2021 Budget boost for the housing market…

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The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, presenting the 2021 budget, has just announced the continuation of the existing reduced rate of Stamp Duty Land Tax. The increased threshold will continue until the end of June 2021 for properties in England and Northern Ireland valued up to £500,000, with a tapered reduction thereafter until 30 September, before returning to the former threshold of £125,000. House price inflation seems destined to increase, at least in the short term.

Mr Sunak has also announced a mortgage guarantee scheme under which the government will underwrite homebuyers taking out mortgages with a 5% deposit.

The Furlough scheme has also been extended, until 30 September, however employers will be required to pay an increased proportion of wages in July and in August. Corporation Tax is set to risk from 19% to 25% in 2023.

Our Covid-19-safe ‘Park Up Law Service’

View of Broomhead & Saul's head office with St Mary's tower on the left

Broomhead & Saul’s head office at 10 Hammet Street, Taunton

Broomhead & Saul solicitors are proud to announce a new Covid-19-safe kerbside law service.

This appointment only service was launched to meet the unprecedented demand for the services of an independent solicitor to undertake a variety of basic legal formalities for members of the public and businesses based in the Somerset area.

As far as we are aware, we are the only law firm in the country to introduce this service.

Our Park Up Law Service offers the following essential legal services:

  • Swearing affidavits
  • Making statutory declarations
  • Certifying copy documents
  • Witnessing signatures
  • Confirming identity

The Park Up Law Service is available by appointment on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

These legal services will be administered by a solicitor standing on the kerbside next to the parking bay opposite our Head Office at No. 10 Hammet Street, Taunton, TA1 1RZ or, if it is raining, from our front door porch at No 10. Hammet Street.

To book and appointment:

  • Call us on 01823 288121
  • Email us on: enquiries@broomhead-saul.co.uk Terms and conditions apply

Terms & Conditions of the Service

  • As these kerbside legal services need to be undertaken by an independent solicitor acting in an official capacity as an officer of the Senior Courts, it is necessary to make an additional charge to compensate this firm for the solicitor’s time involved in setting up and attending the appointment, complying the Covid-19 safety protocols and in completing the contact tracing registration, over and above any statutorily prescribed swear fee.   In the interests of facilitating access to legal services, we are subsidising these fees as they are based on an hourly charge rate that is significantly less than that normally charged for a solicitor’s time.
  • Our Park UP Law Service is available to members of the public who are able to drive (or be driven) and park immediately opposite our Head Office at 10 Hammet Street, Taunton, TA1 3AX.  Our services will be delivered through the car window from the pavement and / or the front porch in inclement weather.  Pedestrian’s are also able to access these services from our porch.
  • Customers; not clients.  Members of the public using these service are generally referred to us by other law firms seeking an independent law firm to officiate the legal service for their client(s) and so it would be inappropriate for this firm to treat these visitors as the firm’s clients (although we would be delighted to advise on or represent them on an unconnected matter). Accordingly our we cannot not provide or offer any legal advice to visiting customers.
  • In the interests of Covid-19-safety, we ask visiting customers to wear face masks during the proceedings.
  • For contact-tracing purposes, we would be obliged if every visiting customer would complete a register.  Your details will not be disclosed to third parties nor used for marketing.
  • We shall endeavour to conduct the legal services with as much discretion as is possible in all the circumstances but there is a limit to the privacy that can be achieved when doing so in a public place.  If, due to circumstances beyond our control, it is not possible to discharge the service with sufficient discretion, we will refund the fee immediately and without any reservation.

A track record of innovation

In May 2020 Broomhead & Saul was the first law firm in the country to administer the execution of a self-isolating client’s Will using video conferencing technology. Our ground-breaking legal research persuaded the government to pass emergency legislation to amend the Wills Act 1837 to sanction the use of online audio-video technology to witness a will in safety and to do so with retrospective effect.

Taunton solicitor leads the field on driverless vehicles

Text book commission

Dr Nicholas Bevan, has been commissioned by leading publishers Thomson Reuters to contribute a new chapter on automated motor vehicle liability in the Encyclopaedia of Insurance Law.  This is a seminal work that is highly regarded in academic, commercial insurance and professional circles.

