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No one likes to think about what will happen after they’re gone, but after working hard all your life, it’s important to plan for the future of your estate. By organising your affairs for both during your lifetime and after your death, you can ensure that your assets are passed down to your family and loved ones in the most efficient way possible.

One aspect of estate planning is inheritance tax (IHT) which is the focus of this article. No matter the size of your estate it is important to obtain expert inheritance Tax Planning advice, to secure your family’s financial future and ensure your hard-earned money, property and assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes as well as ensuring that, if Inheritance Tax is due, the least amount is paid.

Starting to plan early means that you will have a much more effective plan in place and will allow you to minimise the impact of potentially having to pay IHT. Planning early also allows you to put your estate planning strategy into place to ensure you have enough money to live the lifestyle you want, as well as deal with any unexpected situations that may arise along the road.

You can read about the other components of estate planning and why planning itself is so important in our article – Estate Planning – Why is it so important?

What is Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance tax (IHT) is a tax payable to HMRC in relation to your Estate on your death. It is normally paid by the executors of your estate and is paid to HMRC prior to the estate being distributed to any of your heirs.

You are only liable to pay inheritance tax if your estate’s value is above the current IHT threshold of £325,000. You do not pay IHT on the first £325,000 you leave to others.

This is also known as the nil rate band and the amount above it (the majority of the time) will be liable for inheritance tax at the standard rate of 40% on your death.

However, if you leave 10% or more of your estate’s value to charity, it does lower the inheritance tax rate for the remaining portion over the threshold to 36% from the standard 40%.

Your estate is also entitled to the Residence Nil Rate Band if you leave your property to your descendants (i.e. children and/or grandchildren).

More information on how IHT works can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax.

First Steps

Before you start thinking about how much inheritance tax you may be required to pay, you really need to establish the value of your estate. This will enable you to determine if there is an inheritance tax liability and if tax planning is required.

In order to establish the size of your estate you need to include any properties you own, business assets, bank accounts, shares and investments and life insurance policies, as well as personal belongings of value such as jewellery and vehicles.

You can find out more about valuing an estate in our article – Do I need to value an estate when someone dies?

Other things to include are the value of any cash gifts you may have made in the last 7 years, as these may be taken off your personal inheritance tax free allowance if you do not live for 7 years after giving this money away. In simple terms any gifts given more than 7 years before your death will not be liable (unless you continue to benefit from them), any gifts given in the 7 years prior to your passing will count towards you allowance.

Do I Have to Pay Tax on My Inheritance?

There are certain circumstances when you would be exempt from paying Inheritance tax, even when your assets are valued at over the threshold. These are:

It’s important to understand that only the inheritance designated for your spouse/civil partner, annual tax-free gifts or for charity is exempt from inheritance tax; it doesn’t render the entirety of your estate tax-free.

How Do I Pay Less Inheritance Tax?

If you are someone who will be charged Inheritance Tax on your estate, inheritance tax planning in your lifetime could very well reduce your tax liability and enable you to pass more of your assets on to your family and loved ones.

By planning in advance and by utilising the available exceptions and allowances, it is possible to reduce or even eliminate the need to pay IHT, some things to consider are:

Having a Will

The most important document you should have in place is a valid Will and you should ensure that you review it regularly, so it can be updated as and when needed. Not only is your Will important as it allows you to ensure that you leave your assets to your chosen beneficiaries, it also allows you to avoid potential inheritance tax liabilities under intestacy rules.  Intestacy rules are used to distribute an estate when someone has died leaving no valid Will.

If you need aid in putting together a will, our expert trusts and estate solicitors have years of experience in drafting comprehensive wills for our clients.

Giving to charity

As previously mentioned, it may be worth considering giving 10% of your net estate to charity in order to reduce the IHT rate from 40% to 36%.

For further analysis on how this can benefit you or a love one, read our article which delves further into the topic – Inheritance Tax Incentive for Charitable Legacies

Leaving your main residence

Gifting to a spouse or civil partner is completely exempt from IHT.  It is also possible to further reduce the amount that is taxable if you leave your home to your ‘direct descendants’.  This includes children (be they biological, step, adopted or fostered) or grandchildren, but does not include nieces,  nephews or cousins.

By doing this you not only benefit from the £325,000 basic IHT allowance that everyone is allowed, you can also take advantage of the ‘Residence Nil Rate Band’ or ‘Main Residence Band’, which is an additional allowance of £175,000 and which means IHT may not be due on the first £500,000 of your estate (£325,000 + £175,000), depending on who you leave the property to.

However, there are some points to be aware of that will affect this:

Reduce the size of your estate in your lifetime: Tax-Free Gifts

Reducing the size of your estate in your lifetime is a good way to reduce your IHT liability and there are multiple ways of doing this, through the use of Tax-Free Gifts.

A gift must be a genuine unconditional gift that you will not gain from in any way, so it must be given without the desire to receive something in return or the requirement that it will be repaid.

Annual Tax Exemption – Every Tax year, you can give away up to a total amount of £3,000, as this does not form part of your estate and so is therefore not subject to IHT.  If you decide not to use the full annual exemption amount,  anything you do not use can be carried forward by one tax year.

When you are giving gifts out of capital you need to be mindful that if you pass away less than 7 years after distributing the gift, it can become subject to tax. If you have used all of your annual exception allowance, the tax percentage differs depending on the length of time since your passing.

