celebrate International Women’s Day?

It is important to celebrate National Women’s Day to honour the achievements of women throughout history. We must celebrate the part they have played in minimising discrimination against women and increasing their access to rights enjoyed by men. But also to celebrate women of all backgrounds, ages and cultures coming together for one cause, to strengthen and empower women.

What woman inspires you the most?

A woman who inspired me was Princess Diana. Marrying into the Royal Family gave her a life of material luxury which she could have enjoyed without a care in the world. However, she took it upon herself to use her celebrity status to help as many people as possible. She raised awareness of humanitarian issues. She worked tired for charities and her selfless attitude can be summed up by one of her most famous quotes “Anywhere I see suffering, that is where I want to be doing what I can” She used her immense influence to shine a light on forgotten causes.

What can we do to achieve equality in the legal profession? 

Whilst we have undoubtedly made progress over the years, we are still not where we need to be. The three main things the legal profession should focus on is closing the gender pay gap, raising awareness of unconscious biases and making work more flexible around family obligations.

I think generally women need to support other women. Whilst this might be a cultural problem, employers definitely play their part. I’m glad that CJCH encourages a culture of female employees supporting and empowering each other.

Have you encountered any challenges as a woman in your career?

Yes, however, they are more than visible challenges. Most of them are not obvious and they have more to do with the way in which women are educated and the constrained expectations society has on us. For example, because of this subtle, often unnoticed sexism, women tend to second guess their own judgement, seek external validation or moderate their speech in professional settings. For example, saying “If I may…”, “maybe…”, “perhaps…” before interjecting in a conversation, which is observed less in male colleagues. On a personal note, I have reflected and worked on this, and I invite all women to not let this “invisible” sexism to undermine their true potential.

There are “visible” challenges society still must overcome in order to achieve real equality, one of the biggest being the impact of parenthood on women’s careers, compared to the small impact it usually has on men.

What does women’s empowerment mean to you?

To me, women’s empowerment means nonconformism with injustice and one’s capability to get rid of artificially imposed behaviours.

What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women in your profession?

Starting a family and striking a balance between children and work is challenging, although this is not limited to the legal profession.

There is pressure on returning to work to enable career progression. Although shared maternity/paternity is available, the perception is still that the mother should take the time off.

Ultimately, there is the added pressure that this will impact on career development and advancement.

On international women’s day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about a career? (Or Career in Law)

I am fortunate enough to work in a firm where there is no gender bias, indeed we have an equal split of male and female senior partners, giving me the same opportunity to progress along with my male colleagues.

The historic misconception of gender imbalance has long since passed in most professions and regardless of your choice of profession, I would encourage women to pursue their chosen career and set aside any fears of being overlooked by men.

International Women’s Day & The Equality Act

As International Women’s Day approaches, it is a time to reflect and celebrate the amazing accomplishments of women around the world and how far we have come in advancing the rights of women.

However, it is also a time to refocus on what needs to be done in order to achieve gender equality here in the United Kingdom and around the world.

With this in mind, CJCH’s trainee solicitor, Charlotte Bardet, examines gender equality in the workplace in relation to the Equality Act 2010. In addition to how the legal profession can improve its record on the pay gap, hiring practices and on work/life balance to help reach full gender equality.

What is The Equality Act 2010 and how does it impact the workplace?

The Equality Act 2010 is an Act of Parliament that consolidated and updated over 116 pieces of prior legislation relating to anti-discrimination law in Great Britain (Act does not apply to Northern Ireland) into one single Act.

Prior Acts included: Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Act protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation in employment, and as users of private and public services based on nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

What is classed as gender discrimination? What are the differences between direct and indirect discrimination?

Under the Equality Act 2010, you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you are (or are not) a particular sex;
  • someone thinks you are the opposite sex (discrimination by perception);
  • you are connected to someone of a particular sex (discrimination by association).

