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Legal Advice with Russell & Russell

Russell and Russell Solicitors can deal with all the legal aspects of your new life together. Whether you’re buying or selling a property, looking to protect your assets, thinking about starting a family or want to leave your possessions to those you care about, we can help.

We’ve nine offices across the North West; in Bolton, Atherton, Bury, Chester, Farnworth, Horwich and Middleton. And, because anything can happen at any time, we’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Call us on 0800 103 2600 or visit russellrussell.co.uk

Abuse of lasting power of attorney is on the rise, but don’t be put off making one as this could affect you..

The number of people being investigated for abusing property and financial lasting power of attorneys has risen 46%. The Office of the Public Guardian is looking into 1,647 more cases than last year, prompting concern amongst the industry and public alike.

A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person – known as a donor – to select an individual, or individuals, to act on their behalf should they lose mental capacity due to an accident or illness, such as dementia. These elected people are known as attorneys.

There are two types of power of attorney; one covers property and finances and the other deals with health and welfare. In both cases a power of attorney must be completed while the donor is still of sound mind.

A property and affairs LPA allows your attorney to handle your finances, such as any property and savings you may have, paying for care fees or arranging the sale of your home if necessary.

A health and welfare power of attorney addresses your personal well-being. It outlines what medical treatment you should receive or where you live, for example. You can even give your attorney the power to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf.

Although the number of investigations into misconduct has risen, many in the sector believe the problem is not due to the principle of a power of attorney, but perhaps with whom donors choose to represent them. Usually, it’s adult children who are appointed attorney, but donors need to be brutally honest about who they pick – after all, it’s they who will face the consequences of their choice.

Those with adult children who are not good at managing money or who could potentially steal from them need to face reality. Whether siblings get along with each other also needs to be considered as it could prove problematic when making decisions on behalf of the donor.

To help combat this, donors who have more than one attorney can determine whether they must all agree on every decision or whether they can act independently of each other. Alternatively, solicitors can be appointed as attorney. Once activated, they charge for their service, but the advantage is that they’re neutral and are accountable for any wrongdoing.

Around 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia and this figure is set to rise following a sharp increase in the number of people being diagnosed, or at risk of being diagnosed, with the condition.

Despite this, people aren’t looking ahead. In fact, a recent report produced by Solicitors for the Elderly warned that the UK is heading towards a dementia crisis because people aren’t making arrangements in case they’re diagnosed with a degenerative mental illness.

The report claims that 12.8 million people over the age of 65 have a high possibility of future incapacity, yet they haven’t planned ahead by setting up a lasting power of attorney.

Records show that there are only 928,000 health and welfare lasting powers of attorney currently registered in England and Wales. This is expected to increase to 2.2 million by 2025, but by then around 13.2 million people will be at risk of dementia.

While three quarters of the population fear dementia or the loss of capacity to make decisions, 97% – 49 million people – will be at risk with no relevant legal plans in place for their future care.

Although incidents of attorneys acting questionably do occur, families without a power of attorney can face real problems. As many as 65% of people believe that they if they lack mental capacity, their next of kin can specify medical and care decisions on their behalf. But without a power of attorney, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the person who has lost capacity can choose who makes decisions for them.

In the event of a lasting power of attorney not being in place, there is a £400 application fee for someone to volunteer to be a deputy for the donor, as well as ongoing supervision charges from the Court of Protection to safeguard the vulnerable person. There could also be care fees to pay while the deputyship is being processed. All of this takes far more time and money than setting up a lasting power of attorney in the first place.  

At Russell & Russell, we have a team of qualified lasting power of attorney experts. We also offer a free, no obligation consultation where we can talk you through the process and answer any questions or problems you may have.

More here https://www.russellrussell.co.uk/

Published on - Mon, 22 Oct 2018

Civil partnerships for heterosexual couples given the go ahead.. Does this affect you?

The government has announced that it will allow heterosexual couples in England and Wales to enter into a civil partnership.

Teresa May stated that it will address the “imbalance” in society to reflect the fact that all couples – and not just same sex couples – can choose either a civil partnership or to get married.

The news follows a ruling in June this year that the current Civil Partnership Act 2004, which only applies to same-sex couples, is in breach of European Convention on Human Rights.

In the UK, there are over 3.3 million unmarried couples who live together with shared financial responsibilities. Nearly half of these couples have children. Under current law, cohabitees don’t have the same legal and financial standing as that of a married couple or those in a civil partnership.