Amount of time between the gift and death Tax percentage applied
1 to 2 years Standard rate of 40%
3 to 4 years 32%
4 to 5 years 24%
5 to 6 years 16%
6 to 7 years 8%
7 years or more 0%

 

Small Gifts Allowance – This allowance allows you to give up to £250 per person each tax year.  These gifts do not count towards the Annual Tax exemption amount of £3,000, however, you cannot combine gifts on the same person, which means if you have already gifted someone your Annual Tax exemption, they cannot then also be gifted £250.

Wedding Gifts – if someone you know, either a family member or friend, is getting married or entering a civil partnership, then you can gift them cash tax-free.

Depending on the person you are giving the money to, the amount differs:

Wedding gifts can be combined with the £3,000 annual tax exemption amount (which means they can be used on the same person) but not with the £250 small gifts allowance.

More information on exactly what constitutes a gift can be found by visiting: https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax/gifts

Reduce the size of your estate in your lifetime: Payments from Income

Give money freely from your income – IHT is a tax on your assets.  Your regular income (such as your earnings or pension/s) are not classed as assets and so you can regularly give money away tax-free from this. This is only allowed if it is not deemed as detrimental to your lifestyle.

Fund a loved one’s living costs –  You are allowed to contribute to your child’s living costs and tuition fees at university. There are no caps on how much you can provide and the amount can be  Such combined with your £3,000 annual exemption (meaning it can be used on the same person) but again it is not allowed to be used with the £250 small gift allowance.  It can be given tax-free as long as the money comes from your own regular income and doesn’t affect your lifestyle

Life Insurance 

Depending on your situation, another common method for reducing the cost of IHT is to take out a life insurance policy, with the policy being held in Trust. This means that if you die the policy pays out straight away and can be distributed to your beneficiaries without being classed as part of your estate.  If this is a route you consider, it is important to be aware that the premiums for the policy need to be kept up in order for the policy to pay out and depending on your age and health, these can be quite high.

Professional advice and guidance

Getting the right professional advice is vital when looking at Inheritance Tax and Estate Planning.  You will need both advice from your solicitor, as well as your financial Advisor to ensure the best plan is put in place and the best vehicles are implemented to achieve your desired outcome.

Inheritance Tax Solicitors Near Me – Talk to Tollers

If you think you fall above the Nil rate band and would like to discuss Estate and Inheritance Tax planning… Talk to Tollers on 01602 258558, our experienced Trusts and Estate specialists are on hand to guide you through the process.

From 6th April 2024, employees no longer need a minimum length of service to make a flexible working request. Further changes, which have been introduced by The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 and The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 are likely to lead to an increase in these types of requests being dealt with by employers.

Tollers’ employment team consider the changes and an employer’s responsibilities when dealing with flexible working requests by answering frequently asked questions.

What can be requested under a flexible working request?

An employee may ask to work from home, change their hours or alter their place of work.

It is important to recognise when a request for flexibility could be considered as a flexible working request, even if it is not labelled as one, to ensure you deal with it fairly and in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice on requests for flexible working.

What are the recent flexible working request changes?

There are changes for both employees and employers under the new legislation.

Employees will no longer need 26 weeks’ continuous service and will be able to make a flexible working request from ‘day one’ of employment. They will also be able to make two requests in any 12-month period, instead of one. Importantly, employees will no longer be required to explain what impact their request may have on the business.

Employers will now be required to deal with requests within a two-month period, rather than three. This period can be extended by agreement, if required. Employers are also required to consult with an employee if it is considering rejected a request.

What impact are the changes likely to have?

Given that employees can now submit a flexible working request from their first day of employment, the changes are likely to lead to an increase in these types of requests, particularly as employees seek to secure more flexible and permanent working arrangements which may have been informally agreed following the pandemic.

Furthermore, as employees will be entitled to submit two requests in a 12-month period, employers may also find that employees respond to rejection of a request by submitting a second request, which is somewhat similar to the first, but which would still need to be considered in a fair way and in accordance with the principles set out in the legislation and the ACAS Code of Practice.

How should a flexible working request be dealt with?

An employer is expected to comply with legislation and the ACAS Code of Practice when handling a flexible working request, in particular dealing with a request fairly and reasonably.

As part of the process, an employer should arrange a meeting to discuss the request, and consult with the employee about the proposed changes. The process should take no longer than two months unless a longer period has been agreed with the employee.  It’s also important to consider whether an employee may have a disability when deciding whether a flexible working request can be agreed and identify if there are any other factors which need to be considered before making a final decision.

If an employer is considering rejecting the request it is essential that they consult with the employee.

 

 

On what grounds can a request be rejected?

A decision to reject a request must be for one or more of the following business reasons, which are set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996:

It’s important that you can justify refusing a request to mitigate the risk of any potential employment tribunal claims and that you have communicated a refusal in writing.

What are the risks of failing to comply?

Ultimately, an employer’s failure to comply with their obligations set out under legislation or prescribed by ACAS could give an employee a claim to the Employment Tribunal for up to eight weeks’ pay. The Tribunal may also order that the request is reconsidered.

Furthermore, an employer’s conduct and attitude towards the request could give rise to claims for discrimination or constructive dismissal, depending on the circumstances.

What does this mean for you?

Implementing policies will help you to manage requests fairly and set out a clear procedure that must be followed when dealing with a request. We can draft bespoke policies for your business which are compliant with current employment practices and legislation to mitigate risks of non-compliance. Alternatively, we can help to guide you through the flexible working process by providing template letters alongside expert advice.

