Harris and Harris – going from strength to strength in 2017

Two new faces have joined Harris + Harris Solicitors to build its specialist legal teams.

The firm now employs more than 50 people in its two offices in Frome and Wells after welcoming Christiana Olomolaiye and Victoria Panchal, who work from the Stony Street office.

Christiana, who has been practising as a solicitor since 1992, brings a wealth of experience to the firm’s Commercial Property department in the public, private and charity sectors.  Her expertise is mainly in the sales, leases and disposals of commercial and charity properties, agricultural land, and in development and planning agreements, construction contracts, and urban regeneration schemes.

Quote from Christiana:  “Frome’s creativity and enterprise boosts its commercial property market. It is great that Harris and Harris is well positioned to offer its services in such a dynamic environment”.

Victoria, who grew up in Bristol, joins the firm’s Residential Property department after spending several years in London.  Victoria deals with freehold and leasehold sales and purchases as well as re-mortgages and transfers of equity.

The two new appointments build on previous recruitment to the Wills and Probate department led by Caroline Fletcher in Frome, who has developed the Private Client Department since joining the firm in August 2013.

Partner Neil Howlett welcomed the new recruits to the Frome team:  “We, and our clients, are fortunate that we have been able to recruit so many experienced and talented Solicitors to work in Frome.  They will continue Harris & Harris’s ethos of being professionals with a human face.”

Dementia: Celebrating Day Services Conference 2016

Harris & Harris are pleased to support Somerset Partnership’s Dementia: Celebrating Day Services Conference on Tuesday 5 April 2016.

The conference which will be held at the Cheese & Grain in Frome will focus on dementia care and is an opportunity for those working in dementia care and carers to come together to share best practice and meet others involved with dementia care.

Guest speakers at the event include Dr David Sheard, CEO and Founder of Dementia Care Matters who will be discussing why changing care cultures matters and Mark Poarch, Chief Executive of BRACE, a registered charity which funds research into Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Registration is from 9.00 AM for a 10.00 AM start, with various speakers scheduled throughout the day. The afternoon programme includes the Dementia Care Market Place where our Solicitors Joshua Eva and Caroline Fletcher will be available to talk to you and provide information and resources regarding dementia care.

Tickets cost £75 per person, to include refreshments, lunch and certificate of attendance. Booking forms can be downloaded from the Somerset Partnership’s website or by telephoning 01278 437141.

http://www.sompar.nhs.uk/learning-curve/dementia-celebrating-day-services-conference-2016/

New EU Inheritance Law – Should you review your Will?

New EU rules aim to ease succession across the EU by giving an individual the ability to opt for either the law of the country of their nationality or their last habitual residence to apply to their estate.

Whilst the UK has opted out of the new rules, the changes will still have an impact on UK citizens who have assets in other EU countries.

The new rules allow an individual to opt out of forced heirship rules that apply in a number of EU countries and instead choose to apply UK law to their assets outside the UK.  For example, a woman in the UK with property in France would previously have been obliged to leave it to her husband and children under French forced heirship rules.  However, under the new rules, she can choose to apply UK law to the property and leave it to different beneficiaries.

If an individual does not opt out of the new rules then the default position is that the law of the country where someone is a habitual resident when they die will govern the succession of their estate.

Furthermore, the new rules will also mean that the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 (recently highlighted by a high profile case in the Court of Appeal) will apply in other EU countries.

For citizens who were not born in the UK, it could mean that English laws will now be applied to their overseas assets without them realising.

Those who do not want English law to apply to assets which are held in a country that has opted in to the new rules will need to alter their Will to make it clear which country’s law is to apply.

For more information regarding the new EU rules and whether your Will needs review, please see:

http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/new-eu-inheritance-law-should-prompt-wills-reviews-say-experts/5050595.article

For more information or to review your Will, contact Annemarie Swainson or Joshua Eva in Wells or Caroline Fletcher in Frome.

Wells Aims to Become Dementia Friendly

Harris & Harris are supporting the Wells Dementia Action Alliance which aims to make Wells a dementia friendly city. Joshua Eva, Partner at our Wells office, who has joined the Alliance committee said “We are delighted at the news that the campaign, which has featured in the Wells Journal, has received a £5,000 grant from the Aviva Community Fund.  This means there will be funding available for local projects to improve the experience of individuals living with dementia”.

To make the money go further the Alliance plans to match-fund projects that will benefit people with dementia and encourage further fundraising.  A number of local businesses are already involved and it is hoped that support for the initiative will grow.

Joshua Eva and also Caroline Fletcher, Associate Solicitor at our Frome office, have both trained to become ‘Dementia Friends’ with the Alzheimer’s Society.

A Dementia Friend is someone who learns more about what it’s like to live with dementia and turns that understanding into action.