Image of automated vehicle taken from Innovation Is Great, a booklet published in October 2020 by the UK government, imaged linked to gov.uk publication.

An automated vehicle being trialed in the UK in 2020

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 amends the UK’s existing compulsory third party insurance regime (which is primarily governed by Part VI of the Road Traffic Act 1988) by extending the scope of third party motor cover to embrace the use of automated  vehicles and deal with electric and hydrogen powered vehicle charging infrastructure.  It introduced the concept of no-fault product liability in a field of insurance that had previously depended on claimants establishing some driver or owner culpability since 1930

The Act was a flagship government initiative of Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May’s government.  Its principle sponsor was the ill-fated Transport Minister, Mr Chris Grayling MP.

In 2018 Dr Bevan’s two-part feature in the New Law Journal [Driverless vehicles: future perfect? (Pt 1) and Driverless vehicles: future perfect? (Pt 2)] provided the first critical analysis  of the new regime.  It exposed various shortcomings, the most serious of which was a major flaw that would allow motor insurers to easily evade their liability to compensate victims of a malfunctioning automated vehicle.

The government was quick to act to plug this egregious defect by Regulation 6 of The Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019.  Regulation 6 effectively prohibits insurers from relying on certain breaches of policy terms against a third party victim after the event giving rise to its liability has arisen.

Daring to differ

Dr Bevan is the partner responsible for business development at Broomhead & Saul.  In May 2020 he supervised the nation’s first video witnessed will on behalf of a self-isolating client who was secluded 150 miles away.  His 3 June 2020 paper ‘ Why Video Witnessing Is Valid, which the Attorney General described as ‘an argument with force, set out in impressively comprehensive terms ’ exposed the Law Commission’s erroneous research finding from 2017 to the effect that video witnessing was invalid, as seriously flawed and bad law.  This persuaded the government to pass emergency legislation to reform the Wills Act 1837 to permit this practice with retrospective effect (see: Section 2 of the Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020).

Between 2005 and 2018 Dr Bevan’s published research and his legal activism and pro bono campaigning led to a number of a important reforms to the Motor Insurance Bureau’s compensatory regimes for victims of uninsured and untraced drivers.  Dr Bevan was featured as a ‘Mover and Shaker’ by the New Law Journal in December 2020.

CONTACTING US IN LOCKDOWN 3

Your safety and convenience in Lockdown 3

Our first priority at Broomhead & Saul is to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff as well as our clients and other visitors.

Visiting us

We are delighted to confirm that we are still allowed to meet our clients in person, where this is necessary to discharge a legal obligation, or otherwise required by law or procedure.  However, visits to our offices must be by appointment so we can make suitable arrangements for our mutual safety.

Help us keep you safe

We ask all our visitors to adhere to our Covid 19 safety policy.  This includes:

  • Not entering the building unless and until invited to do so
  • Not visiting us if you or anyone you live with, or have been in contact with, has any of the symptoms of Coronavirus or has tested positive without first adhering to the government’s guidance on self-isolating
  • Applying the hand sanitiser provided inside the front door
  • Remaining in the public / visitor and client meeting areas in our offices
  • Maintaining our social distancing rules and guidelines
  • Bringing and then wearing a face mask whilst on our premises, unless you are exempt from doing so, in which case we need to be informed of this in advance.
  • Notifying us of any medical condition that makes you especially susceptible to the effects of Covid-19

Consulting us

This firm’s innovative approach to its private client services leads the nation.  We offer a full range of different routes to accessing our services. These include personal attendances at our offices or your home, the telephone, conventional post or email correspondence, as well as remote video conferencing.

Covid-19 risk assessment

On 4 January 2021 we  undertook a detailed review and revision of our Covid-19 safety procedures.   In consequence, we have reduced the number of staff in our offices to a minimum and have facilitated homeworking for others.

Our home working protocols are tried and tested, having been used in the first lockdown, last March.