Sex can mean either male or female, or a group of people like men or boys, or women or girls. This can be a one-off action or caused by a rule/policy. Importantly, it does not have to be intentional – someone may discriminate without realising it or meaning to.

There are four main types of gender/sex discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination – treating someone less favourably because of their sex than someone of the opposite sex would be treated in the same circumstances.
  • Indirect discrimination – when an organisation has a rule, policy or practice which applies in the same way to both sexes but which places someone of a particular sex at a disadvantage to the opposite sex.
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

There are some exceptions that allow employers or organisations to discriminate because of your sex, including if it is an occupational requirement or if the organisation is taking positive action.

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against in your workplace because of your gender, what can you do

Firstly, complain/speak directly to your employer first to try and sort out the problem informally. Secondly, if the matter cannot be settled informally, talk to Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), Citizens Advice or a trade union representative.

Use mediation or alternative dispute resolution to try and settle the matter out of court. Finally, seek legal advice and potentially take a claim to the Employment Tribunal for discrimination.

 What are the main things employers can do to build a gender-equal workplace?

  • Train staff, and team managers in particular, how to identify discrimination when it takes place, how to deal with it and how to prevent it from happening again.
  • Ensure that both genders are treated fairly and equally in recruitment, training, hiring and promotion
  • Reassess job specifications for senior management positions and identify what barriers have been constructed which prevents either sex from filling them.
  • Remove the gender pay gap and be transparent about pay. Each position should have a pay bracket that outlines the salary for that role.
  • Prioritise a work-life balance and allow for flexible work arrangements.

Finish the sentence: We know we’ve achieved gender equality within the legal profession when…

My top three would be:

  • Legal letters no longer start with ‘Dear Sirs’
  • It is no longer known as a profession dominated by men in suits.
  • There are as many female partners as there are male partners (CJCH is proud to have gender equality on our board of directors)

Get in touch :

We know that discrimination in the workplace is a sensitive issue and difficult to talk about. That’s why our specialist team can assist you in getting a fair and quick solution. Get in touch with a member of our team today:

Email: employment@cjch.co.uk

Telephone: 0333 231 6405

How to Leave Your Business in Your Will

According to the Institute for Family Business, there are 4.8 million family businesses in the UK, making up 85% of all businesses and generating over 25% of the country’s GDP.

Tax receipts from family businesses generate more than the entire budget for the NHS! They are vital for the British economy and for families. This makes it even more vital to ensure your business is taken care of when you are no longer around.

Whether you are a 2nd or 3rd generation family business owner or spent your life starting your business from scratch, it is important to get your affairs in order ahead of time.

There are high risks to your business with not adequately planning to pass on your business to your loved ones. Alexis Thomas, experienced Chartered Legal Executive at CJCH Solicitors explores how you can leave your business in your Will. It is never too early or too late to start thinking about your future and the future of those left behind when you are no longer around.

What, if any, impact would your business or shares have if you died without including them in your will?

If your business or shares are not included in your Will, they could end up being sold, broken up or pass as part of the residue of your estate. They may end up with someone who is not able to run the business because of a lack of knowledge and experience. A minor will experience difficulties continuing the business if shares are left to them.

How can a solicitor help you leave a business or shares to someone in your will?

A Solicitor can ensure you direct who the business or shares will end up with. Furthermore, they advise you on who is best to control your business. They can decide the best structure for the Will, such as leaving the business or shares in a discretionary trust. This will give your family the benefit without direct involvement in the business.

Solicitors advise on other options for your business, such as shareholder agreements and life assurance policies. These options protect yours and your business partner’s interests.

Getting proper advice ensures you can continue to control what happens to your business assets and shares once you have passed away.

Do other shareholders have to accept a new shareholder if you leave shares in your will?

The Testator cannot force other shareholders to accept a new shareholder if leaving shares in their Will. Any share transfers in a Will will be governed by shareholder agreements or partnership agreements etc. In this scenario, the likely option is to sell the shares and gift the value, rather than the shares themselves.

