Solicitors in Essex, Colchester, Chelmsford, London – Fisher Jones Greenwood https://www.fjg.co.uk Fri, 22 May 2020 10:29:54 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 Spousal Periodical Payments and COVID-19, What Do I Need To Know? https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/20/spousal-maintenance-covid-19 https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/20/spousal-maintenance-covid-19#respond Wed, 20 May 2020 09:54:06 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19375 In these unprecedented times, we have seen a disproportionate number of lives affected...

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In these unprecedented times, we have seen a disproportionate number of lives affected by the consequences of COVID-19 and lockdown. Whether this is not being able to go to work, working under reduced hours or income, or losing earnings completely, the recent times have proved to be increasingly difficult for many of us.

Spousal periodical payments (maintenance) orders will have been made assuming that, broadly speaking, people’s circumstances will continue as they have done in the past. As a consequence of the current circumstances, payers may no longer be able to afford to continue paying the spousal periodical payments in accordance with the order, and may be seeking to decrease, or even cease, these payments. Similarly, those receiving spousal maintenance may no longer be able to meet their outgoings and may be seeking to increase spousal periodical payments.

In any such times, it is vital that you have the best advice and guidance possible, and here at Fisher Jones Greenwood we are on hand to help and answer your questions.

Can a spousal maintenance order be changed during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Either the payer or the payee of spousal maintenance can make an application to the Court for a variation. The Court has the power to increase, decrease or terminate spousal maintenance orders, either temporarily or permanently. The court has a duty to consider whether it would be appropriate to limit the period for which periodical payments should be paid in future to that period which would enable the payee to adjust without undue hardship.

On a variation application the Court, having decided what the continuing financial support should be, also has a duty to consider whether the regular periodical payments should be substituted by a capital payment, such as a lump sum, property adjustment order or a pension order, in order to achieve a clean break between the parties. The court also has power to remit any arrears.

Before making an application it is important to consider that Court proceedings may take 6 to 12 months at which point each spouse’s financial circumstances may have returned to “normal” and the application may be out of date. Further, the costs of making the application may outweigh the benefit that is being sought.

As can be seen, the wide powers of the court mean that an application for variation of maintenance can have consequences which may be very different from what may have been anticipated at the outset. With this in mind, it’s highly recommended to seek the advice of reputable legal experts to determine the likelihood of your application being accepted.

What happens if an existing spousal maintenance arrangement cannot be paid?

First and foremost, the most cordial way to approach a situation where one party is unable to make a payment towards an existing agreement is to address it with your former partner. It is important that you have all of the relevant documentation as evidence as to why making a payment is not possible. For example, should this be as a result of a loss in earnings then you should obtain the necessary documentation from your employer.

It is worth bearing in mind that Courts are able to use their discretion to prioritise cases where the welfare of a child or children may be impacted.

Should a discussion with your ex-partner prove to be unsuccessful, or not an option at all, then you should move towards applying for a variation according to the correct legal advice.

Due to Covid-19 I am on Furlough leave and my earnings reduced, what are my options?

Again, the most amicable way to resolve a situation where you can’t afford to adhere to your current maintenance plan, is to enter into negotiations with your former spouse around a reduced sum. If, and when, your earnings return to normal, the original plan should be returned to. Do you know you can calculate your earnings with Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme calculator to find out how much you will take home?

If this refused then a variation should be applied for as per the instructions above.

Perhaps the most important takeaway when assessing one’s options around Spousal Periodical Payments is the necessity to seek the right legal advice for your case. If you require advice on spousal maintenance or other financial matters in connection with divorce, we have an experienced team of family lawyers who are able to advise and assist you on the best possible approach to take – contact Fisher Jones Greenwood by calling 01206 700113 or email contact@fjg.co.uk.

Find out how the Family Law team at FJG have adapted to working from home.  

