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By David White 17 Jan, 2017

A recent news  article  about a care home close to our Enfield office has highlighted the growing issues surrounding care for people with dementia. Enfield Council has given the go-ahead for a brand new care home on the site of the Coppice Wood Lodge Care Home which will double its capacity.

The Alzheimer’s Society’s statistics show that 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia, numbers are expected to rise to over a million by 2015 and 2 million by 2051. This year, they estimate that nearly a quarter of a million people will develop the disorder. Little wonder there is so much pressure on councils and care homes.

Lasting power of attorney

If you are worried about who will look after you, your property and finances if the worst should happen, you can do something about it now. A lasting power of attorney (LPA) will enable you to give someone you trust the legal right to take care of your affairs if you lose the mental capacity to look after them yourself.

There are two different types of LPAs: one for your property and financial affairs, the other for your health and welfare. You may choose to do either one or both. You do not have to be mentally incapacitated to activate an LPA for property and affairs - under your direction, your attorney can deal with these on your behalf. When it comes to welfare, the LPA can only legally be used if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. In addition, you can make your wishes known now about treatments you do or do not want in the future, and you can also make a ‘ living will ’ or ‘advanced statement’ which can referred to by your doctors and carers at a later date.

You can give a power of attorney to more than one person and direct them to act either jointly or independently from each other (“severally”). If you want to put restrictions or conditions on their decisions, you can do so.

Powers of attorney are registered by the  Office of the Public Guardian  who oversee records of attorneys and deputies, and will protect the interests of the person who made the LPA.

If you would like to discuss drawing up a lasting power of attorney or writing your will,  contact us  to begin the process.


By David White 17 Jan, 2017
Running your own small business isn’t the easiest way to make a living, but when you get it right, it’s hugely satisfying. According to the latest government figures , there were 5.4 million private sector businesses in the UK at the beginning of 2015, 99.3% of which were classified as small businesses.
If you are about to set up your own business, or have just taken the plunge, here are our business solicitors’ best tips to help you succeed. 

Compete on service, not price
You’re never going to be able to match the prices offered by the large, established businesses, so concentrate on excellent customer service instead. Your company’s reputation will spread if your customers are happy enough to recommend you to their friends and family. And don’t just sit there waiting for people to come to you, get involved with your community through local activities and charities to put you and your brand at the forefront of people’s minds. 

Networking
Small business owners understand the importance of networking with other businesses and there are more and more business networking groups being set up all the time. Try out the groups in your area to see which ones work best for you, then commit to going to them regularly. You’ll meet all sorts of people running a huge range of different businesses, providing each other with a lot of support as well as custom and recommendations.

Shout about your business on social media
If your potential clients don’t know you exist, you need to find them and tell them where you are. Research which social media sites they are most likely to use, then set up accounts, start following people, and make sure you post and repost regularly and frequently. If you’re not sure how best to go about it, or haven’t got the time to do it yourself, invest in the services of a digital marketing specialist.

Keep on top of your finances
According to smallbusiness.co.uk , entrepreneurs underestimate the cost of setting up a new business by £2,525 - an amount which could mean the difference between success and failure. So when you’re setting up. make sure you research all the costs and set aside a contingency fund for unexpected costs.

Don’t cut corners on professional advice
A favourite lawyer joke was coined by Shakespeare: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”. It was a throwaway line by a minor character in Henry VI, Part Two made by a butcher to a group of working class men who were discussing what they’d do if one of them was made king. Whilst a lot of people may initially agree with the sentiment, when you think about it in more depth, there are situations where the services of a lawyer could save you a lot of trouble and expense in the future. For example, you decide to take on 3 year lease on new business premises because the rent is low enough for a start-up. But what if there is a problem with a leaking roof further down the line? Do you know for sure that the landlord is responsible for repairs? With such a low rent, it’s more likely that you have actually signed a lease with a full repairing obligation which means you have to replace the roof at your own expense. A lawyer would have prevented you making such a mistake in the first place leaving you in a better position now. 

Another example is if you start a business with a close friend. You’ve known each other for years and get on so well there’s no reason to instruct a lawyer to draw up any agreements. Many friends have set up businesses in this way, but in some cases one of the friends dies and the family from hell takes over, giving you no end of problems and costing you a lot of money to get out of the situation. If you and your friend had drawn up an agreement in the first place that dealt with such an event, you would be in a much stronger position and would not have had to spend so much money.

