Charlotte Lines and Naomi Ramsay have joined Wilkes as newly qualified solicitors in the Corporate and Private Client Teams respectively.

Having first joined Wilkes as a trainee solicitor in 2018 Charlotte Lines joins our busy Corporate team and will advise clients on a wide range of corporate transactions including mergers and acquisitions, management buyouts, disposals, company reorganisations and share buy-backs.

Naomi joins the Private Client team having successfully completed her training contract at a local Birmingham based firm. Naomi will predominantly be working from our Solihull offices and will advise our clients across the full spectrum of private client services such as, Wills & Tax Planning, Trusts & Trust Administration, Court of Protection matters and Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Ellie Holland, Managing Partner at Wilkes said;

“2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and as a firm we are fortunate to be in a position where we are able to grow two of our core teams. We are delighted to be able to welcome Charlotte and Naomi to Wilkes and wish them every success as they develop their legal careers.”

“Both Charlotte and Naomi are talented young solicitors who have already demonstrated they are able to hit the ground running and I am sure they will prove themselves to be valuable assets to our firm.”

Last year, probate registries experienced significant delays in issuing Grants of Probate. In the past, applications for a Grant had taken up to 2 weeks, but in lieu of the delays, applications were taking 12 weeks and longer to process.

This was the result of a surge in applications prior to planned fee increases, closure of regional probate registries and changes to the internal systems. This in turn led to delays at HMRC who took over 5 weeks to issue inheritance tax receipts in taxable estates. In total, therefore, it was taking up to 3-4 months to obtain a Grant.

Earlier this year, probate registries managed to reduce their time scales and applications were taking no longer than 3 weeks to process. However, following the outbreak of COVID-19, probate registries are facing the same delays that we saw last year. This is largely due to a reduced workforce because of the furlough scheme and 80% of their staff working remotely. The time taken to obtain a Grant of Probate has once again risen and with limited telephone lines, it has become incredibly difficult to even obtain an update on an application once it has been sent.

Probate registries have tried to implement measures to tackle the delays, including taking applications online. HMRC have also started to accept digitalised signatures and will submit the inheritance tax receipt directly to the relevant probate registry. With more staff returning to work at the probate registries, it is hoped that time scales will start to come down again.

Despite these delays, we are on hand to provide assistance in applying for probate and should you have any questions in regards to applying for a Grant of Probate in a deceased’s estate, please contact Ellie Holland on eholland@wilkes.co.uk or 0121 733 8000.

The Wilkes Partnership have one of the largest Private Client teams in the Midlands and our solicitors are based across our Birmingham and Solihull Offices and can offer appointments to suit via telephone or video call.

In this article Jackie Lee, Solicitor in our Family Law Team discusses Prohibited Steps Orders (PSO’s) and how they can be put in place to limit the travel movements of a child without both parent’s consent.

Prohibited steps orders are granted by the Family Court in instances where one parent disagrees with a child or children leaving the country.

During the current situation surrounding COVID-19 the Family Court has seen a rise in PSO applications, with many being granted. Although flights might be leaving the UK it is advisable to check on the FCO website for the latest Government guidance on travel and check with the Parent with Parental Responsibility for the children that they give permission to travel. If there is a Government warning in place on a destination there is strong likelihood that an application for a PSO would be granted.

Client Case Study

In early August Jackie Lee was approached by a Father seeking an urgent intervention to stop his two children leaving the UK to a country flagged by the FCO as a destination where “all but essential travel” was not advised. In addition, our client also cited concerns over missed schooling which was duly noted by the courts.

On Sunday 2nd August 2020, the Mother, who held custody for the children, notified the Father that they were due to travel with the children on Friday 7th August 2020. In response our client contacted us on Monday 3rd August and instructed us to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order on his behalf which was filed with the Court on Tuesday 4th August. A Prohibited Steps Order preventing travel was in place by Wednesday 5th August.

