Russell & Russell - Solicitors since 1887

News

Russell and Russell Defends Lasting Powers of Attorney (22/08/2017)

Russell and Russell’s head of probate, Judith Bromley has defended lasting powers of attorney (LPA) after Denzil Lush, the former senior Judge of the Court of Protection, warned they may leave elderly people open to abuse.

An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.

In the foreword to a new book on the subject, Mr Lush raised concerns about the "lack of transparency" in how appointed attorneys manage older people’s finances. The former judge went on to criticise the Ministry of Justice as being "disingenuous" in its promotion of the legal document.

However, Judith - a member of national organisation Solicitors for the Elderly - said LPAs are effective safeguards when created responsibly:

"Senior Judge Lush’s comments have given rise to fears that LPAs are a direct avenue for financial abuse. However, his comments must be put into context, as his 20-year career at the Court of Protection will have presented him with the very worst cases of financial abuse.

"An LPA can be a positive and effective legal tool, which ensures your wishes are respected should you ever lose capacity. Senior Judge Lush’s comments should highlight the clear need for professional advice when considering powerful legal documents of this nature."

Top tips on drafting a lasting power of attorney

Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) is an independent, national organisation of over 1,500 lawyers, such as solicitors, barristers, and?chartered?legal executives, who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

SFE has been campaigning to ensure essential checks and controls are conducted when making an LPA. Here are SFE’s top tips to ensure your lasting power of attorney is effective, legally robust and safe:

Plan early – While you have capacity, it’s vital that you get your affairs in order and choose the best people to manage your affairs, in case of an accident or illness. You can’t appoint an attorney once you lose capacity.

Choose carefully – Think carefully who you want to appoint as your attorney and have an open conversation with them so they understand your wishes and what their responsibilities will include. Consider appointing more than one person as your attorney so they can share the responsibility.

Consider appointing a professional – A family member might not always be the best person to act as your attorney. Instead, you can appoint a professional such as a solicitor. They can act as a neutral third party and make unbiased decisions that are in your best interests. Bear in mind this usually involves a cost.

Think about different circumstances – Consider how you would like your attorney to manage your property and financial affairs in different situations. For example, are you happy for your property to be sold to pay for your care costs?

Address the difficult questions – Your attorney might have to make difficult decisions about your health and welfare. If you have specific wishes around your care plans, medical treatment, or end of life wishes, make sure you discuss this with them and make your choices clear in your document.

Seek professional advice – Shop-bought and online LPA kits may be suitable for those with very straightforward financial situations or with considerable legal experience, but for most people, seeking professional legal advice is the best way of ensuring that an LPA is effective, legally robust and safe.

Keep your plans current – Make sure you keep your LPA updated if your circumstances change. Your choices around the people you want to be responsible for your finances and wellbeing may change, such as following a marriage or divorce, when children reach adulthood, or if parents pass away.

Russell and Russell Shows its Support of LGBT Community With Sponsorship of Chester Pride 2017 (15/08/2017)

Once again, Russell and Russell is sponsoring Chester Pride. The event, which shows support for diversity and celebrates the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community, will take place on Saturday 19th August.

The fun kicks off with a parade at 12 noon. Starting at Castle Square, it will make its way through the city centre before returning to the square to continue the celebrations. A huge party with music from 90s pop band, Bewitched, eighties legend, Sonia and Saffron, lead singer of alternative rock band Republica will play the main stage.

There’s also an original music stage as well as The Glitter Lounge, hosting cabaret acts. Throughout the day there will be stalls offering food and drink as well as a marketplace to buy goods and gather information.

Now in its fifth year, Chester Pride has earned its stripes as one of the highlights of the city’s social calendar. The event is free and promises to be a fun day for all the family to enjoy.

As a firm that is committed to equality, we’re delighted to be sponsoring the event again this year. If you're going, why not pop over to our stall to say hello? You can also chance your luck on our free raffle! To find out what else is going on, download the guide here. See you there!

Three New Partners for Russell and Russell (08/08/2017)

Russell and Russell has announced the promotion of three of its solicitors. Saira Ali, Pippa Tudor and Simon Tansey have been made salaried partners.

A member of the personal injury department since 2011, Saira works from its legal advice centre on Newport Street in Bolton town centre. She deals with all elements of claimant personal injury claims and litigation.

Pippa, a family solicitor, joined the firm’s Chester office in 2015. She represents private clients involved in divorce proceedings and high net worth finances arising from marital breakdown as well as cohabitee separation.

Simon, a member of Russell and Russell’s conveyancing department since 2014, works from the firm’s Middleton office. He deals with all aspects of residential sales and purchases.

Speaking of their promotions, Judith Bromley, joint managing partner at Russell and Russell, said: “Pippa, Saira and Simon have shown a tremendous amount of dedication in providing a first class service and their contribution to growing the firm’s client base has been invaluable. Their partnerships are well-deserved and I know they will continue to play extremely important roles in Russell and Russell’s future.”

More Wills and Probate Accreditations for Russell and Russell (01/08/2017)

Harry Mistry, a solicitor in our probate department, has been awarded his Older Client Law in Practice (OCLP) certificate - a top quality mark for working with elderly clients.

The accreditation demonstrates that Harry has the experience and expertise to understand the capacity limitations that may affect the way advice is given to older and vulnerable clients, so that he can deal with their legal requirements.

This is not the only kite mark that Harry, who is fluent Gujarati, is qualified in. In 2015, he completed his Older Client Care in Practice (OCCP) certificate which recognises the skills required for good older client service and communications. Both accreditations are run by Solicitors for the Elderly, an independent organisation of legal advisers who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “Harry has worked extremely hard to attain his accreditation and it’s a fantastic achievement for him. As a firm, we’re committed to helping everyone who comes through our doors and Harry’s qualification will take us that step further in ensuring our elderly and vulnerable clients receive the best possible service.”

All the probate solicitors at Russell and Russell are members of Solicitors for the Elderly and the department is a member of Dementia Friends,an Alzheimer's Society initiative which helps people and organisations learn more about what it is like to live with dementia. The business was also the first legal firm in the Bolton area to be accredited with the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS) which sets the benchmark for best practice and transparency in the provision of wills and estate planning services.

Government set to increase small claims limit (26/07/2017)

The Government has announced it is pressing ahead with plans to increase the small claims limit for personal injuries in road traffic accidents. It intends to raise the threshold for claiming compensation from £1,000 to £5,000 in an attempt to “crack down on the compensation culture epidemic”.

The new provisions are being tabled under the Prisons and Courts Bill and if it’s passed, it could become law as soon as October. Many personal injury solicitors, however, are opposed to the move, which they believe will adversely affect innocent victims of road traffic accidents as they will be liable for their own legal fees if they pursue a claim for compensation below the new limit.

The proposal will be brought in along with other measures designed to reduce compensation pay outs. These include introducing fixed tariff caps which will see a significant reduction in the amount of compensation paid out to whiplash victims. For example, whiplash injuries lasting up to three months will decrease from around £1,600 to £225. The cuts continue for injuries lasting six months – down from around £2,250 to £450 – and just £765 for people suffering with injuries lasting up to nine months.

The Ministry of Justice claims that by making these changes average insurance premiums will fall by around £35.00 per year, although many personal injury lawyers state that insurance companies profits are continuing to grow and the savings from this latest round of legislation won’t be passed on to motorists.

Divorce rate continues to fall (18/07/2017)

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed a 9.1% decrease in divorces of opposite sex couples in 2015.

Stats show that 101,055 divorces were finalised across England and Wales, compared with 111,169 in 2014. This is a 34% decline since the recent peak in 2003. Although divorce rates reduced across all age groups, the highest was amongst men and women aged 40 to 44.

In 2015, 62% of divorces between opposite sex couples were petitioned by the wife. Unreasonable behavior was the most common reason for divorce with 52% of wives and 37% of husbands petitioning on these grounds.

Following the introduction of marriage between same sex couples in March 2014, the first divorces took place in 2015. In total, 22 divorces were registered; 12 female and 10 male. Unreasonable behavior was also cited as the most common grounds for divorce, accounting for 77% of splits. However, unreasonable behavior within same sex couples can include having a sexual relationship with someone else as the law currently states adultery can only legally be committed between two people of the opposite sex.

Speaking of the findings, Amanda Connor, head of family law at Russell and Russell, said: “While the decrease is welcome news, it could simply be a reflection of the fall in the number of marriages being registered, which have also declined since the peak of 2003. Aside from the emotional aspects of divorce – especially if children are involved – sorting out finances can be complex and, in certain situations, quite acrimonious. A good solicitor will work to ensure you’re exposed to as little hostility as possible and achieve the right outcome.

“One of the reasons behind the reduction in the divorce rate may simply be down to more people choosing to cohabit rather than getting married, but even this can have its pitfalls. If this is something you’re considering, we’d strongly recommend you consider getting a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up. It may not be very romantic, but it would avoid any potential conflict should the relationship break down in the future.” 

Wills Should be Brought into the Modern World (13/07/2017)

The Law Commission believes the current rules surrounding wills are unclear and could be putting people off making a will.

As such, it has launched a consultation, running until the 10 November, on whether texts, emails and other electronic communications should be recognised as a valid will in exceptional circumstances.

As it stands, the law only validates wills which have been made by people aged 18 and over, of sound mind, and signed in front of two witnesses, also aged over 18. The witnesses must also sign the will.

Where the will maker has made clear their intentions in another form - a text message or email, for example - the Commission wants to change the formality so that the family can apply to Court to have them recognised as a will. If a judge approves, those communications could then be accepted as a formal will.

Currently, when a person with no will dies, the law dictates how an estate (money, property, possessions etc.) are allocated. This may not be what they would have wanted. Partners who aren’t married or in a civil partnership are unable to inherit anything unless there is a will stating they should benefit. If there no surviving relatives, the estate passes to the Crown.

Although the Law Commission acknowledges the proposals could provide a "treasure trove for dissatisfied relatives" leading to family conflict, and a "variety of avenues by which probate could become both expensive and contentious", given 40% of people currently die without making a will, they should be recognised.

However, Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “As a will is a very powerful document, and directs who can inherit monies and assets, any changes to rules that have been in force for many years will need to be carefully thought through, so that vulnerable members of society are protected. It will be very challenging to ensure that a text message can ever confirm such clarity and certainty, which is what a will needs to provide. There is also the obvious concern that electronic measures are not open to misuse.

“Surely a better way would be for the Law Commission, supported by the Law Society, to expend its effort on campaigns to communicate the message that obtaining a will is paramount if you own assets of any value. Perhaps it should also focus on the bespoke service that lawyers provide and the various will campaigns that are offered up and down the country throughout the year when a will can be professionally drawn up for a relatively small donation.”

Hit and run road traffic accident claims (11/07/2017)

The Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) is a UK Guarantee Fund that compensates eligible victims of negligent uninsured or untraced drivers - more commonly known as hit and run accidents. The Motor Insurers’ Bureau will pay for personal injury suffered by victims of uninsured or untraced drivers in road traffic accident claims and covers two types of road traffic accident claims:

  • Uninsured drivers who cause road traffic accidents to fellow motorists or pedestrians
  • Victims of hit and run accidents where the driver can’t be traced

If you’ve been involved in a road traffic accident that wasn’t your fault and the other vehicle drove off, you need to report the incident to the police and comply with any subsequent investigations. Similarly, if you’re a motorcyclist who lost control due to diesel spillages or lorries shedding their load, you can make a claim.

Recent changes to both elements of the scheme include awarding compensation to victims of terrorism in road traffic accidents. It has also introduced a mandatory framework for dealing with road traffic accident claims for children and protected parties.

Russell and Russell sponsor the Preston PedalFest (06/07/2017)

A massive non-competitive cycling event is set to take place in Preston on Sunday 23rd July.

The Preston PedalFest cycle sportive, which is being sponsored by Russell and Russell’s personal injury department, will start from Avenham Park at 8.00am.

There are two routes taking in the views of the beautiful Lancashire countryside. The longer course is 65 miles, cycling through the Ribble Valley, Great Mitton and Whitewell before arriving in Dunsop Bridge to tackle the infamous Trough climb. There’s a food stop half way at Abbeystead.

A shorter route of 37 miles follows the same course, but forks off at Wilpshire via Longridge and over to Inglewhite before re-joining the route back to Preston.

Entrants can take home their own professional photo of themselves in action. All participants will be electronically timed and everyone taking part will be treated to free bacon butties and a brew at the finish.

To mark the occasion, we’re offering a great give away of a pair of Oakley Radar EV Iridium sunglasses on our Facebook page. Follow the instructions and a winner will be picked at random at 12 noon on Friday 21st July.

Anyone interested in entering the sportive has to be 16 years old or over and can register on line at www.epicevents.co.uk. Entries will close at 12 noon on Thursday 20th July or when the event is full.

Been ill on holiday? (06/06/2017)

Whether it was food poisoning, illness from unclean swimming pools, norovirus on a cruise or an injury abroad, you shouldn’t have lost the time, enjoyment and money while on holiday if it could have been prevented.

Sadly, food poisoning or stomach bugs affect lots of people during their break away. The most common causes can be from unhygienic food preparation, eating undercooked food, being served food not fit for human consumption and incorrect food storage.

Food poisoning claims can also arise from poor basic hygiene standard due to a lack of education amongst its catering staff and management, including:

  • Not washing hands
  • Cross contamination of infected raw meats and chicken on chopping boards/works surfaces
  • Not refrigerating perishable foods
  • Failure to wash kitchen utensils/knives/work surfaces thoroughly
  • Leaving food uncovered
  • A lack of pest and insect control

Holiday resorts can also spread viruses through the water systems. Where there’s poor or ineffective drainage and construction, contamination from toilets, wash basins, sprinkler systems and showers can occur. If you’ve experienced the following symptoms, you may be entitled to claim holiday sickness compensation:

  • Sickness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Upset stomach

In order to pursue a claim, it’s helpful if you can provide as many of the following items:

  • Evidence that you purchased the holiday
  • Photographs of the restaurant or hotel that caused the food poisoning
  • Names and contact details of any other holiday makers who can verify the conditions and who may also have also contracted food poisoning
  • Details, (and receipts if possible) of any medical treatment received, including medication, the doctor you saw on holiday at the resort or your own GP or hospital

If you’ve been affected by holiday sickness, call us so we can discuss your circumstances to find out if you can make a claim.

Concerns over changes to personal injury law pay outs (30/05/2017)

Despite falling road traffic accidents and improving car safety, the government is attempting to change personal injury laws, blaming the increase in compensation claims.

Justice Secretary, Liz Truss recently stated that the government intends to tackle the county’s “rampant compensation culture” by introducing a reduction in the level of pay outs victims of road traffic accidents receive from around £1,600 to £225 for soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash. But in an earlier debate, Ms Truss was asked what evidence underpinned the changes and proposed compensation tariff figures.

She replied: “We have changed the figures in response to the consultation document. Those were judged to be fair and reasonable for the level of injury that we are talking about in this case”. But, Labour MP, Rob Marris described the tariff as “bizarre… with no evidence of where the government got their figures from, but just an assertion from the Secretary of State that they believe in fair compensation”.

Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon said the proposed reforms of personal injury whiplash claims were based on “a false premise”. He went on to say that injured people “should not be made to pay the price for the behaviour of the unscrupulous minority” – specifically cold-calling claims management companies. He also urged the government to obtain guarantees from insurance companies that they would pass on the savings from the reforms.

Personal injury solicitors concerns are that if they’re no longer able to recover legal costs, injured victims will have no one to turn to, leaving insurance companies to deal with claimants direct. It’s fair to say that profit margins are likely to be high on the insurance industry’s agenda, so the best interests of the injured party may not always be the primary consideration.

The legal sector also believes that government’s changes will deter people with genuine claims from accessing legal representation and, without solicitors acting on their behalf, victims may not receive the correct level of compensation. Also, from a judicial perspective, there will inevitably be an increase in the number of people who try to take on the insurance companies. For those brave enough, they will have to be adept at navigating complex areas of law, while it remains to be seen how the courts will cope. 

Things to think about when making your will (23/05/2017)

A number of high profile cases have put the need to make a will firmly back in the spotlight recently. Yet, despite the growing number of inheritance disputes, many of us still don’t bother until we absolutely have to.

While writing a will is all too often seen as one of those jobs you’ll get round to ‘tomorrow’, the benefits of planning ahead can be invaluable. It’s usually a straightforward process, but if it’s not done properly it can have repercussions. Here’s some things to think about:

  • It’s an unfortunate truth; money changes people. Making a will helps prevent family disputes over your estate
  • It’s irrelevant whether you’ve promised certain possessions, property or money to specific people, if you have no will the law decides who benefits from your legacy, not you
  • Using an online website to do it yourself can backfire as they don’t take into account the complexities of the law, so your loved ones could end up having to pay to rectify things retrospectively
  • Will writers aren’t regulated. This means they can promote themselves as experts without actually having any qualifications or accreditations at all
  • Getting married automatically invalidates your existing will
  • If you’re estranged from your partner and have entered into a new relationship with someone else, it doesn’t matter if you live together; if you’re not married or in a civil partnership, you’re new partner isn’t legally entitled to anything if you die
  • If you’ve split from your ex acrimoniously and you die without having changed your will, your ex stands to inherit everything as, technically, you’re still married
  • Dying without a will can leave an estate liable for inheritance tax
  • Leaving money to charity in your will is just one of the ways to help reduce the amount of tax payable on your estate
  • It’s not as expensive as you might think, especially if you’re planning to draft a joint will (also known as a mirror will) as they’re often discounted
  • Make sure you sign it. Without your signature at the bottom, your will isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on

If you’re thinking about making, or changing, your will, Russell and Russell can help. We’re bound by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s code of conduct and are legally obliged to maintain high levels of service. As well as being regulated, we’re required to have insurance to protect the public. We can also provide guidance on more complex financial issues, such as inheritance tax and trust planning. We offer a free consultation where we can talk through your circumstances and advise on what’s best for you.

UK is not the whiplash capital of Europe (16/05/2017)

A recent claim by insurance companies that the UK is the whiplash capital of Europe has been found to be based on unreliable data cherry picked to support the government’s reform agendas.

Ken Oliphant, professor of tort law at Bristol University, said the evidence has been misleadingly presented, with main evidence coming from a flawed study by the Comité Européen des Assurances (CEA) in 2004.

Professor Oliphant said the data actually showed that Italy had nearly 50% more whiplash claims than England and Wales in the period assessed, and that it had paid out almost twice as much in compensation. Claims in Switzerland cost 10 times as much as those in the UK, while the Netherlands, almost six times as much.