If you have a question or would like further information on how to handle requests for flexible working, whether as an employer or employee…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our Employment Law and HR team are here for you.

Navigating the intricacies of small business management is a path that has its fair share of hurdles, as the business landscape is riddled with opportunities for missteps. Amid the numerous challenges, small business owners face legal compliance, whilst incredibly important, should be carried out with caution as mishandling it can lead to substantial repercussions and costly mistakes being made. Being legally compliant not only helps you to protect your business but also promotes it by ensuring you have the right legal documents in place to ensure your business succeeds.

Below Tollers Commercial Services Team outlines their top tips for ensuring that you protect your business, as well as a review of the essential compliance documentation that is needed for your business.

Legal Entities used by business owners:

The main types of legal entities used by business owners are:

Top Tip: Commercial contracts: having the correct contracts in place.

A common oversight among small business owners when it comes to legal compliance is not having the correct documentation in place. Having contracts in place will help reduce the risk of disputes and costly litigation. These documents may include:

Standard terms of business:

we expect that every business has a set of standard terms of business, but if they don’t then they should do. This is a vital contract for your business as it sets out the terms on which you will do business including the goods or services you provide, when they will be provided, the price, limitation of liability, warranties, payment terms etc.

Tailored contracts with customers and suppliers:

if you don’t provide homogenised goods or services then you should have tailored contracts with your customers. Although probably based around a core precedent contract you can tailor this contract for each new matter.

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to protect your confidential information:

if you are going to discuss anything that includes confidential information then please have an NDA in place before that conversation, otherwise, you could find that information getting to your competitors.

Protect your key intellectual property:

In general, intellectual property falls into two types, registerable and non-registerable. If your business is based on intellectual property rights such as patents, trademarks and copyright then it is important to take specialist advice.

Shareholders agreement:

This is one of the most important documents you can have as it regulates the relationship between the directors and shareholders. This is a private contract that usually deals with the transfer of shares, dividend policies, disputes, and the sale of the company. This contract is vitally important because the law does not provide much assistance to shareholders in a dispute except for the “just and equitable” winding up of the company if matters cannot be resolved (i.e. one shareholder buying out the other). Please ask us for a free copy of our Guide to Shareholder Agreements.

Top Tip: Internal compliance:

The law sets out that certain documents must be in place in the business. Depending on the type of business you have you will need to have the following documents in place as a minimum:

Data protection and GDPR policies:

These policies outline how a business collects, processes, uses, stores and protects their customers/clients’ personal information in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Privacy policy for your website:

Your website privacy policy is a legal document that informs visitors to your website about how your business collects and deals with their data, what data is collected, and how it may be shared or sold.

Registration with the ICO:

The Information Commissioner’s Office is the government body responsible for regulating data protection in the United Kingdom. Being registered is a legal requirement if your business processes any personal information and shows your compliance with data protection laws.

You can register online by visiting the ICO website here:  https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-fee/.

Health and safety manual:

A business’s Health and Safety manual should contain all of the policies, procedures, checklists and templates to help ensure that a business has safe systems in place to prevent accidents/injuries in the workplace.

Staff manual:

Also known as the staff handbook or employee handbook, this important collection of documents and policies provides your employees with all they need to know in regard to working for your business. It includes information on employee benefits, the business culture, codes of conduct, attendance, reporting lines, disciplinary processes and much more.

Employment contracts and compliance with employment laws and regulations:

An employment contract summarises the agreement between an employer and employee and outlines the details of their employment. These vital documents assist both parties as they create a clear understanding of what is expected during the term of employment with the business.

Insurance including employer’s liability insurance:

As a business, it is important to have business insurance in place, as this provides financial protection in regard to loss caused by events that may arise during the day-to-day running of your business and should cover matters such as legal costs, theft, accident, injury or loss of income. Employers’ liability insurance is also important as it covers your business in regard to any claims you may receive from your employees should they fall ill or get injured at work. It is a criminal offence if a business does not carry employers’ liability insurance.

Statutory registers:

Under the Companies Act 2006, all companies are required to keep statutory registers and they include:

Talk to Tollers:

These are just some of the key documents you should have in place. Depending on the nature of your business others may be required.

As a business owner receiving the best legal advice is vital. If you would like guidance to ensure your business has everything required in place and is legally compliant… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our experienced Commercial Services Team is on hand to provide you with the advice you need.

When setting up a business, whether it is with friends, family or colleagues, it is very easy to fall into the mindset that nothing will go wrong at any point now or in the future. You might even assume that due to the relationship you have, you will not need a formal document in place to record your working arrangements. You might think that the idea of suggesting such a document may well give the impression that you don’t trust your new business partners. However, even the closest of business relationships can break down, leaving you with a potentially costly legal dispute.

This is where documents such as shareholders’ agreements come in, as they give individual shareholders additional protection and the confidence to embark on business ventures safe in the knowledge that all parties are protected.

In this article, we look at shareholder agreements in detail and discuss what you need to know to protect yourself and your business.

What is a shareholders’ agreement?

A shareholders’ agreement is essentially an arrangement made, usually, between all of a business’s shareholders (i.e. the shareholders in a Company, there are similar agreements for a Partnership – partnership agreement, and LLPs – member’s agreement).

