Archives for 2014

Harris & Harris join new Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme

Harris & Harris Solicitors, based in Wells and Frome, are delighted to announce that the firm has recently become an accredited member of the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS).

WIQS is only open to law firms or other organisations that are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

In achieving accreditation Harris & Harris underwent a rigorous application and assessment process to demonstrate their adoption of best practice procedures in delivering wills and probate advice.

Annemarie Swainson, head of the Wills, Probate and Trust department said, ‘A will is one of the most important financial and personal decisions that clients make, but currently there is no regulation surrounding will drafting so anyone is able to write a will, holding themselves out to be expert.’

‘It is extremely important to talk to a solicitor who can ensure that your will is expressed in a legally watertight way. A solicitor will be able to advise on complex financial issues, such as inheritance tax and trusts planning.’

Harris & Harris’s clients will be assured that the Solicitor they are dealing with understands the issues in preparing a will or offering probate advice, and the clients made aware of the options, costs and timescales in order to make an informed choice from the outset.

For more information on the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme visit www.lawsociety.org.uk/AboutWIQS

Funds raised for St Margaret’s Hospice

We are delighted to confirm that a total of £690 was raised by generous donations from our clients who participated in the St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice “Make a Will Week” in 2013.

Harris & Harris will be taking part again in the scheme in the week commencing 15th September 2014. Under the scheme, we waive our usual fee for preparing a Will in return for the client making a donation to the hospice.

The hospice has confirmed that total donations under the scheme in 2013 have exceeded £23,000.

You can find out more about the hospice by visiting their website:

http://www.somerset-hospice.org.uk/

If you are interested in booking a place under the scheme, please contact our Wills, Probate and Trusts department:

http://www.harris-harris.co.uk/what_we_do/wills_probate_trusts/

 

Employment Tribunal statistics and Early Conciliation

The Ministry of Justice has published the quarterly employment tribunal statistics for October to December 2013 – the first full quarter since the introduction of fees for applications.  Compared with the same period in 2012 there was drop in the number of individual applications lodged of nearly two thirds.

Is this necessarily a good thing? Although there were quite a few claims that were never likely to succeed, and those imposed costs on employers, I don’t think that two thirds of claims were without any merit. Even if there were do we know if it is those claims that have dropped out? Knowing the character of some of the people who brought them I doubt it.

If that means that valid claims are not being made is that wholly good for employers? Will it allow those whose employment practices are poor to get away with that? Those employment practices are undercut those who do things properly and are anti-competitive. Is this the law of unintended consequences?

Early Conciliation through ACAS is coming in April – that may help good employers resolve disputes, but bad employers will probably ignore it, and there is little incentive for them to improve,

For advice please contact Neil Howlett or Andy Hambleton.

Dementia Friends

Harris & Harris are pleased to announce that our Solicitors, Joshua Eva and Caroline Fletcher, have recently become Dementia Friends.

People with dementia sometimes need a helping hand to go about their daily lives and feel included.  Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer’s Society initiative which aims to give people an understanding of dementia and the small things they can do to support and make a difference to people living with dementia.

As Dementia Friends Joshua and Caroline have learnt a little bit more about what it is like to live with dementia and hope to be able to turn that understanding into action for the benefit of their clients.

If you would like to get involved with Dementia Friends or would like more information please see:

http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/

It is Dementia Friends’ aim to create a network of a million Dementia Friends across England by 2015.

Is it worth using unqualified Will writers?

Despite advice from consumer groups Will preparation is not currently regulated in this country, so anyone can go into the business, regardless of whether they have any qualifications, experience or ability.

The recently reported case of Keith Webber, who was an unqualified Will writer from Chard, Somerset, is a vivid reminder of the need to use a reputable and properly qualified professional. Mr Webber, who traded as “KEWsWills” was jailed for five years in January 2014 at Bristol Crown Court. He had been convicted of Fraud after being found guilty of stealing in excess of £280,000 from his clients. He stole the money whilst acting as Executor or under a Power of Attorney for elderly clients. In one case he actually altered the will to make himself the main beneficiary instead of the charity to which an old lady believed she was giving her money. Despite having no known legal qualifications Mr Webber advertised himself as a “professional lawyer” and a member of the “Association of Lawyers and Legal Advisers” and the “Willwriters Association”. He traded as KEWsWills with a website that described them “Specialists in Will Writing and Associated Legal Services”.

At Harris & Harris, we are regulated, our standards independently checked and everything we do is fully insured, which means that even if something were to go wrong, you are always protected. Our lawyers involved in the preparation of Wills are not only fully qualified and experienced solicitors, but also all members, student members or affiliates of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), the worldwide professional association for practitioners dealing with family inheritance and succession planning.

If you want to see what that means see the STEP Code for the Preparation of Wills which all our solicitors follow when preparing Wills. This covers ethical business practices, and good practice on communication, costs, confidentiality, timing and records.

Will Aid 2013 – Several Thousand Raised for Charities

We are pleased to announce that the firm has already raised  £3,370 for Will Aid’s 25th Anniversary charity scheme and anticipate the total will exceed £4,000 . We have taken part in the scheme for a number of years and in 2013 public interest was at an all time high for us, and as a consequence we have raised almost double our total for the previous year.

Will Aid offers an opportunity to have a professionally drawn Will in exchange for a donation to help people in need and all over the world. This money is shared by nine well-known UK charities: ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children, Sightsavers, SCIAF (Scotland) and Trocaire (Northern Ireland). In 2012 over £2 million was raised nation-wide and it is hoped that the final 2013 figures will exceed this.

Will Aid brought a successful conclusion to a fundraising year. In addition to Will Aid, Harris & Harris raised almost £1,000 by supporting the St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice “Make a Will Week” in September, the Somerset Wildlife Trust “Will for Wildlife Week” in October and the “Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust Will Month” in November. The firm would like to express thanks to all those clients who took part in the various schemes and whose generous donations will make a difference to so many lives.

We hope to continue our support for all the above charities in 2014. If you are interested in any of these charitable schemes please contact the Wells office on 01749 674747, or the Frome office on 01373 463366

New Year’s Resolutions

When Frome Chamber of Commerce ran the first year of Discuss & Do events for entrepreneurs Johnny Martin was one of the speakers, as well as doing his usual seminars at The British Library.

His newsletter this month says :
“January can be a pretty tough month for trading after the hump of Christmas – unless you happen to be a fitness coach or selling diet supplements…so as well as reviewing your marketing plans, use the time to make sure you have all your business arrangements properly documented.  In my experience more cash is lost because of unclear and undocumented business arrangements than any other reason.”

As lawyers you’d expect us to agree, but sadly it’s true. New contracts don’t have to be expensive. We can review what you have; if it is satisfactory we will tell you, if we think it needs upgrading we can do that and will give you a price for that.

If you’ve got a slow period post Christmas here’s something useful you can do that will pay dividends.

If we can help please contact us.

If you want to see more of what Johnny has to say (he’s not a lawyer) see his blog.