Professor Oliphant said that though there have been specific instances in which fraudulent whiplash claims have been exposed in the UK, “there is a lack of reliable evidence as to extent of the problems of fraud and exaggeration, and a corresponding concern that – as with the whiplash capital claim – unreliable data will be used as the basis of tendentious interventions in the public debate…..the majority of injured persons whose claims for compensation are entirely genuine.”

Russell and Russell specialises in road traffic accident claims and whiplash injuries. Our solicitors are experts in personal injury compensation claims and offer legal advice on a no win no fee basis so we can take on the insurance companies on your behalf.

Russell and Russell raise cash Will Aid (09/05/2017)

Russell and Russell is celebrating after raising money for charity by taking part in the annual Will Aid drive.

The firm raised £665 by writing wills for clients across Greater Manchester in return for a donation to charity. This is the seventh year the firm has taken part in the scheme, raising over £3,000 to date.

Probate solicitor, Rachel Kelly said: “The firm has embraced the Will Aid initiative with huge enthusiasm. We’re able to provide a service to the local community and clients are more than happy to donate to a good cause. Making a will means loved ones you leave behind know that you’ve given your affairs some thought.”

Will Aid has raised more than £17 million for charity since it launched more than 25 years ago.

Campaign director, Peter de Vena Franks added: “One in three people die in the UK without making a will, potentially leaving their family and friends nothing but confusion and costly legal battles. Will Aid is a wonderful opportunity to not just make a will, but do it with the help of a professional. The added bonus is that you are helping nine charities in the UK at the same time.”

The scheme takes place across the country throughout November and supports nine of the UK’s best-loved charities; ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children, Sightsavers, SCIAF (Scotland) and Trocaire (N. Ireland).

The recommended donation for a basic Will Aid will is £95 for a single will and £150 for a pair of mirror wills.

For more information about making an appointment to write a will, visit http://www.willaid.org.uk/

Government faces revolt over probate fee hike (18/04/2017)

Plans to introduce a new fee structure for probate applications have suffered a setback after a parliamentary panel of experts claimed they are unlawful.

Applications for granting probate are currently held at £215 on estates valued over £5,000, but lord chancellor, Liz Truss recently announced a new model that could see executors, and ultimately beneficiaries, being charged up to £20,000 from the beginning of May. For more details about this, see our news article from 21st March 2017.

The findings of the report adds further pressure on Liz Truss to review the charges following overwhelming opposition from respondents of the initial consultation carried out by the Ministry of Justice. An online petition against the charges has already reached 300,000 signatures. The report also calls for the fees to “have the attention of both houses”, raising the possibility of them being delayed if not scrapped altogether.

The MoJ believes the new fee structure will raise £300m towards the cost of running the courts and tribunals service. The parliamentary joint committee on statutory instruments, however, questioned whether “the lord chancellor may use the power to prescribe non-contentious probate fees for the purpose of funding services (the courts) which executors do not seek to use”.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell and a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, said: “We’re delighted to see the Select Committee has confirmed what was clear from the offset – the Government’s probate fee hikes are nothing more than a backdoor tax and the MOJ has acted beyond its powers in enforcing these changes.

“Our hope now is that the Government re-evaluates these fees, and at the very least, finds a fairer way of structuring them”.

Russell and Russell Sponsors the Lakeland Loop Cycle Sportive – Sunday 23 April 2017 (11/04/2017)

Once again, Russell and Russell is sponsoring a huge cycling event on Sunday 23rd April.

The Lakeland Loop is a 69 mile ride, taking in the spectacular views of the Lake District. Cyclists will start from between 8:00am and 9:30am at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale.

The route isn’t competitive, but it does incorporate some grueling climbs, so is not for the faint hearted. There will be two food stops on route and free parking is available at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

In conjunction with the ride, we’re also holding a competition to win a king of the mountains Tour de France polka dot cycling jersey. To enter, go our Facebook page by clicking here.

More information, and entry, can be found at www.epicevents.co.uk. Entries will close at 12 noon on Thursday 20th April or when the event is full.

Judith takes on Everest base camp challenge (04/04/2017)

One of Russell and Russell's partners is set to take on one of the most physical challenges in the world in a bid to raise money for a local charity.

Judith Bromley, head of our wills and probate department, is heading to Nepal to complete a trek to Everest base camp.

On 14th April Judith, and her fellow fundraiser Gabrielle MacDonald, will fly to Nepal to prepare for the 12 day trek. Her mission is to raise funds to mark the 25th anniversary of Bolton Hospice, which has been providing free care for adults facing life-limiting illnesses since it opened its doors in 1992.

Starting her trek from the southern side of Everest, Judith will put her 12 months of training into practice to take on the epic 17,600 ft hike.

From Kathmandu, she will take a short plane ride to Lukla to begin a two day walk to the village of Namche Bazaar where she will begin her altitude acclimatisation. From there, she will trek for another two days to reach Dingboche, stopping to acclimatise again before making a further two day hike which will take her to Everest base camp.

“I’ve walked for many years and have always enjoyed it, but there’s something about pushing yourself that really appeals to me”, said Judith. “I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Bolton Hospice in 2015, which was such an amazing adventure it gave me an appetite to look for other challenges to help raise money. The walk to Everest base camp is going to be an experience of a lifetime and to be able to do it whilst raising funds for the Hospice is a fantastic opportunity.”

Anyone wishing to contribute towards Judith’s quest can make a donation via her just giving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/judith-bromley1.

Russell and Russell Launches Chester Personal Injury Department (28/03/2017)

Russell and Russell has set up a personal injury department at its Chester office.

The practice will be offering a 24 hour a day, seven days a week service for anyone who has been involved in an accident that wasn’t their fault. Specialist personal injury solicitor, Claire McKenzie will head up the department at the White Friars based practice in city centre. 

Speaking of the move, Derrick Smethurst, who heads up the firm’s personal injury department, said: “We offer a personal injury service at our branches across Greater Manchester so it was a natural progression for us to offer it in Chester. Personal injury is under represented in the area and we want to provide a local service so that people don’t have to travel to Liverpool or Manchester to see a solicitor. We can advise on all kinds of injuries, in particular accidents at work, road traffic incidents and clinical negligence cases.”

Government Hikes Probate Fees Despite Opposition (21/03/2017)

The government has pressed ahead with plans to increase probate fees by up to £20,000 despite overwhelming opposition.

Probate fees are paid up front by executors in order to allow beneficiaries access to money and assets left to them. Currently, the charge of £215 is payable on all estates worth over £5,000. From May, however, charges on applications for grants of probate will be linked to the size of the estate.

Although, under the new rules, estates valued below £50,000 will be exempt, those worth between £50,000 and £300,000 will incur a charge of £300, whilst assets valued at £300,000 to £500,000 will be billed £1,000 – a 365% increase on the current fee.

Probate charges increase further to £4,000 on assets of £500,000 to £1million, rising again to £8,000 for estates worth between £1million and £1.6million. Those valued up to £2 million will be subject to a fee of £12,000. Finally, the highest charging band is a £20,000 probate bill on estates valued above £2 million, accounting for an eye watering a 9,202% increase on the current probate fees. .

The news comes despite less than 2% of respondents, most of which were legal experts and firms of solicitors, agreeing with the new charges in a consultation carried by the Ministry of Justice.
Lawyers argue that the changes amount to a new form of taxation as the current £215 fee fully meets the cost of the probate service. Critics are also worried that the new rules could cause problems for executors as the fee required to obtain a grant of probate has to be paid in advance. Without it, executors are unable to administer a deceased person’s estate.

The legal profession is also worried that those who are asset rich, but cash poor will find it difficult to raise the money required for the new fees. In particular, it has expressed concern about the financial pressure put on older people who will have to find the money for probate fees to access their spouse’s estate.

While the government has acknowledged the concern, it claims that the rise is necessary to subsidise the rest of the court system in order to continue to provide access to justice in the long term.

Speaking of the changes, Claire Davis, director of Solicitors for the Elderly, said: “SFE is extremely disappointed to see that the consensus to reject the proposed probate fees has been ignored.

“For the 62% of estates that use a solicitor, probate registry performs a purely administrative role, and the value of the estate has no bearing on the work undertaken.

“To burden larger estates with a significantly larger fee is an unfair form of taxation. For people in this situation, their property is often their primary asset, and they have little cash to pay for higher probate fees, on top of other necessities such as IHT or the use of a solicitor.

“The increase in probate fees will place a burden on families at a sensitive and distressing time and is likely to put people who are vulnerable and/or elderly at risk. Our fear is that such clients might be persuaded to take steps to avoid probate fees, even if the effect is to leave them with insufficient assets to provide for themselves for the rest of their life.”

Supreme Court Rules Against Daughter Cut Out of Will (15/03/2017)

Three charities have won a landmark case against a woman cut out of her mother's will at the Supreme Court.

Heather Ilott, an only child, was excluded from her mother’s will after eloping in 1978 at the age of 17 with her now husband. Mother and daughter never reconciled and when 70-year-old Melita Jackson died in 2004, she left most of her £486,000 estate to The Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), despite having any real connection with them.

Mrs Ilott, a mother of five, had been living on state benefits with no pension when she challenged the will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act in 2005. In 2007 a district judge awarded her £50,000 after ruling she had been "unreasonably" excluded. Mrs Ilott applied for a larger share of the money and the figure was increased by the Court of Appeal in 2015, granting her £164,000.

The charities counter appealed the ruling, stating that people are entitled to leave their estate to beneficiaries of their choosing. The Supreme Court agreed, reducing Mrs Ilott’s inheritance back to the original £50,000.

The charities argued that the appeal had been brought as a matter of principle that people should be free to choose who will benefit from their estate. Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, agrees, saying that: “The judgement was a sensible decision made for testamentary freedom”. The situation, however, has raised questions from some of the judges about how the current law surrounding the Inheritance Act should be administered in the future.

Russell and Russell Bolsters its Family Law Team (07/03/2017)

Russell and Russell has appointed two new solicitors to its family department.

Donna Leigh (pictured) will work from the firm’s head office on Wood Street in Bolton town centre. She has over a decade of experience dealing with high net worth finance cases, cohabitation issues, divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships, domestic violence and children matters.

With over 25 years of experience, Hilary Farren has also joined the firm, working from our Bury office. She will provide private client advice on divorce, finances, cohabitation, injunctions and children matters. In addition, she will be running a free family law clinic every Wednesday from 1.00-4.00pm at the firm’s office on Manchester Road in the town centre. 

“Both Donna and Hilary have a wealth of knowledge in private family law and their experience will add strength and depth to the team”, said Amanda Connor, head of Russell and Russell’s family department. “We’ve undergone a significant upturn in business over the last 12 months, so their expertise will lend itself to servicing our growing private client base and complement our social care team.”

Heterosexual couple call for civil partnership equality (01/03/2017)

The recent news regarding Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan losing their battle to have a civil partnership, rather than marriage, has raised questions over whether it should be extended to mixed sex couples.

The pair, who live in London and have a 20-month old daughter, want to legally fomalise their seven-year relationship, but believe marriage isn’t suitable for them. Instead, they want a partnership that's: “modern, (which is) symmetrical and that focuses on equality, which is exactly what a civil partnership is".

Another couple, Kate Stewart and Matthew Cole, share the same view. They had a civil partnership in Gibraltar in June last year. Having been together 10 years they wanted a ceremony that recognised they are equal, stating that marriage “is very much unequal depending on your religion”. The couple paid for the ceremony in pounds and have a certificate, but their civil partnership isn’t legally recognised in the UK.

While they aren’t opposed to marriage, they weren’t comfortable with it as they feel it has hangovers of inequality from the past. Instead, they believe civil partnership should be a choice for both gay and straight couples.

So, what are the differences between civil partnership and marriage?

  • You can dissolve your marriage on the grounds of adultery, but not in a civil partnership
  • In a civil ceremony you don’t have to exchange vows and you can include songs, readings and music, however, you can’t have any religious content
  • Marriages need to be carried out publicly and can be conducted by a member of the clergy, while civil partnerships can be held in private
  • Only the names of the fathers of each party need to be included on a marriage certificate in contrast to a civil partnership where both parents are named

All three judges at the Court of Appeal agreed that there’s a potential breach of human rights and that the status quo couldn’t continue indefinitely, but the government is still to decide whether to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, abolish them or phase them out.

Conservative MP, Tim Loughton, who recently introduced a Private Member's Bill to give mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership, believes the government has "no excuse" for delaying a change in the law as the bill received cross-party backing. The bill is due to be debated on 24th March.

In the meantime, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who have collected more than 72,000 signatures to an online petition calling for civil partnerships to be open to all, intend to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Russell and Russell welcomes Housing White Paper measures (21/02/2017)

As members of The Conveyancing Association (CA), the leading trade body for the conveyancing industry, Russell and Russell has welcomed a number of measures announced in this month’s Housing White Paper and is backing the CA in its ongoing attempts to deliver change and progress for the conveyancing market.

In particular, Russell and Russell is behind measures to improve land registration and to promote fairness and transparency within the leasehold process.

Firstly, the Government’s White Paper appears to show strong support for the Land Registry’s overall aim to complete the Land Register – the White Paper says it is ‘committed to becoming the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity, and an open approach to data and will aim to achieve comprehensive land registration by 2030’.

As members of the CA, Russell and Russell is fully supportive of this as it will create a clear line of sight of ownership and beneficial interests generally.

The CA provided a considerable response to a consultation on the Land Registration Rules 2017, proposing both a registration of options and the beneficial interests in restrictive covenants as a means to provide oversight, and to complete the Land Register. It recently announced it's pleased that both these suggestions appear as measures in the Housing White Paper.

With regard to the various issues around the leasehold process, and the costs and delays within it, we're encouraged by the focus on leasehold in the Housing White Paper. It refers to developing greater fairness and transparency in leasehold generally and tackling buyer’s lack of awareness of associated costs. It also refers to its plans to tackle all unfair and unreasonable abuses of leasehold.

The Government plans to consider further reforms to improve consumer choice and fairness in leasehold, including working ‘with the Law Commission to identify opportunities to incorporate additional leasehold reforms as part of their 13th Programme of Law Reform, and will take account of the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold’.

The CA has provided significant input into the 13th Programme of Law Reform and continues to liaise, and work closely, with the All-Party Parliamentary Group in order to develop solutions to these issues.

Stephen Crompton, partner and head of conveyancing at Russell and Russell, said: “As members of the Conveyancing Association we're absolutely committed to helping it develop its status and standing within the industry, and to supporting its work in bringing about tangible change in the house purchasing process. The Government’s Housing White Paper appears to be heading in the right direction in a couple of key areas, namely improving land registration and cutting out the greater costs and delays that can blight the leasehold process. We're working via the CA to ensure these measures translate into tangible action and improvement and look forward to working closely with our peers to make this happen.”

Beth Rudolf, director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association, added: “There are many measures within the Government’s Housing White Paper that we are fully supportive of, indeed, we have advocated and pushed for many of them, alongside other industry stakeholders, so it is very positive to see these will be adopted. Clearly, developing a stronger and more transparent Land Register is vitally important, as is the focus on leasehold costs and delays. The CA’s leasehold campaign has particularly focused on Lease Administrators’ charges and the delays that can hold up the leasehold process and we will continue to offer our views on how these can be overcome including measures for the adoption of a charging structure, a register of Lease Administrators, plus a redress scheme for consumers and a commitment from those companies to respond within a required timescale. We will certainly be contributing to forthcoming consultations in this area.”

Russell and Russell Gets Back in the Saddle for the Eden Valley Epic Cycle Sportive (16/02/2017)

Once again, Russell and Russell is sponsoring Epic Events Cycle Sportive, the Eden Valley Epic. Beginning at Penrith leisure centre on Sunday the 5th March, the 60 mile route will take cyclists towards the village of Orton before heading north to Appleby in Westmorland. The ride continues through the lanes of Dufton, Milburn and Langwathby before looping back to Penrith.

Starting between 8.00am and 10.30am, the sportive is expected to take anything between three and seven hours. Registration will be open from 7.00am with a maximum of 20 riders starting every two minutes. Places are limited to around 800 and entry is on a first come, first served basis.

On the day, all participants will be electronically timed and riders will be able to take home their own professional photo of themselves in action.

“The Eden Valley Epic is a fantastic event that can be enjoyed by serious cyclists as well as those who do it just for fun”, said Derrick Smethurst, head of Russell and Russell’s personal injury department.

The cost of entering the Eden Valley Epic is £25 and further information and can be found on the Epic Events website www.epicevents.co.uk/. And, for those looking to add to their kit, Russell and Russell is running a competition to win aLezyne Mini GPS Computer. Head to our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/rrsolicitors to find out how to enter.

Valentine sweethearts urged to update their will this February 14 (07/02/2017)

Blissfully loved-up couples planning to tie the knot this year should change their will to reflect their new circumstances.

Many people aren’t aware that getting married automatically invalidates their will. Put simply, if you don’t update it, you may as well not have one at all as you’ll die intestate.

Shockingly, two thirds of the UK’s adult population don’t have a will in place. Everyone should make drafting their will a priority or risk leaving a painful legacy for loved ones.

Although Valentine’s Day may be the most romantic day of the year, couples should come down from the clouds for a minute and focus on the practical matters.

No one likes to think too much about their own demise, but ensuring your final wishes are made clear and are legally recognised is the most romantic gesture you can offer a loved one.

Russell and Russell is a member of the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS), which provides a best practice quality mark for wills and estate administration advice that consumers can trust. 

Dementia is on the increase - it's more important than ever to make your Lasting Power of Attorney (31/01/2017)

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics have revealed that dementia, including Alzheimer's, has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales.

More than 61,000 people were victims of dementia in 2015, equating to 11.6% of all deaths registered. Women who died of the condition accounted for twice as many as men - 41,283 as opposed to 20,403.

According to Alzeihmer’s Society, there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. Around 225,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year; roughly one person every three minutes.

Although age is the most obvious contributing factor, around one in 20 people (over 40,000) living with dementia are under the age of 65. One in six over the age of 80 have the condition and 70% of those in care homes suffer from dementia or severe memory problems.