The agreement outlines, amongst other things, the objective of the business, provides rules regarding the fundamental management decisions of the business, states shareholders’ obligations and rights, regulates how shares are transferred and provides information on how shareholder interests will be protected and their relationships regulated.

A shareholders’ agreement is a private document as it is not registered at Companies House and that is why this agreement is used rather than changes to the Articles of Association of the Company, which are registered at Companies House.

What protection do you have without it?

Without a shareholders’ agreement, a business’s only protection is the Articles of Association. The Articles are a legally binding document required, under the Companies Act 2006, by every public and private company in the UK. The Articles of Association are a set of rules that outline how a business will be run, how decisions are made for the business and which act as a contract between the shareholders, directors and the Business.

The Articles of Association are a business’ most important constitutional document and are put in place at the point of incorporation.

Minority shareholders also have statutory protection against any “unfair prejudice” that might be carried out by the majority shareholders (e.g. making decisions that reduce the value of the minority shareholders’ shares).

Why would you need a shareholders’ agreement?

Whilst a shareholders’ agreement is not required by law and is often seen by some as not necessary, the value it can provide is very important. Not having an agreement in place can create a lack of certainty in how to deal with different situations and scenarios and if matters escalate can often lead to disputes, which will be much more expensive than the cost of a shareholder agreement.

Tollers’ experienced Commercial Team has outlined below the benefits a Shareholders’ agreement can bring both to shareholders and a business and why it is in everyone’s best interest to have an agreement in place:

1. Ensuring proper governance of the company

The everyday management of a company is carried by the board of directors, with shareholders having little or no involvement in management decision-making. A shareholders’ agreement will specify how major decisions should be taken (e.g. capital expenditure over a specified amount). Those decisions might require the unanimous consent of the shareholders or a majority. This mechanism therefore allows the shareholders to exercise management decisions and to limit the authority of the board of directors. This ability to make fundamental management decisions becomes vital when the directors on the board are not shareholders in the company.

2. Protection for Majority shareholders

A shareholders’ agreement can be drafted to protect the interests of majority shareholders. A majority shareholder may not always take an active role in the daily running of the business or may not have a majority representation at board level. An example of protection for the majority shareholder is a “drag along” clause. The “drag along” clause enables a majority shareholder to force minority shareholder(s) to participate in the sale of the company. This is so the minority cannot stop the sale of the company.

3. Protection for Minority shareholders

Shareholders’ agreements can be drafted to protect minority shareholders and to ensure that they are not taken advantage of or that the majority shareholders do not force decisions that are not in the minority’s best interest. For example: a clause can state that certain decisions such as the appointment of other shareholders must be done with the unanimous decision of all shareholders. There can also be “tag along” clauses that ensure that the minority shareholders are not left behind in a sale.

4. Resolving Disputes

A clause can be included in the agreement for dispute resolution with the aim of helping resolve disputes between shareholders promptly and cost-effectively. Dispute avoidance is achieved by including a framework for how specific decisions are to be made.

5. Transfer of shares

If in the absence of restrictions in a shareholder agreement or the Articles of Association, shares may be transferable (there are some statutory protections). This could damage the business as an unwanted third party could purchase the shares and/or take control. This third party could be a stranger or a longstanding competitor. A common clause that can be included is that if a shareholder wants to sell their shares, the other shareholders have the right to purchase them before they are made available outside the company. If this does occur, the new shareholder is normally obliged to enter into a ‘deed of adherence’ whereby they become bound by the terms of the shareholders’ agreement. This safeguards the original shareholders and ensures that the new shareholders agree the terms already agreed between the existing shareholders.

6. Setting out the rights and obligations of shareholders

There are many factors to consider when setting out the rights and obligations of shareholders.

A shareholders’ agreement can set out what rights the shareholders possess and provide clarity on the obligations each shareholder has in the running of the company and its decision-making processes. Some of the rights the agreement can set out are:

These help to provide clarity to shareholders, avoid misunderstandings relating to roles and ensure all shareholders are treated fairly and that their interests are protected.

How Tollers can help

When seeking any legal agreement or document, it is always advisable to seek expert legal advice. This is because commonly, risks lie with what has not been included rather than what has.

Constitutional documents such as the Articles of Association or a shareholders’ agreement are tailored to work in the best interest of the business, their management and share structure. There may be templates for agreements, however, these documents are not “one size fits all”.

Receiving expert legal advice to ensure the agreement is tailored to best suit your business, the situation and the shareholders is crucial and will avoid creating possible issues in the future.

Tollers Commercial Law Team is experienced in drafting and negotiating shareholder agreements and will ensure you receive the correct documentation for your business regardless of whether it is a simple shareholders agreement or a complex all-encompassing one.

To find out how Tollers can help you and your business with a bespoke shareholders agreement… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 our team is on hand to guide you through the process and ensure the best solution is put in place.

The annual increase regarding Compensation limits relating to employment tribunal awards and other statutory payments was recently published by the government in ‘The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2024’.

These new figures, if approved by parliament, will come into force from 6th April 2024.

These increases reflect the rise in the retail prices index (RPI) from September 2022 to September 2023 of 8.9%.

They will apply when the event giving rise to the reason for compensation or other payment takes place on or after 6th April 2024 and will be enforceable in England, Wales and Scotland.

If the reason for compensation or other payment took place prior to 6th April 2024, then the previous limits will be used.

Below we have listed some of the most relevant and important changes. The full list of increases is contained in The Employment (Increase of Limits) order 2024, here.