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Covid-19 – am I allowed to move home? https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/19/covid-19-am-i-allowed-to-move-home https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/19/covid-19-am-i-allowed-to-move-home#respond Tue, 19 May 2020 13:50:35 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19362 Are you thinking about moving home? Have your plans been put on hold...

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Are you thinking about moving home? Have your plans been put on hold by the recent Covid-19 restrictions?  If so, the government has recently announced that the English housing market can now restart. You may, therefore, be asking yourself the following:

Q: Can I market my property?

A: Yes.  Estate Agents are now able to open their offices and attend your property to take photos/videos. We can assist with the preparation of the necessary legal documentation in readiness whilst you wait to find a Buyer.

Q: How do I view a property that I might want to buy?

A: Initial viewings should be online only where possible. A physical viewing should only take place if you believe you may want to buy the property and only with members of your own household.

Q: What precautions should I take?

A: Do not touch any surfaces and bring your own hand sanitiser. If selling, you should vacate and open all internal doors. Thoroughly clean all surfaces including door handles after each viewing.

Q: Can I get a survey?

A: Yes, physical surveys are now permitted but the Seller should distance themselves.

Q: What happens if a party falls ill with Covid-19 during my transaction?

A: Moves could be delayed if a party falls ill or needs to self-isolate but parties are encouraged to be as flexible as possible. There is also a possibility that the government could again pause all house moves.

Q: Can I book removals?

A: Yes although you should try and do as much packing as you can yourself, clean your belongings before they are handled on moving day and leave all internal doors open. Observe social distancing at all times and do not provide refreshments.

Moving house is said to be one of life’s most stressful events and the current situation could potentially make it even more so. Our expert team of property lawyers are here to assist and can provide you with the support and guidance you need at every stage of your conveyancing transaction, call 01206 700113 or email contact@fjg.co.uk.

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The New Build Housing Market Re-opens https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/18/the-new-build-housing-market-re-opens https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/18/the-new-build-housing-market-re-opens#respond Mon, 18 May 2020 15:16:03 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19343 The events of the past few weeks may well have changed the way...

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The events of the past few weeks may well have changed the way we live our lives forever and with it, the way we do business.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, the FJG New Build team were set up to work remotely with access to the firm’s telephone system and access to all information and documents through electric case files. We continued to work as usual and providing regular updates on all files to our clients and to the developers’ sales team.

Developers are changing how they work to comply with Covid-19 Guidelines

Developers are starting to go back on site following the updated Government guidance, which came into effect on Tuesday 13th May removing the restriction on non-essential house moves and supporting the return of activities related to the sale and purchase of homes.

The majority of the developers will be aiming to reopen sales offices and show homes from the 22nd May, initially for pre-booked appointments and with strict social distancing measures in place. Developers are setting new protocols which include revised working practices, staffing arrangements, and new layouts of sales offices, many with Perspex screens.

Moving forward, an increasing number of buyers will be asked to make their initial inspections at new build properties via virtual tours. Showhome viewings will now be unaccompanied, and only one family at a time will be able to view each home.

Technology is likely to take an ever-increasing role in the purchase of new build properties and it is essential, that we, as Conveyancers, are swift to grasp this new concept and move forward with our clients embracing this new way of doing business. Therefore, the FJG New Build team will fully utilise and are continuing to develop new ways to use technology such as virtual appointments and ID checks, electronic case files, and online resources and portals to assist our clients as best we can.

As well as this, we will be extending their working hours to accommodate our clients’ needs; the New Build team will be available until 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and every Saturday morning from 9am to 12pm.

Rest assured, we have been liaising with our current clients over any concerns they have with regard to delayed timescales for properties where the anticipated legal completion date has been moved due to Covid-19 and we are ready and waiting to help if you’re looking to purchase a new build property in the future – call 01206 835223 or email newbuild@fjg.co.uk.

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Why are Lasting Powers of Attorney important for Carers? https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/18/why-are-lasting-powers-of-attorney-important-for-carers https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/18/why-are-lasting-powers-of-attorney-important-for-carers#respond Mon, 18 May 2020 11:20:45 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19335 According to new Government data, there are now 13.9 million disabled people in...