According to the Law Society , “A specialised business solicitor can help you identify future legal problems and advise you on what steps to take to prevent problems before they happen, which will protect your business from risk and save you money.” This means getting the right advice about business structure, choosing a name and registering your company, finance, tax advice, constitutional benefits, premises and legal contracts, protecting intellectual property, your legal duties and documentation.

Talk to one of Duffield Harrison’s business solicitors for advice on all aspects of business and HR .

By David White 15 Dec, 2016

Buying your first home is an exciting time and there is a lot of advice online about searching for property and getting a mortgage. Once you have found your dream home, had your offer accepted and been approved for a mortgage, you will have to take care of conveyancing in order to complete your home purchase.

A good conveyancer will review all the paperwork, do the relevant searches, make sure the money transfers into the seller’s account, and keep the process going until completion.

Conveyancing in a nutshell

Conveyancing is all the legal and administrative work that needs to be done when a building or plot of land is transferred from one owner to another. The conveyancing process ends once the final contracts are signed and the money has been successfully transferred.

The conveyancing process is either conducted by a solicitor, property lawyer or licensed conveyancer. If you opt to hire the services of a solicitor, make sure that residential property transactions are something they specialise in.

A good conveyancer will understand that, as a first time buyer, you will understandably want to ask lots of questions about the process. It is also more likely that there will be more paperwork involved as first time buyers are much more likely to buy a flat with a leasehold.

First time buyers also tend to choose their new home emotionally, which means they may not have asked enough questions about the property. Again, a good conveyancer will understand this and make sure they collate all the relevant information about the property on your behalf.

Keeping on top of events

Conveyancing is a complex process which requires someone who is able to keep on top of things at all times. The process is complicated further by the sporadic nature of the flow - there will be times when there is a flurry of activity, followed by a quiet period. It is therefore vitally important that you find a conveyancer who will not lose sight of your case as even small delays could throw everything out of kilter with the move.

Apart from keeping on top of the buyer’s paperwork, conveyancers also have to keep in regular contact with all parties - the buyer as well as the seller’s solicitor, the mortgage provider/bank and estate agents. Keeping up the momentum of the sale is essential to the process and you want to be assured that your conveyancer is keeping in touch with the other parties to ensure your sale is going through as quickly and efficiently as possible.

If you are looking for conveyancing services in the Hoddesdon, Hertford or Enfield area with a great local reputation for efficiency, calmness and professionalism, contact us to find out more.


By David White 15 Dec, 2016

A poll undertaken by relationship charity  OnePlusOne  found that 40% of us believe living together will give you the same rights as marriage. The phrases ‘common law wife’ and ‘common law husband’ are widely used to indicate couples who are ‘married’ in every respect, except a legal one. But this assumption is misleading - ‘common law’ marriage is a myth, including the notion that if you live together for six months with a man you are a common law wife Various rights may arise under property and trust law and/or under the Children Act.

Legal position of unmarried couples

One advantage of not getting married or having a civil partnership is that when a couple splits up, there is no formal or legal process to go through and they can just go their separate ways. However, if there are children or a joint investment such as a mortgage involved, things may become more difficult with no recognised legal structure to help sort things out, which will affect the entitlement of one party to the other’s estate upon death, to a share of the property upon separation, and to parental responsibility of any children.

Without a marriage licence, partners who buy a home together would be best advised to protect their investments with a trust deed which will record their shares in the property. If parents have made a financial contribution, they also need to seek separate legal advice to protect their investment if anything goes wrong with their child’s relationship.

A couple could consider a cohabitation agreement which may not be legally binding but will give practical guidelines going forward. Simply by sitting down and discussing things in advance will enable them to talk about relationship expectations, as well as consider how to resolve possible disputes in the future. However, like a prenuptial agreement the Courts may not follow the terms of these agreements.

Legal position of fathers

If an unmarried father does not jointly register the birth of his child, he will have no automatic parental responsibility. If necessary, he can set up a  parental responsibility agreement  with the mother (or through the courts if the mother does not agree to it).

Where there’s a will…

Couples who are not married would have no automatic right to the other’s assets in the event of their death. If someone dies intestate, their assets will be passed on to the next of kin (or the Crown if no family member can be found). It is therefore vital that each party makes a will to specify what they want to happen.

If you would like advice about any of these issues, please  contact us  to make an appointment.  


By David White 15 Dec, 2016

Workers in the UK are protected by procedures their employers must go through if there are any concerns about discipline at work. Check the  government’s website  for an explanation of what these are. When these procedures are not being followed, it is time to see a solicitor about unfair dismissal or disciplinary action.

