Legal 500 recognition for Richard James

Richard James, partner at Broomhead & Saul, has been acknowledged in the 2021 edition of Legal 500 for his team’s work in advising the technology sector in the South West, in commercial contracts and on data protection issues.

Richard is singled out as having a particular expertise in MBOs, joint ventures, M&A and restructurings.

Legal 500 is an independent and internationally recognised directory of leading law firms and highly esteemed lawyers.

This demonstrates that Broomhead & Saul provide first rate commercial law services, of a quality one would expect from a big City of London firm, but accessible locally and at an affordable price.

Our very own Dr Nicholas Bevan on Taunton’s Tone FM

On Tuesday6 October  Dr Nicholas Bevan joined Darren Daley on the morning show at Tone FM. He explained the importance of making a will and how he challenged a widely held misconception that insists on a testamentary witness’s physical presence at a will signing and how his research and activism lead to an important reform to the Wills Act 1837. Listen here to the interview:


Macmillan Coffee Morning


The sun was shining in the lovely historic market town of Ilminster on the morning of 17th September, and Broomhead & Saul, led by our colleagues at our Ilminster office were delighted to enjoy the good weather, whilst raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, by participating in the worlds biggest coffee morning.

With so many delicious treats on offer, no passer by could resist sampling the odd piece of chocolate cake, or lemon drizzle, especially for a good cause.

The event was a wonderful success raising just over £320.00, with the firms Partners contributing an additional £125.00, bringing the total to £440.00.

Broomhead & Saul would like to thank all of our bakers and contributors of treats, including Bonners Butchers of Ilminster, who very kindly supplied the prize for our Colin Conundrum, and of course everyone who stopped by to enjoy a coffee and piece of cake with us,  to help support this fantastic Charity.

If you were unable to join us, but would still like to make a donation to Macmillan’s wonderful cause, then please follow the link below.

Residential Possession Claims – the Effects of the Coronavirus Act 2020 on a Landlord’s Claim to their Property


The Coronavirus Act 2020 (‘the Act’) was introduced to enable public bodies to respond to the  Covid-19 pandemic.  As a result of the Act, temporary amendments were made to Part 55 of the Civil Procedure Rules and the procedure for bringing possession claims against residential tenants. Initially, all residential possession claims were stayed i.e. cannot proceed any further for a period of 90 days, from 27 March 2020, until 25 June 2020.  This stay was then extended until 23 August 2020 and then again until 20 September 2020.  This meant that any new claims brought (‘issued’) at court during this period were automatically stayed, as were any existing claims already in the system.

The most noticeable changes to the process were as follows:-

Claims brought before 3 August 2020

For all claims that were brought (‘issued’) on or before 3 August 2020, one of the parties must (a) serve a ‘reactivation notice’ confirming that they wish the case to either be listed, relisted, heard or referred to a judge and (b) set out what knowledge they have of the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendants (tenants).

New and stayed claims brought on or after 3 August 2020

For all claims brought on or after 3 August 2020, there is no requirement for an activation notice but at least 14 days prior to the hearing, the landlord must serve on the tenant a notice setting out what knowledge they have as to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the tenant and their dependents.  For accelerated possession claims, this information must be served on the tenant with the claim form.

The purpose of these changes were to avoid anybody being evicted and losing their homes during the pandemic where the latter has had a detrimental effect to the financial circumstances of many people who may be struggling to pay rent and mortgage repayments.  The effect of these changes will mean a significant backlog within the court system and an additional 200 deputy district judges have been drafted in to assist with the many claims that will need to be processed now that the stay has been lifted.  It is hoped that court centres will be able to allocate the same number of courtrooms and days per week to possession proceedings as before March 2020.

Additional implications of the Act on Landlords – Notice of Possession

Prior to the Act, landlords were required to serve their tenants with at least two months’ written notice, in the ‘prescribed’ form, if they were seeking to claim a ‘no-fault’ eviction, pursuant to section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.  Whilst the Act did not prevent landlords from serving notices, it initially implemented changes requiring a landlord to provide three months’ notice to tenants.  From 29 August 2020, landlords will now be required to provide their tenants with six months’ notice terminating their residential tenancy agreement, before they can issue a claim. This temporary increase in notice period will be in place until at least 31 March 2021.