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According to new Government data, there are now 13.9 million disabled people in the UK. That means disabled people now make up 22% of the UK population – more than one in five. The topmost common conditions that are considered disabilities are:
  1. Arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems
  2. Heart Disease
  3. Lung or Respiratory problems
  4. Mental Illness, including Depression
  5. Diabetes
  6. Strokes
  7. Cancer
  8. Nervous System Disorders
  9. Injuries sustained by accidents

There are almost seven million carers in the UK, that is one in ten people and this is rising. Out of the UK carers, 42% of carers are men and 58% are women.

What are the responsibilities of a carer?

  • Practical tasks such as, tidying the house, doing washing, ironing, paying the bills, cooking meals, shopping.
  • Personal care including, dressing, washing, lifting, giving medication, or collecting prescriptions, attending doctors’ appointments.

In previous surveys when Carers are asked what they worry about the most, they often reply “what will happen in the future?” Despite this, not enough carers and those they care for take the relatively simple step of making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). An LPA can be vital as it gives the carer the capacity to act in the best interests of the person they care for if they lose capacity to make decisions for themselves. Of those who had made provisions, few realised the importance of having both a Property & Financial Affairs LPA, which gives someone the power to act on your behalf to make decisions about your property and financial affairs; and a Health & Welfare LPA, which means that someone else has the power to make decisions about your personal welfare and healthcare when you are unable to do so.

Having an LPA in place to appoint a carer as an attorney for the person they care for has vital and practical as well as emotional implications. It allows the carer to carry out the wishes of the person they care for when it comes to treatment and care, gives access to the person’s finances to pay for equipment, adaptations and formal support, as well as helping to safeguard against fraud.

Having an LPA helps to include the carer and enables them to feel more confident in what may at first feel like an overwhelming situation, such as making decisions about residential care and end of life care. A Health & Welfare LPA cannot be used until it is proven that the person has lost mental capacity. A Property & Financial LPA can either be used when a person has lost mental capacity or while a person still has capacity, with their permission.

If I or a colleague can assist you or your carer in making an Application for Lasting Powers of Attorney, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 01206 700113 or email contact@fjg.co.uk to arrange an appointment.

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Boots consultation rooms are a safe space for domestic violence victims https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/18/boots-consultation-rooms-are-a-safe-space-for-domestic-violence-victims https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/18/boots-consultation-rooms-are-a-safe-space-for-domestic-violence-victims#respond Mon, 18 May 2020 09:00:48 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19251 Boots, the health and beauty retailer, has announced that its consultation rooms have...

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Boots, the health and beauty retailer, has announced that its consultation rooms have become a safe space for domestic violence victims. The scheme started on 1st May 2020, in response to the growing domestic violence crisis due to the lockdown period. Boots has indicated that victims of domestic abuse will be able to contact domestic abuse helplines and charities from their consultation rooms. Many domestic violence victims will often turn to friends and family for support. However, the current government guidelines in relation to social distancing has left many victims of abuse isolated and struggling to find help and support.

Pharmacy staff are classed as key workers, and pharmacies, therefore, remain open during the current pandemic.

While in the consultation room, victims will have access to:

  • 24-hour National domestic abuse helpline: 0808 2000 247
  • Men’s advice line: 0808 801 032
  • Scotland – Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline (freephone 24/7): 0800 027 1234
  • Wales – Live Fear Free Helpline (freephone 24/7): 0808 801 0800
  • Northern Ireland – Domestic & Sexual Abuse: 0808 802 141
  • Signposting to download the free mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or who is concerned about someone they know.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and would like advice and assistance, or wish to apply for a protective order from the Court, please do not hesitate to contact our family team – call 01206 700113 or email contact@fjg.co.uk.

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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – facts, changes & relationship with insolvency https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/17/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-facts-changes-relationship-with-insolvency https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/17/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-facts-changes-relationship-with-insolvency#respond Sun, 17 May 2020 14:00:51 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19312 The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was launched to enable employers whose operations had...