Many heterosexual couples, who have no wish to get married, have been campaigning for a change in the law, arguing they’re being discriminated against because they’re not married and not gay. They believe that not being legally recognised as a couple creates uncertainty around next of kin and inheritance issues. They also claim they’re not benefitting from tax allowances that are available to married and civil partnership couples.

In announcing the change , Teresa May stated: “This change in the law helps protect the interests of opposite-sex couples who want to commit, want to formalise their relationship but don’t necessarily want to get married…

"Now, by extending civil partnerships, we are making sure that all couples, be they same-sex or opposite-sex, are given the same choices in life.”

Find out more here https://www.russellrussell.co.uk/

Published on - Tue, 09 Oct 2018

No fault divorce moves closer. What are the implications for Same-sex couples?


Changes to divorce law in England and Wales have taken a step forward. Justice Secretary, David Gauke is set to begin a consultation calling for no-fault divorce to finally be implemented.

The plans, which are yet to be finalised, will be the biggest shake up of the system in 50 years with couples being allowed to file for no-fault divorce and spouses losing the right to contest the divorce. A reduction in the time someone needs to wait is also being proposed.

At the moment, a person has to show irretrievable breakdown by proving their partner has committed adultery, or state they behaved unreasonably or prove desertion. They can also file for divorce if they have been living apart for two years and both sides agree to end the marriage. But, if the divorce is contested, there’s a wait of five years before proceedings can be started.

Under the new proposals the sole legal ground for divorce would be irretrievable breakdown and the need to specify a reason for the break-up of the marriage would be removed. Contesting the divorce would also be abolished and the time the parties need to wait before becoming entitled to a divorce would be reduced from two years to six months.

The news follows the case of Tini Owens who has been refused the right to divorce her husband until 2020 (see our news article dated 6th August). Judges made the ruling after Mrs Owens, who has been married to her husband, Hugh for 40 years, was unable to prove her marriage had irretrievably broken down. Despite having had an affair and living in a different house to her husband, Mr Owens has contested the divorce because he believes his wife is “bored” and insists they still have a time to enjoy life.  

Supporters of the new legislation believe that the introduction of no fault divorce will alleviate the stress associated with divorce and relieve conflict. Opponents of the proposed legislation, however, fear that it will undermine the sanctity of marriage by enabling divorce on demand.

Russell & Russell’s family law team has solicitors who specialise in divorce. If you’d like to understand how divorce might affect your circumstances, call any of our branches and arrange to speak to ta solicitor.
More here https://www.russellrussell.co.uk/

Published on - Tue, 02 Oct 2018

Employers to face prison if found negligent for fatal accidents at work


New rules are being introduced to hold companies responsible for fatal accidents in the workplace to account.

Anyone in England and Wales, aged 18 or over, who is sentenced on or after the 1st November this year will be subject to the new Definitive Guideline for manslaughter offences. Regardless of the date the offence was committed, the new rules will apply. If found guilty, employers liable for the most serious of health and safety breaches can face up to 18 years in prison.

The guidelines, which have been issued by the Sentencing Council, covers four distinct types of manslaughter, the most serious of which for accidents at work is gross negligence manslaughter. Employers are culpable of this when they fail in their duty of care, resulting in the death of an employee due to a health and safety breach which amounts to a criminal act or omission, whether in a workplace or domestic setting.  

Jane Penman, a Partner in Russell & Russell’s personal injury department, says: “Despite the amount of health and safety legislation already in place, we’re still seeing people come to us as a result of a family member suffering a fatal accident at work. Clearly, this is unacceptable.

“Employers who are found to have deliberately flouted the law in order to make more money or reduce costs should face the full force of the law. Hopefully the new guidelines will make employers think twice about cutting corners.

“It’s not just the victims themselves who suffer. For the families of those killed in a workplace accident, the reality of losing a loved one is bad enough, but the situation is exacerbated further because a criminal case normally has to take place before the civil case can be finalised. This results in a lengthy, drawn out process, making matters worse for the families who are grieving and trying to come to terms with their loss.

“Of course, accidents at work of any nature are always difficult for those affected, especially when more serious injuries are incurred. While someone may not die as a consequence of their accident, the injuries they sustain can be life changing. We’re acting on behalf of a number of clients who are claiming against employers who have shown a blatant disregard for ensuring health and safety standards are followed and maintained. In the 21st Century, and with all the legislation in place, this shouldn’t still be happening.”

More here https://www.russellrussell.co.uk/

Published on - Tue, 25 Sep 2018