Alongside successfully blocking the children leaving the country the court order also forced the surrender of the children’s passports. A Penal notice was also attached to the order meaning that if the Mother did not comply she would risk a custodial sentence. The Court also ordered the Mother to cover the cost of the Father’s legal fees.

We are able to offer appointments via telephone or video call at a time to suit you. If you require any advice relating to a Family Law matter please contact Jackie Lee on 0121 784 4443 or via email on jwlee@wilkes.co.uk

The Office of the Public Guardian (“OPG”) have launched a new online service “Use a lasting power of attorney”. The aim behind this tool is to enable attorneys to liaise more efficiently with financial institutions and healthcare providers when making decisions in regards to a donor’s finances, property or care.

The service has already been tested by organisations like the Department for Work and Pensions and HSBC UK, who have proposed to continue using it moving forward.

The previous process was paper based and attorneys were generally required to submit copies of the donor’s Lasting Powers of Attorney (“LPAs”) to all the relevant organisations, which could take several weeks. Under the new service, attorneys will only be required to provide a secure code, which when inputted into the system, will immediately confirm their role as attorney. The new tool, will enable organisations to carry out all of their necessary checks on attorneys, hopefully in a more secure and faster manner.

For the time being only newly registered LPAs will work under this new system. Crucially, there are likely to be implications in terms of donors who may not want the LPA to come into effect immediately. The safeguards are yet to be ascertained, but it is likely that many donors will opt to delay registering their LPAs, particularly their Property and Financial Affairs LPA.

Nick Goodwin, from the OPG, has confirmed that the move to this online service was in response to “more people… taking the important step to… apply for a LPA” and the need to therefore ensure that attorneys receive the “best possible support” to make “effective and efficient decisions when managing their loved ones’ affairs”.

At The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors, we can assist you with the various stages of the LPA process, including preparing the LPAs for you and even acting as a professional attorney for you if you wish. We can also make a deputyship application to the Court of Protection for a loved one who has lost capacity and we are able to act as a professional deputy for them too if this is required.

We have offices in central Birmingham and Shirley, Solihull and are ready and available to arrange appointments to suit our clients needs.

If you would like to enquire about preparing LPAs or deputyship please contact Ann Marie-Aston on 0121 733 8000 or aaston@wilkes.co.uk.

New laws to spare divorcing couples having to apportion blame for the breakdown of their marriage took a step closer, as a Bill seeking to reduce family conflict has now gained Royal Assent.

Aaron Keene, Partner & Head of Family Law at Wilkes said: “The institution of marriage will always be upheld, but when divorce cannot be avoided the law should not exacerbate conflict and harm a child’s upbringing”.

Currently, one spouse has to make accusations about the other’s conduct, such as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery, or otherwise face years of separation before a divorce can be granted – regardless of whether a couple has made a mutual decision to separate.

The new laws will instead allow a spouse, or a couple, to apply for divorce by making a statement of irretrievable breakdown. This aims to end the needless “blame game” between couples and parents.

Crucially, a new and extended minimum timeframe of six months from the initial application stage to the granting of a divorce will also be created. This will offer couples the time to reflect and turn back, or where reconciliation is not possible agree important arrangements for the future – such as how best to look after their children.

The Bill was first introduced in June 2019 after a public consultation and was brought before parliament again following the General Election. It passed its final stage on 17 June, with cross-party backing as well as support amongst family law practitioners.

Specifically, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act will:

  • Replace the current requirement to evidence either a conduct or separation ‘fact’ with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (for the first time, couples can opt to make this a joint statement).
  • Remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
  • Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made, allowing greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible and divorce is inevitable.

The changes will not come into effect until later next year to allow careful implementation of the necessary changes to court, online and paper processes.

If you would like assistance in relation to a family matter, please contact Aaron Keene on 0121 710 5947 or abkeene@wilkes.co.uk.

Consultant and Tax Specialist at Wilkes Philip Harrison writes for Finance Monthly about how a global outlook when it comes to tax planning is essential in a modern, and increasingly globalised world.