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The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was launched to enable employers whose operations had been severely affected by Coronavirus (Covid-19) to maintain their current workforces by furloughing employees and applying for grants to cover the majority of their employees’ wages.

The scheme was announced on 20th March 2020 and the government first published guidance for employers and employees on 26th March 2020. The guidance has been updated multiple times since then and on 15th April 2020 the government published the treasury direction to HMRC, the formal legislative guidelines for the scheme.

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), the government agreed to provide a grant for employers to cover 80% of employees’ reference salaries, up to a £2,500 (gross) per month cap. The scheme came into effect on 20 April but claims would be backdated to 1st March 2020. The scheme is tied to PAYE; meaning that employers can only claim for employees who were on the payroll on or before 28th February 2020, or 19th March 2020, depending on circumstances.

The scheme is simply a mechanism through which employers can claim money from HMRC and it does not alter existing employment law rights and obligations. A second tranche of CJRS guidance clarified that some individuals who may not be employees under employment law will also be eligible for CJRS.  It is now clear therefore that officeholders (including Company Directors), salaried members of limited liability partnerships, agency workers and limb (b) individuals (who are not employees but who satisfy the worker test and are sometimes referred to as such) are also covered by CJRS, subject to qualifying criteria being met. This clarification was good news for many of those who faced uncertain futures otherwise, given their lack of employment status.

The government revealed last week that the CJRS scheme is currently paying out to around 7.5 million employees, which represents a quarter of Britain’s private sector workforce. It has also been used by approximately 935,000 companies.

So how are things changing? The CJRS is being extended for another four months, to the end of October 2020 but it has a number of changes to it. Crucially, the 80% rate towards payment of workers’ income is being kept, which squashes concerns that Chancellor Rishi Sunak would cut the government contribution to 60% in the near future.

One of the more significant changes to come into force though from the start of August 2020 is that workers will be able to return to their jobs part-time. It is foreseen that this represents a move by the government towards trying to taper the feed of employees back into work in such a way that employers do not become overburdened with the cost of running their businesses. CJRS payment are treated as income in the hands of the employer and clearly reduce the cost base of the business. However, although this helps there are a number of businesses out there which will suffer significantly as a result of not being able to trade, notwithstanding that their workers are being helped and the wage bill is reduced.

So what is the significance of the above for employers?  Well, the 80% pay level will remain, but businesses will have to start contributing for staff who return part-time. There are currently no details in relation to what businesses will be asked to pay, but it could be the case that they have to contribute 20% of their furloughed employees’ salaries, during which time the government would also be paying the remaining 60%. The Chancellor’s simple line was that “we will ask employers to start sharing with the government the cost of paying salaries”.

The initiative will, in due course, pave the way for workers to begin a partial return to employment. That may have an impact on employers’ inclination to make certain people redundant in the coming weeks and months. Clearly, with the prospect of the country entering another big recession, making redundancies and cutting costs generally are going to be amongst the considerations for businesses all across the country.

Those who are self-employed will realise no immediate changes to the parallel scheme for them – which is currently offering self-employed people a taxable grant based upon their previous monthly earnings over the last three years, worth up to 80% of earnings and capped at £2,500 per month. The eligible people must also have annual self-employed earnings of less than £50,000 per year, according to HMRC.

Relationship with insolvency

Many companies will be considering their options with regard to whether or not they should be continuing to trade, mindful of factors such as the requirements on Directors to make decisions about the solvency of those businesses early and the prospects of being able to sell those businesses as going concerns.

The value of a package incorporating the sale of a viable business together with all of its constituent elements, which are necessary for a purchaser to continue operating the business immediately, is tangible in most cases.

There have been some high-profile cases involving household name businesses from our high streets going into administration recently. Such cases include Re Carluccio’s Ltd (in administration) [2020] – involving the well-known Italian restaurant chain – and the case of Re Debenhams Retail Limited [2020], which went all the way to the Court of Appeal.