 

Subject
Old Limit
New Limit
Maximum amount for a week’s pay for calculating redundancy payment or for basic or additional awards of compensation for unfair dismissal. £643 £700
Limit on the amount of compensatory award by reference to loss of earnings, benefits and other financial losses for unfair dismissal. £105,707 £115,115
Limit on the amount of guarantee payment payable to an employee in respect to any day. £35 £38
Minimum amount of basic award of compensation where dismissal is unfair. £7,836 £8,533

 

For redundancy claims the statutory cap on one week’s pay for the purpose of calculating the statutory redundancy payment is now £700. The statutory redundancy payment will be the statutory cap or a week’s pay depending on which is the lesser of the two.

The limit on the amount of compensatory award in regard to loss of earning will be either 52 week’s pay or the above fixed amount, whichever is the lesser amount.

The limit on a week’s pay is important, especially if as an employer you are going through the redundancy process and where any employee dismissals will, or may, take effect on or after 6 April 2024, as any redundancy payments would need to be updated to consider the increase in the limit on a week’s pay.

Where there is a case of unfair dismissal the new figures will apply if the effective date of termination is on or after 6th April 2024. The effective date of termination is either when the employee’s notice expires or the date on which termination takes place if the employee is dismissed without notice.

Talk to Tollers

It is important that employers are aware of these new figures, to ensure that the route chosen in pursuing or defending a possible claim is the most financially viable one for the business. Going to tribunal may not be the best route given these rises and it may be better to look at a settlement agreement as a possible option instead.

If you require any assistance with a redundancy situation or unfair dismissal claim or would like to understand more regarding ‘The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2024’ and the implications for your business…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our experienced Employment team are here to help with all your employment law needs.

The loss of a loved one is often a difficult process to navigate and can be made more challenging if you suspect that the Will of the deceased individual (known as the ‘testator’) may be invalid.

There are several different ways that the validity of a loved one’s Will can be challenged and given the complexity of the process, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. If you are thinking of asking the question “Can I contest a Will?” or “On what grounds can I contest a Will?” it is important to understand exactly what is involved.

Tollers’ highly experienced Contested Probate team looks at the grounds for contesting the validity of a Will below.

1. Incorrect Execution of the Will

When first considering the grounds to contest a Will, a good starting point is to see if it breaches Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837, which is required for a Will to be considered legally valid. The section states that a Will must be:

• In writing;
• Signed by the testator (or someone else in the testator’s presence and by their direction);
• Signed in the presence of at least two independent witnesses, who must attest and sign the Will.

If any of the above formalities are not met, the testator’s Will may be deemed invalid.

2. Testamentary Capacity

When preparing a Will, the testator must demonstrate that they have testamentary capacity. What this means is that the testator must have both the legal and mental ability to construct or change a Will, for the Will to be valid. The criteria to evaluate someone’s testamentary capacity was set out by The 1870 case of Banks v Goodfellow where the testator must:

1. Understand the instructions they are giving and the consequence of those instructions;
2. Understand the extent of their property;
3. Understand the consequences of including or excluding individuals from their Will; and
4. Not be suffering from any ‘disorder of the mind’.

The absence of any of the above criteria may cast doubt as to the capacity of the testator at the time of the making of their Will.

3. Knowledge and Approval

The testator must know that they are making a Will and approve its contents. Even if it appears that the testator had testamentary capacity, it is still possible to contest a Will on this ground if you can demonstrate that the testator was not actually aware of the contents of their Will, or that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding its preparation, for example, a main beneficiary was heavily involved in the drafting of the Will.

4. Undue influence

In order to rely on this ground, it must be demonstrated that the testator was coerced or pressured into making a Will or change to their Will, which overrides their actual wishes. This is a difficult ground to prove, which goes beyond mere persuasion and requires evidence that there can be no other explanation for the gifts/provisions contained within the Will, other than that the testator was unduly influenced.

5. Fraud and forgery

A Will can be deemed invalid if it can be shown that the testator’s signature is forged, or if the content of the Will is found to be fraudulent. Contesting a Will on the basis of forgery is likely to require a handwriting expert to determine whether the signature was that of the testator.

Legal standing

In addition to demonstrating one (or more) of the above grounds, you must also show that you have legal standing to contest the validity of the Will, meaning you must be a beneficiary of more under the directly previous Will or under intestacy (if there is no earlier Will).

Talk to Tollers on Contesting a Will

If you believe that a loved one’s Will has become invalid and their wishes are no longer being kept, contesting the Will might be your next step. Seeking out expert legal advice is imperative in ensuring a case can be made and the outcome is beneficial.

Tollers’ expert contentious probate team has years of experience in ensuring clients achieve the best outcome in contesting a Will.

if you think you might have a case regarding a loved one’s Will becoming invalid or would just like some advice…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. Our experienced contentious probate solicitors will be happy to help you.

Anyone can become a victim of financial abuse and while it is more common that the individuals who experience this type of abuse are partners or ex-partners, it is not solely limited to intimate relationships. Financial abuse can also happen between friends, family members and those providing care to the vulnerable.

In the caring environment, the victim can be elderly, vulnerable or someone who relies emotionally or financially on their abuser.

The risk of financial abuse is on the rise due to many reasons including:

The Office of National Statistics reported in 2020 that in England approximately 1.5 million older adults experienced some form of financial abuse.

The statutory definition of financial abuse, set out in the Care Act 2014, defines abuse as that which includes having money or other property stolen, being defrauded, and being put under pressure in relation to money or other property, or having money or property misused.