The guidance suggests that where tenants are having difficulties or are unable to pay their rent that landlords do not issue a notice seeking possession where their financial circumstances have been directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

There is, however, no requirement for landlords to stop charging rent during the pandemic as most tenants will be able to continue paying rent and will be contractually obliged to do so.  If, therefore, you are a landlord that has a tenant who is not paying rent yet is financially able to do so, you may want to consider serving notice for possession sooner rather than later.

If you are a landlord of property housing residential tenants and would like to discuss your options in relation to the above, please contact Lucy Milton-Downes on 01823 288121 or, as she would be happy to talk to you and is offering free-half hour no obligation telephone appointments.

Broomhead & Saul Welcomes Lucy Milton-Downes

Broomhead & Saul warmly welcomes Lucy Milton-Downes, who joins the firm as a partner.  Lucy heads the firm’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution department.

Lucy brings to the practice over 14 years of experience in litigation covering a wide variety of highly technical litigation and dispute resolution work,   including:  personal injury claims, representing clients sectioned under the Mental Health Act, regulatory work for the Health & Safety Executive and prosecuting on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Lucy’s current practice areas include disputed wills, contested estates and trusts, property disputes, commercial and residential landlord & tenant disputes, possession claims, professional negligence, intellectual property disputes, insolvency and debt recovery.

Lucy is an associate member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists.  This is a forum for solicitors who specialise in disputed wills, probate and trusts to exchange experience and knowledge on this complex and growing area of law.

Lucy is extremely conscious of the cost involved in litigating a claim through the courts as well as the stress this can cause for her clients.  As a result, she is pragmatic and advises her clients on the risks versus the benefits of pursuing a claim through the courts and her strategy is to identify solutions that may benefit both sides, where this can avoid a lengthy and expensive court process.  It follows that she is a strong advocate of alternative dispute resolution.  She is a fully qualified mediator.

Lucy has a deserved reputation for being friendly and approachable as well as someone you can trust.  She puts her clients at ease and this enables her to establish quickly an excellent rapport with her clients.  She adopts a similar approach with her professional opponents whenever this is possible.  Her clients have often stated that ‘it is like talking to a friend’ when they meet with Lucy.  She has also had comments such as ‘you’re not like a real solicitor; I feel relaxed around you’.  She takes that as a compliment!

Lucy prides herself on her reputation for her ‘no-nonsense, down-to-earth’ approach.  She cuts through the stuffy legal jargon and pomposity that the legal profession is known for, as this risks prolonging disputes, incurring unnecessary costs and distress.  Lucy’s constant goal is to enable her clients to achieve timely and cost-effective solutions. Her ethos is to always have her clients’ best interests, both commercially and emotionally, at heart.

As a welcome offer, Lucy will provide the first hour of advice to clients with new disputed matters at a discounted rate of £125 plus VAT.  This offer will run until 31st October 2020.  Due to the pandemic, these consultations are by appointment only.

To find out more or make an appointment to discuss your needs further, please contact:

Lucy Milton-Downes;

Taunton Office: 01823 288121


Video Witnessing of Lasting Powers

A track record of perceptive innovation

Broomhead & Saul lead the field, both nationally and abroad, with its imaginative approach to overcoming the procedural obstacles faced by the elderly and those who are particularly vulnerable to COVID -19’s pernicious effects.

Distance Wills

On 1 May 2020 we set a new national precedent when we enabled a self-isolating client to execute his will in complete safety over the internet using commonly available video conferencing technology to manifest the witnesses’ presence.

On 29 July we set a new international precedent when we managed the first execution of a trans-jurisdictional will using the same video technology, this time for an English national living in Crete, over 2,400 miles away.

Distance Lasting Powers of Attorney

Our legal research and client services development team have also devised a novel procedure that enables clients residing in care home or who are hospitalised or self-isolating to execute a Lasting Power of Attorney during this pandemic without infringing the increasingly restrictive enhanced hygiene and health protection regimes.