In cases of administration, where administrators adopt contracts of employment, wages or salary payable under the contract of employment are payable in priority to any expenses of the administration – effectively granting employees “super-priority” in relation to payment of those debts. The same is in priority to any expenses of the administration and any payments to the holder of security by way of floating charge(s).

Nothing done within the first 14 days of an administrators’ appointment is liable to constitute “adoption” of the employment contracts though, which is essentially grace given to the administrators to familiarise themselves with the undertaking and to make decisions within that period which may include dismissing employees.

The consequences of adoption in the above two cases could be financially severe and, importantly, impactful on whether administration itself can serve its ultimate purpose.

Accordingly, in the Carluccio’s case, the administrators wanted to know the legal basis on which they could furlough a large number of employees and limit their liability to pay 80% of employees’ wages, in order not to incur any greater liabilities for the insolvent company.

Owing to insolvency legislation requiring administrators to dispose of assets in accordance with a strict order of priority, the relevance of the adoption rules for employees, is that they determine how employees’ claims rank against other debts of the insolvent company and who has liability to pay them. From an administrator’s perspective, the rules allow them to dismiss employees within the 14 day period after their appointment without incurring personal liability or creating a super-priority over other types of claims, including administrators’ fees and expenses, claims from floating charge holders and unsecured creditors (paragraph 99(5), schedule B1, Insolvency Act 1986)).

In other words, if after the 14 day period, the employment contracts are adopted by the administrators, the liabilities under those contracts, which include wages, salary, holiday pay, and payments in lieu of holiday pay, sick pay, and contributions to occupational pension schemes, take priority over other claims against the company.

In the Carluccio’s case, it was an issue that a small but not inconsiderable number of employees remained silent after an offer was made to them by the administrators that they be furloughed. A corollary of that was that an issue arose as to whether there had been consent given to the variations to those employees’ contracts. Such consent was needed to reduce salaries to 80% of the employees’ normal salaries and that consent needed to be evidenced by the administrators.

Consent to variation has significant effects, including whether: (a) the company is no longer obliged to pay more than 80% of salary; and (b) the company being no longer obliged to pay employees before receiving the CJRS grant itself.

On the subject of the non-responding employees, Snowdon J in the Carluccio’s case considered the case of Abrhall v Nottingham CC (2018) where employees had not expressly accepted a contractual variation, and whether they had implicitly agreed after continuing to work.

The question over whether an employee can implicitly agree to a variation of contract is guided by the general rule that variations cannot take place without the consent of the employee.  Inference of such agreement having been given will depend on the particular circumstances prevalent in each case. One cannot infer agreement to a significant diminution in contractual rights (i.e. changes to salary), unless conduct clearly evinces an intention to accept on the part of the employee. CJRS guidance states of course that furloughing should be done by consent.

Snowdon J readily dismissed an argument that because of the status of the non-consenting employees the administrators had a duty to apply to the CJRS for the non-responding employees.

Guidance was given in the Carluccio’s case that the adoption of employment contracts as varied would automatically occur on the earlier of the joint administrators making payments under the employment contracts as varied, or the joint administrators making an application under the CJRS in respect of the consenting employees. However, it was also held that administrators will not adopt contracts of employment with employees merely by virtue of not terminating the contract of employment of those employees.

What is the status of non-responding employees in such cases then?  Prior to termination of the employment contracts by administrators, the non-responding employees are regarded as unsecured creditors of the company with a right to prove for debts in the administration, or any future liquidation in respect of amounts due under the employment contract.  They are not priority creditors though.

The upshot of the above is that employees should consider their positions carefully when deciding as to whether or not to become furloughed by a business which could, potentially, wind up.

The Debenhams case was heard on 6 May 2020 in the Court of Appeal. The case further extended the ambit of judicial interpretation of the law as it stands in relation to adoption of employment contracts.

