Graeme Fraser recognised by Chair of Resolution

OGR Stock Denton LLP Partner, Graeme Fraser, has been recognised by the Chair of the Resolution organisation of family lawyers, Margaret Heathcote, in a speech at its Annual Conference in Manchester.

She said: “Building on the success of our cohabitation awareness week, our work to highlight the lack of legal rights for unmarried couples has continued, with Graeme Fraser and the cohabitation committee securing regular mentions in Parliament and in the media for our work in this area.

“By the way, as if they haven’t got enough to do, the committee – with help from others who’ve given their time for free – have been beavering away at the second edition of the Cohabitation Claims book, coming soon to a member bulletin near you…

“Change in this area may not happen overnight, but when it does, you should look back at the work of Graeme and others as the originators of reform.”

How 5G will help businesses

5G is set to launch later this year, and businesses will benefit from faster data speeds than they had with the 4G network. According to BT, which has conducted extensive 5G research, 5G networks are around 10 times faster than 4G.

Moreover, 5G has lower latency, which is the time between an action being performed and the response. In fact, 5G has a latency speed of under one millisecond, compared with 19 milliseconds with 4G.

5G will also provide a more reliable and stable connection, and more people will be able to use the mobile network at the same time without interruptions from lots of people using the network in one place.

The network will bring many benefits to business and public sector organisations, as from the launch, 5G speeds will offer superfast data transfer and greater reliability and allow businesses to work faster and smarter than ever before.

According to BT, 5G will support a new generation of converged applications, connecting seamlessly across fixed, wi-fi and mobile networks. This will allow businesses to switch instantly, seamlessly and securely between networks so that they benefit from the best possible connection, whenever or wherever they are.

The benefits are likely to be most apparent in the automotive, transport and logistics, healthcare, manufacturing and entertainment industries. For example, thanks to the quick response time, operations could be performed remotely, allowing local clinicians to be on hand, which could, in turn, reduce wait times and increase the number of operations that are able to be performed.

Tribunal ruling could open doors for stamp duty surcharge exemption

A recent tax tribunal ruling has brought out a possible scenario where buy-to-let investors can avoid having to pay the 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge.

The ruling could also give the opportunity for many more landlords who have already paid the charge to request a refund from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The 3 per cent stamp duty charge on the purchase of second homes came into place in April 2016.

In the tax tribunal which took place in Bristol, it was suggested that certain property purchases may not be subject to the additional 3 per cent surcharge, instead of paying just the standard rate of stamp duty.

The case in question saw Paul and Nikki Bewley purchase a derelict bungalow in Western-super-Mare, which was at the time uninhabitable.

The couple decided to demolish the original building in order to build a new property in its place, in the belief that they would not be liable for the 3 per cent charge for purchasing a second home

However, HMRC contested this, claiming that the 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge was applicable, on the grounds that the property was capable of being used to live in some time in the future.

The tax tribunal ruled against HMRC claims saying that the surcharge would only apply to the couple if the home was in a suitable living condition immediately, which it was not.

The landmark judgement means that there may be cases for exemption if the property is uninhabitable at the time of purchase and cases for retrospective claims from those who have already made the surcharge payment.

HMRC are yet to decide on whether to appeal the decision and are carefully considering their next steps.

Concerning number of children have missed their vital vaccinations

New figures from Public Health England have revealed that there are a concerning number of children in the UK who have missed out on their vital vaccinations.

Experts are concerned that parents and guardians are unaware of the potential risks of children catching illnesses such as pneumonia, measles and even types of cancer.

There are many different vaccines that children are expected to be given at key stages in childhood.

Before a child is one they should have received all doses of their six-in-one vaccine, which protects against six separate diseases including diphtheria, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B, Hib (Haemophilus influenza type B) and whooping cough.

At this age, children should also have been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, and pneumonia, amongst other illnesses.

As well as this, every year between the ages of two and nine children should be given a flu vaccine.

Both boys and girls should be given a three-in-one teenage booster, and in their teens, they should also be given a vaccine to prevent against different types of meningitis and septicaemia.

Across England in 2018, there were 52,180 children living in care and of those 7,660 were not up to date with their vaccines; this equates to one in seven not being immunised.

Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive of the children in care charity Become, said: “The number of children in care who aren’t up to date with vaccinations is really worrying, both for them and because of the health threat this poses to other people.

“Children in care can often miss out on vaccinations in early childhood because the majority are taken into care from dysfunctional, chaotic family situations.

Ms Finlayson added, “This means that the accountability for making sure the child is up to date with vaccinations is diminished, and records that should go with the child can easily be misplaced.”

Dr Michael Edelstein, a Consultant Epidemiologist at Public Health England, said: “We want every child to benefit from the UK vaccination programme, and therefore encourage all those responsible for the care of children to ensure the children they care for are up to date for all their childhood jabs.

“We are working closely with the NHS, and with staff in general practice where most vaccinations are delivered, to improve uptake.”