While most people think of dementia as a disease it’s actually an over-arching term used to describe the signs that appear when brain cells stop working properly. It’s a progressive condition which means that over time the structure and chemistry of the brain becomes increasingly damaged, leaving a person with a declining ability to remember or understand and communicate

Being diagnosed with dementia ultimately means there will be issues with maintaining your independence and as your metal ability starts to fail, it’s important to know that there’s someone who will look after your interests when the time comes that you can’t do it yourself.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives someone nominated by you (your attorney) the authority to make decisions on your behalf. There are two types of LPAs. The first allows your attorney to handle your financial affairs, such as any property and savings you may have. The second addresses your personal welfare, such as the medical treatment you should receive or where you live. Don’t worry about giving up control of your finances or treatment suddenly, you can choose when your Lasting Power of Attorney becomes effective.

An LPA also prevents family or friends having to apply for similar powers in the future, which can be an expensive and time-consuming business. The key to remember is that you can only set up an LPA while you’re well because the law won’t recognise it as a legally binding document once you’ve lost capacity. 

VAT Added to Local Authority House Searches (24/01/2017)

A surprise move by HMRC has seen local councils impose vat on searches.

Council searches, carried out on the Law Society’s CON29 and CON29O forms, provide information for buyers and lenders on issues surrounding planning decisions, building regulation consents, highway information, road schemes and public footpaths. The forms contain standardised questions to make conveyancing searches quicker and more efficient for both local authorities and buyers.

Although HMRC has not been clear in its reasons for the change, it’s widely believed that it is to level the playing field between local authorities and private search organisations (PSOs), which already add vat to their searches.

The move was introduced on the 1st January, however, not all councils have implemented the change. This has left conveyances having to verify with each authority before submission to check whether fees have increased.

Lee Holehouse, head of operations for Russell and Russell’s conveyancing department, said: “While it makes sense to even the market out, it’s frustrating that despite various attempts made by organisations across the legal sector to clarify the situation, HMRC would neither confirm nor deny the changes were coming in. This has resulted in the onus being put on conveyancers to check whether local authorities are imposing the increase, which just adds to the time it takes to purchase a property. Even the smallest of delays in the process can have huge consequences and I would have expected HMRC to understand this and be transparent rather than creating unnecessary confusion.”

Beware the DIY Divorce (18/01/2017)

Christmas is generally seen as a time for family but sadly, for some people, it’s a period when they seriously question whether they’re happy in their relationship. As a consequence, January is the month which sees the highest number of divorce proceedings started.

Getting a divorce is not only stressful, it can be expensive too - especially if there’s a house move involved. Unraveling bank accounts, a mortgage, insurance policies and pensions can be complex. There may also be loans or credit cards to pay back.

It’s not just the financial aspects of a relationship breakdown that have to be considered either. Even if it’s an amicable decision, agreeing on the arrangements for the children can be fraught with emotional turmoil.

The concept of DIY divorces is to keep costs down. There are a number of different online divorce or dissolution services which vary in price and offer different levels of help. Most will assist with the standard paperwork, but not with any tricky issues including reaching a financial settlement, which isn’t great if there are assets you want to protect or gain a share of. Not only that, “kitchen table” financial settlements aren't legally binding and are easy to overturn in court.

As with a lot of online tools, they don’t take account of the complexities of the law, which may not be obvious at the time you separate. Also, if you don’t take legal advice, you and your ex-partner may agree to split your finances, or child contact arrangements, in a way that’s unfair or hard for one or both of you.

A final word of warning; update your Will, otherwise you may end up leaving your estate to your ex. 

Domestic Abuse Figures Released (10/01/2017)

Figures released by the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) have revealed that police forces across England and Wales recorded 1.03 million domestic abuse-related incidents in the year ending March 2016. Following investigations, the police concluded that the number of domestic abuse-related criminal offences committed was approximately four in every 10 (41%) of these incidents (421,000).

Domestic abuse-related crimes recorded by the police accounted for approximately one in 10 of all crimes, with women more likely to report having experienced domestic abuse and 78% of cases consisting of violence against the person offences.

The decision to charge offenders was made on 70% of the domestic abuse-related cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service CPS), with convictions secured on three-quarters of prosecutions brought. Of the cases referred to the CPS, 68% of defendants pleaded guilty.

Despite the figurers being at their lowest since the year ending March 2005, 53% of unsuccessful prosecutions were due to victim retraction, victim non-attendance or evidence that the victim didn’t support the case. It’s believed that one of reasons behind this was due to the level of fear and control exerted by the perpetrator.

If you, or someone you know, are the victim of domestic abuse we can help. We can provide advice on your legal position and link you with organisations and agencies that can assist in other areas of your life so that the process of leaving an abusive partner is made that little bit easier. 

Limited Offer: Your Will, Lasting Power of Attorney and Severance for £550 (05/01/2017)

To help you start 2017 as you mean to go on we’re offering an exclusive package to clients wanting to get their house in order.

Throughout January and February we’re offering clients the opportunity to write their will, draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney and prepare a severance for £550 + vat. This would normally cost £760 + Vat, so it’s a very healthy saving of £210.

Many people don’t like to think about making a will because it reminds them of their own mortality, but it’s important to make arrangements so that you know your estate will go to the people you want to have it, rather than who the law states should get it.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act for you and make decisions on your behalf should you lose capacity to do it yourself. With dementia now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, many people are setting up LPAs to avoid the prospect of strangers making decisions about their way of life if their mental capacity starts to fail.

A severance enables you to leave your share of a property to someone other than the person you own the property with. This is often popular with people who are joint tenants who are unmarried or in a second marriage.

If you want to talk to someone about taking up this package, we offer a free, no obligation consultation to help you understand the legal requirements of administering your estate. You can make an appointment to see us any one of our branches or, if it’s easier, we’ll come you at a time that’s convenient for you.To help you start 2017 as you mean to go on we’re offering an exclusive package to clients wanting to get their house in order.

Throughout January and February we’re offering clients the opportunity to write their will, draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney and prepare a severance for £550 + vat. This would normally cost £760 + Vat, so it’s a very healthy saving of £210.

Many people don’t like to think about making a will because it reminds them of their own mortality, but it’s important to make arrangements so that you know your estate will go to the people you want to have it, rather than who the law states should get it.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act for you and make decisions on your behalf should you lose capacity to do it yourself. With dementia now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, many people are setting up LPAs to avoid the prospect of strangers making decisions about their way of life if their mental capacity starts to fail.

A severance enables you to leave your share of a property to someone other than the person you own the property with. This is often popular with people who are joint tenants who are unmarried or in a second marriage.

If you want to talk to someone about taking up this package, we offer a free, no obligation consultation to help you understand the legal requirements of administering your estate. You can make an appointment to see us any one of our branches or, if it’s easier, we’ll come you at a time that’s convenient for you. 

Divorce Rate at Lowest Level in 40 Years (20/12/2016)

Figures recently released by the Office of National Statistics show that the number of divorces has decreased to its lowest level in 40 years.

It’s believed the reasons behind the figures are that couples are increasingly choosing to live together rather than get married. Those who are getting married are leaving it longer before they tie the knot.

In 2014 there were 111,169 divorces granted in England and Wales, down 3.1% on 2013 and a decline of more than 25% from the most recent peak in 2003. Overall, the divorce rates per thousand married men and women fell 9.3%, the lowest level since 1974. All age groups accounted for the fall in divorces, with the exception of women aged 55 and over.

Despite the encouraging figures, as more couples choose to cohabit, it’s important for people to think about setting up a legal agreement to protect both parties in the event of the relationship breaking down.

While some couples are able to settle things amicably when they split, unmarried couples have far less protection than their married counterparts. The lines of who gets what are becoming increasingly blurred and if not sorted out could end up in court – a situation neither side is likely to want and an expense both could do without.

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document which specifies how assets and any equity in a property will be divided should couples decide to go their separate ways. Its purpose is to avoid adding further stress to an already stressful situation. So, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge, call us on 01204 399 299 for an informal chat about setting one up.

Fundraisers Get up for 10k Challenge to Help the Homeless (13/12/2016)

Two members of staff at our Chester branch are braving the elements to raise money for a homeless charity this Christmas.

Throughout the duration of advent, Tara Crisp and Richard Querelle are getting up an hour earlier than normal to cycle or run 10k to raise money for local charity, Chester Aid to the Homeless (CATH).

“Christmas is a time of good will and showing kindness to others”, said Tara. “Homelessness is a modern day tragedy and winter – especially Christmas – is an awful time to be sleeping on the streets. The work that CATH does is vital to help those who find themselves with nowhere to live by providing a safe environment and a little respite from the cold. I appreciate Christmas is an expensive time of year, but homelessness can affect anyone at any time, so I would ask everyone to dig deep and donate a few pounds to help those less fortunate than themselves.”

CATH is based at the Harold Tomlins Centre on Upper Northgate Street in the centre of Chester. The charity is run by volunteers and provides year round support to help those living on the streets gain access to accommodation. The centre also offers shower and laundry facilities, a free clothing store, medical services and a food bank.

Anyone wishing to help Tara and Richard can donate at www.justgiving.com/Tara-Crispor www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Richard-Querelle. Alternatively, donations can also be made directly via Russell and Russell’s reception at 9 White Friars, Chester, CH1 1NZ. 

Having Contact With Your Children Over Christmas (06/12/2016)

The festive season can bring out the very best in people; but it can also bring out the very worst too. This is particularly relevant for couples who have separated or divorced. Making child contact arrangements over Christmas can be fraught with disagreements and arguments about who spends time with the children, when and for how long.

Trying to divide up your children’s time over the holidays can be tricky and often frustrating to negotiate. So, here are some suggestions about how to come to an agreement on child arrangements so that everyone can have a Merry Christmas:

  • If you’re the resident parent of a child, make sure you discuss Christmas arrangements well in advance so that both of you are aware of when you have the children and can plan accordingly
  • Discuss what you would like calmly and be prepared to listen to what your ex wants, even if you don’t agree with them – this is about your children, not you
  • Make your arrangements sensible and child focussed – using the children to get back at your ex-partner only ends up in with them losing out
  • Think of what’s best for your child – will they feel unsettled if they spend Christmas being driven around and swapped between parents too much?
  • Christmas is a special time for children, so if it’s not possible for your child to spend the festive period with both parents, they’ll probably be more than happy to have two Christmas Eves and two Christmas Days

If you’re struggling to come to an agreement on your child contact arrangements, we can help. We offer advice and guidance on making sensible suggestions that will make sure children get to see both parents, and their extended families, over the festive period and, more importantly, that their parents’ relationship doesn’t spoil their Christmas.

The breakdown of a relationship seldom ends amicably, but if children are involved it’s important to make sure that they don’t end up paying the price of their parents’ separation. 

Good Divorce Week (28/11/2016)

Today marks the start of good divorce week, a campaign aiming to raise awareness that divorces needn’t to be acrimonious.

The initiative, which is being championed by Resolution, an organisation committed to resolving family disputes, is to highlight the idea that removing blame from divorce will not only make it easier for couples to move on, but also to enable people to go their separate ways without either having to take responsibility for the breakdown of the relationship. This, Resolution believes, will make things less stressful and will help people to manage the situation with as little conflict as possible.

Currently divorces in England and Wales can only be granted on one of five grounds: adultery; unreasonable behavior, desertion for two years or more, two years’ separation with consent or five years’ separation without the other party’s consent.

The problem with this is that couples who agree their marriage is over have to decide whether they can wait two years before divorcing or whether one of them should file on the grounds of unreasonable behavior in order to speed up the process.

Research carried out by Resolution in June 2015 showed that 52% of divorce petitions were fault-based, split between unreasonable behavior and adultery. Of these, 27% admitted the allegation of fault wasn’t true, but it was the easiest option.

Resolution is proposing an alternative divorce procedure based on one or both partners giving notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. After this, divorce proceedings can begin and if one or both partners still think it’s the right decision after six months, the divorce can be finalised.

Allowing couples to separate without attributing blame will enable them to resolve their problems outside courts which is far less damaging to the relationship and will help meet the government’s aim of reducing the burden on the family court, claims Resolution.

Resolution will be lobbying parliament about the issue on 30thNovember. For more information, visit http://www.resolution.org.uk/lobbyday2016

Bolton Hospice’s Make a Will Month (18/11/2016)

November is Bolton Hospice’s Make a Will Month and we’re supporting it to help raise vital funds. We’re offering to make or amend wills for just £25 + vat with a suggested minimum donation of £25 per person, made payable to Bolton Hospice.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “It’s great to be supporting the Hospice again this year. The firm has a longstanding relationship with the charity and Make a Will Month not only raises money for this fantastic local facility, but also encourages people to make a what’s perhaps one of the most important financial decisions of their lives.”

The firm is accredited with the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme and you can draw up your will at any of our branches. To make your appointment, call 01204 399 299.

Russell and Russell offers urgent warning about Government’s ‘risky’ online legal tool (15/11/2016)

Russell and Russell has joined a number of organisations representing older and vulnerable people to raise serious concerns around the Government’s online tool for creating Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs).

An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.

In May 2014, the Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched its online LPA tool, which it claims allows people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor.

But a new report, published by a coalition of organisations led by SFE, warns that anyone creating an LPA without taking specialist legal advice faces a significantly higher risk of being left with an ineffective legal document, incurring additional application fees, and even becoming a victim of fraud or coercion.

The report also raises concerns around the potential of a completely digital system proposed by the OPG, whereby ‘wet signatures’ – the physical signing of the document – would no longer be required.

Judith Bromley who heads up Russell and Russell’s wills and probate department, and is a full accredited member of SFE, said: “The prospect of being able to submit an LPA application entirely digitally is extremely concerning, and raises some serious questions around the potential for fraud and financial abuse.”

During a study conducted for the report, participants were invited to create LPAs using the OPG’s online tool and other ‘DIY’ methods. The study revealed that:

  • Some of the forms did not accurately express the way in which participants would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future
  • Documents made using DIY methods were more likely to contain elementary mistakes, rendering them ineffective and requiring additional application fees
  • Following consultation with a solicitor, most participants made significant changes to the permissions of their documents regarding how and by whom their affairs were managed

June McSparron, a 75-year-old who participated in the study, said: “You’re exposing yourself to a lot of risk by filling this form in on your own. There are so many bits that you can get wrong, and you can easily be pressured into making choices that you’re not entirely comfortable with.”

The number of LPAs being registered has increased steadily since the launch of the online tool, with over half a million registered in 2015/16 alone.The OPG is actively trying to convince more people to apply for LPAs online, having set a target for the service to comprise 30% of all applications from April 2016 to March 2017.In its latest Annual Report, the OPG even admits it is willing to take ‘risks’ in striking a balance between ‘empowering and safeguarding’.

With the OPG already receiving over 1,000 calls to its contact centre every day, the organisations behind the campaign say the Government body is potentially exposing people to unacceptable levels of risk and in doing so may be compromising its ability to safeguard those who are most vulnerable.

Judith continued: “An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have, because it allows you to pass potentially life-changing decisions about your affairs on to a third party.

“It’s absolutely right that people should be planning ahead for the future with LPAs, but granting someone this sort of authority over your affairs is an extremely big responsibility for all parties involved. This is a specialist area of the law, and we recommend that anyone considering an LPA goes to a legal expert to ensure they get the right advice, consider all the options, and safeguard themselves for the future.”

To download the report ‘The Real Cost of DIY LPAs’ go to: http://www.sfe.legal

Buying a commercial property? You need to read this (08/11/2016)

Buying a commercial property is probably one of the biggest investments that you’ll make, so it’s important to get it right. We’ve put together 10 things you need to consider when buying premises.

1. Is it the right time to buy?

Investing in a property is a massive financial commitment and one that you’ll be legally tied to for some time. Is buying a property the right thing for you and the business? Tying up this amount of cash could reduce your cash flow and you may need the money further down the line. Would it be better to take out a lease on a property instead? That said, if you’re confident the business is in the right position, which is sustainable and it’s the next stage of growth it could be worth the investment.

2. Can you afford it?

Unless you’re in the fortunate position of being a cash buyer, it’s likely that you’ll be relying on a commercial mortgage to secure the purchase of your chosen property. Are you able to get mortgage funding? When you take out your mortgage, you give the lender an interest in the property to the value of the loan, so just like a residential property, if you don’t keep up the repayments, your lender could repossess it.

3. Can you afford an interest rate rise?

As with all mortgages, interest rates can rise as well as fall. Although there has been historic low rates in recent years, that’s unlikely to always be the case. If property prices rise, you’ll benefit from the increased value of your premises, but if they fall it may have a negative effect on your capital and your mortgages payments could increase.

4. Think about what you need

Choosing a property to locate your business isn’t straight forward. You’ll need to think out about how much space you’ll need, not just for now, but for the future too. If your business grows, will you be able to accommodate everything under one roof? Is the property accessible to customers? What about the workforce too - can employees get there on public transport as well as by driving? Are there sufficient car parking spaces? What is the building being used for, is there enough security or will you need more? Do you need planning for anything? Is there enough storage space? What about the location, do you need a high street presence or is it preferable to be ‘out of town’?

5. Get I touch with a solicitor who specialises in commercial property

This is the first important step. Your solicitor can guide you through the legalities of the purchase, highlighting any potential pitfalls, outlining your options. You may want to buy the property through your pension fund as part of a SIPP and your solicitor can advise on the structure of such a transaction.

6. Use all the help that’s available to you

There are numerous professionals that can help you get a better understanding of what you need and how much it’s likely to cost. Aside from a solicitor, a commercial property agent can help you find the right building in a location that suits your business needs. You may also need the help of a fit-out specialist who’ll be able to advise on costs for any necessary refurbishments. You may also need to consider technology infrastructure such as I.T. and telecoms equipment.

7. Is the building structurally sound?

Once you’ve found the building you want to buy, you need to appoint a surveyor to inspect the property. This will be a legal requirement by your lender, but even if you’re a cash buyer it’s in your interest to do this; you’ll need as much information on the state of the building as you can get to avoid any nasty surprises after you’ve bought it.

8. Do your checks

There’s lots of things to consider when buying a commercial property, and one of the most important elements is to make sure you’ve as much information about it as possible. You should also seek the advice of legal commercial property expert as they will know what to look for and what questions to ask. Never forget; the risk is on you.

9. To search or not to search?

It’s very important to carry our all pre-contract enquiries and searches before you buy because the cost of finding something out after you’ve bought the property can be considerable. If you’re buying the property with a mortgage from the bank it will insist on due diligence before it will approve the loan. But, if you’re buying with your own money, it’s up to you. You can carry out all the searches or just some of them. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on your options.

10. Your solicitor is here to help

A good solicitor will make the process of buying a commercial property as simple as possible. Of course, there are more things to consider than when buying a house, but your solicitor should be able to guide you through all the red tape and legal jargon. They’ll explain things in plain English to you and help you. Your solicitor will carry out the due diligence on the property to ensure it’s fit for purpose. They’ll also prepare all the necessary documentation.