In that case, the Court of Appeal noted that despite the terms agreed with the vast majority of employees as to furloughing them, it is or may be the case that entitlements to full holiday pay will enjoy super-priority. Three months’ 20% shortfall in holiday pay not covered by CJRS could potentially amount to £1.28 million, which the administrators would clearly wish to avoid paying.

In that case, the Court of Appeal was satisfied that the administrators had clearly adopted the contracts of furloughed employees. The key question in the case was as to whether the contracts of employees who had been furloughed would be adopted if they remained furloughed and the administrators took no further action except to pay to the employees the sums that were to be reimbursed to them under the CJRS.

The Administrators sought to challenge the correctness of Snowden J’s conclusion in Re Carluccio’s; as to how the principles of adopting contracts of employment should be applied when administrators make payments to furloughed employees and applications in respect of those payments under the CJRS.

Trower J distinguished Re Carluccio’s from Re Debenhams. In Re Carluccio’s, the employees had not yet been placed on furlough and the administrators were concerned to ensure that the monies which would be received under the Scheme could be applied in the payment of wages.

It was advanced by the Administrators in Re Debenhams that payments to employees can be justified under paragraph 66 of Schedule B1 to the Insolvency Act 1986, and, as such, it was not necessary to invoke paragraph 99, thereby avoiding the super-priority afforded by paragraph 99.

The questions which arose in Re Carluccio’s were not considered in this case to be limited to whether the administrators were to be regarded as having adopted the contracts of employment. Rather, they ‘extended to the statutory source of the administrators’ ability to pay the employees ahead of the company’s other creditors’.

In the case, Trower J understood the administrators’ concerns and in his judgment he stated: “… there remains real uncertainty about the full extent of the super-priority liabilities which may continue to subsist if adoption is held to have occurred, and this is bound to have an adverse impact on the administrators’ efforts to achieve the purpose of administration (the survival of the Company as a going concern).”

Trower J agreed with Snowden J that paragraph 99 of Schedule B1 to the Insolvency Act 1986  is appropriate to rely upon in a normal case as the source of the obligation to pay wages as a super-priority administration expense and also as the statutory basis of the administrator’s power to do so.

However, the Court of Appeal agreed with the administrators that paragraph 66 of Schedule B1 was still an appropriate and perhaps the most obvious source of authority for the payment of remuneration to furloughed employees because payments under that paragraph were conditional on the administrators’ thinking that the steps they were taking were ”likely to assist achievement of the purpose of administration”, whereas paragraph 99 operates to prioritise payments to employees only where a person ceases to be the administrator altogether.

The court held that it was very clear that the administrators’ obligations to pay the CJRS grant to the employees arose under the continued contracts of employment which the Company in administration was required to honour. What also comes out of the above is that it does not matter if administrators do not want to incur super-priority liabilities because, ultimately, there is an objective element to the question over whether they have adopted the employees’ employment contracts.

Various practical difficulties arise when an administrator is seeking to agree variations of contracts with the entire workforce – particularly where the workforce is a large one.

To that extent, sympathy is had with the task that administrators have in those circumstances. It seems that some administrators remain nervous about the possible implications for them of taking on larger jobs now when having regard to their own size and administrative resources.

It may well be the case that the law will evolve in the future on this subject, but for now, it is advised that both administrators and employees proceed with caution insofar as understanding what the implications are of agreeing or rejecting variations to contract in light of the current climate and it is recommended that decisions are made, early, about whether to retain employees or adopt their employment contracts.

These uncertain times which are upon us are raising a number of important legal questions which the author is sure will result in satellite litigation being brought to decide non-mainstream esoteric points of law and the implementation of the available guidance policies.

If you have any employment or insolvency matters and would like further advice in relation to the same, please contact Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP for expert legal advice, call 01206 700113 or email contact@fjg.co.uk.