Consumers welcome video witnessing of wills

At least 36% of consumers of will writing services would be be happy to complete their wills online using online video conferencing technology to facilitate the remote witnessing of their signatures.

This finding is made in the UK Wills & Probate Consumer Research Report 2020, which is published by the leading market research consultancy firm IRN.  The statistic is based on a survey of 2,093 adults, 755 of whom had made a will in the conventional manner: by signing their will in the physical presence of two witnesses, as opposed to arranging for them to observe the signing procedure online.

In our view it is likely that a much higher percentage of legal consumers would welcome a video will witnessing service that saves them from the health risk, cost and inconvenience of attending a solicitor’s office in person, if only this was more widely available. Our precedent setting use of video witnessing has proved to be a great success.

Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of legal practitioners (solicitors and unregulated will writing businesses) are not prepared to offer this as a service. Their reluctance is partly the result of a disinclination to change well entrenched practices and party due to a misconception, widely held within the legal profession.  Most lawyers suffer from the mistaken perception that that prior to 28 September 2020 the unamended section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 insisted on a witnesses physical attendance. Indeed, for at least six months after the onset of the first lockdown, the Law Society actively discouraged video witnessing, by wrongly insisting on its members ensuring the physical attendance of testamentary witnesses despite the evident health risks posed by Covid-19.

This firm is proud of the fact that when it was approached by a self-isolating client wanting to make a will in late April it decided to undertake its own research (in association with its strategic partner Solicitors Title LLP), when the Law Society refused to enter into a dialogue or to explain its reasons. Our ground breaking joint research paper (by Dr Nicholas Bevan) revealed that video witnessing of wills, properly conducted, was fully consistent with over three hundred years of case law on this topic.  We administered the nation’s first video witnessed will on 1 May.

We later published our research and launched a highly successful lightening law reform campaign that persuaded the government to pass the Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020. This emergency legislation took the unprecedented step of being given retrospective effect,  which sanctions (by statutory ) the action we took in May;  based as it was on well established common law principles as well as simple common sense.

The same research paper by IRN reveals that at least half of the legal consumers it interviewed would welcome substituting face to face consultations in person with video conferencing.  In our opinion, this is hardly surprising but only a few law firms offer video conferencing as a routine alternative to a conventional meetings in person.

Broomhead & Saul in partnership with Solicitors Title LLP, continue to lead the field in private client services.

 

 

Taunton Leads The Nation With Covid-19 Safe Wills

Our account of how, during the lockdown, a self-isolating client and a very effective local MP helped us trigger the most significant reform to will writing since 1677.

See: Taunton Chamber Chatter – Broomhead and Saul Dec 2020

Published in the December issue of the Taunton Chamber of Commerce’ journal, Chambers Chatter, and reproduced here with the kind permission of the Taunton Chamber of Commerce at www.taunton-chamber.co.uk and DesignBean at www.designbean.co.uk.’

 

Why setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney is so important

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and do I need one?

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you appoint one or more people (your attorneys) to help you either manage your financial affairs or to make decisions about your health and welfare.  There are two separate forms, one for finance and the other for health.  You can choose to have either one, or you can choose to have both, and if both you can have different attorneys for the separate forms or you can choose the same ones.

There is an important distinction between the two different types:  the Health and Welfare only comes into effect when you are not capable of making your own decisions while, with the Financial Affairs one, you can choose to let your attorneys help you, even though you still have mental capacity.   In either case they must always act in your best interest.  Furthermore, with the financial one, they must let you make all the decisions yourself, if you have capacity, and not overrule you.

A Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to plan ahead for unforeseen contingencies. Illnesses and accidents can happen to anyone at any time and at any age and having a Lasting Power of Attorney in place provides you with peace of mind as it avoids the risk of incurring the substantial cost of making a formal application to the court, as well as sparing your loved ones much distress and uncertainly. It also enables you to stipulate who is to exert that power on your behalf in these circumstances.

Most of us assume that our next-of-kin already have authority to deal with such matters, but this is not the case. Even married couples need to ensure that either of them will be able to lawfully manage the other’s affairs in the event of physical or mental incapacity.