Don’t Just Make a Will, Sign it (01/11/2016)

We all know that making a will is important. The cost of dying without one - or dying intestate as it’s formally known – can run into thousands of pounds. Yet many of us still don’t bother until we absolutely have to.

A study carried by unbiased.co.uk found that 23% of people are waiting until later in life to make a will. Nearly a fifth didn’t think they needed one because they believe they’ve nothing to leave, but with the average homeowner having a property worth around £200,000, there’s a lot at stake.

What’s even more surprising is that there are people who make a will and, for whatever reason, don’t sign it.

It’s a sad fact, money changes people. This was illustrated in a recent newspaper report which documented the plight of a woman who had been left in a difficult position by her late partner’s children.

Having been together for more than 25 years, she was left suffering anxiety and unable to grieve her partner after he died unexpectedly. He had written a will which expressed that she was left their home, but had failed to sign it which meant that, as the properties they owned were in his name and they were unmarried, the four children from his previous marriage inherited his estate.

They believed that his assets should be divided equally between them, the lady in the report and her 22 year old daughter from her and her partner’s relationship. That, however, would have meant that she wouldn’t have had enough money to buy her own home.

She was persuaded to seek legal advice after a family member suggested that she wasn’t being treated fairly. Eventually, after months of mediation and court proceedings, it was agreed that the children would buy a property that the lady in question would live in, returning it to the children when she died.

Despite the agreement, she claimed that the children dragged their feet and after losing two houses and having to go back to court for the money, the house she ended up in needed a considerable amount of work, which she had to pay for. Neither her or her daughter will get the money back as the house will go to the other children. To cloud the matter further, the children also put a caveat into the agreement that she would be unable to stay in the house if she ever married.

Prior to this she had always had a good relationship with his children – she had known them since they were little - but two years of uncertainty and wrangling over who would inherit what from his estate had soured the relationship. Perhaps more importantly, it has had a devastating effect on the relationship between her daughter and her half siblings.

Had her partner signed his will, the situation would have been prevented.

Partner Appointments at Russell and Russell (25/10/2016)

Russell and Russell has promoted two members of its property department.

Alex Walsh, who deals with commercial property law, has been promoted to partner. Working from Russell and Russell’s head office on Wood Street, his remit is to grow the department across all the firm’s branches.

Conveyancing solicitor, Richard Querelle has also been promoted to partner. He deals with all aspects of home moves and, in particular, specialises in high value and complex residential sales throughout England and Wales.

Speaking of Alex and Richard’s appointment, Stephen Crompton, managing partner at Russell and Russell, said: “Both Alex and Richard have exemplary track records and have shown outstanding commitment to the firm. They’ve built a solid customer base and have been instrumental in growing business in their respective fields. I’ve no doubt they’ll continue to do this and their promotions are a reflection of their dedication.”

Manto Founder’s Ex-Partner Set for Bigger Divorce Settlement (18/10/2016)

The ex-partner of late property developer, Carol Ainscow has won a landmark ruling at the Court of Appeal.

Helen Roocroft, who was in an 18 year relationship with the property tycoon, launched the appeal after discovering that Ms Ainscow may have had hidden assets worth millions, despite claiming she had lost a fortune during the property crash.

Ms Roocroft originally accepted a far lower settlement after the dissolution of their civil partnership in 2009, however, following her death from a brain tumour at the age of 55, it became apparent that Ms Ainscow may have mislead the courts as to the true value of her wealth. As a consequence of the new ruling Ms Roocroft’s legal team is now able to set aside the original “unfair” settlement and negotiate a new agreement.

A pioneer of Manchester’s gay night life scene, Carol Ainscow was the driving force behind legendary bar, Manto and iconic nightclub, Paradise Factory. Always having one eye on the future, she spotted the opportunity in property regeneration and set up Artisan. From its base in Manchester, the company went on to develop regeneration projects in Liverpool, Sheffield and London.

After an unsuccessful attempt to settle via Alternative Dispute Resolution, the case went to the lower family courts and the High Court before being heard at the Court of Appeal in July. All three judges agreed Ms Roocroft’s right to argue for her settlement to be set aside, stating that Ms Roocroft had submitted evidence suggesting that “the deceased’s income at the time of the consent order was three times that which she had stated in her Statement of Information”.

Speaking of the ruling, family law specialist, Rebecca Muirhead of Russell and Russell, said: “This is an interesting case because the law governing the dissolution of a marriage between same sex couples is relatively new and cases like this help to shape our understanding of how the courts will deal with particular issues. In particular, this ruling makes clear that everyone is entitled to honesty and fairness, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation.

“The courts take a dim view of anyone undervaluing their wealth in an attempt to reduce a settlement. Anything less than a full disclosure of assets is dealt with strongly and this can amount to a finding of misconduct, the implications of which can lead to financial penalties or an adjustment in the settlement. In this case, it’s the right decision because there can’t be any circumstances where dishonesty is allowed to go unchallenged or the court’s ability to make appropriate decisions be hampered.

“In situations where one or both parties have significant personal wealth, we would always recommend a pre nup. While it’s not very romantic, and no one gets married with a view to getting divorced, but with so many marriages breaking down,it’s always advisable to protect yourself from the outset.”

Which? Report Reveals Insurers Failing to Pass on Road Traffic Accident Savings (11/10/2016)

Consumer organisation, Which? has claimed that motor insurers are increasing driver’s premiums after a collision, despite the policy holder not being at fault.

The findings of the undercover investigation revealed that the cost of minor collisions are being passed on to policy holders, which is at odds with promises made by the insurance industry to reduce premiums after reforms were brought in to combat the number of whiplash claims.

The Law Society has spoken out about the report, saying it wants answers from the insurance industry.

It has suggested that, as a consequence of recent (the Jackson) reforms, the government’s objective to reduce the cost of motor insurance by reducing the number of personal injury claims was not being met because insurers are not passing the savings on. According to figures released by The Times, road traffic accident personal injury claims have fallen by 23,000, saving insurers almost £520 million.

In addition, the Law Society is also concerned that government plans to raise the non fault personal injury claims threshold from £1,000 to £5,000 will prevent access to justice for people claiming for soft tissue injuries. If the plans go ahead, it’s likely that those suffering from whiplash – perhaps the most common road traffic accident injury – won’t be able to get the legal advice they need to bring a claim because injuries of this nature tend to receive damages of less than the proposed £5,000 level.

As it’s a legal requirement for motorists to have insurance and declare any incident when renewing a policy, even if they failed to claim, the Law Society believes that motor insurance providers should not be financially benefitting from fewer road traffic accident claims by not passing on the savings to the public.

Three More Solicitors for Russell and Russell (28/09/2016)

Russell and Russell is continuing to grow its numbers with the appointment of three solicitors.

Rebecca Meehan and Ceri Jones join the family department, headed up by Amanda Connor, to service private family law clients involved in divorce and matrimonial finances, cohabitation disputes, children law and domestic abuse.

The two newly qualified solicitors join an expanding team of family solicitors who also specialise in social services issues, along with more niche areas of law including, surrogacy, same sex marriage, child relocation and abduction and female genital mutilation.

In a further appointment, Rachel Kelly has been recruited to the wills and probate team to help support the growth of the department across all the firm’s branches.

“This is an exciting time for Russell and Russell”, said Amanda Connor. “The practice has grown considerably over the last three years and we want to continue this evolution to realise our plans for the firm.

“In order to do this, we understand that the future of Russell and Russell lies in the people we bring in today. Both Rebecca and Rachel have been brought through our training scheme, while Ceri demonstrated outstanding ability during her legal training. All three of them are exactly the kind of talent we’re looking for to service our expanding client base and to help drive the business forward over the next five years.”

Russell and Russell is Reaccredited to Top Wills Scheme (20/09/2016)

Russell and Russell Solicitors has been reaccredited to the prestigious Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS).

WIQS sets the benchmark for best practice and transparency in the provision of wills and estate planning services. The Law Society run scheme was established to help customers make informed choices about selecting a legal services provider they can trust.

“The client’s interests are at the heart of everything we do”, said Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell. “The team continues to work very hard at providing an excellent standard of legal advice and our reaccreditation is testament to this.”

The practice was the first law firm in Bolton, and one of the first in the North West, to be accredited to WIQS in 2014. Qualification involved the department undergoing a rigorous application and assessment process in which it was required to demonstrate its adoption of best practice procedures in delivering wills and probate advice.

“Drafting a will or planning a Lasting Power of Attorney is one of the most personal financial decisions you’re ever likely to make, so it’s important for us to be able to demonstrate that we’re committed to standards of excellence in order for customers to have confidence in the quality of our service ”, continued Judith.

WIQS was the first Law Society standard for delivering tailored wills and probate advice. It aims to benefit consumers by ensuring they understand the issues in preparing a will or seeking probate advice, and that they are aware of the options, costs and timescales involved in estate planning.

Russell and Russell Solicitors support The Christie Make a Will Week (06/09/2016)

Russell and Russell Solicitors is once again partnering with The Christie charity for its ‘Make a Will Week’ campaign. The firm is offering to waive its fees between the 12th and 16th September in return for clients making a minimum donation of £95 for a single will, £150 for a pair - or mirror - wills or £40 for an update to an existing will.

Judith Bromley, head of the wills and probate department, said: “Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell Solicitors, said: “Cancer is a condition that affects everyone in one way or another and we want to do our bit to raise as much money as possible to help The Christie fight this terrible disease. Taking part in Will Week enables us to assist in generating those much need funds for The Christie to provide its invaluable care, treatment and support of patients and their families.”

For further information about Make a Will Week, or to book an appointment, call 01204 399 299 or 01244 405 700. 

The Housing Market in 2016 (01/09/2016)

Despite fears about Brexit, the economy and lending criteria, house prices have continued to rise in 2016.

Figures recently released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the average house price in the UK rose 8.7% in the year to June 2016.

The price tag of £214,000 is £24,000 higher than the £190,000 buyers could expect to pay in September 2007 when the market was at its peak. All good news for anyone looking to sell, but this presents a problem for anyone wishing to get on the property ladder and those looking to upsize.

The house price increase has been reflected in the number of 25 – 29 year olds owning their own home, which has fallen from 55% in 1996 to 29% in 2015. The number of people aged 30 - 34 owning their home has also dropped from 68% to 45% in the same time period.

But it’s not all bad news. The recent cut in the base rate has seen lenders following suit. Fierce competition between mortgage providers will present a window of opportunity to anyone thinking of buying into the housing market. And, for those who already own a property, it’s a chance to lock into a low rate fixed deal to shelter against further uncertainty.

As with all things, however, these historically low rates won’t last forever. As the economy begins to stabilise and recover, the Bank of England will raise interest rates again.

Families Caught up in Inheritance Tax Changes (23/08/2016)

Soaring house prices and a spike in winter deaths has led to nearly 30,000 families paying a record £4.7bn inheritance tax bill because the Government has taken too long to implement changes, campaigners have said.

In last year’s budget, the Government announced that it was introducing more generous tax rules which would see the inheritance tax threshold rise £100,000 (or £200,000 for couples) from the current £325,000 limit. The changes, however, are not due to come into force until April 2017, meaning that relatives of people who die during this time will be stung by the 40% tax rate levied on estates valued above £325,000.

The £4.7bn death tax bill, which is 20% higher than last year, is based on data from HMRC which revealed that in 2012/13, around 14,000 deceased homeowners, whose estates paid IHT, would have qualified for the residential allowance, potentially reducing their tax bill to zero under the new rules.

The reason behind the increase in the number of estates subject to inheritance tax is thought to be the uplift in house prices. The average cost of a house in the UK rose by 5% in 2015 and significantly more in London and the South East where values surged by 12%.

According to projections released by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the number of family estates on which inheritance tax must be paid has quadrupled since 2010 to more than 40,000 this year.

Another Accredited Resolution Solicitor for Russell and Russell (16/08/2016)

A solicitor at Russell and Russell has become an accredited member of family law organsiation, Resolution.

Sarah Whitelegge, of the firm’s Atherton branch, achieved her accreditation after demonstrating how she met all the requirements of Resolution’s competency framework and sitting an exam specialising in private children law and domestic abuse.

Resolution consists of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals from across England and Wales who work toward a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. It works with families to find solutions to legal problems and, in particular, acts in the best interest of children. The organisation also campaigns for improvements to the family justice system.

Sarah’s achievement comes after Russell and Russell launched weekly legal clinics its Atherton, Farnworth and Bury offices. The firm has also recently opened an advice centre on Newport Street in Bolton, which is open six days a week, where people can walk in without an appointment to discuss legal issues surrounding conveyancing, family, wills and probate, personal injury, crime and commercial property matters.

Amanda Connor, who heads up Russell and Russell’s family department, said: “Gaining accreditation to Resolution isn’t easy, there’s a lot of work involved which requires considerable effort, both in and out of office hours, so the fact that Sarah has chosen to study for this is testament to the dedication she has to her role as a family solicitor. Her new qualification means that she is well equipped to deal with much more complicated areas of family law and it will complement her remit of overseeing the firm’s legal clinics at our Atherton and Farnworth offices.”

Making Your Will Saves in the Long Run (08/08/2016)

Around 70% of people in the UK fail to make a will. Reasons for this a varied, but generally it falls into two categories; the cost and finding the time to do it.

Failing to make your will can have serious consequences. This is especially true if you’re a parent or you have specific wishes about where you want your assets to go.

The official term for dying without a will is ‘dying intestate’. In this situation, it makes no difference if you’ve promised certain possessions, property or money to specific people, the law decides who benefits from your estate, so loved ones who aren’t blood relatives could inherit nothing.

For example, if you’re unmarried and die intestate, by law your partner would receive nothing. If you’re estranged from your spouse and living with someone else and you die, your ex inherits while your current partner doesn’t. Having children can complicate the situation further and if you have children from a previous marriage, they could be passed over altogether.

Equally, you may not want particular blood relatives to gain from your estate, but without a valid will it’s a very real possibility. Perhaps worst of all, however, is if you have no relatives when you die, your estate could automatically pass to the government regardless of how close you are to non blood relatives.

Drafting a simple will is usually a fairly straightforward process, but even these can fall foul of the law if they’re not drawn up by properly. Unlike solicitors, will writers aren’t regulated so they can promote themselves as experts without having any qualifications or accreditations at all. Whilst it’s not always the case, it could potentially leave your loved ones dealing with a legal minefield after you’ve gone if things have been overlooked or the terms of your will aren’t set out according to the law. Some people decide to draft their will via online websites, but these don’t take into account the complexities of the law so your family could also end up having to pay to rectify things retrospectively.

If you have children under 18, a will helps you to plan for their future by allowing you to nominate their guardians in the event of your death. Similarly, you can state who your executors will be so they can make sure your wishes are carried out. You may also want to leave items or amounts of money to certain people who aren’t a blood relative. Without a will to specify this, your possessions will automatically pass to family members.

While making your will is a great step forward, do make sure you keep it up to date. You may remarry or change your mind about who you want to inherit your estate, but if your will doesn’t reflect the changes in your life, your original will remains legally binding. While this may appear obvious, it’s a sad fact that affects many people’s loved ones. And once you’ve gone, it can be a long and costly process to contest your will.

If you’re thinking about making or changing your will, Russell and Russell can help with all aspects of wills and probate. We offer a free consultation where we can talk through your circumstances and advise on what’s best for you.

Legal Advice Centre Opens on Newport Street (01/08/2016)

Russell and Russell Solicitors has opened a legal shop in Bolton town centre.

The Mayor, Cllr Lynda Byrne officially opened the new premises at 39 Newport Street, stating that Russell and Russell’s belief in access to justice for everyone had been the driving force behind the facility, and that the firm had made positive steps to blow the cobwebs off the traditional way of providing legal services by offering a 21st Century solution for a modern society.

Part of the firm’s personal injury department will work from the upper two floors of the 4,000 sq ft building, while the ground floor will operate as a legal advice centre for clients wanting help with residential and commercial property, wills and probate, family matters, personal injury and criminal defence services.

"We're really excited about it", explained Judith Bromley, partner at Russell and Russell. "The advice centre is in the heart of the retail district giving people instant access to legal advice. We understand it's not always possible to see a solicitor during normal working hours, so we'll be open from 8.30am - 6.00pm Monday to Friday and 10.00am - 4.00pm on a Saturday. Anyone wanting guidance on a legal issue won't need to make an appointment. Instead, they can call in and speak to someone direct or arrange for one of the team to give them a call when it's convenient for them. This is just one of the ways we aim to make life that little bit easier for the client." 

Court of Appeal Allows Grandparents Right to Use Deceased Daughters Eggs (26/07/2016)

The Court of Appeal has given the parents of a young woman who died of cancer the right to use her eggs to conceive a grandchild.

The parents had argued that their daughter, who died in her 20s, had frozen her eggs at a fertility clinic and had wanted her mother to carry and care for her ‘babies on ice’. Despite her request, after she died, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) refused permission for the eggs to be exported for treatment.

The Court of Appeal upheld the parents’ challenge, stating that it was clear this was what the daughter had wanted. In light of the ruling the HFEA will now have to reconsider its decision.

“This is a ground breaking case”, said Rebecca Muirhead, a solicitor in Russell and Russell’s family department. “It could well pave the way for a raft of legal challenges in situations where a person has passed away, leaving their eggs or sperm in storage.

“This ruling has set the precedent that consent is king. It’s no longer down to individuals or organisations to make decisions on behalf of people who are no longer with us. Instead, quite rightly, it’s the person who’s eggs or sperm are stored who ultimately gets to decide what happens to them.”

Russell and Russell's Legal Advice Centre Opens on Newport Street (19/07/2016)

Russell and Russell has opened a legal advice centre at 39 Newport Street in Bolton. 

Areas of law offered at the retail shop, which is situated on the newly renovated gateway into the town, aims to assist clients wanting help with residential and commercial property, wills and probate, family matters, personal injury and criminal defence services.

"We're really excited about it", explained Judith Bromley, partner at Russell and Russell. "The advice centre is a new concept in the heart of the retail district, giving people instant access to legal advice. We understand it's not always possible to see a solicitor during normal working hours, so we'll be open from 8.30am - 6.00pm Monday to Friday and 10.00am - 4.00pm on a Saturday. Anyone wanting guidance on a legal issue won't need to make an appointment. Instead, they can call in and speak to someone direct or arrange for one of the team to give them a call when it's convenient for them. This is just one of the ways we aim to make life that little bit easier for the client." 