Distance mental capacity assessments

We are in the process of devising a procedure for expert clinical psychological assessments under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.  This will not be appropriate for every client needing this service but we anticipate that will be beneficial in approximately 50% of cases.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that enables an individual (or donor) to appoint one or more persons (known as attorneys or donees) to make decisions on their behalf.

It only comes into effect if the donor loses the capacity to manage their own affairs.

There are two types of LPA:

  • A Property and Financial Affairs LPA
  • A Health and Welfare LPA.

It is entirely up to you whether you have one or both and we have the expertise and experience to advise you appropriately.

Completing a Lasting Power of Attorney at a distance

At Broomhead & Saul our clients best interests are our first concern.  We also insist that our staff take reasonable and proportionate steps to protect themselves (and indirectly their families) from any avoidable risk of exposure to the coronavirus.  This is why we have developed a new and completely safe way of remotely executing a Lasting Power of Attorney using video technology.

We adopt similar procedures with our Distance LPAs to those employed in our ground breaking Distance Wills service, which now have statutory approval.

This allows us to provide a highly bespoke and comprehensive private client service to elderly residents of care homes; to those convalescing in hospital or those who are especially at risk from Covid-19.  We are able to advise prepare and complete their wills and or their LPAs in just two video sessions.

Daring to act

Broomhead & Saul were the first firm in the country to execute a Distance Will for a self-isolating client on 1 May 2020 in defiance of the near uniform disapproval of the legal profession who erroneously insisted on the need for a witness to be physically present, COVID-19 notwithstanding.  Our published research exposed this misconception for what it was.

Our meticulous analysis of the The Lasting Powers of Attorney, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Public Guardian Regulations 2007 and the relevant case law establishes that Distance LPA’s are an entirely valid and proportionate lawful response to the Coronavirus pandemic.  At the time of writing, we are not aware of any other law firm that his had the confidence to research these statutory provisions and to devise this unique solution to the problem posed in this field of practice by COVID-19.

To make an appointment to discuss your needs, please contact:

Taunton Office: 01823 288121

Contact: Dr Nicholas Bevan

or email

Outstanding Law Reform Success

Broomhead &Saul dared to differ, then led the way


The statutory formalities for wills

The law governing the formalities for making a valid will is prescribed by section 9 of the Wills Act 1837.  These formalities include a requirement that the testator and the testamentary witnesses should be in one another’s mutual ‘presence’, when the will is signed.  The provision is silent as to what is meant by ‘presence’.

The coronavirus conundrum

When the coronavirus pandemic forced the government to impose a lockdown in March 2020, the entire legal profession appeared to be united in believing that the term ‘presence’ requires a physical presence.  This presented significant difficulties for vulnerable people who needed to make a will in safety.

The Law Society’s Practice Guidance

The Law Society’s practice guidance between March and late July 2020 insists on the need for a witness’ physical presence.  Its advice in this respect was emphatic: ‘Under the Wills Act 1837, it is not permitted to witness a will via video messaging as a witness must be physically present, …..’

When this accuracy of its advice was challenged by Broomhead & Saul and its associate practice, Solicitors Title LLP, in early June, the chair of the Law Society’s Wills and Equity Committee eventually replied in these dismissive terms:

‘… we do not share your views on section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. We do not provide specific responses where the reasons are long established and available in most legal textbooks on the subject’.

The only problem with this dressing-down being that the textbook commentaries were silent on this point and not a single judgment addressed this issue[1].

The Law Society’s guidance remained unaltered throughout the national emergency.  The unfortunate effect of which was to deny vulnerable members of the public the benefit a perfectly valid and completely safe way of remotely executed their wills.

The source of the confusion

Our independent research reveals that the source of this misconception appears to originate from some uncharacteristically sloppy research undertaken by the Law Commission in 2017.  In its Consultation Report: Making a Will, it had this to say: .

6.32 For a will to be valid, the testator must sign or acknowledge his or her signature in the presence of both witnesses and the witnesses must sign or acknowledge their signatures in the presence of the testator. Whether the parties are in each other’s presence is currently decided with reference to whether they are in the same room and whether there is a line of sight. That rule would be difficult to apply where a witness is said to have had a line of sight to the testator via an online videoconference (there has been no such case). However, it is unlikely that the current law governing witnessing extends to witnessing via videoconferencing because “presence” has been held to involve physical presence.26 [Emphasis added]

The report does not explain the perceived ‘difficulties’ in establishing a ‘line of sight’ with video conferencing technology.