You will, at all times, retain the legal right to make your own decisions, good or bad, about your financial affairs and health and welfare even after you have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place; so long as you retain the mental capacity to take these decisions.

You can revoke your Lasting Power of Attorney at any time, as long as you have the capacity to do so.

Who should I appoint as my attorneys?

The short answer is that you should choose people you trust implicitly and, just as important, whom you already get along with. These can be friends or relatives. An attorney’s age, life experience and location should be considered.

If you appoint more than one attorney, which is something we usually recommend, then you will need to decide on their working relationship.  You can appoint them jointly, in which case both attorneys have to be in agreement when making a decision or taking action on your behalf, or jointly and severally, which enables your attorneys to allocate their joint responsibilities between themselves.  Each alternative has its benefits and potential drawbacks.

If you do not have any close friends or relatives that are able or willing to act in this role, you can appoint members of this firm to act as your attorneys.  We have a capable team of professionals who are very experienced in this work.

We are also experienced in acting in collaboration with lay attorneys and our hourly charge rate is always set at a competitive rate.  Our professional duty is always to act in our client- donor’s best interests, come what may.

Can a Lasting Power of Attorney be changed?

Yes.  So long as you retain the requisite mental capacity to make your own decisions, you can revoke your Lasting Power of Attorney and prepare a new one, if you want, at any time. The rules that determine whether an individual has the requisite mental capacity to make their own decisions are extremely well thought through and set out in statute. Disputes on capacity are usually resolved by medical experts.

It does not matter whether the Lasting Power of Attorney has been registered or not, you can still cancel it.

Can a Lasting Power of Attorney be challenged?

Here at Broomhead & Saul we can arrange in appropriate cases for medical professionals to consider the issue of mental capacity in order to try to avoid any further arguments over this issue.

You also benefit from the fact that professionally trained and qualified solicitors have overseen the preparation and execution of the documents. When people make Lasting Power of Attorney themselves, they can be more open for challenge on grounds of undue influence and lack of capacity.

What is the difference between an Enduring Power of Attorney and a Lasting Power of Attorney?

An Enduring Power of Attorney signed before 1st October 2007 remains valid. However, this will only cover your property and financial affairs. Should you wish to give authority over your health and welfare matters you will need to make a health and welfare Lasting Power of Attorney.

This article was contributed by our Michael Fitzgerald, one of our rising star specialist probate lawyers.

For more information on LPAs please click here or to book an appointment at our Taunton or Ilminster office, please contact Andrew Lewis, Sue Baker, Mel Dodds or Michael Fitzgerald.

French Property News, features Dr Bevan’s article on video wills

Dr Nicholas Bevan explains the benefits of distance wills for expats in his article, Video Wills, published in the December 2020 edition of French Property News.

Nicholas comments on the consequences of the reform that Broomhead & Saul initiated (together with the associated law firm Solicitors Title LLP):  ‘ Until the end of January 2020, you can now make, amend or execute an English will without leaving your home, whether you live in the UK, France or anywhere else in the world. it has never been so easy.’  Nicholas’ ground breaking research indicates that a much broader concept of remotely executed video wills is fully consistent with the Wills Act 1837 and a consistent line of long established common law rules. Most law firms still do not offer their clients the video witnessing services we were first to devise and put into practice, despite our successful law reform campaign.  As Nicholas says: ‘The problem here lies with the lawyers, not the law itself.’

Lexis Nexis Webinar hosted by our very own Dr Nicholas Bevan

 

Dr Nicholas Bevan has been invited by the nation’s leading law publisher, Lexis Nexis, to share his insights into the government’s emergency measure sanctioning the video witnessing of wills. Dr Bevan made legal history on 1 May when he executed the first video will in this jurisdiction before following this up with a successful law reform campaign that led to the passing of the Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020.  Here is his promotional video.  Nicholas is a partner at both Broomhead & Saul and its associated practice, Solicitors Title.

For more information on remote video witnessing of Wills, please contact Dr Nicholas Bevan on 01823 288121, nicholas.bevan@broomhead-saul.co.uk