Bolton Pride 2016 (13/07/2016)

Now in its second year, the main focus of this year’s Bolton Pride festival is to make the event more visible and to continue promoting a zero tolerance to hate crime. On Saturday, 24th September Bolton Pride will host its first ‘Love Bolton Hate Homophobia’ parade. Starting at 12 noon from Spa Road, the parade will move through the town, along Marsden Road and Deansgate before entering Victoria Square where there will be a free concert at the steps of the Town Hall.

Russell and Russell, The Venue, Bolton at Home and Be Safe, Bolton Strategic Partnership are sponsoring the event.

Amanda Connor, head of family law at Russell and Russell Solicitors, said: “We’re delighted to be sponsoring this year’s Pride Parade. It’s the very first one and we’re really excited to be joining in the celebrations. We get a lot of enquiries from the LGBT community; anything from starting a family to cohabitation issues to adoption as well as making a will and moving home, so it was a natural choice for us to partner with Bolton Pride. It promises to be a fantastic event that everyone can get involved in and something that Bolton can be really proud of.”

“Bolton at Home is very excited to announce that, for the second year running, we are supporting Bolton Pride. The event last year was a huge success and this year will prove to be even bigger and better, with the introduction of the parade, which we are proud to sponsor”, said Jon Lord, chief executive officer of Bolton at Home

The parade will be made up of charity groups, support groups, service providers and local businesses which are going to stand with Bolton Pride to support a zero tolerance to hate crime. The Bolton Pride parade is a perfect way to bring the community together to support Bolton’s LGBT community and to celebrate Bolton’s wonderfully diverse community.

“Having a parade in our second year of Bolton Pride is really important. We are all living in difficult times and the increase in hate crime and fear of others who are different means that more than ever people need opportunities and spaces to come together to share and celebrate what we all have in common: a desire for joy and love”, added Lisa O’Neill Rogan, Bolton Pride co-founder.

Bolton Pride is looking for entries for this year’s parade, do you want to join in? If you’re interested in putting a walking entry or small vehicle into the parade please email lisa@boltonpride.com. Entries for the parade must be in by 5pm on 2nd September 2016.

For more information about this year’s Bolton Pride, visit www.boltonpride.co.uk

Law Society Renews Russell and Russell’s Accreditation to Conveyancing Quality Scheme (06/07/2016)

The Law Society has renewed Russell and Russell’saccreditation to the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), a quality standard for residential conveyancing practices.

Membership of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme is based on passing a number of assessments to assure regulators, lenders, other professionals in property together with the general public that a firm’s practices meets the CQS protocol and high standards for best practice and professional integrity. All members have to re-apply each year to ensure that they are continuing to meet the schemes criteria. Many lenders require that solicitors are credited under the scheme before they allow them to act on new mortgages.

“This is great news for the department and Russell and Russell as a whole”, said managing partner, Stephen Crompton. “Our conveyancers pride themselves on providing an exemplary service and our re-accreditation is testament to the continued effort the team puts in to help people move home.”

Newport Street to be New Home for Russell and Russell Solicitors (21/06/2016)

Russell and Russell Solicitors is expanding to new offices in Bolton town centre. The firm is relocating back office staff and consolidating some of its legal team at 39 Newport Street.

From early July, staff will work from the upper two floors of the 4,000 sq ft building, while the ground floor will operate as a legal advice centre for clients wanting help with residential and commercial property, wills and probate, family matters, personal injury and criminal defence services.

"We're really excited about the new facilities", explained Derrick Smethurst, partner at Russell and Russell. "The new office will be in the heart of the retail district, giving people instant access to legal advice. We understand that it's not always possible to see a solicitor during normal working hours, so we'll be open from 8.30am - 6.00pm Monday to Friday and 10.00am - 4.00pm on a Saturday. Anyone wanting guidance on a legal issue won't need to make an appointment. Instead, they can call in at Newport Street and speak to someone direct or arrange for one of the team to give them a call when it's convenient for them. This is just one of the ways we aim to make life that little bit easier for the client."

The announcement is more good news for the town as it looks to build on the £3 million regeneration of Newport Street and the development of a £48 million transport interchange close by.

Louise goes a STEP further with Russell and Russell (14/06/2016)

A solicitor from Russell and Russell has been awarded a prestigious industry accreditation for best practice and professional integrity.

Louise Rance, a partner in the firm’s wills and probate department, has gained her Advanced Certificate in Will Preparation through STEP.

STEP, Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, is the worldwide professional association for those advising families across generations. Louise is able to advise on a range of complex issues relating to will drafting and probate, helping families plan their futures with confidence in the skill and advice being provided.

Her achievement comes ahead of Russell and Russell launching a weekly legal clinic at its Farnworth office. From July, members of the public can drop in on a Wednesday between 1 – 4pm to discuss any probate or family law questions they may have.

“Gaining accreditation to STEP isn’t easy”, said Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell. “There’s a lot of work involved which requires considerable effort, both in and out of working hours, so the fact that Louise has chosen to study for this is testament to the dedication she has to her role as a probate solicitor. Her new qualification means that she is well equipped to deal with much more complicated areas of probate law and it will complement her remit of overseeing the firm’s probate department in our Farnworth and Middleton offices.”

Moving a Child Outside the UK After Divorce or Separation (18/05/2016)

If a parent wants to move to a different location with their child and the other parent objects, a relocation dispute can arise.

With more children being born into international families, there are a number of situations where relocation issues may arise. You may have been offered a job overseas, for example or you might want to return to your country of birth where you have family and friends or you may need to move home to look after parents or other family members. You might even have remarried and want to move to a different country with your new partner.

Trying to reach agreement about the arrangements for children when a relationship breaks down can be difficult enough, but it can be even more challenging if one parent wants to move outside UK with the child.

With more international families it’s becoming increasingly common for disputes to arise about where children will live when parents separate. When parents share responsibility for a child, they both need to consent to the relocation of the child outside UK.

Taking children out of the country without the other parent’s consent is child abduction and is a criminal offence.

If you’re a parent seeking to relocate with a child to a country outside the UK, there are a number of ways that agreement can be reached. Some parents are able to reach agreement together, some with the assistance of a mediation service, while others may need to use a family solicitor.

If there’s a residence order or child arrangements order in place in respect of a child, the order provides that no person may remove that child from the UK without either the written consent of every person who has parental responsibility or the leave of the court. This, however, doesn’t prevent the parent with whom the order is in favour of from removing the child for a period of less than one month.

Whether there is an order in place or not, the consent of the other parent is required and if consent can’t be obtained, then the court’s permission will be required. Even if the other parent doesn’t have parental responsibility, it would be advisable to obtain written agreement.

If agreement can be reached, then the arrangement can be formalised in a consent order which can be submitted to the court for approval with a C100 application. The order can set out the arrangements for the child to spend time with the non-moving parent. Consideration would need to be given as to how the child can continue to have a positive relationship with the other parent, including direct contact and indirect contact using facetime and Skype.

If you’re a parent who is agreeing to your child relocating to a different country, then it’s important that you consider formalising the arrangement in a court order so that it’s clear when the child will be made available to spend time with you directly and indirectly.

If a proposed move is within the EU, an order made by the English court will be enforceable, although this doesn’t apply to Denmark. Similarly, if the proposed move is to a country which is a signatory to the 1996 Hague Convention, orders from the English courts may be recognised and enforced.

If the relocation isn’t to a country within the EU or a 1996 Hague Convention country, then specialist advice would be needed.

If no agreement can be reached about whether it’s in the best interests of a child to relocate abroad, then the court’s permission would be required. An application for permission to remove a child from the country can be made, setting out the reasons why the move is being proposed and the positive benefits to the child.

Parents are advised that the Children and Families Act 2014 made it a requirement for a person to attend Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before certain applications can be made to the court. A MIAM is a short meeting that provides information about mediation as a way of resolving disputes. There are exemptions to attending a MIAM; for example if you’ve been the victim of domestic violence or if there are child protection concerns. If this is applicable, we can provide further information about exemptions.

In all cases relating to external relocation the court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child concerned and the court is likely to consider the following factors:

  • The motivation of the parent seeking to relocate
  • The plans of the parent seeking to move
  • The plans of the parent seeking the child to remain
  • The proposals for the involvement of the other parent in the child’s life
  • The plans put forward by the parent opposing the move
  • The child’s wishes and feelings in light of the child’s age and maturity

As members of Resolution, Russell and Russell’s family department is committed to helping parents deal with matters in a constructive and non-confrontational manner, putting the needs of the children first.

In urgent matters where there is a real and imminent risk that a child may be removed from the country, the police should be contacted. 

Relocating Your Child After Separation or Divorce (10/05/2016)

There can be a number of situations where the need for relocating a child may arise. One parent may be offered a new job in a different part of the country or may wish to return to a part of the country where they have family and friends.

Unlike external relocation – taking a child abroad – there’s no automatic restriction on moves within the UK. Internal relocation cases are treated differently to external relocation cases and proposed moves within the UK would usually only be stopped in matters where there were exceptional circumstances.

The recent case of Re C (Internal Relocation) has helped to provide some clarity as to the likely approach the court will take when determining applications where one parent wants to move within the UK with a child.

The welfare of the child is the court’s main consideration. The court will listen to proposals put forward by both parents and carry out a welfare analysis. It will consider a range of factors including the practical arrangements, the motivation of the parent proposing to relocate, the ability for a relationship to be maintained with the other parent and the child’s view.

If you’re a parent seeking to relocate with a child to a different part of the UK there are a number of ways that an agreement can be reached. This may be through agreement with the other parent or with the assistance of a mediation service, for example.

If you’re unable to reach agreement or if you’re concerned about a proposed move and whether it’s in the best interests of your child, the following applications can be made to the court.

  • Specific issue order – an order allowing a child’s relocation or dealing with an issue about schooling
  • Prohibited steps order – an order preventing a child’s relocation

As members of Resolution, Russell and Russell’s family team are committed to helping parents deal with matters in a constructive and non-confrontational manner, putting the needs of the children first. In all cases relating to internal relocation, the courts main consideration is the welfare of the child. 

Dementia Can Affect Everyone so Make Your Lasting Power of Attorney (03/05/2016)

Every year, 225,000 people are diagnosed with dementia – about one person every three minutes. While age is the most significant contributing factor to the condition, it’s not just the ‘old’ that develop it; one out of 20 people living with dementia are under the age of 65.

Dementia is an all-encompassing term used to describe a collective group of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly. While most people associate it with memory loss, the condition affects people in a wide variety of ways. This includes changes in behaviour, confusion and disorientation, delusions and hallucinations, difficulty communicating, problems judging speeds and distances, even craving for particular foods.

In the UK, more women live with dementia than men. Of the 850,000 people living with the condition, 500,000 of them are women. This could be because more women are living well into their 80s – nearly three in four people aged over 90 are women. According to Alzheimer’s research, women over 60 are twice as likely to develop dementia as they are of getting breast cancer and after the age of 65, the risk of dementia doubles every five years.

Being diagnosed with a degenerative mental illness such as dementia ultimately means there’s likely to be problems with maintaining your independence. Support will be critical for your well-being, but once your mental ability starts to fail, your way of life could end up being decided by strangers. This is why it’s so important to make arrangements for your care in case a time comes when you can’t do it yourself.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act for you and make decisions on your behalf. This person – or more than one person if you prefer – is referred to as your attorney. Anyone can be your attorney, as long as they’re over 18.

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney. The first focuses on your personal welfare, while the other deals with your financial affairs.

A health and welfare LPA allows your attorney to make decisions about your well-being. This covers a wide variety of issues, for example your day-to-day care including medication, your diet and how you live. You can even give your attorney the power to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf.

A property and affairs LPA addresses the material things in your life, such as paying your bills, collecting your income and benefits, conducting your financial affairs or even selling your house. One thing to be aware of with a property and affairs LPA is that your attorney isn’t allowed to have been declared bankrupt.

Dementia is indiscriminate. It can affect anyone at any time in later life, so it’s reassuring to know that if you’re unable to make a decision yourself, an LPA will ensure there’s someone that you trust who can.

The key to a Lasting Power of Attorney, however, is that you can only set one up when you’re well. Once you’ve lost capacity, it’s too late because the law deems that you’re not deciding for yourself that you want to make a LPA and that you don’t understand what it means, so timing is of the essence.

If you’re interested in drafting your LPA, Russell and Russell offers a free no obligation consultation to guide you through the regulations and to discuss what’s right for your circumstances.

Divorce Fee Increase of 34% (25/04/2016)

The recent hike in divorce fees, which has been introduced by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), has been met with criticism from across the legal community.

Couples in England and Wales who want to end their marriage will now have to pay £550 – a whopping £140 increase.

The MOJ has defended the 34% rise as being necessary in order to reduce the burden of the courts and tribunals on the taxpayer. According to courts minister, Shailesh Vara Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) cost £1bn a year more to run than it receives in income. The new fee, along with several other fee increases, is expected to raise an extra £60m a year.

The MOJ originally planned to raise fees by 80% (from £410 to £750), however, it climbed down after "carefully considering" concerns raised in a consultation.

Speaking of the increase, Rebecca Muirhead, a divorce specialist at Russell and Russell Solicitors, said: “This is nothing more than a stealth tax, especially as it’s only been two years since fees were increased from £345 to £410. It costs the courts around £270 to process a divorce, so other than profiteering from relationship breakdowns, I don’t know how the MOJ can justify the latest rise.”

However, court fee exemption is still available for people on a low income and for others we can offer payment of such fees and our costs by way of instalments; this hopefully helps clients in this situation. 

Great Langdale Set for Huge Cycling Event (18/04/2016)

A massive cycling event is set to take place in Great Langdale on Sunday 24th April.

Endurance sports organiser, Epic Events is hosting the Lakeland Loop Cycle Sportive, a challenging 86.5 mile bike ride around the Lake District.

Starting from the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale, between 8:00 and 10:30am, the event is being sponsored by North West legal firm, Russell and Russell Solicitors.

Although not a competitive race, the route will incorporate some of the most gruelling climbs, so is not for the faint hearted. There will be two food stops on route and free parking is available at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

Speaking of the Sportive, event organiser, Marc Laithwaite said: “Russell and Russell’s personal injury service is relevant for our members, and anyone involved in cycling, given how vulnerable they are as road users, so it was a natural fit for us to partner with the firm.”

“As a business that has a long history of community engagement, we felt that the Cycle Sportive was the perfect event to get involved in”, added Derrick Smethurst of Russell and Russell Solicitors. “The Lakeland Loop will be a fantastic day out and I wish all cyclists the very best of luck for completing the course.”

Entry for the Lakeland Loop is £25 and participants must be 16 years old or over. Enter on line at www.epicevents.co.uk. Entries will close at 12 noon on Thursday 21st April or when the event is full.

Make Your Will or Risk Losing More Than You Think (11/04/2016)

People don’t like to think about making a will, but you never know what’s around the corner; you may live to be 100, but sometimes people’s lives are cut tragically short.

Dying without a will means your estate will take longer to finalise, which is not what your loved ones need to be dealing with at such a stressful and emotional time. Providing you’re over 18, you can draw up your will anytime and it ensures your final wishes are made clear and are legally recognised.

Be aware of advisers that are unregulated, uninsured and untrained though. There’s no law surrounding will drafting so anyone can hold themselves out as an expert and if you choose to use an unregulated will writer, you risk leaving your loved ones in a legal minefield.

Doing it yourself online can be equally as problematic. Your will needs to be expressed in a way that’s legally watertight and internet wills don’t take into account the complexities of the law. People drafting a will in this way often learn, to their family’s cost, things are never as straight forward as they appear.

If you already have a will and you’re planning on tying the knot, you should change it to reflect your new circumstances. Getting married automatically invalidates your existing will and if it’s not updated and you die, you’ll die intestate, leaving a painful, and potentially costly, legacy for your other half.

The same goes for anyone separating. While divorce rates are generally falling, the number of over 50s splitting up is actually rising. There’s a variety of reasons behind the trend of so-called ‘silver splitters’ but what’s important to remember here is to make sure your will is up to date.

If you’re estranged from your husband or wife and have entered into a new relationship with someone else, it doesn’t matter if you live together; if you’re not married or in a civil partnership, you’re new partner isn’t legally entitled to anything if you die. If you already have a will which you haven’t changed and you die, your ex will be the main beneficiary as, technically, you’re still married.

If you want to talk to someone about drafting your will, we offer a free, no obligation consultation to help you understand the legal requirements of administering your estate. You can make an appointment by calling our main Manchester office on 01204 399 299 or our Chester office on 01244 405 700.

Family Law Team Welcomes Guidance on Use of Section 20 Children Act (05/04/2016)

Recent guidance on how children are taken into ‘voluntary care’ has been welcomed by Russell and Russell's family team.

The Section 20 Children Act 1989 permits social services departments to ‘accommodate’ children not foster care, if the parents ask for it. Lots of cases recently have shown that some local authorities have abused this power and children have been left to ‘drift’ in the care system without clear plans being made for them.

The Transparency Project has published guidance for parents and professionals which sets out what is expected of social workers if they are talking to parents about section 20: http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/guidance-on-...

"This guidance is a welcome development. We regularly give advice to parents about section 20 accommodation. This includes both whether they should agree to it and whether they should withdraw their consent to it. This guidance is a useful tool to help in making sure everyone knows what's expected of them", said Salim Ibrahim, partner in Russell and Russell's family department.

Legal aid is available for advice on section 20. All our solicitors are experts in their field who can guide you through the complexities of the law.

Russell and Russell Offering ‘Free’ Wills in April for Macmillan (31/03/2016)

Russell and Russell Solicitors is partnering with Macmillan Cancer Supportfor its ‘Make a Will Month’ campaign. Throughout April, the firm is offering to waive will writing fees for a donation of £50 per single will or £80 for a double, or mirror, will.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “We’re very proud to be supporting Macmillan again this year. The campaign not only raises money for the charity, but also encourages people to make a will when perhaps they may not have thought about it before. It’s one of the most important financial decisions you can make, so if we can get people thinking about it while raising money for such a worthwhile cause, it’s a win win for everyone.”

For further information about Make a Will Month, or to book an appointment, call 01204 399 299.

Government Implements Changes for Special Guardianship of Children (29/03/2016)

Following the Department for Education’s review of Special Guardianship, the government has set out amended regulations designed to ensure that children living under Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) are safe in a good, caring, permanent home.