Legal Measures

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (‘the MCA’) was introduced to protect individuals who may lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions. The MCA provides a legal framework and serves to promote and safeguard decision-making.

If an individual has assets that need to be protected and they lack the capacity to manage those assets, it is possible to make an application to the Court of Protection to be appointed as that person’s deputy. The deputy would be able to safeguard the individual’s financial affairs and involve third parties to seek to recover any money that may have been misappropriated.

One way to safeguard yourself from financial abuse is to appoint someone you trust as your attorney to manage your financial affairs and, crucially, to enable your attorney to step in at a time of emergency, to take immediate action to support and safeguard your affairs.

A Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Powers of Attorney enables you to appoint another person to assist in decisions surrounding your financial affairs (a separate form can also be used for health decisions). These documents can be adapted to provide further safeguards, for example, requiring the attorney to send bank statements to a trusted third party (e.g. an accountant or solicitor) who can oversee transactions.

Who should be your attorney?

Age UK conducted a report in 2015 which detailed that the most reported perpetrator of financial abuse in the UK was ‘family’ with 50% of cases done by ‘adult children’ (sons and daughters).  Therefore, choosing the right person to act as your attorney is of vital importance since you are, effectively, giving your chosen attorney full access to all of your finances.

Clearly, your attorney should be someone you trust, but when thinking of who to appoint as your attorney, consider the following factors:

Safeguarding against Financial Abuse

In such a technological age, where contactless payments have taken over the use of cash, and face-to-face banking has been replaced by Internet banking, the opportunity to be caught by scammers and to become a victim of financial abuse has become increasingly prevalent.

To safeguard yourself from such financial abuse, there are some practical things to consider:

Reporting Financial abuse

Sometimes regardless of how much you try and protect against financial abuse, it still occurs. If you are concerned that someone may be the victim of financial abuse you should raise a safeguarding concern with your local authority. This is because The Care Act 2014 confirms that there is a duty for local authorities to promote individual well-being and this includes ‘protection from abuse and neglect’. Raising a safeguarding concern can be done on either the local council’s website or by calling the Adult Social Services team and discussing your concerns over the phone.

Safeguarding is raising the alarm when an elderly or vulnerable person is experiencing a form of abuse or neglect. The enquiry is normally led by a social worker, but it may include other agencies if the allegations are serious. There may be times when immediate action is needed for example if there has been criminal activity. Therefore, the local authority will also have a duty to speak with third parties such as the police, the NHS, GPs or a care provider, if required.

Talk to Tollers

Our Elderly and Vulnerable Client Unit (EVCU) team has a proven track record when it comes to recovering assets lost to financial abuse for our vulnerable clients.

To find out more about protecting against financial abuse… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258 858 or email EVCU@tollers.co.uk.

Are you thinking of leasing a new commercial property? Or even upsizing to bigger commercial premises? or looking at leasing commercial properties in general.

If the answer is yes, there are some key factors to consider when negotiating the lease terms. To assist business owners Tollers Commercial Property team has set out below a guide to facilitate you through the process.

What exactly does your business need in terms of premises

In the first instance, you will need to consider your business and an appropriate property to house your operations. Do you need office space, warehouse space, large vehicle access or access to external areas for loading and unloading stock? Will you need additional or specialist storage space? These are in addition to the classic factors of location, cost and time – in terms of how soon do you want to take occupation of the property.

The first port of call is often to speak to an agent who can help you locate something suitable.

Before taking a new lease, you may need to consider your current lease:

If you have any questions or concerns relating to your current lease, it is always best to get the advice of a solicitor before taking any action to ensure these options are exercised in the correct manner.

Once the above has been settled, you will need to consider the following in regard to any new property.

Property space:

You should consider if you wish to lease the whole or part of a property. It is important to distinguish between the two. If leasing part of a property, a plan will be needed to identify the relevant area. Considerations need to be given to any rights that you may require over the landlord’s remaining property, for example, a right of way or a right to park.

Do you want to take an internal-only lease, where the building itself is maintained by the Landlord? Or are you comfortable taking on responsibility for the whole building, which may include a responsibility to repair the structural parts (walls, roof, etc.).

The Lease should define exactly what parts of the property you are taking and what your responsibilities are; examples of what can be excluded/included could be;

You should consider whether you are willing to be responsible for any or all of these parts of the property before entering into a lease.

Length of the lease:

This is a key negotiation point – if this is a new venture, you may wish to take a shorter lease and look to extend at a later date, as this can provide further flexibility with the ability to end the lease if needed. Alternatively, if you are looking for security and stability, you may wish to consider a lease for a longer term (such as the Guinness Factory’s famous 999-year lease) with provisions that will enable you to grow and develop alongside your business.

One element to consider alongside the length of the lease is the inclusion of security of tenure provisions under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Is the Landlord willing to grant the lease on these terms which include a right to remain in the property after the end of the lease? If security of tenure is excluded, you will not have any right to remain in the property and the landlord does not have to grant you a new lease at the end of the term. This is a key part of the lease negotiations and should be discussed at an early stage.

Annual rent and costs:

One of the discussions that will be at the forefront of your decision-making is cost. In many commercial leases, there are additional costs including service charges, insurance, rent, utility costs, and even rent review provisions (often an upward-only rent review after a certain period) which could mean that in the future your annual rent would increase.