Harris and Harris have also arranged to have staff in Wells who deal regularly with elderly clients trained as Dementia Friends.

Fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Society

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, it is predicted there will be around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia in 2015.

The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.  These changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life.

Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease which is the most common cause of dementia.  However not all dementia is due to Alzheimer’s.  The specific symptoms that someone with dementia experiences will depend on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the disease that is causing the dementia.  Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way.

Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms gradually get worse over time.  How quickly it progresses varies greatly from person to person.  In the late stages the person will need more and more support to carry out everyday tasks.  However, many people maintain their independence and live well for years after their diagnosis.

On 5 September Caroline Fletcher, will be participating in the Alzheimer’s Society’s Stonehenge Trek.  Starting at 6.30 am, Caroline will start her trek with many others in Old Sarum, Wiltshire.  Her walk will take her past Salisbury Cathedral, over high ridges, through woodland and at her furthest point, Stonehenge, before she circles back to where she started, some 25 miles later.

As a Solicitor in our Wills and Probate Department, Caroline has seen the impact of dementia on both her clients, their families and carers.  After becoming a Dementia Friend in early 2014, she has decided to take on this challenge to raise money to help improve the quality of life for people affected by dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For more information regarding Alzheimer’s Society:

http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/

Wills Litigation on the Increase

 

An article published in the Law Society Gazette this week has highlighted a substantial increase in the number of claims lodged at Court involving alleged breach of duties by Executors. The article suggests that this could be attributed to “the increased use of acquaintances or family members as DIY executors and trustees, rather than instructing solicitors”.

At Harris & Harris we have many years of experience in acting for and advising Executors. We are able to ensure that the administration of a deceased person’s estate is conducted properly and in accordance with the law. In appropriate cases we offer our clients the option of appointing the partners in the firm as professional Executors. Appointing an independent professional to act as Executor can lift the burden of estate administration from family and provide peace of mind that your estate will be in safe hands.

As Solicitors, we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and legally obliged to maintain a high level of Professional Indemnity Insurance. This means that, should anything go wrong in a case where we have acted as Executors, the beneficiaries of the estate are protected. However in cases where a non-solicitor Executor has failed to deal with things properly, or perhaps even stolen from the estate, the beneficiaries may have no such protection and could lose their inheritance.

We were also one of the first 100 firms in the country to join the Law Society’s new voluntary Wills & Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS). In achieving accreditation, the firm underwent a rigorous application and assessment process to demonstrate our adoption of best practice procedures in delivering wills and probate advice.

Should any of our clients have concerns over the way in which an Executor is dealing with an estate where they are a beneficiary, or perhaps where they feel they ought to be, we also have specialist solicitors in our Litigation team who can advise upon the rights of such individuals, and upon the role and duties of the Executor. When things have gone wrong, we can advise you on the available options and help you to achieve a fair result.

The full Law Gazette article can be accessed via the following link:-

Law Gazette Article

If you would like to speak to one of our specialist lawyers, please click to visit:-

Wills, Probate and Trusts

Dispute Resolution / Litigation

 

 

Will your Estate Pay Inheritance Tax?

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the number of estates which will be liable to pay Inheritance Tax (“IHT”) will increase by nearly 400% so that in four years time one in ten estates will pay it.

Currently IHT brings the Chancellor of the Exchequer c.£3.5 billion a year. However, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, the amount of IHT paid will increase in four year’s time to £5.8 billion.

The Inheritance Tax threshold or “Nil Rate Band” is the value of an estate before IHT becomes payable. The current Nil Rate Band is £325,000 which was set in 2009 – that’s about the average price of a detached house in Wells or Frome.

If the value of an estate (including any assets held in trust and gifts made within seven years of death) is more than the Nil Rate Band then IHT will be payable. This is currently set at a rate of 40%.

With the introduction of the “Transferable Nil Rate Band” between married couples and civil partners in 2007 the number of estates paying IHT fell. As property prices also decreased many estates avoided IHT. However, as house prices are set to continue to rise and the Nil Rate Band has been frozen at its 2009 level for the next four years, many more families are now more likely to be caught by the IHT net.

Planning your estate allows you to consider whether IHT is likely to be payable and if there are reliefs and exemptions which may be available to reduce the IHT liability. Having a Will and reviewing it regularly can ensure that your estate is tax efficient. In addition, it will also ensure that your loved ones know how you would like your estate administered.

At Harris + Harris we aim to help you make the right decisions, at the right time. We have experienced solicitors in both our Wells and Frome offices who can make sure your Will has the effect you intend, and that Inheritance Tax is minimised.

For more analysis of the anticipated increase of estates paying IHT see: Middle class families braced for inheritance tax time bomb

Contact Joshua Eva in Wells or Caroline Fletcher in Frome.

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

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.