As for its assertion a physical presence has been held to be an essential requirement, that turns out to be completely untrue.  At footnote, 26, the report cites a case from 1948 (In the goods of Chalcraft) that has nothing to do with the physical presence or absence of the witnesses (nor the testator for that matter) because the all parties were present throughout.

The same error is repeated elsewhere in the report.  At 5.26 and 6.32, similar misattributed case authorities are wrongly claimed to support the need for a physical presence and in each case the parties were physically present.

The simple truth of the matter that in 343 years jurisprudence on this point not a single judge has decided that the term ‘presence’ insists on a witness’ bodily or physical proximity.  Dr Nicholas Bevan, senior associate at both Broomhead & Saul and Solicitors Title, shared these concerns with the wider profession in his New Law Journal article: Where there’s a will; there’s a way on 5 June.

A new orthodoxy

Such is the high esteem in which the Law Commission is held within the legal community and beyond that no one else appears to have questioned its assessment, still less double check its erroneous citations.  Our review of every official commentator and special interest group revealed that the Law Commission’s erroneous view was universally and unquestioningly adopted, almost as an article of faith.

The legal profession takes a wrong turn

In March 2020 the Law Society and several other representative bodies approached the Justice Secretary seeking a legislative intervention to amend section 9 of the 1837 Act to relax the statutory safeguards against fraud, to make it easier for the elderly and vulnerable to make their wills.

According to the Law Society’s own public statements, it had sought the presence of witnesses to be dispensed with for vulnerable categories of testator, a measure which, in our opinion, would have exposed these people to an unacceptable risk of fraudulent substitution and undue influence.


Fortunately, the Justice Secretary rejected these proposals on 29 April, and rightly so.  No further proposals were made and it soon became clear that any dialogue had concluded.

See the Distance Wills Reform Timeline

Solicitors Title challenge the consensus

In the last week of April Broomhead & Saul was approached by a self-isolating client who wanted to make a will without risking any exposure to COVID-19 (either from direct physical proximity of witnesses or indirectly from some inadvertent contact with a contaminated objected).  This led us to revisit section 9 of the Wills Act 1837.

Further detailed research indicated that there was no basis in law for the Law Society’s prohibition of video witnessing.  Furthermore, it revealed that not only was this technically possible but it was also capable of enhancing the legislative objective of fraud prevention: principally due to its capacity to provide a permanent audio visual recording of the entire proceedings.

At Broomhead & Saul and Solicitors Title we concluded that, properly managed, video witnessing was capable of meeting the ‘line of sight’ requirement indicated by the case authorities and thus of conforming to section 9 of the 1837 Act.

Broomhead & Saul and Solicitors Title call for official clarification and guidance

On 3 June 2020 we wrote to the Justice Secretary to explain our findings and to commend the benefits of video witnessing from fraud prevention and health and safety perspectives.  We emphasised the importance stressed by the case authorities on a witness’ ‘presence’ affording a ‘line of sight’ and the absence of any insistence on a physical presence.

We urged the government to intervene promptly by arranging for good practice guidance to be issued on video witnessing.   We shared our extensive research in Dr Nicholas Bevan’s paper, Why video witnessing is valid.

The government’s initial response

The Advocate General, Lord Keen of Elie QC, was deputised to reply on the government’s behalf.  In his letter of 19 June, he comments specifically on my contention that the term ‘presence’ in section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 does not need to be amended because it is already capable of embracing live streaming video technology to manifest the ‘line of sight’ mandated by the case authorities, he wrote this:

‘It is an argument with force, set out in impressively comprehensive terms in Dr Bevan’s paper, but the fact remains that we currently have no explicit judicial authority on whether the witnessing requirements of the 1837 Act can legally be satisfied by means of video-link technologies.’

An official announcement was promised ‘very soon’.