Introduced in 2005, an SGO aims to assist children who can’t live with their birth parents and would benefit from a legally secure placement with one or more ‘special guardians’. Changes in the use of SGOs since then, however, have raised concerns that some special guardians may not always be assessed or supported in a way that puts children’s long term welfare first.

The review of Special Guardianship, which was published in December 2015, involved extensive discussions with a wide range of interested parties. The outcome of it was a clear rationale for creating a stronger, more robust assessment framework for potential special guardians.

As a result, the Government has implemented the following amendments as of the 29th February 2016. Local authorities are now required to report to the court that potential special guardians have the skills to ensure that any placement gives children the best chance of good outcomes in their life through:

  • the capacity of the guardian to care for the child now and until the child is 18
  • an assessment of the relationship between the child and the prospective guardian
  • the ability of the guardian to overcome the impact of any abuse or neglect in early life
  • the effect on the child into adulthood of being cared for under a special guardianship order
  • the ability of the guardian to manage any risk to the child of any pre-existing relationship between the guardian and the child’s birth parents

At Russell and Russell, we have a specialist family department which deals with these matters on a daily basis. If you would like further information and advice, call us on 01204 399 299 or 01244 405 700.

Court of Protection Opens its Doors (16/03/2016)

A new pilot scheme has begun which allows the public and media to gain access to Court of Protection hearings across England and Wales for the first time.

The Pilot Practice Direction applies to new proceedings issued from the 29th January 2016 onwards. Although hearings scheduled already under the old rules will not be changed, some urgent open hearings will feed through to the courts from February 2016.

The Court of Protection makes decisions about the personal welfare, property and affairs of a person who lacks the capacity themselves. Under the new direction, hearings will be held in public, but there will be reporting restrictions to protect identities.

Court of Protection judgments have been routinely published since 2010 and serious medical cases are held in public, with the identities of those concerned kept anonymous. Committal hearings where a custodial sentence is imposed are also held in public.

In addition, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is amending the way it displays court lists so that the media and public can decide if they want to attend a hearing by providing a short summary of a case details. These lists will be published on a weekly basis in court buildings and online at www.courtserve.net.

The pilot is anticipated to run in all regions for at least six months to allow for the changes to be fully tested, with the possibility of it being extended. More information can be found here.

All May not be Gloomy in Crime (15/03/2016)

Nick Ross, criminal practitioner and SAHCA committee member, writes:

The announcement in late January of the reversal of the proposed two-tier Duty Solicitor contracting process combined with the suspension of the further cut to criminal legal aid fees of 8.75% is clearly of great importance to lawyers specialising in criminal law. In February the MOJ announced that one fifth of the courts and tribunals in England and Wales are to close.

Many firms have been despondent in the light of decreasing workloads, increasing challenges and constant battles with our paymasters, The Legal Aid Agency. However, some are of the opinion that the recent significant developments might just represent the turning-point so many firms have been waiting for.

Firstly, the MOJ conceded their much maligned two tier duty solicitor contract tender, which in the simplest of terms means that the proposed reduction from around 1500 firms to 500 or so will not now squeeze the profession and reduce access to justice and access to criminal work for so many practices and their clients. The Justice Secretary The Right Hon. Michael Gove recognized in the climb-down that the MOJ had identified other ways of achieving economies and also that they faced real problems in defending the litigation instigated by around 100 disappointed applicant firms. So many firms were granted a reprieve, at least for 12 months whilst a review is undertaken. But, not only was there that welcome news for so many firms, also the MOJ agreed to suspend the previously introduced 8.75% cut in Criminal Legal Aid fees as from 1st April, which in effect gives a rise after the cut was implemented more than six months ago. This was the second such cut in 12 months, on the back of around 20 years of absolutely no rises………unbelievably, literally none. Strictly this suspension of the cut reverts to the status quo pre- July 2015, but it seems most criminal solicitors were not expecting this piece of good news.

Secondly, the Court closure consultation announcement by the MOJ involves the closure of 86 courts nationally, the equivalent of 1/5 of the court estate, and the majority of these relating to the criminal jurisdiction – in fact around 60 Magistrates’ Court venues. The Law Society and other organisations have expressed concern, largely appertaining to reduced access to justice for court users and increased travel, for many to court centres much further than has hitherto been the case. Centralisation seems to be the way forward for the MOJ, with huge savings being achieved by the closure of court-houses. However, it may be that for solicitors, especially as advocates practising in the surviving and potentially busier courts, there may be a paradoxical advantage. In many respects less courts means less venues to cover and less advocates needed to be deployed. Take Greater Manchester as an example, currently there are 8 Magistrates’ Courts although only 1 sitting on Saturdays and Bank Holidays. The plan is for the closure of 3, leaving 5 in a metropolitan area, with high volume and a high crime rate. Often firms are spread thinly across multiple court centres and extra cover is needed, for example by counsel. With less court venues to attend, despite the travel challenges, it may just be that solicitor advocates will have an improved chance of providing the advocacy cover in-house – less venues, not so thinly spread, less external advocates required, and therefore familiar competent advocates representing clients who know their “brief”.

Listing in combined and centralised courts may well throw up greater challenges as these busier courts and their lists often result in greater delays. Listing varies court to court but some practitioners may well engage with court user groups in an attempt to secure timed listing of cases e.g. Pre-sentence reports cases in an afternoon. Indeed, the availability of the advocate should be an important consideration which the new “Better Case Management” initiative in the Crown Court is supposed to recognize.

So these dramatic developments may well give the solicitors’ profession a fairer chance of providing a fairer and more consistent service, with clients hopefully achieving some benefits despite the closure of courts.

Domestic Violence Regulations Found to be Unlawful (07/03/2016)

The Court of Appeal has ruled that government changes to legal aid for domestic violence victims are unlawful.

The decision to overturn the government’s rules on evidence, introduced as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), means that victims of domestic abuse will no longer be required to bring a case against an ex-partner within two years of the incident taking place.

The challenge, which was brought by the Public Law Project on behalf of the charity, Rights of Women, has been hailed as a victory for anyone suffering mental or physical abuse at the hands of a partner. The Court of Appeal ruling recognised that the two year time restriction prevents victims from applying for legal aid, even when it’s clear there’s been violence or there’s an on-going risk of violence.

Rights of Women argued that fear of a perpetrator of domestic abuse does not disappear after two years and legal aid is often the only way some victims can fund action to escape from violent relationships and protect their children. In addition to mental and physical abuse, the ruling also requires the government to amend regulations to ensure that victims experiencing financial abuse are able to access family law legal aid too.

Speaking of the ruling, Pippa Tudor, family solicitor at Russell and Russell, said: “This is a real triumph for anyone who’s been unable to bring a case against their ex-partner because the abuse took place more than two years ago and they don’t have the funds to instigate a private case. The two year time constraint has meant that many victims of domestic abuse have been unable to cut ties with their ex and move on with their life, so the outcome of the ruling is not only a success for victims, but also for common sense.”

As members of Resolution, Russell and Russell took part in the drive to abolish this ruling. If you've been prevented from getting protection, we may be able to review this on your behalf. Call us on 01204 399 299 / 01244 405 700 for more information.

IMPORTANT NOTICE - FRAUD ALERT (04/03/2016)

We have been made aware that fraudsters, claiming to be calling from Russell and Russell, are ringing members of the public, advising them that they have been awarded compensation with reference to a hearing loss claim.

The individuals doing this are requesting that in order to receive payment, they need to take a debit/credit card admin fee of £6.99 to post the compensation cheque.

We understand that the fraudsters know the person’s name/address/phone number and that they have had a hearing test at some stage. They also give out a contact number which is not recognised if you ring it. They sound very plausible on the phone so please beware, this is a fraud.

We have reported this to Action Fraud which is investigating the matter. If anyone is contacted by people under these circumstances please notify Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Further information can be found at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Eden Valley Epic Cycle Sportive - Sunday 6th March 2016 (29/02/2016)

As the Eden Valley Epic approaches, those who are taking part in the event will no doubt be getting excited about the challenges the ride will bring.

Cycling, as a competitive sport or a pastime, is gaining in popularity as more and more people realise the mental and physical benefits the sport offers.

At Russell and Russell we understand how incorporating a bit of exercise into your daily routine can have a positive effect on your life as a whole. The firm is actively involved in a scheme which provides a tax free way of enabling employees to purchase a bike to cycle to work and one of our equity partners, Peter Leather, is a keen cyclist himself.

Last June he took part in a charity fund raiser for Bolton Lads and Girls Club Hub and Spoke Appeal. A gruelling 500 mile cycle route over the Alps from Geneva to Nice, it included an exhausting 48km 9,068ft ascent up the Col de I`Iseran, the highest paved pass in the Alps. Over the seven days it took to complete the ride, he climbed over 60,000ft.

As a cyclist you’ll appreciate you’re one of the most vulnerable road users and if you find yourself involved in a road traffic accident, the consequences could be far reaching. Drivers pulling out of junctions without looking properly, defective or badly maintained road surfaces, drivers not seeing you and turning into your path and drivers failing to check their mirrors are just some of the reasons why cyclists get hurt.

While we’ve no doubt you would prefer the accident not to have happened in the first place, should you find yourself in the positon of having been hurt through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. We can help you on the road to recovery by recouping the cost of damage to your bike or any loss of income and expenses you may have incurred. Most importantly though, we can assist in getting you get the medical care and attention you need to help you get back in the saddle.

We operate on a no win no fee basis and deal with minor incidents to catastrophic life changing injuries and everything in between. So, if you’ve had an accident – whether that’s on the road, at work or in a public place – talk to Russell and Russell on 0800 731 7555.

No Fault Divorce Second Hearing Postponed (24/02/2016)

The second reading for plans to introduce no fault divorces has been postponed until 11th March.

The Bill, which was first tabled by MP, Richard Bacon in October last year, proposes that couples can go their separate ways without having to place the blame for the breakdown in the relationship on one side or the other.

Under the current law, divorces in England and Wales can only be granted on one of five grounds: adultery; unreasonable behaviour, desertion for two years or more, two years’ separation with consent or five years’ separation without the other party’s consent.

The result is that couples who agree their marriage is over have to decide whether they can wait two years before divorcing or whether one of them should file on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour in order to speed up the process.

Research carried out by Resolution, an organisation committed to resolving family disputes, in June 2015 showed that 52% of divorce petitions were fault-based, split between unreasonable behaviour and adultery. Of these, 27% admitted the allegation of fault was not true, but it was the easiest option.

Under Mr Bacon’s proposal couples would be able to split without having to apportion blame by providing separate signed declarations stating that the marriage or civil partnership had irretrievably broken down.

The Bill, however, isn’t without its opponents. Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough argues that a change in the law would make divorce “easier" and increase the number of divorces, but Mr Bacon has counteracted this, stating that divorce in itself is a "tragedy" which should not be "made easier", but his Bill would allow couples to break up without "throwing mud" at each other.

Help to Buy ISA for First Time Buyers (19/02/2016)

People saving for their first home have received a boost from the Government with a new ISA designed to help first time buyers get on the property ladder.

The Help to Buy ISA, which was introduced by the Government on the 1st December last year, will enhance people’s savings by 25%.

Aside from the cash incentive, the ISA is available on an individual basis so people buying a home together can benefit from both of them opening an ISA. The only criteria for anyone setting the ISA up is that they are a first time buyer.

An initial deposit of up to £1,200 is required to open the ISA, which is being offered by a range of banks and building societies, followed by monthly deposits of up to £200.

While the maximum bonus the Government has committed to is £3,000, savers will only need to have a balance of £1,600 before they become eligible for the minimum bonus which the Government has set at £400. This can be achieved in as little as three months from the date of opening the ISA.

Russell and Russell is registered as a member of the Help to Buy ISA panel. We have already acted for clients who set up their ISAs and have just had their £400 bonuses approved. If you’re looking to buy your first home through a Help to Buy ISA, we can help with your bonus application and ensuring the property being purchased meets the eligibility criteria. 

Cyclists Promised a Cracking Ride Out (09/02/2016)

Grasmere is playing host to a major cycling event on Sunday 14th February. The Cumbrian Cracker, a 60 mile cycle route starting from Grasmere Village Hall, will take riders along the shores of Coniston before weaving their way through the country lanes of Grizedale forest, Hawkshead and Ambleside.

The event which starts between 7.30am and 10.30am is being hosted by Epic Events and is sponsored by law firm, Russell and Russell Solicitors. The ride is expected to take between three and seven hours, so slower cyclists should start early to allow time to complete the distance. Registration is open from 7.00am in the village hall and a maximum of 20 riders are able to start every two minutes.

The Cumbrian Cracker is one of four Cycle Sportives organised by Appley Bridge based, Epic Events. Free parking is available on the day and entrants can take home their own professional photo of themselves in action. All participants will be electronically timed and everyone taking part will be treated to free pie and peas at the finish.

“Russell and Russell’s personal injury service is relevant for our members, and anyone involved in cycling, given how vulnerable they are as road users, so it was a natural fit for us to partner with the firm”, explained event organiser, Marc Laithwaite of Epic Events.

“As a firm that has a long history of community engagement, we felt that the Cycle Sportive was the perfect event to get involved in”, added Derrick Smethurst of Russell and Russell Solicitors. “The Cumbrian Cracker will be a fantastic event that can be enjoyed by serious cyclists as well as those who enjoy it on a recreational basis. We’re expecting a huge turn out on the day, but the course is limited to 1,000 riders so entry will be on a first come, first served basis and as it’s non-competitive, we hope as many people as possible will take the opportunity to get on their bikes.”

The cost to enter is £25 and entries can be made online via the Epic Events website www.epicevents.co.uk

What Can Happen if You Suffer a Brain Injury (04/02/2016)

A brain injury can be caused in many different ways, such as a road traffic accident, an accident at work, as a result of a criminal attack or even a slip or fall in a public place. 

Signs of a head injury can include unconsciousness, fits or seizures, difficulty speaking or staying awake, repeated vomiting, blood or clear fluid coming from the nose or ears and memory loss. If symptoms of a brain injury are not investigated quickly by a qualified medical professional, its affect can be life changing. 

While most people can fully recover from a brain injury, some less obvious problems can remain. These include headaches, bladder and bowel incontinence, difficulty with balance and coordination, a loss of sensation, Epilepsy, Dyspraxia, tiredness or trouble with speaking and swallowing. 

Changes to emotional and behavioural control can also be the result of a brain injury. Because they are not as obvious as physical injuries, they can be the most difficult to recognise and deal with. Emotional and behavioural brain injuries are split into the following 11 categories: 

  • Agitation – pacing up and down and restlessness
  • Anxiety - feeling insecure, having panic attacks and experiencing nightmares
  • Explosive anger and irritability – exaggerated reactions to minor annoyances
  • Impulsivity and disinhibition – not considering the consequences of actions such as speaking your mind or touching people inappropriately
  • Apathy and poor motivation – a lack of interest or enthusiasm to do things
  • Depression – feeling low and thinking that things have changed for the worse
  • Sexual problems – promiscuity, an increased sex drive and interpreting people’s behaviour as being provocative
  • Emotional lability – a tendency to laugh or cry very easily, shifting from one emotional state to another quickly
  • Lack of awareness and insight – an inability to adjust personal behaviour according to situations • Self-centredness – only being concerned with personal needs
  • Inflexibility and obsessionality – being unreasonably stubborn or exhibiting patterns of obsessive behaviour

Another consequence of a brain injury is how it affects our hormones. Damage to the hypothalamus and / or pituitary gland, which are at the base of the brain, can lead to too little or too much of one or more hormones being released. Damage to the pituitary gland can cause a reduction in hormone production, a condition known as hypopituitarism. 

Most people’s hormones levels are severely affected in the early stages after a brain injury which can make diagnosis of hypopituitarism difficult. The result of pituitary and hypothalamus damage can be wide ranging because of the large number of hormones which could be affected.

The lasting effects of brain injury can be devastating. If you’ve been affected, you could be entitled to compensation. Call our personal injury solicitors to discuss your situation.

Planning for the Inevitable (26/01/2016)

Other than taxes, the only certainty in life is death. A morbid thought perhaps, but an inevitability that no one can avoid. What it does allow, however, is the opportunity to plan for the future.

Most people only start thinking about the subject in older age or after bereavement but, providing you are over 18, it’s never too early to start planning.

“It’s about taking control of what might happen to you in later years”, says Emma Wood of Russell and Russell. “Because no one knows what’s around the corner it’s important to make arrangements now, so that you know your estate will go to the people you want to have it, rather than who the law states should get it.”

There are two ways to plan; a Lasting Power of Attorney and a Will. Lasting Power of Attorney – or LPA – deals with affairs before death, whilst a Will takes care of things after the event.

“LPAs are increasingly important”, continues Emma. “We’re living longer and, therefore, more of us are exposed to age related illness which could prevent us from making decisions in the future. An LPA allows you to make those decisions in advance. Property, financial arrangements, welfare and even care needs can be organised. There may even be big medical decisions that need to be considered should you lose your faculties – all these can be accounted for in an LPA.”

Emma also believes myths surrounding Wills does nothing to help the situation: “Many people think they can do it themselves, but they often don’t take into account the complexities of the law and often learn, to their family’s cost, things are never as straight forward as they appear. Dying without a Will means your estate will take longer to finalise, which is not what your loved ones need to be dealing with at such a stressful and emotional time.”

Emma’s final words of advice: “Always use a qualified solicitor. They're bound by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s code of conduct and are legally obliged to maintain high levels of service. If you don’t put your affairs in order, the law will and that could not only end up costing you money, but your loved ones too.”

Will Writing: Solicitors vs Accountants (21/01/2016)

Changes in the law have allowed accountants to provide will writing services. While many people may see this as an opportunity to open up the legal services market, it’s worth remembering that your will is one of the most important financial and personal decisions you’ll make, so it’s vital it’s done properly.

Accountants tend to charge fixed fees for writing wills and the view is that this will drive down the cost of making your will, however, most forward thinking solicitors already offer fixed fees for a range of probate services.

Will writing is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sorting out your estate. It’s a specialist area of the law and there are a host of different scenarios which can quickly turn into a legal minefield.

Accountants can only deal with uncontested, straight forward wills and anything that falls outside this will still need to be dealt with by a solicitor. Often, even when a will isn’t contested, the family may have beneficiaries who feel that they haven’t got what they thought they would and it’s in situations like this that a solicitor adds real value.

Rather than just providing the bare financial facts, a solicitor can take a more holistic approach, explaining how your estate will impact on your beneficiaries or, if you’re a beneficiary, how a will may affect you. They can also advise on other complex issues, such as inheritance tax, trusts planning, deeds of variation and lasting powers of attorney so that your will is legally watertight.