Are you an employee?

You may not be hired as an employee but there are cases where, even if you are self-employed you are, in law, an employee. We can advise on these issues and help you if you are not being treated fairly.

Disciplinary procedures

If your employers are unhappy with your work or your conduct, they are entitled to take capability or disciplinary procedures against you, as laid out in Acas’s  Code of Practice . Employers are not obliged to follow the Acas Code of Practice, but if you take them to a tribunal and win your case, they could be fined for failing to do so.  

If your employers are unhappy about your behaviour at work, any absences you have taken, or the standard of your work, in the first instance they must address the issue with an informal talk to see why there is a problem and whether there is a way of putting things right.

If this fails to solve the problem, they can then begin a disciplinary procedure which could lead to dismissal. Initially this must be in the form of a letter which sets out the complaint in full. You will be invited to a meeting where you can discuss the problem with your employers and put forward your side of things. The letter must clearly state that you have the right to be accompanied at the meeting – either a colleague, trade union representative or friend.

No disciplinary action will be taken before this meeting.

Afterwards, your employers must write to you, clearly stating the action they will take as a result. If you do not agree with their decision, you will be able to appeal against it. You must let them know that you will be appealing in writing, and explain why you disagree with their decision. Again, you have the right to take someone into the appeal meeting.

After the appeal meeting, your employer must write to you with their final decision.

Seeking further advice

We can assist at any stage of the process. If you decide to go to tribunal, generally you must make the application within three months of when the event you are complaining about happened, but there are circumstances where there is a longer time limit applicable or no time limit at all. So if you think this may be the action you want to take, contact a solicitor for advice sooner rather than later.

Our solicitors are experienced in cases of unfair dismissal, employment tribunals and discrimination in the workplace. If you think you are being treated unfairly at work,  contact us  to make an appointment to discuss your options and potential costs.


By David White 29 Sep, 2016

Having a Will is important because it means you can control what happens to your estate after you die. If you die without a Will, the law will decide who gets your property. It is a common misconception that your spouse will inherit everything if you die before them. That can happen but in a number of estates it does not and can leave your spouse vulnerable or at issue with any children or step-children. Whether you write your own Will or go through the services of a solicitor is very much up to you, but unless you are certain that yours is 100% unambiguous and will not be contested, getting a legal professional to help write it will save your executors a lot of time, money and effort in the long run. This is money that would have otherwise have gone to your intended beneficiaries. If you are writing your Will for the first time, here is a brief summary of what you need to know.

Who can make a Will?

You must be over 18, be making your Will voluntarily, and be of ‘ sound mind ’. The Will must be made in writing, signed in the presence of two witnesses and then signed by the two witnesses in your presence. Your witnesses or their spouses cannot be beneficiaries of your Will.

DIY

Some stationers and charities sell pre-printed Will forms which will decrease the cost of writing your Will, but will increase the likelihood of making a mistake, which could render your Will null and void. Homemade Wills are an area that causes a large amount of litigation and can cost the estate thousand of pounds in legal costs. We do not believe it is sensible or ultimately economical to go down this route.  Do you really want that potential risk for your loved ones? If you do decide go down this route, please ask someone to check the document once you’ve written it, e.g. the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Will-writing firms

There are firms who will offer to write your Will for you, but they are unregulated by the Law Society so you must be careful about which one to choose.

Solicitor

The best way to write a Will that you can be 100% certain of is to go through a solicitor.

At the time of taking such advice from a solicitor you will receive accurate and up to date advice on any Inheritance Tax implications for your estate and you may be able to carry out some effective planning as a result. This can potentially save your estate a lot of money in the long run.

Indeed, there are some situations when this should be the only option, such as:-

- When you share a property with someone who is not your legal spouse; or

- You are in a second or third relationship; or

- There are several family members who you may want to exclude or who you feel may want to make a claim; or

- You do not live in the UK or have overseas property;

- And if you own a business.

This is not an exhaustive list and can include really anything out of the ordinary.

What to include

The major points to consider include the disposal of all your property and possessions. You need to decide who you would like to benefit from your Will, and what and how much you want to leave to whom.

If you are the parent of children under the age of 18 you should look to specify who you would like to look after them so they are protected.

Executors

An executor is the person who will sort out your estate and make sure your wishes are carried out. They will be responsible for dealing with the paperwork and all of the finances, including paying funeral costs and any Inheritance Tax that may be due. They should be people you trust.  You can have up to four executors. Most tend to be family members or friends. However, you can choose a solicitor, accountant, the bank or a public trustee. Please note however that these people will want to charge their fees to your estate.  