The government’s official response

On 25 July the government published its Guidance on making wills using video-conferencing, which Solicitors Title had been a lone voice in calling for.

This guidance closely reflects the proposals and reasoning advanced in our letter and paper.

The Guidance opens by announcing the government’s intentions of amending the 1837 Act in September  ‘… to state that whilst this legislation is in force, the ‘presence’ of those making and witnessing wills includes a virtual presence, via video-link, as an alternative to physical presence.’  Further on it declares: ‘None of the existing relevant requirements [in the Wills Act 1837] are changed by the new law.’

It then acknowledges that the existing law requires ‘a clear line of sight’ before proceeding to provide best practice advice on how this can be achieved using video technology.

The Guidance is not dependant on the legislation for its legal effect as it is clearly intended to have immediate as well as retrospective effect.  This is highly significant: as the inescapable implication of this is that the government must accept that video witnessing is already a valid way of conforming with to section 9 of the 1837 Act as it adheres to the ‘line of sight’ principle outlined in our paper  (Otherwise, the guidance on video wills would constitute an ultra vires act, since [as our Prime Minister discovered to his cost recently] the Executive does not have the constitutional power to amend primary legislation, because that is Parliament’s prerogative).

On 4 September the government introduced The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 which gives formal effect to this reform for a two year period backdated to 31 January 2020.

The legislation will have retrospective effect for an extendable period of two years from 31 January 2020; after which time and unless extended, the amended 1837 Act will henceforth expressly require a witness’ physical presence.  It is to be hoped, that once the legal profession gets used to offering this beneficial Covid-19 safe procedure, it will gain a wider acceptance that will embolden the government to remove the time limit.

A campaign success for Broomhead & Saul and its associate, Solicitors Title LLP

When all is said and done, the official Guidance has endorsed the most substantial technical and procedural innovation to the way wills are executed for 343 years.  This will benefit thousands of elderly and vulnerable people.


Distance Wills Reform Timeline

Click here to access






[1] Presumably because no one had conceived of the notion of using video conferencing technology to execute a will prior to the onset of the pandemic.

Macmillan coffee morning

Macmillan coffee morning

Broomhead & Saul are supporting the national charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, by participating in the world’s biggest coffee morning event this coming Thursday 17 September 2020.

Mel Dodds and her colleagues from our Ilminster office will be running a coffee and cakes stall at Ilminster’s charming historic market building from 9 am.

Mel promises some delicious treats for our coffee morning next Thursday. There will be lemon drizzle cake, chocolate brownies, flapjacks, to name but a few!

We look forward to seeing you!

The need has never been greater

Cancer research and care is in the midst of a funding crisis due to the knock on effects of Covid-19.

If you are unable to join us for our Coffee Morning next week but would like to make a donation to Macmillan’s wonderful cause, then please follow the link below.

Broomhead & Saul’s successful reform campaign

We all need to be resilient and innovative in the face of this pandemic.

Broomhead & Saul recently led a highly successful snap reform campaign to enable those particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 to use video technology to witness their wills.  In doing so they challenged the well-entrenched opposition of the legal profession, including the Law Commission, before appealing direct to the government.  The government then issued Guidance in July based on our research and recommendations.  More recently, it has laid The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 before Parliament.  This gives formal effect to this for a two year period backdated to 31 January 2020.

Law Reform Success on Video Witnessing of Wills

Broomhead & Saul’s solo snap law reform campaign is an outstanding success.

The statutory formalities for wills

The law governing the formalities for making a valid will is prescribed by section 9 of the Wills Act 1837.  These formalities include a requirement that the testator and the testamentary witnesses should be in one another’s mutual ‘presence’, when the will is signed.  The provision is silent as to what is meant by ‘presence’.

Lawyers up and down the country have long been accustomed to a testamentary witness’ attendance in person at a will signing and with good reason: in a pre-internet age, how else could a witness claim to have seen and heard the events they are required to attest to?

The coronavirus conundrum

When the coronavirus pandemic forced the government to impose a lockdown in March 2020, the entire legal profession appeared to be united in believing that the term ‘presence’ requires a physical presence.  This caused significant difficulties for the over 50s and others who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

The Law Society’s Practice Guidance

The Law Society’s practice guidance between March and late July 2020 insisted on the need for a witness’ physical presence, without explaining why.