First CDC pension scheme

The Government claims that millions of workers could benefit from better retirement savings when a new type of pension scheme, which pools savers’ risks in a bid to provide more stability, is introduced to the market.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd backed plans for the first Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) scheme in the UK after the pensions industry, insurers and other bodies welcomed the move proposed by Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

The Government worked closely with Royal Mail and the CWU to develop the proposals, which went out to consultation in November.

The schemes offer a regular retirement income by allowing group contributions to be pooled together and invested, to give members of the scheme a higher final benefit level. Moreover, as the risk is shared, there are better long-term protections for members of the scheme.

CDC schemes are based on similar systems that are popular in the Netherlands and Denmark. While supporters of these schemes believe they provide less risk and more stability for both employees and employers, critics have said that the target benefits of the pension are too complex to explain to savers and are not guaranteed, which makes retirement planning difficult. As well as this, they argue that the scheme is incompatible with pension freedoms.

However, when introducing the scheme this month, Ms Rudd said that the pioneering proposals should deliver improved investment returns for workers and savers while cutting costs and red tape for job creators. She added that any steps that result in better savings returns for workers are something to celebrate.

OGR Stock Denton says the Cohabitation Rights Bill is urgently required to end the damage of common law marriage myths

Graeme Fraser, a Partner at Finchley law firm OGR Stock Denton Solicitors, has welcomed the passing of the second reading of the Cohabitation Rights Bill at the House of Lords but says greater action is needed urgently to end the devastating myths that surround common law marriage.

Under the bill, cohabitees would not enjoy the same rights as divorcing couples, but in appropriate circumstances, the bill would give the courts the power to “adjust the financial position of qualifying cohabitants on relationship breakdown”.

This would effectively spread the financial costs, benefits and consequences fairly between separating couples, offering a degree of redress that is currently unavailable.

Unfortunately, many myths still pervade about common law marriage, as the latest British Social Attitudes Survey. It revealed that 46 per cent of people in England and Wales believe that cohabiting couples form a common law marriage and they are, therefore, afforded certain rights in regards to each other’s finances and estates, which do not exist.

Incredibly, this response barely differs from attitudes more than a decade ago, despite the rate of cohabitation rising rapidly.

In the time between the first British Social Attitudes Survey in 1995 and the latest report last year, the number of cohabitees has more than doubled to 6.6 million people in the UK.

Responding to the passing of the second reading and the speed at which new rights for cohabiting couples are being introduced, Graeme said: “While it is great news that this latest debate in the House of Lords means that policy makers are becoming increasingly aware of the plight of cohabitees who misunderstand their legal rights resulting from the common law marriage myth, it is time for the Government to act and support these urgently needed reforms.

“It must surely be a priority for the State to protect those families left vulnerable when a relationship breaks down and on death as a result of outdated laws not fit for purpose.”

Rise in probate fees temporarily delayed, but could still become reality soon according to OGR Stock Denton

Parliamentary time limitations resulting from the ongoing Brexit debates have meant that motions and a draft statutory device to increase probate fees is still waiting for approval in the Commons.

Dubbed a ‘death tax’ by the press, the proposed fee structure is now unlikely to come into force until late April at the earliest, depending on parliamentary time, but London law firm OGR Stock Denton is encouraging families to be prepared and plan ahead.

Currently, no date has been set for a parliamentary motion for the draft Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order 2018, which was initially laid before parliament on 7 February and expected to come into effect on 1 April.

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that once the motion is approved, the new probate fee regime would come into effect 21 days later.

Normally, secondary legislation such as this is passed without the hassle of a debate, as it is procedure. Although, MPs can refuse in which case secondary legislation is not approved.

This can lead to debates and subsequent amendments that could delay the whole process of any fees being introduced.

The Ministry of Justice confirmed the most recent probate fee structure will stay in place for as long as the current registration process, with the pre-HMRC inheritance tax registration required.

The delay has caused a great deal of confusion among advisers, who were expecting the new fees to come into effect in early April.

HM Revenue & Customs has reported a high level of calls from advisers asking about the current process to register an estate for inheritance tax through HMRC, which is mandatory before registrations for probate.

A HMRC spokesperson stated: “The helplines were getting calls about the new probate fees – there is some confusion from our customers and a lot of people calling the helpline about this, asking about what was happening.”

Under the Ministry of Justice plans, the current flat rate fee for probate will be changed so that fees are based on the value of the estate.

This will mean that the current fixed fees of £155 for probate applications made by solicitors and £215 for applications made by individuals will be replaced with the following fee structure:

Value of Estate New Fee
Up to £5,000 £0
£5,000 – £50,000 £0
£50,001 – £300,000 £250
£300,001 – £500,000 £750
£500,001 – £1m £2,500
£1m – £1.6m £4,000
£1.6m – £2m £5,000
Over £2m £6,000

The increase in fees is likely to have a significant effect on asset rich but cash poor estates, such as those with agricultural assets or where the only asset of the estate is a substantial, high-value property. It is feared that this could leave people in financial hardship and unable to access their inheritance.