Always ask the person or people you are thinking of appointing as executor before putting them in your Will to make sure they are willing to take on the responsibility.  

If you would like advice about any aspect of writing or amending your Wil l or Inheritance Tax issues,   contact us to arrange an appointment.

By David White 26 Sep, 2016

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show there were 114,720 divorces in England and Wales in 2013, down from 118,140 in 2012, a decrease of 2.9%. There were 974 civil partnership dissolutions in 2013, but this figure is expected to decrease owing to the introduction of same sex marriages in 2014. Whilst this is heartening news for the majority of relationships, there are still a sizeable number of people who need to seek legal advice. In which case, it is helpful to know how you prepare for a meeting with your divorce lawyer to ensure you have everything you need.

Get your paperwork in order

You may have been prompted to make an appointment because your partner has already started the process. If that is the case, you will have received a letter from their solicitors.  Make sure you bring any correspondence along to your meeting so your divorce solicitor can advise you properly.

You will also need to bring identification documentation with you, as well as your marriage certificate. (If your partner has taken it, you can obtain a certified copy from the Register of Births, Deaths & Marriages ) Please also bring along details of your earnings.

The information your divorce solicitor will need includes:

  • Full name, address, contact details and date of birth for you and your spouse.
  • Names, dates of birth and school details for all your children.
  • Employment details of you and your spouse.
  • Estimate of the value of your home and any other properties - if you are not sure, visit estate agent websites to find out what similar properties in the area have been sold for.
  • Details of the remaining value of any mortgages/loans on the property.
  • Details of any other assets including savings and pensions.
  • Details of any other debts including credit and store cards.
  • Paperwork that shows particular financial contributions you have made to the partnership, such as a completion statement from the sale of a previous home or documents showing an inheritance.
  • If applicable, details of the divorce settlements made by you or your spouse from previous marriages.

The more information you can give your divorce solicitor at this point, the more detailed their advice will be. Make sure you’re open and honest about the information you share. Your solicitor is there to protect your interests.

Make sure you organise all your documentation in separate files and put everything in date order in order to reduce the amount of work your solicitor will have to do thus reducing your costs liability.

Emotions can run high

A divorce can be a sensitive issue, especially if things have been difficult between you and your spouse, so talking about it might be difficult. Feel free to take a friend or family member into the meeting with you if you’d like them to provide support and ask questions. Please also feel free to write down facts or questions so you do not forget anything.

If you do sadly need legal advice about a separation or breakup, contact us to talk to one of our family law specialists in Hertford, Hoddesdon or Enfield.

By Jeannelyn Brinas 11 Feb, 2016
On 1 October 2014 Duffield Harrison LLP took over the well-established legal practice of Fairbairn Smith & Co. Five staff members from Fairbairn Smith & Co have joined our Enfield office to enable us to expand our Private Client, Wills & Probate, Residential Conveyancing and Litigation departments. Full details of the new and existing teams for all offices can be found on our meet the team page.
By Jeannelyn Brinas 11 Feb, 2016
Government has today (03.12.14) announced changes to Stamp Duty. If you have already exchanged on a purchase you can opt to pay stamp duty under either the new or old rules. Anyone who has not yet exchanged will pay stamp duty under the new rules.

From midnight on 3rd December, the new rates of stamp duty will only apply to the amount of the purchase price that falls within the particular duty band, making it more like income tax

The new rates will be

Up to £125,000 : 0%
£125,001 to £250,000 : 2%
£250,001 to £925,000 : 5%
£925,001 to £1.5m : 10%
Above £1.5m : 12%

In other words, someone buying a house for £200,000 will pay nothing on the first £125,000, and then 2% of the next £75,000, giving them a bill of £1500. Previously they would have paid 1% on the total purchase price, giving them a bill of £2,000. Thus although the percentage rates appear higher in some cases, the overall charge will mostly be lower

Only people who buy homes worth more than £937,000 will pay more in tax.
By Jeannelyn Brinas 11 Feb, 2016
Duffield Harrison LLP's charity of the year this year is Teens Unite – they are a local charity located in Broxbourne assisting young people with cancer.

Instead of Christmas cards we are making a donation to Teens Unite.
Information can be found at http://teensunitefightingcancer.org
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To speak to our highly recommended solicitors, call on: 
Hoddesdon:
01992 442 911

Hertford:
01992 587 065

Enfield:
020 8804 5271
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