Finally, it’s important to make sure that your will writer is affiliated to an industry standard, such the Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS). This proves that your legal services provider has undergone an application and assessment process to demonstrate their adoption of best practice procedures in delivering wills and probate advice.

Traumatic Brain Injuries (12/01/2016)

Every 90 seconds, someone in the UK is admitted to hospital with a brain injury; the effects of which can be short lived or life changing.

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs when the brain receives a blow or jolt. There are many ways of sustaining this type of injury, but they are often associated with road traffic accidents, assaults, falls and accidents at work.

Although initially caused by an external force, complications can develop as a result of a Traumatic Brain Injury, so the condition tends to be viewed as a chain of events:

  • In the seconds after the accident: this includes closed, open or crush wounds. Closed injuries are the most common and don’t break the skin. They often occur as a result of rapid acceleration or deceleration, for example if a car is struck from behind. As the skull is jolted, the brain has to move with it which can cause nerve fibres to twist, stretch or tear. The front of the skull also has sharp bony ridges that the brain can bash against and arteries and veins within the brain can be damaged, causing blood to leak.
  • Open or penetrating wounds can expose the brain to damage and are often associated with an acceleration type of injury, such as being hit with a sharp object like a motorcycle break lever or a pick axe. Although the accident may appear horrifying, if the injury is limited to a specific area, the outcome can be positive.
  • Crush injuries happen when the head is caught between two hard objects, such as a car wheel and the road. Damage is often caused at the base of the skull and nerves of the brain stem, rather than the brain itself. Thankfully, this is the least common type of injury.
  • The minutes and hours following a brain injury: this dependent on when medical intervention takes place. If the brain is starved of oxygen, it can make the damage caused by the injury worse. The ways in which this can happen include a person’s airways being restricted due to the way they are lying, blood blocking the airway or choking on vomit after an accident. Blood reaching the brain can also be reduced if a person sustains other injuries which cause serious blood loss.
  • Any time after the first and second stage: in the days and weeks following the injury, further complications can arise as a result of bruising or swelling in the brain, bleeding or blood clots developing.
  • As space in the skull is limited, any blood or other bodily fluids leaking into the area can be very dangerous as it causes the brain to swell. Complications occur because the soft, swollen brain presses against the hard internal walls of the skull, causing damage. Also, when the brain swells it can squeeze the blood vessels, limiting the brain's blood circulation, which can be fatal.
  • If blood has leaked from damaged veins and arteries and pooled, clots can develop. These can press on the surrounding brain tissue which can damage it. They also raise pressure in the brain. Clots can form in the brain itself or in the space between the brain and the skull. Even after minor injuries, blood clots can develop which is why patients are often kept in hospital under observation until the risk of a clot forming is minimal.

If you’ve suffered a brain injury, it’s vital you seek medical attention immediately. What may appear to be just a bump to the head, could have serious consequences so ensure you get yourself checked out by a skilled medical professional.

Our personal injury specialists can help if you’ve sustained a brain injury in an accident that wasn’t your fault. Call us to find out if you’re entitled to make a claim.

Change in Family Mediation Regulations from January 2016 (01/01/2016)

Susan Alexander of Chester Mediation is a Family Mediation Council Accredited All Issues Mediator authorised to hold Mediation Information and Assessment meetings and to sign court forms. Unless a mediator holds this accreditation they are not authorised to sign court forms from January 2016. Susan Alexander provides family mediation services at our Chester and Atherton offices. To arrange a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting with her, call the team on 01244 405744.

Divorced Parents Can Both Have Child Contact Over Christmas (15/12/2015)

Christmas can bring out the very best in people; but it can also bring out the very worst too. This is particularly relevant for couples who have separated or divorced. Making child contact arrangements over Christmas can be fraught with disagreements and arguments about who spends time with the children, when and for how long.

Trying to divide up your children’s time over the holidays can be tricky and often frustrating to negotiate. So that everyone can have a merry Christmas, here's our suggestions on how to agree sharing time with your children:

  • If you’re the resident parent of a child, make sure you discuss Christmas arrangements well in advance so that both of you are aware of when you have the children and can plan accordingly
  • Discuss what you would like calmly and be prepared to listen to what your ex wants, even if you don’t agree with them – this is about your children, not you
  • Make your arrangements sensible and child focussed – using the children to get back at your ex-partner only ends up in with them losing out
  • Think of what’s best for your child – will they feel unsettled if they spend Christmas being driven around and swapped between parents too much?
  • Christmas is a special time for children, so if it’s not possible for your child to spend the festive period with both parents, they’ll probably be more than happy to have two Christmas eves and two Christmas days

If you’re struggling to come to an agreement on your child contact arrangements, we can help. We offer advice and guidance on making sensible suggestions that will make sure children get to see both parents, and their extended families, over the festive period and, more importantly, that their parents’ relationship doesn’t spoil their Christmas.

We also offer a mediation service which helps to re-focus the parents on what’s important; the children. By entering into a process of negotiation with an independent third party, mediation aims to bring about an agreement that both sides will be comfortable with. Mediation can also help foster better relations between parents by building trust which helps to avoid future potential disputes relating to the children, such as holidays and birthdays.

The breakdown of a relationship seldom ends amicably, but if children are involved it’s important to make sure they don’t end up paying the price of the parents’ separation.

88% in North West Region Leave Life-changing Decisions in the Hands of Strangers (08/12/2015)

  • Alarming new report reveals people in North West region leaving major decisions about housing, assets and care to chance
  • 78% want loved ones to make decisions in the event of illness or accident – but only 6% have created a lasting power of attorney (LPA) to enable this
  • People in North West better at planning for death than later life; 31% of people with a will vs. only 6% with an LPA
  • SFE member, Judith Bromley from Bolton based, Russell and Russell Solicitors urges UK to safeguard wishes in the event of accidents or illness like dementia

88% of people in the North West region are currently living with no control over important later-life decisions around their housing, assets, heath, and care, according to a new report by SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly), the national organisation representing legal professionals, including Russell and Russell’s wills and probate team, who specialise in helping people plan for later life.

The report reveals that whilst 31% of people in North West have a will in place to manage their affairs after death, only 6% have a lasting power of attorney (LPA) in place to safeguard their wishes in the event they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves, due to accident or illness like dementia.

78% want a family member or friend to make important decisions on their behalf, in the event of illness or an accident. However, few are aware that without an LPA in place, any individuals’ affairs, such as their end-of-life wishes and health treatments, can be left in the hands of third party solicitors, social workers, medical doctors, or the British courts.

Even the minority of people that have taken steps to plan ahead for later life may still be at risk, due to poor quality legal advice and invalid documents. 32% of the people with LPAs in place did not use experts or legal guidance, instead taking a gamble using online resources, non-legal advisers, or off-the-shelf kits.

“These are alarming figures”, explained Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell. “As more of us are living longer, there’s a greater risk of people developing degenerative mental illnesses, such as Dementia, so it’s really important to think about what you need to do to secure your future if something like that happened.”

Lakshmi Turner, Chief Executive of SFE, added: “Most people assume that if they suffer an illness or accident, their next of kin will be responsible for vital decisions. The reality is starkly different – loved ones may not be able to make a decision on your behalf unless you have an LPA in place.

An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have. If you have children, own a home, or have views on your preferred health treatment, we urge you to go to an expert to get the right advice.”

SFE is an independent, national organisation of professionals, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives, committed to providing the highest quality of legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

To download the report ‘Who will decide for you when you cant?’ go to: http://www.sfe.legal

New Partner for Russell and Russell (01/12/2015)

Russell and Russell Solicitors has appointed Louise Rance to partner.

Louise, a wills and probate solicitor at the firm’s Farnworth office, has worked at the practice since 2007. She specialises in Lasting Powers of Attorney, estate administration and court of protection work. A member of Solicitors for the Elderly, a national organisation which provides specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers, Louise has been instrumental in the expansion of the firm’s elderly care team at its Bury and Chester offices.

Speaking of her promotion, Judith Bromley, joint managing partner at Russell and Russell, said: “Louise’s contribution to the firm over the years has been invaluable. Her hard work and dedication in providing an excellent standard of service has been exemplary, so her promotion to salaried partner is well-deserved. I know she’ll continue to play extremely important role in the firm’s future.”

Mediation is Key for Family Dispute Resolution Week (23/11/2015)

New polling has found that around eight out of ten children and young people with experience of parental separation or divorce would prefer their parents to split up if they are unhappy, rather than stay together.

The poll of young people aged 14 - 22 with experience of parental separation, which was carried out by ComRes on behalf of family law organisation Resolution, has revealed fresh insights from children about the levels of involvement and amount of information they would like during their parents’ divorce. The findings are released ahead of a Parliamentary launch of new advice for divorcing parents.

An overwhelming majority (82%) of the young people surveyed said that, despite their feelings at the time, they felt it was ultimately better that their parents divorced rather than stay together unhappily. Asked what advice they would give divorcing parents, one young person said, “Don’t stay together for a child’s sake, better to divorce than stay together for another few years and divorce on bad terms”; while another suggests children “will certainly be very upset at the time but will often realise, later on, that it was for the best.”

Key findings from the research shows that children and young people want greater involvement in decision-making during the divorce process:

  • 62% of children and young people polled disagreed with the statement that their parents made sure they were part of the decision-making process about their separation or divorce;
  • Half of young people (50%) indicate that they did not have any say as to which parent they would live with or where they would live (49%) following their parents’ separation or divorce. Importantly, 88% say it is important to make sure children do not feel like they have to choose between their parents;
  • Around half (47%) say that they didn’t understand what was happening during their parents’ separation or divorce;
  • Two in ten (19%) agree that they sometimes felt like the separation or divorce was their fault;
  • When asked what they’d most like to have changed about their parents’ divorce, 31% of young people said they would have liked their parents not to be horrible about each other to them, and 30% said they would have liked their parents to understand what it felt like to be in the middle of the process;
  • Positively, Resolution’s research also showed that many parents are handling their separation admirably. 50% of young people agreed that their parents put their needs first during their separation or divorce.

Speaking about the new findings, Jo Edwards, chair of Resolution, said: “This new information shows that, despite the common myth that it’s better to stay together “for the sake of the kids”, most children would sooner have their parents’ divorce rather than remain in an unhappy relationship.

“Being exposed to conflict and uncertainty about the future are what’s most damaging for children, not the fact of divorce itself. This means it is essential that parents act responsibly, to shelter their children from adult disagreements and take appropriate action to communicate with their children throughout this process, and make them feel involved in key decisions, such as where they will live after the divorce.

“We should be supporting parents to choose an out of court divorce method, such as mediation or collaborative practice. This will help parents to maintain control over the divorce and ensure their children’s needs are, and remain, the central focus.”

Family lawyer, Susan Alexander of Russell and Russell, who practices collaborative law and offers mediation services at the firm’s Chester and Atherton offices, said: “I know that parents who are going through a divorce will want to put their children first. There are around 600 divorces happening in Bolton and 650 in Chester each year. This means that there are many local children who might be facing the family issues raised by this research. Divorce is of course a very stressful thing to go through – but the best way forward is to manage separation in a way that minimises conflict, focuses on the needs of children and helps separating couples to avoid court”.

Relate counsellor, Denise Knowles said: “Of course, children usually find their parents’ separation extremely upsetting but as this research demonstrates, eventually many come to terms with the situation and adjust to changes in family life. There are plenty of steps that separating parents can take to ensure they reduce the negative impact on their children such as working to avoid constant arguing or speaking badly of the other parent in front of the kids.

The ComRes survey results support the main advice Resolution shares in its Parenting Charter, which sets out what children should be able to expect from their parents during a divorce.

These include children’s rights to:

  • be at the centre of any decisions made about their lives
  • feel and be loved and cared for by both parents
  • know and have contact with both sides of their families, including any siblings who may not live with them, as long as they are safe
  • a childhood, including freedom from the pressures of adult concerns such as financial worries

At a special event with MPs and Peers in Parliament later this week, Resolution will be calling for the Government to share the Charter with all divorcing parents. The event will also see the launch of an online advice guide at www.resolution.org.uk/divorceandparenting developed by Resolution to help divorcing parents manage their relationship with their children and with each other during separation.

Charity Begins with a Plastic Bag (17/11/2015)

Russell and Russell is helping out local charity, Children Today in light of the government’s recent legislation on charging for the use of plastic bags.

The firm has paid to have plastic bags produced for staff at the charity’s shop, on Deansgate in Bolton town centre, to give to customers free of charge.

“This is really helpful,” explained Liz Oakes of Children Today. “We’ve had a number of people come into the shop and leave empty handed because we’ve had no bags to put their items in and they’ve not been able to carry them themselves, so the gift from Russell and Russell was very welcome.”

Jane Penman, personal injury partner at Russell and Russell and a part time volunteer at Children Today, added: “The firm has supported Children Today through a number of fundraising activities over the years, but we also wanted to do something that would give that little bit extra support to a local charity that does such worthwhile work within the community.”

Russell and Russell Solicitors Support Bolton Hospice's Make a Will Month (02/11/2015)

Russell and Russell Solicitors is partnering with Bolton Hospice to help raise vital funds via the charity’s Make a Will Month campaign. Throughout November, the firm is offering to make or amend single wills for just £25 with a suggested minimum donation of £25 made payable to Bolton Hospice.

Judith Bromley, head of the wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting the Hospice again this year. The firm has a longstanding relationship with Bolton Hospice and Make a Will Month not only raises money for this fantastic local facility, but also encourages people to make a will when perhaps they may not have thought about it before.”

Russell and Russell, which is accredited with the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme, is offering the will service at its Bolton, Farnworth and Horwich branches. To make an appointment, call 01204 399 299.

Divorce Ruling Could Open the Floodgates on Settlements (20/10/2015)

A landmark ruling on two divorce settlements could open the floodgates to thousands of claims of financial misrepresentation.

Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil won their case against their ex-husbands who they claimed deliberately hid their wealth to avoid paying out on their divorce settlements.

In 2010, Ms Sharland accepted £10 million from her former husband, Charles while Ms Gohil received a car and £270,000 from her ex, Bhadresh in 2002.

Although the Supreme Court indicated that both claims would return to the High Court, the significance of these cases could have massive consequences for divorce proceedings.

“In essence, the judgment of the Supreme Court sends a clear signal of the importance for full and frank disclosure of assets in divorce proceedings”, said Rebecca Muirhead, family law specialist at Russell and Russell Solicitors. “The decision makes clear that where full disclosure doesn’t take place, it could affect the terms of a settlement so the court can reconsider the decision and overturn a previous order. If ever there was a case for honesty being the best policy, this is it.”

The ruling was based on the fact that Ms Sharland believed that the money she received from her husband’s company represented half his wealth. She also accepted 30% of the proceeds of shares held by her husband when he sold them. In fact, Charles Sharland’s company had been estimated to be worth around £600 million by the financial press, despite the value being used in the divorce as just £47 million. There were also plans to float the company on the stock market.

In Ms Gohil’s case, her husband’s deception was revealed when he was prosecuted for money laundering. His true wealth came to light during the trail and he was later jailed for 10 years.

Withdrawal of Cap on Care Fees is Only Part of a New Way of Caring (15/10/2015)

Government plans to introduce a £72,000 cap on paying for care fees have been shelved amid concerns over the perilous state of council social care budgets. The new payment system, which was due to come into force in April 2016, has now been put back to 2020.

The idea behind the cap was that once a person had spent £72,000 on their care, the state would step in. The problem is that without a substantially funded council care system, pressure on local authorities will become financially crippling.

The government had hoped the insurance sector would seize the opportunity by offering products, but this hasn’t happened. With local authorities already struggling to cope with black holes in their budgets, parliament has pulled the plug while it examines other options for paying for care.

Currently, the elderly and younger adults with disabilities have to pay for their care; whether that's round-the-clock help in a care home or support with tasks such as washing and dressing in their own home. Anyone with less than £23,250 in savings and, in some cases, the value of a home receives help toward their care costs. This, however, doesn’t include living costs such as food, bills and accommodation, for which people will still be liable to the tune of £230 a week.

But it’s not all about money. Hailed as the solution to demystifying outdated and complex legislation, the revised Care Act seeks to cut through red tape to make the process of getting help with care much more transparent and accessible.

Aside from the monetary aspect, the other four pillars to the Act, which were introduced in April this year, are far more central to the essence of what the Act aims to achieve and these haven’t been blocked. Firstly, the government has adopted the Socrates approach; prevention is better than a cure. Local authorities will be required to provide services aimed at maintaining people’s health to reduce or delay the need for care or support in the first place.

Clearer information and fairer access to care is another key ingredient to the new changes. Local authorities will now have a duty to ensure care and support is available to everyone when they need it. In cases where people are unable to understand the care system, assistance must be provided.

The changes also incorporate a common system across the country. Previously, access to care has been a lottery with each local authority being able to apply its own financial eligibility thresholds. The consequence of this has resulted in varying levels of entitlement depending on where people live.

Under the new rules, anyone, including carers, who need support, will receive an assessment. The individual’s physical, mental, emotional wellbeing and any needs already being met by a carer, must be taken into consideration, so that support is built around their needs and wants and how they can be best cared for, along with a commitment to regularly review it. On completion of the assessment, the local authority can refer to the nationally aligned threshold to determine whether the individual has eligible needs.

Additionally, all local authorities will be required to adopt a joined up approach to social care by collaborating with other public bodies, such as health and housing, as well as external organisations so that people don’t ‘slip through the cracks’. This vision also extends to ensuring a seamless transition for young people to move into adult social care services.

Finally, safeguarding forms the final piece of the jigsaw. The new statuary framework aims to protect adults from neglect and abuse and stipulates that there should be a diverse range of high quality care services for people to choose from. If a care services provider fails, local authorities have a duty to intervene to ensure a person is not left without care.

There is no doubt the reforms to the Care Act have been designed to promote good practice by personalising care to the individual rather than focussing on the masses. The essence of the changes is to ensure wellbeing and quality of life, so people shouldn’t get hung up on the financial cap. Unfortunately, it’s what most believe the Care Act to be about, but this element only forms a small part of the changes. Whereas previously it’s tended to be a one size fits all approach, the new legislation will fundamentally change the way local authorities deal with caring for people.

Government Announces Changes to the Country's Planning System (06/10/2015)

The Government has announced that major changes to the country’s planning system need to happen in order to “confront the challenge of our lifetime”. It has warned that Britain isn’t building enough homes and in the future, they will step in to make sure that councils have plans in place that set out how housing needs will be met.