Another thing to consider when looking for a property is if the Landlord has opted to tax, because if they have the rent within the lease will be subject to VAT and which has implications for cash flow and your business tax accounts.

A further cost that any business should be aware of is property business rates. This is a local tax paid to the local council by occupiers of all non-domestic and business properties and which is the business equivalent of council tax.

Another is the service charge, which is effectively a maintenance charge for the building or estate that the property is based on. This could be for the upkeep of roads and pathways or even cutting grassed areas, and sometimes insurance is included within these costs. The service charge could be split between all of the units on a site or just those that are let. You will need to try and understand how much this could cost you and how often the service charges will be due.

You may wish to ask if the Landlord is willing to provide a rent-free period, which you could use to fit out the unit ready for occupation. This is often agreed upon in new leases, particularly for longer-term leases, as an incentive to the tenant.

Additional costs could also come in the form of security such as:

Use:

Some properties have restrictions on what they can be used for, for example, they can only be used as a shop or offices. You will need to check that the property you are interested in has the appropriate planning permission or if you will need to make a planning application (with the landlord’s consent) for a change of use in order to use the property for a different purpose.

Furthermore, you should consider any ancillary uses that may be required, such as the use of any parts of the premises for storage and any specialist/specific staff facilities (in the case of retail, restaurant,  warehouse leases or offices). Otherwise, it will not be implied that the landlord has consented to them and that the premises may be used for this purpose.

In addition to stating the permitted use which the landlord has authorised for the premises, commercial leases often set out a list of prohibitions such as:

Again, care must be taken that none of these restrictions interferes with or prohibits your intended use of the premises.

Depending on the location there could be some instances noted under the lease when the premises may be closed or must be opened – these are known as ‘keep open’ covenants and are common in commercial districts or shopping centres.

Decoration and Repairs:

With all property in England and Wales the Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) principle prevails. You should always ensure you are comfortable with your repairing obligations before committing to a lease. For example, if the property is in disrepair at the outset, will you be expected to carry out repairs and return the property in “good repair and condition” at the end of the lease? With a survey and schedule of condition in place, you could potentially look to reduce your liability to decorate and repair, especially at the end of the lease – this is a way of recording the condition at the start of the lease, in order to limit the decoration and repair obligations and would mean you would not have to return the property at the end of the lease in a better condition than when the lease was granted to you.

Alterations:

You will need to discuss with the landlord if you have any major plans on how you will use the property, if you would like to make any alterations to the property and any planning permissions that may be required. Although some minor internal alterations can often be carried out without consent, most alterations will usually require the Landlord’s consent, and structural and external works may be prohibited. If you know you shall need to do works on completion of the lease you may wish to consider agreeing a licence for alterations alongside the lease, to ensure you do not breach your lease by carrying out unauthorised works.

Alienation/ Options to Vacate:

Whilst you are considering entering into a lease you should also consider how to get out of it. As they say “The best laid plans can go awry…” If your business plans change you will need to look at a potential get-out clause, this could include:

Your options may be limited to some or none of the above, depending on the agreements with the landlord. Some options may take longer to instigate and, in some instances, you shall still be liable under the terms of the lease.

Responsibilities:

When taking on a commercial property, you will need to be aware of the liabilities upon a tenant to create a health and safety risk assessment in the workplace and act to remove any hazards.  You will normally be responsible for:

All of the points above need careful consideration and negotiation before you take on a new lease.

Talk to Tollers

If you are considering leasing commercial properties for business purposes or looking to end your current lease… talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our Commercial Property team is here to guide you through the process from the initial negotiations right through to picking up the keys to your new property.

Find out more about the services our Commercial Property team can assist you here.

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is usually caused by exposure to excessive or persistent noise, leading to damage that cannot be reversed or corrected medically or surgically. A single instance of exposure to a very loud sound (such as an explosion) can be enough to cause damage that, in turn, causes NIHL.

If you work, live or otherwise remain in environments that produce loud or persistent noise, you should ensure that sufficient ear protection is worn to reduce the risk of NIHL. However, whilst the risks arising from exposure to loud noises can sometimes be reduced, Tollers Solicitors is seeing an increase in noise induced hearing loss claims from serving, and former, Armed Forces personnel.

Armed Forces and NIHL

The Armed Forces is a naturally noisy environment, with potential noise exposure from weaponry, artillery and explosives, firing ranges, generators, armoured vehicles, aircraft engines and playing in brass bands. This presents a unique environment that isn’t often duplicated outside of the Armed Forces.

Despite the unique nature of its operations, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) remains responsible for the welfare of its staff and limiting the risk of harm, despite the combat conditions they often face, which include providing suitable noise defenders. The equipment provided has changed over time from ear muffs, helmets, ear plugs and ear defenders. More recently, the MOD supplied moulded earplugs for personnel deployed operationally, including smart earplugs that absorb external sounds and transmit them at a manageable level.