It has been suggested that in some cases families may be able to seek a private loan to help, but specific financial products do not yet exist.

Speaking about the proposed changes to probate fees Tim Crook, Senior Associate at OGR Stock Denton, said: The introduction of a new probate fees regime, whenever it may happen, makes it more important than ever for individuals to consider their estate planning needs and how they wish to provide for a spouse / partner or to pass assets on to future generations on their death.

“Certain assets are not included when calculating the value of the estate for probate purposes (for example jointly held assets or non-UK situated assets) and the value of the estate can also be reduced by making lifetime gifts.  It is essential that appropriate estate planning advice is obtained to ensure any arrangements are done in a tax efficient manner and also that appropriately drafted Wills are in place.”

Employers should consider the harmful effects of sitting at work, warns OGR Stock Denton

According to a new scientific study, more than 69,000 deaths in the UK in 2016 could have been prevented by reducing the amount of time people spend sitting at work – a figure which London law firm OGR Stock Denton believes needs to be addressed.

This equates to around 11.6 per cent of all deaths in that year and it is believed that the impact of sitting at work costs the NHS at least £700 million a year.

Scientists want to highlight the cost on the NHS of living a sedentary lifestyle, which includes £424 million of spending on cardiovascular disease, £281 million on type 2 diabetes and £30 million on colon cancer in the UK, which could be avoided by making workers more active.

Leonie Heron, the author of the research from Queen’s University Belfast, said: “We don’t have clear guidelines [on sedentary behaviour] yet but any increase in activity is beneficial to your health.”

During their studies, Heron’s team found that 30 per cent of adults spent at least six hours of every weekday sedentary, rising to 37 per cent of adults on the weekends.

By looking into these patterns and including individuals smoking status, body mass index and how much exercise they did, the team found that if sedentary behaviour was eliminated in the UK the following percentage of diseases could be prevented:

  • 9 per cent of cases of colon cancer
  • 8 per cent of endometrial cancer
  • 7.5 per cent of lung cancer
  • 17 per cent of cases of type 2 diabetes
  • 5 per cent of cardiovascular disease cases

Hayley Trovato, a Senior Associate within OGR Stock Denton’s Employment team, said: “Instilling a workplace culture of movement around the office can go some way towards minimising the time employees spend at their desks.

“While there are no specific Health and Safety regulations dealing with this, encouraging employee’s wellbeing in the office can only be a good thing.

“Perhaps installing desks were employees can work standing up or having corporate health benefits, such as gym memberships, wellbeing massage benefits or lunchtime Pilates/Yoga sessions, could help reduce the time spent sitting at desks.”

OGR Stock Denton expands Private Client department with new appointments

The Private Client team at leading north London law firm, OGR Stock Denton, has grown with the addition of two new experienced solicitors since the start of 2019.

Nicola Levy and Tim Crook have both joined the practice in recent months, bringing with them expertise in a wide range of Private Client matters.

Before joining OGR Stock Denton, Nicola had worked as a Solicitor at a firm in Manchester after graduating from the University of Birmingham with an LLB degree in Law and completing her Legal Practice Course with distinction at BPP Law School in Manchester.

Nicola specialises in Court of Protection applications, probate and Inheritance Tax matters, but has wider experience in a variety of work.

Meanwhile, Tim joins us with more than 15 years’ experience advising high-net-worth individuals, trustees and financial institutions, both in the UK and overseas.

Fluent in French, Tim’s has specialist knowledge of onshore and offshore tax, wealth structuring and estate planning matters.

He has previously been listed in the prestigious Legal 500 guide for his work at other practices and is a full member of the STEP, through which he hopes to soon complete the Advanced Certificate in UK Tax for International clients.

Richard Denton, Managing Partner and Head of Private Client services at OGR Stock Denton, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Nicola and Tim to our team. They bring with them a significant amount of specialist expertise and knowledge, which can only further strengthen our existing Private Client department and also our International tax planning services.

“Our growth in this particular field of law has been fantastic in recent years, so we hope to develop our client base further in this area with their recruitment.”

Research shows increase in leasehold concerns

Well over half of UK adults questioned for a recent YouGov Survey for the HomeOwners Alliance, BLP Insurance and Resi.co.uk architects said that the UK’s system of leasehold and freehold properties is a serious issue.

More than 2,000 people were questioned for the survey, with around two thirds also saying that the quality of homes in the UK is a concern. This represented a six per cent increase on the equivalent figure from 2018.

Speaking to Property Reporter, Paula Higgins, Chief Executive at the HomeOwners Alliance, said: “It is shocking that in a country that is a leading world economy that so many people have serious concerns about the quality of our old and new housing stock, whether they are renting or are owner occupiers. We need more decent housing for more of us.”

A quarter of leaseholders surveyed said that management fees and the cost of works were too, with similar number complaining about unfair service charges and lack of control over the cost of works.

Link: Leasehold concerns hit five year high according to new research