Chancellor, George Osborne, said: “Britain has been incapable of building enough homes. The reforms we made to the planning system in the last parliament have started to improve the situation: planning permissions and housing starts are at a seven-year high. But we need to go further and I am not prepared to stand by when people who want to get on the housing ladder can’t do so. We’ll keep on protecting the green belt, but these latest planning reforms are a vital part of a comprehensive plan to confront the challenge of our lifetime and raise productivity and living standards.”

The Government plans to introduce a ‘zonal’ system meaning that planning permission would be given automatically for housing schemes on brownfield land, although this has been met with some concern. Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association said: “Our real concern is if you can’t have a conversation about things like internal space standards, accessibility and green space, we’re really risking creating slums of the future. We appreciate the government wants to speed things up, but it shouldn’t just be about quantity but quality. If planning is deregulated any further, we’ll end up with places that we’re going to regret building.”

The move is likely to appease certain sectors in the property industry where the affordability of new homes remains a key issue, with the budget also hitting buy-to-let investors on mortgage interest tax relief. Developers will certainly be supportive of any move which simplifies the planning system and fast tracks applications where possible.

Although automatic planning on brownfield is seen as key for developers to speed up the build process and increase affordability, it remains to be seen whether the new plans will cause tension if local authorities and communities are unable to decide on the best planning for their area.

National Recognition for Russell and Russell's Personal Injury Department (29/09/2015)

Russell and Russell's personal injury department has achieved recognition from a national campaign organisation for injured and bereaved people.

The firm's Bury office has gained ‘corporate accreditation’ from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), a not-for-profit organisation which works to improve the law for people killed or injured through no fault of their own.

“People maimed because someone didn’t take proper care, or relatives of those killed due to another’s negligence are entitled to compensation. We can help these people get their lives back on track and attempt to restore some sense of the life they would and should have had,” said Vince Pearl, partner and personal injury specialist at Russell and Russell.

The firm can now display APIL’s quality mark logo which ensures individuals seeking legal help can be guaranteed a high level of experience and expertise.

The association’s president Jonathan Wheeler said: “When they see APIL’s accreditation logo clients can be assured they are in good hands. Russell and Russell Solicitors has successfully fulfilled extensive criteria to prove a high level of client care and quality assurance. APIL will provide the firm with ongoing training and development in best practice, enabling clients to get the justice to which they are entitled.” 

Russell and Russell Solicitors Support the Christie Charity's Make a Will Week (15/09/2015)

Russell and Russell Solicitors are partnering with The Christie charity in September for their ‘Make a Will Week’ campaign. Between the 14th and 18th September, the firm is offering to waive will writing fees, asking instead for a suggested minimum donation of £90 per single will, £135 for a pair of mirror wills or £40 for an update to an existing will to be made to Christies.

Judith Bromley, managing partner and head of the wills and probate department, said: “We are extremely happy to offer our support to such a great cause. This scheme not only raises money for a fantastic charity but also encourages people to make a will when perhaps they may not have thought about it before.” Judith continued, “Make a Will Week is now in its sixth year and the money raised has made a huge difference to The Christie charity. We are delighted to be involved and have the opportunity to use our expert knowledge to give something back to the local community.”

For further information about Make a Will Week, or to book an appointment, call 01204 399299.

Russell and Russell Solicitors Retains WIQS Accreditation (10/09/2015)

Russell and Russell Solicitors has successfully gained reaccreditation to the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS). In 2014, the Wood Street based firm became the first legal practice in Bolton, and one of the first in the North West, to receive the prestigious accreditation.

Operated by the Law Society, WIQS provides a best practice quality mark for firms that specialise in will writing and estate administration and gives confidence to consumers to know they are receiving advice they can trust from a Solicitors Regulation Authority regulated practice.

“This is a fantastic achievement“, said Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell. “The team has worked extremely hard to maintain the high standards required for retaining our certification and this demonstrates our determination to provide clients with the best possible service. Too many people receive bad advice or experience poor service from unregulated firms and, unfortunately, their families are left to deal with the consequences. Using a WIQS accredited firm offers peace of mind so that clients can trust that their affairs will be dealt with by a safe and experienced pair of hands.”

Two New Partners for Russell and Russell Solicitors (11/08/2015)

Two solicitors at Bolton law firm, Russell and Russell have been made partners.

Emma Wood, who has worked for the firm since 2003, began her career as a trainee solicitor. She qualified in 2006 and specialises in wills, probate and Lasting Powers of Attorney. She is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, a national organisation which provides specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

Family lawyer, Jean Flanagan also makes partner. Having joined Russell and Russell in 2005, she is a senior member of the care team where she deals with cases on behalf of parents and children when there is intervention from social services and highly complex disputes where children’s arrangements are the subject of court proceedings. Her specialist skills and knowledge in this area led to her achieving panel membership of the Law Society’s Children Panel in 2010.

Speaking of both promotions, Judith Bromley, joint managing partner at Russell and Russell, said: “Emma and Jean have shown tremendous dedication to the firm and their contributions to its continued growth have been invaluable. Their partnerships are well-deserved and I know they will both continue to play extremely important roles in the firm’s future.”

Pippa Tudor Joins Russell and Russell Solicitors Family Law Team (07/08/2015)

Russell and Russell Solicitors has made an addition to its family law team. Pippa Tudor joins the practice to service private clients involved in divorce proceedings, children matters, protection from domestic violence and harassment and financial disputes arising from marital breakdown and cohabitee separation.

Originally from Ruthin in North Wales, Pippa obtained a law degree from the University of Liverpool before completing her Legal Practice Course at Chester College of Law. She began her career working as a paralegal at a Liverpool based law firm, qualifying as a solicitor in 2011.

“Russell and Russell’s family department has a great reputation across the region for representing clients involved in family disputes, so it was a move that was too good an opportunity to miss”, said Pippa. “Joining the department, which already has an established Care Team that represents parents in proceedings brought by the local authority, will enable me to grow the private side of the business and I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity of doing so.”

Amanda Conor, head of family law at Russell and Russell, added: “Pippa has considerable experience in private family matters, particularly finances upon divorce and domestic violence. Her appointment will allow the firm to build on its private client services and will complement the work provided by the Care Team.”

National Road Victim Month 2015 (04/08/2015)

National Road Victim Month, an awareness campaign organised by the road safety charity RoadPeace, is taking place throughout August. The initiative aims to remind people of the devastating impact road accidents can have on people’s lives and to remember past victims.

More people are killed on the roads in August than in any other month of the year. Reasons behind this include an increase in the number of cars on the roads and more children being outside during the school break.

Figures recently released by the Department for Transport showed that there were 1,775 reported road deaths in 2014, an increase of 4% in comparison to 2013. Car occupants made up 45% of fatalities, followed by pedestrians at 25%, motorcyclists at 19% and cyclists at 6%. Despite this, 2014 had 45% fewer fatalities in comparison to figures in 2005.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world. In 2013 fewer people died on British roads than at any point since records began and last year was the third lowest total on record.”

Non-built up roads accounted for more deaths (896) than built up roads (783), whilst motorway fatalities decreased slightly by four from 2013 to 96 in 2014. Worryingly fatal accidents involving pedestrians increased by 12% to 446 in 2014, whereas the number of cyclist mortalities did not increase significantly, up four deaths from 2013 to a total of 113. That said, the amount of serious injuries suffered by cyclists rose by 8.2% to 3,401.

Jane Penman, a Partner in the Specialist Personal Injury Department at Russell and Russell Solicitors said: “Although the figures report the third lowest number of deaths on record, the amount of incidents involving vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists is concerning. As a firm that deals with personal injury accidents, we see a huge amount of injuries that are caused by the negligence of others. Speed and distractions are likely to be factors and we need to remain mindful that we share road space safely with other users and try not to cause accidents that could be avoided.”

Landmark Ruling Could Mean Your Will Can Be Ignored (28/07/2015)

A court case involving a woman cut out of her mother’s will could change the rights of people wanting to disinherit their children.

Heather llot of Hertfordshire was awarded £164,000 by the Court of Appeal after it ruled that her mother had not left "reasonable provision" for her in the will.

Mrs llot was cut out of her mother’s will after eloping with her boyfriend at the age of 17 - an act her mother, Melita Jackson could not forgive. Instead, Mrs Jackson chose to leave her £486,000 estate to animal charities, with which she had little connection, after she died in 2004. Mrs llot, who married her partner and has five children, had planned to use the inheritance to buy their housing association home.

In what could prove to be a landmark ruling, at the Court of Appeal Lady Justice Arden stated that Mrs llott's mother had been "unreasonable, capricious and harsh" and that Mrs llot should receive a third of the estate. As a result, Mrs llot will now be able to buy her housing association property without losing her state benefits.

Speaking of the ruling, Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell Solicitors, said: “This case could pave the way to significantly weakening the rights of people who leave money, or assets, to those they want to inherit it. While people can still disinherit their children, they will need to provide an explanation why and what connects them to those people or organisations they do leave money to. Otherwise adult disinherited children could challenge the will to claim larger sums by way of reasonable provision. If you’re planning to disinherit main beneficiaries, you need to seek professional advice to avoid any issues which could result in your wishes not being carried out.”

Mrs llot, an only child born two months after her father died in an accident, was originally awarded £50,000 in 2007 after a district judge concluded she had been "unreasonably" excluded by Mrs Jackson. Mrs llott’s appeal to get the amount increased at the High Court in London was dismissed in March 2014 by Mrs Justice Parker, who ruled that that £50,000 was appropriate could not "be said to be wrong". That decision was overturned in the Court of Appeal by Lady Justice Arden who said that Mrs llot should receive a greater proportion of the estate.

Russell and Russell Lawyers Become Solicitors for the Elderly (21/07/2015)

Two solicitors from Russell and Russell Solicitors have been awarded a quality mark for their work with elderly clients.

Victoria Marsh and Harry Mistry of the wills and probate department have qualified as members of Solicitors for the Elderly, an independent organisation of legal advisers who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

The practice is also a member of Dementia Friends, an Alzheimer's Society initiative which helps people and organisations learn more about what it is like to live with dementia. The business was also the first legal firm in the Bolton area to be accredited with the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme which sets the benchmark for best practice and transparency in the provision of wills and estate planning services.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for Victoria and Harry, they’ve worked extremely hard to attain their certification and their membership means that all the probate solicitors at Russell and Russell are members of Solicitors for the Elderly. This is a kite mark that demonstrates that the firm is committed to helping vulnerable and elderly clients to ensure they receive the best service possible.”

Russell and Russell Solicitors Offers Charity Will Writing Service in July (15/07/2015)

Russell and Russell Solicitors have teamed up with Macmillan Cancer Support throughout July by taking part in ‘will writing month’. The firm is offering a free standard will writing service to clients and will waiver their fees, asking instead for a suggested minimum donation of £50 per single will or £80 per double to be made to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Judith Bromley, managing partner and head of the wills and probate department, said: “We are delighted to lend our support to Macmillan by offering our services to the local community. £50 is equivalent to two hours of care from a Macmillan nurse and the money raised will provide crucial support to many people affected by cancer. It’s essential to plan for the future by putting your affairs in order and we’d encourage people to take advantage of this opportunity which is also for an extremely worthwhile cause.”

To book an appointment, or for more information, call 01204 399299 or visit www.russellrussell.co.uk

ONS Releases Annual House Price Statistics for Small Areas (08/07/2015)

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published the annual House Price Statistics for Small Areas (HPSSAs) and the figures show a vast difference in the range of property prices being paid across the country. The local authority with the highest house price in 2014 was Kensington and Chelsea, where on average a property now costs £1,195,000. In comparison, Blaenau Gwent recorded the lowest average price of £75,000.

Between 2013 and 2014, 336 of all 348 local authorities recorded an increase in the average property price. Of the remaining 12, six local authorities had a price decrease and six remained the same. The largest increase was in South Bucks where an increase of 23% took the average price from £390,000 to £480,000. In contrast, the local authority with the largest decrease was the Isles of Scilly where the average price fell from £275,000 to £235,000 - a drop of 15%.

Along with house price increases, the numbers of sales of all types of properties also grew. The highest was flats and maisonettes which experienced an increase of 18%, followed by terraced houses (14%). Sales of detached homes rose by 13%, while semi-detached houses increased 11%. Overall, sales of all property types swelled by 14% in 2014 compared with the previous year.

House price statistics for small areas are calculated using data from the Land Registry and report the total number and average price of all homes sold and registered in a one year period. They cover local authorities, parliamentary constituencies and middle layer super output areas (areas which have on average a population of 7,200) in England and Wales.

HSE Releases Fatal Injury in the Workplace Stastics (02/07/2015)

Provisional figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that in 2014/15, there were 142 fatal injuries in UK workplaces. Although this figure is 9% lower than the average for the previous five years (156), it is higher than the 136 recorded deaths in 2013/14. Industries with the highest risk of injury have not changed significantly, with construction, manufacturing and agriculture recording the most fatalities.

Due to variances in definitions of workplace accidents, and differences in internal industry structures, fatal injury statistics are difficult to compare with countries such as Asia and the USA, however, certain comparisons can still be made with other European countries. The United Kingdom continues to be one of the safest places to work in Europe with a fatal injury rate in 2012 of 0.58 deaths per 100,000 workers. When compared to other countries including Germany (0.9), Italy (1.29), Spain (1.99) and France (2.64), the UK rate is much lower.

Judith Hackitt, chair of the HSE said: “It is disappointing last year’s performance on fatal injuries has not been matched, but the trend continues to be one of improvement. Our systems and our framework remain strong as demonstrated by our performance in comparison to other countries. Every fatality is a tragic event and our commitment to preventing loss of life in the workplace remains unaltered. All workplace fatalities drive HSE to develop even more effective interventions to reduce death, injury and ill health.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the national, independent watchdog that acts to reduce the number of work-related deaths and serious injuries in the workplaces of Great Britain.

ONS Releases Annual House Price Index (25/06/2015)

The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the rate of house price increases has slowed to 5.5% in April, down from 9.6% in March this year.

A reduction of £5,000 in the asking price of homes in London, where a property now costs £493,000 on average, has been attributed to the deceleration. On a more positive note, however, increases in the average asking price for homes in the East and South East have led to an overall increase in asking prices across England.

Pressure on first time buyers remains high with the average price paid for properties being 5.8% higher in April 2015 compared to the same time last year. Owner-occupiers (existing owners) fared no better, paying on average 5.4% more for the same period.

The ONS report states: “April’s figures are a continuation of the softening of the housing market that has been evident since the third quarter of 2014. Since September 2014, the rate of annual house price inflation has been declining gently, subsiding from 12.1% to 5.5% in the latest data. This easing is reflected in a number of indicators of the housing market, which suggest demand and supply are now more balanced than in recent months.”

Whilst these figures are for the whole country, it will be interesting to see how house prices have performed on a more local level when the Small Area House Price report is published.

Russell and Russell Gains HSSF Accreditation (04/06/2015)

Russell and Russell has been awarded another accreditation for its work in family law.

Our Bolton and Chester based practices has received the Help and Support for Separated Families certification for its mediation services. A government run initiative, HSSF is designed to help separated families work together in the best interests of their children.

To become accredited, Russell and Russell underwent a rigorous application and assessment process in which the firm was required to demonstrate how it supports collaboration between parents, helping them to resolve disputes and focus on the effect the separation has on their children.

Speaking of the accreditation, collaborative lawyer, Susan Alexander said: “Gaining the HSSF mark is further recognition of the quality of our service and provides peace of mind for clients who may be unsure about the value of mediation.

“Russell and Russell’s family law department has a specialist mediation team which provides a cost effective way of resolving disputes between parents whose relationship has broken down. Mediation works towards co-operative parenting so that court action, which can be very expensive, can be avoided and, more importantly, helps limit the emotional consequences of separation felt by the children.”

New Crime Solicitors for Russell and Russell (14/01/2015)

Russell and Russell Solicitors have taken on two solicitors to deal with its growing demand for legal defence services.

Leanne Hurst joins the practice from Forbes Solicitors in which she completed two years of legal training after graduating from the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Law in Manchester and Chester. She joins the criminal law department at a time when the firm has moved to new offices on Mawdsley Street to house its growing team.

Kevin Liston has joined from Stock Moran Swalwell in Wigan. Dealing with all aspects of criminal law, he will be an integral member of the Russell & Russell team, representing clients at police stations, magistrates courts and crown court.

Speaking of his new role, Kevin said: “Russell & Russell’s reputation extends far beyond the Bolton area and I’m delighted to be working at such a highly regarded firm. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and I’m looking forward to working with the team and representing clients across the region.”

Nick Ross, crime partner at Russell and Russell, added: “It was clear from the outset that Kevin’s experience would complement our existing service offer. He has an excellent track record in defending both legally aided and private paying clients and has been a Higher Court Advocate since October 2010. I’ve no doubt he will make a significant contribution to the on-going success of Russell & Russell.”

Established in 1887, Russell and Russell Solicitors have been providing legal services for over 120 years. The practice has grown organically to incorporate eight offices across the North West and in addition to its criminal defence service, the firm also provides legal advice on property, wills and probate, family matters and personal injury. 

Court of Appeal Rules Against Government Changes to Legal Aid for Domestic Violence Victims (16/03/2006)

The Court of Appeal has ruled that government changes to legal aid for domestic violence victims are unlawful.

The decision to overturn the government’s rules on evidence, introduced as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), means that victims of domestic abuse will no longer be required to bring a case against an ex-partner within two years of the incident taking place.

The challenge, which was brought by the Public Law Project on behalf of the charity, Rights of Women, has been hailed as a victory for anyone suffering mental or physical abuse at the hands of a partner. The Court of Appeal ruling recognised that the two year time restriction prevents victims from applying for legal aid, even when it’s clear there’s been violence or there’s an on-going risk of violence.

Rights of Women argued that fear of a perpetrator of domestic abuse does not disappear after two years and legal aid is often the only way some victims can fund action to escape from violent relationships and protect their children. In addition to mental and physical abuse, the ruling also requires the government to amend regulations to ensure that victims experiencing financial abuse are able to access family law legal aid too.

Speaking of the ruling, Pippa Tudor (pictured), a family solicitor at Russell and Russell, said: “This is a real triumph for anyone who’s been unable to bring a case against their ex-partner because the abuse took place more than two years ago and they don’t have the funds to instigate a private case. The two year time constraint has meant that many victims of domestic abuse have been unable to cut ties with their ex and move on with their life, so the outcome of the ruling is not only a success for victims, but also for common sense.”