NIHL and tinnitus (a condition which results in ringing or high-pitched noises being constantly heard within the ear) resulting from exposure to high levels of noise may not be known until a long time after the injury has occurred and is usually noticed alongside the normal ageing process or triggered by an event, e.g., noticing that the television or radio volume is consistently high, or being unable to hear family members. The nature of NIHL can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, affecting their ability to work, socialise and carry out their normal day-to-day activities. NIHL is particularly dangerous during active service, potentially affecting the ability to hear sounds and instructions, and can therefore be a reason for medical discharge. The proportion of medical discharges due to NIHL and/or tinnitus has increased over recent years.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss Claims Against the MOD

Since a change in the law in 1987, Armed Forces personnel may be eligible to pursue a personal injury claim against the MOD for NIHL as long as it is within time limits and there is evidence of the degree of hearing loss. The number of claims of NIHL within the Armed Forces is increasing, with more than 9,000 claims being successfully settled against the MOD between April 2012 and March 2018, totalling compensation of £58 million. By mid-2022 the total compensation paid out by the MOD for NIHL increased to £95 million, with an average of more than 1,300 MOD settlements per year.

David Boobyer of Tollers Solicitors is experienced in managing military claims, with compensation totalling over £1m for injured armed forces personnel. Many military NIHL claims include:

Talk to Tollers Regarding NIHL

If you are affected by NIHL and think you might have a case or you just want to find out more about the services Tollers Personal Injury team provides… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. Our highly experienced PI specialists are on hand to answer any questions you might have and possibly advise and guide you through the process of making a claim.

Deciding to end your relationship or marriage can be a stressful time. Despite the emotional strain, there are also legal requirements to consider. For couples with children, one of the biggest considerations will be child maintenance. Whether you are based in Letchworth, Hitchin, Stevenage, Welwyn or beyond, our family solicitors are here to help. Below, you will find some of the most frequently asked questions concerning child maintenance and more information on how Tollers family solicitors can assist you.

What is child maintenance?

In cases where parents have separated, child maintenance is an amount of money paid by the parent who does not live day-to-day with their child or children. This amount is then used to contribute to the child’s everyday living costs, meaning it is essential for all separating parents to have an agreement in place. This agreement will usually continue until the child finishes full-time education at the age of 18. Child maintenance payments can be continued voluntarily beyond this should the non-residential parent wish to continue making payments.

There are a few routes available to parents looking to put a child maintenance agreement in place. It is possible, of course, for parents to agree the payments themselves, often referred to as a private agreement. To calculate the amount that needs to be paid, parents may wish to use an online child maintenance calculator. The government’s Child Maintenance Service (CMS) provides an online calculator for this purpose. Regardless of the decision you come to, our Hitchin, Letchworth, Welwyn and Stevenage family solicitors are always on standby to advise and help you come to the best solution for you and your family.

What is the CMS (Child Maintenance Service)

If an arrangement cannot be agreed upon, parents may wish to contact the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) which was formerly known as the Child Support Agency.  The CMS is a government agency that deals with child maintenance payments. In calculating how much the non-residential parent will pay, the CMS will consider many factors, including the non-residential’s gross income, pension contributions, how many children they have, how often their children stay overnight with them and whether any other children live in their home.

The CMS can assist parents in several ways, including calculating, collecting and enforcing payments on behalf of the residential parent. In cases where the separated parents do not wish to have contact, the CMS can be relied upon as a trustworthy third party and can even help locate a parent should the claimant no longer have the non-residential parent’s address. Once the CMS has established an arrangement, then any outstanding arrears can then be enforced.

For information on the CMS, you can visit the government website at:

https://www.gov.uk/child-maintenance-service

What is a private agreement?

Parents can put in place a private agreement by negotiating directly with the other parent or with the assistance of a solicitor. When both parents can agree on a set amount of money to be paid in support, this is referred to as a ‘Family Based Arrangement’. This kind of agreement can also cover additional costs, such as school trips or school uniforms and any other payments that can be made to supplement a child’s upbringing.

Whereas a private agreement does afford more flexibility, it is also important to bear in mind that it is not legally binding, meaning the agreement cannot always be enforced should the non-residential parent not keep to it. In this scenario, the residential parent will be able to contact the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), though the non-residential parent will only be required to make payments from the date of the application. Our family solicitors are thoroughly experienced in this area of law and will assist you throughout any eventuality.

For more information on private agreements, visit our website at:

https://www.tollers.co.uk/family-law/finances-on-breakdown/child-maintenance-and-support/

When will I have to apply to the courts for child maintenance?

In some scenarios, it may be appropriate for the courts to be involved. This is usually the case where parents cannot reach a private agreement and when the CMS is unable to assist with a maintenance application. This might occur when:

Our family solicitors in Letchworth, Hitchin, Stevenage and Welwyn understand that, for some, the idea of going to the courts can be a daunting prospect and are prepared to assist you in every way we can. Our solicitors not only specialise in this area of law but are equipped to support you and your family throughout whatever the process might call for.

What is the difference between a Child Maintenance Agreement and a Child Arrangement Order?

Though child maintenance agreements can often be confused with Child Arrangement Orders, the two are not the same, and it is important to know the difference. Whereas a maintenance agreement sets out the amount for a non-residential parent to pay to supplement their child or children’s upbringing, a Child Arrangement Order regulates with whom a child can live or otherwise have contact. Child Arrangement Orders are made under the Children Act 1989. These replaced what were previously known as ‘Custody and Access Orders’ and, more recently, ‘Residence and Contact Orders’.

For more information about Child Arrangement Orders, contact Tollers Family Law team at:

https://www.tollers.co.uk/family-law/child-law/child-arrangements-orders-cao/

Talk to Tollers

Regardless of the path you decide to go down, it is important to get the best possible advice. At Tollers, our experienced Family Law department advises clients on all the possible options available regarding child Maintenance, ensuring they achieve the best outcomes for all those living in the locations we serve.  For more information… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558.

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