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Covid-19: option to tax notification deadline extended https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/15/covid-19-option-to-tax-notification-deadline-extended https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/15/covid-19-option-to-tax-notification-deadline-extended#respond Fri, 15 May 2020 13:21:55 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19321 HMRC have temporarily extended the deadline for notifying it of an option to...

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HMRC have temporarily extended the deadline for notifying it of an option to tax land and buildings from the normal time limit of 30 days, to 90 days from the date the decision to make the option is made. This 90-day time limit will apply if the decision to opt to tax is made between 15th February 2020 and 31st May 2020.

What is an option to tax?

Most property transactions are exempt from VAT, meaning no VAT is charged on a sale or letting.  This does, however, mean that you cannot recover the VAT incurred on building works, fees, and other expenditure in connection with the property – that is a separate issue. There is, therefore, an “option to tax” (also known as “an election to waive exemption”) the property so that it is standard-rated. This means that once you are VAT-registered ( and there are rules relating to that, which your accountant can help you with), VAT would be charged on a sale or letting, and you would be able to recover VAT on most building work, fees and other expenditure in connection with the property.

If the property is opted to tax, this option applies to all future dealings with the property (unless there is a specific reason for it not to apply to a transaction), unless the option lapses or is revoked. However, the option to tax is generally personal and does not transfer with the property on sale. Therefore, if the seller of a property has opted to tax the building, you will not obtain the benefit of this option once the purchase has completed. To also benefit from the option to tax you would need to notify HMRC of your decision to opt to tax the building.

There are however many exemptions and special rules in relation to the option to tax for VAT groups, partnerships, and trusts, etc, and advice should, therefore, be taken from your accountant in relation to the option to tax.

For help on the issues raised in the above article, please contact the Fisher Jones Greenwood on 01206 700113 or alternatively, please email contact@fjg.co.uk.

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New recruits bolster FJG’s Wills, Life Planning and Probate team https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/15/new-recruits-bolster-fjgs-wills-life-planning-and-probate-team https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/15/new-recruits-bolster-fjgs-wills-life-planning-and-probate-team#respond Fri, 15 May 2020 08:00:46 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19299 We’re delighted to announce the recruitment of two new trained Legal experts into...

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We’re delighted to announce the recruitment of two new trained Legal experts into our Wills, Life Planning, and Probate team. Carlie Brown is a Chartered Legal Executive who will be working in the Holland-on-Sea office and Rachael Fleet joins the Billericay branch as a Solicitor.

Both Carlie and Rachael specialise in the drafting of Wills, administration of Estates, Powers of Attorney, and non-contentious Probate matters. Carlie is well known and respected in the Tendring area having worked in the locality for over fifteen years. She prides herself on building a great relationship with her clients where she is always approachable and easy to talk to, making her a great addition to the team working with the close-knit community of Holland-on-Sea.

Rachael has worked in the North Essex area for the nearly 10 years and is working towards her STEP qualification which will see her well-equipped to help the Billericay residents with Trust and Estate issues.

Susanne Grimwade, head of the Wills, Life Planning & Probate team commented, “We’re delighted to have Carlie and Rachael join our growing department. In these unprecedented times, the team is successfully navigating a new landscape and I am pleased to welcome two more to the team.”

She continued, “Carlie and Rachael will be involved in our scheme to offer free Wills in return for a donation to charity which has raised nearly £3 million in combined pledged charity donations, legacies and estate residues since the launch in January. This extraordinary amount is supporting local charities during the Covid-19 crisis and will continue to in the aftermath of the pandemic. We would like to thank our clients for helping us achieve such an amazing figure and for supporting charities across the UK.”

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What will happen to our family pets in the divorce? https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/13/what-will-happen-to-our-family-pets-in-the-divorce https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/13/what-will-happen-to-our-family-pets-in-the-divorce#respond Wed, 13 May 2020 14:00:29 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19238 We develop a deep love and connection with our pets. Most will say...

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We develop a deep love and connection with our pets. Most will say they are part of the family. They can offer comfort and unconditional love in the most difficult times. It is understandable that pressing concerns on divorce are often “what will happen to our family pet(s)?”, “who will they live with?”, “how often will they see each person?”, and “how will it affect the children?”