What disputes can arise when leaving a business or shares to someone in your will?

The business may face disputes between shareholders if the business position is not effectively considered. If the shareholders cannot reach an agreement, neither shareholder will have control of the company.

Generally, problems will arise in the event the business is left to a minor with no partnership agreement in place. If the decision-making process becomes paralysed, it could end the business, which has serious tax consequences.

What inheritance tax issues should someone leaving a business in their will be aware of?

If someone owns a business, creating their Will in the most tax-efficient way will help minimise Inheritance Tax (IHT). Passing a business in their Will can lead to a large IHT bill.

As a result, the Executors may have to sell the business to pay the IHT bill. Qualification for Business Property Relief (BPR) will allow a person to pass on a part of the business free of tax. However, not all businesses qualify for BPR.

Therefore, the solicitor needs to know everything about the business to advise if BPR applies. Solicitors can advise clients to leave assets that qualify for BPR to other family members such as children so that they are not passed to spouses who are eligible for a different IHT relief.

How we can help:

It is never too early or too late to start thinking about your future, and the future of those left behind when you are no longer around. The team at CJCH has extensive experience in Wills & Probate; Tax & Estate Planning. Get in touch with a member of our team today:

Telephone: 0333 231 6405

Email: privateclients@cjch.co.uk

Valentines Day & The Rights of Cohabiting Couples

With Valentine’s day upon us and romance in the air, many couples will be considering the next stage of their relationship and consider moving in with each other.

Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK, doubling in 20 years to 3.4 million couples. With many cohabiting couples having children, just how much do you know about your rights in a cohabiting partnership?

Sarah Perkins, Family Law Solicitor at CJCH Solicitors, discusses the differences in the rights between married and unmarried couples. Also, how unmarried couples can protect their assets and their children in the event of a relationship breakdown.

What does “common law marriage” mean and is it legally valid?

Common-law marriage in the UK is a myth. The term refers to unmarried couples who are cohabiting.  Worryingly, many people in the UK believe that “common law marriage” exists and that unmarried couples enjoy the same legal rights as married couples. However, this is not the case.

How do the rights of married and unmarried couples differ?

There are significant differences between the rights of married and unmarried couples. This applies throughout the marriage, death and divorce. For example, if an unmarried partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not inherit anything (unless they jointly own property). Whereas a married partner would automatically inherit under the rules on intestacy.

Additionally, regardless of how long the couple has lived together, an unmarried partner who stayed at home to care for children to the detriment of their earning capacity cannot make claims for property, maintenance or pension.

What is a cohabitation agreement and what are the benefits of unmarried couples having one?

A cohabitation agreement is a written document which sets out the parties’ intentions regarding their assets. If the relationship ends, the agreement provides certainty regarding the division of property. An agreement can include the following:

  • Who is responsible for the payment of rent/mortgage and household bills
  • Ownership of personal belongings
  • Ownership and shares of jointly owned property

A cohabiting agreement works like a contract and provided it is drawn up correctly, will be enforceable.

How can unmarried cohabiting couples make sure their children are protected?

A cohabiting agreement can lay out contact/living arrangements and maintenance for any children from the relationship. Consult a solicitor who will draft an agreement that best protects children in the event of a relationship breakdown

How else can a solicitor advise cohabiting couples on protecting their assets and each other?

If properties are purchased jointly but with unequal contributions & payments to the mortgage & other expenses, the property should be held as Tenants in Common & a Deed of Trust drawn up upon purchase reflecting the arrangement.

Finally, it is vital couples cohabiting have up to date wills. The wills will reflect who should inherit their shared assets and belongings in the event one of the partners passes away

How can we help?

CJCH has extensive experience dealing with family matters in a nurturing and compassionate way. For more information, get in touch with a member of our team today:

Email: family@cjch.co.uk

Telephone: 0333 231 6405