A client in need

In late April, we were contacted by self-isolating client, 150 miles away, who needed to make his will during the lockdown.  We were determined to help him.

Daring to differ

At Broomhead & Saul when our clients’ civil rights are curtailed by some obstacle, our habit is not to ask how high they should jump but to ask why the obstacle is there in the first place.

Ground breaking research

Dr Nicholas Bevan, senior associate solicitor (who is also retained by our associate practice Solicitors Title LLP) researched 343 years of case law and statutory provisions dating back to Charles II’s reign.  This exposed serious flaws in a highly influential report on ‘Making wills’, published by the Law Commission in 2017.  Our research revealed that the Law Commission had wrongly cited three cases as purportedly supporting the establishment view that the term ‘presence’ insists on a witness’ physical proximity, when they established no such thing.  Our research identified that the case authorities propose a more practical principle: namely that a ‘presence’ should afford a ‘clear line of sight’.

Snap reform campaign

Dr Bevan later wrote up and published our research in a number of legal journals.  No one has challenged our research findings.  When the Law Society rejected our entreaties, we approached the Justice Secretary recommending official Guidance to sanction video witnessing of wills.  Official Guidance approving of this practice was duly published with retrospective effect on 25 July 2020. It is based on our research.

The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment)(Coronavirus) Order 2020

The government’s has now augmented its Guidance with legislation, just laid, which retrospectively sanctions video witnessing of wills during this pandemic.

Daring to act

Acting on our research, we were the first firm in England to execute a distance will using video technology on 1 May 2020.  On 29 July we created a new international precedent by executing the first cross border distance will for a UK national resident in Crete, without the client needing to leave the comfort and safety of her home 2,400 miles away.

Leading the field in private client care

Broomhead & Saul (in association with Solicitors Title LLP) are responsible for bringing about the most significant reform to the formalities for executing wills since 1677.

National and International distance will service

At Broomhead & Saul we are proud to announce the UK’s first national and international distance wills service.

If you are over 50 or are otherwise particularly vulnerable to COVID-19’s deadly effects and you are concerned either by the risks of travelling to see a solicitor or worried by the prospect of compromising your social distancing or self-isolation by inviting third parties to witness the signing of your will, then we are here to help.

Contact: Dr Nicholas Bevan at 01823 288121 or at

Where there’s a will there’s a way

Broomhead & Saul was the first law firm in the country to appreciate the vital health and safety benefits of live-streaming video technology for its clients during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

We also set a new legal precedent on 1 May this year when, acting in association with Solicitors Title LLP, we supervised the first remotely executed video will for a client who was self-isolating 150 miles away in Surrey, from our Taunton office.  This spared our client from any risk of being exposed to the coronavirus as well as allowing him to complete his will in the comfort and privacy of his home.

Dr Nicholas Bevan, senior associate solicitor, shared his ground breaking research with the government along with his proposals for an urgent intervention to encourage other lawyers to do the same.

Responding on the government’s behalf on 19 June this year, Lord Keen of Elie QC complimented our analysis, saying ‘It is an argument with force, set out in impressively comprehensive terms in Dr Bevan’s paper….I would like to thank him again for his detailed insights on the subject.’

On 25 July, the Government issued a press notice and guidance indicating that emergency legislation would be introduced in September.  The Government’s proposals are based on Dr Bevan’s research.

Writing in this week’s issue of the prestigious New Law Journal, in Where there’s a will there’s a way Dr Bevan shares the further clarification provided in Lord Keen QC’s most recent letter of 4 August on the Government’s proposed wills reform.  Unfortunately, according to research released today by Today’s Wills & Probate, most law firms feel unequal to the task of executing wills using video technology.

Broomhead & Saul, in partnership with Solicitors Title LLP, lead the will writing legal sector with this innovative nationwide private client service.  We welcome enquiries from members of the public up and down the country.  Our video witnessing will writing service has been devised to help anyone seeking to make a will in safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

For further details, please contact: Dr Nicholas Bevan on 01823 288121.