Most pet owners will expect that pets are more important than an inanimate object in the eyes of family law? Sadly not. The law applied by the Courts in England and Wales is that a pet will be treated as something called a “chattel” which is an item of personal property like cars, jewellery or furniture. The court will not be prepared to spend great swathes of time, nor expect the parties to expend significant legal costs, in dealing with disputes about family pets.

When a dispute over family pets arises it can often come down to: who paid for the pet; in whose name was the pet registered; and how the pet’s needs were met financially.

If the pet was given as a gift, it could be argued that the gift cannot “be revoked”, i.e. taken back, but otherwise, a pet is generally treated as any other personal possession in dispute.

Often this approach may feel far from ideal and parties will look to alternative forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation and collaborative family law, when deciding on what is best for their pet.

Considerations could be given to:

  • How can each party realistically meet that pet’s welfare needs going forwards?
  • Is shared care possible?
  • The impact on any child of the family in relation to where the pet resides?

Perhaps a form of “care plan” can be agreed using alternative dispute resolution and written down so there is no confusion going forwards.

Please contact our family team if you would like further advice and assistance in relation to your separation, call 01206 700113 or email contact@fjg.co.uk.

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‘Dying to be Heard’ https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/13/dying-to-be-heard https://www.fjg.co.uk/blog/2020/05/13/dying-to-be-heard#respond Wed, 13 May 2020 08:54:54 +0000 https://www.fjg.co.uk/?p=19268 Dying Matters Awareness Week runs from 11th to 17th May and encourages people...

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Dying Matters Awareness Week runs from 11th to 17th May and encourages people to talk about death. The theme for this year’s’ Dying Matters Campaign is ‘Dying to be Heard’ and focuses on how to help by listening. Due to the current Covid-19 crisis, there are additional deaths and more people will need help with planning, coping, grieving, and remembering.

The campaign aims to encourage people to become more comfortable talking about death and grief, and to sort out the practical issues about their own death: funeral plans, wills, organ donation, and end of life care. Above all, it wants people to discuss and share these plans so that the right information is available at the right time.

Even more so than ever, there are people who need to talk and are dying to be heard. We often want to offer support to someone we know when they have lost someone close to them and it can be difficult to know what to say or do. This often leads to us saying nothing, something careless or even avoiding the person altogether. Even if it looks like a person is coping it’s not always the case and support should always be there for them.

By having a plan in place it makes it easier for you and your loved ones when you are dying. Things that you can organise are your Will, funeral plan and arrangements, future care, and support that you want and organ donation. By organising the above it can make our last days easier for us and the time after our death easier for our family and friends. Most importantly ensure you talk about your plans with your loved ones.  This will make it easier for your loved ones to cope better both emotionally and practically after your death.

When supporting someone who has lost a loved one it’s better to acknowledge loss rather than ignore it. You can look for invitations to talk from the other person and encourage them to talk even if it seems to make them upset. Try and be comforting when opening up the conversation and create an environment where the person has the freedom to talk or not talk according to what they want. Just by being with the person will be a comfort to them and may encourage them to talk, you could ask them questions or simply just listen to them. Continue to check in with the person even more so after the funeral as these can be the most difficult and loneliest times. Invite them to join in social activities and even if they decline continue asking them as at some point they may accept and will be grateful of the invite.

Birthdays, anniversaries of a death, Christmas and New Year will always be a difficult time, try to remember to send a card or make a call to them. Keep the memory of the person alive and always talk about them as it can be painful when people act as if they have never existed.

Dying Matters is run by national hospice and palliative care charity Hospice UK, and brings together a broad coalition of organisations related to dying and bereavement, such as hospices, solicitors, funeral directors, and grief support services.

If I or a colleague can assist you with the planning of your affairs then please feel free to contact us on 01206 700113 or email contact@fjg.co.uk.

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