With the number of people emigrating from the UK tipping over 400,000 a quarter for the first time ever in 2019 and immigration rates comfortably over 600,000 a quarter, the movement of people out of and into the UK is high and once normality post-coronavirus returns so will the movement of people. The knock on effect for tax specialists is a vast and varied flow of inheritance money going across borders and a need for today’s skilled financial advisers to have access to knowledge of the tax laws in more than just their own country.

Over the course of more than three decades in private client work I have seen that as globalisation impacted the lives of many (if not most) clients, the work in tax changed. The frictionless trade borders coming in and then hardening as protectionism was enacted by some of the world’s major economic powers has seen families spread across borders and then get locked in by them. This has made cross-border transactions yet more difficult and convoluted.

A consequence of this movement of people is the increased movement of personal funds. Cross-border remittances are now worth more than foreign direct investment to lower middle-income countries with an estimated $689bn transferred across the globe in 2018, according to the World Bank.

The picture created is a complex web of currency passing over borderlines and weaving economies deeper into each other. This is before inheritance, which is usually the largest one-off transfer of assets made by a person, comes into question. And lifetime wealth transfers – for example through trusts – add another layer of complexity again.

This world in constant flux with borders opening and tightening and generations of families having migrated across borders leaves tax advisers in a difficult position. Unable to apply one strategy to a single estate planning case, we have to take account of multi-jurisdictional factors which mean that sensible measures in one place can cause problems in another.

The potential pitfalls became very apparent when I was advising on a trust structure for a family originally from the UK where the main beneficiaries had emigrated to Canada. In structuring distributions to the beneficiaries, it transpired that sensible planning for Canadian tax purposes was inefficient for UK purposes and vice versa.

This is where having the experience to seek out the right knowledge is vital. Personally, through years working in the international sector of the market, I have gained knowledge of a variety of tax systems and have to spot where foreign tax issues arise even though I do not advise on them. But as tax lawyers we know that knowledge is an entirely different thing to expertise and the ability to advise on the intricacies of tax models built over years.

It is because of this that I believe that one of the most useful aspects of working internationally isn’t just spotting an issue, but developing the overseas networks of trusted talent to rely upon for advice and collaboration.

The traditional model of being part of an international firm or an international network, surprisingly, can be no real advantage when it comes to taking overseas advice. In fact, it can be a disadvantage or a restriction as there is an obligation to use the offices of your own firm or network and they may or may not be the best people for the job. In this case, working with a UK-based firm such as The Wilkes Partnership is a liberation as I am free to involve whoever I think is right for the client and the advice required.

Having the knowledge to spot an issue and seek out the right expertise from within a jurisdiction is the skill when creating the right, sensible succession plan for clients.

Some of those issues can arise:

  • Where a UK client (without other overseas connections) has overseas assets
  • Where an overseas client (without other UK connections) has UK assets
  • Where an overseas client coming to the UK, or already here but only for a relatively short time, plans to remain for the longer term
  • Where an overseas client from certain countries (especially India and Pakistan) has been in the UK for a long time and has overseas assets or assets that can be transferred overseas
  • Where a UK client is emigrating or has already emigrated

It’s not just certain scenarios to be aware of when working internationally. There are, of course, some foreign tax systems that are especially difficult to navigate. For example, the USA has its estate or gift tax (like its income tax) based on citizenship not residence or domicile. And the taxes in some jurisdictions work on a very different basis to our inheritance tax and can be difficult to understand. For instance, the capital acquisitions tax in the Republic of Ireland falls into this category and given large numbers of UK residents have families in the Republic of Ireland this is an area that tax specialists must be aware of.

In contrast there are some are helpful jurisdictions like India and Pakistan, whose domestic tax laws give rise to tax planning opportunities in the UK.

The UK has a small number of estate taxes treaties with other countries (separate from the normal double tax treaties) but there are only ten of these.  Their main purpose is to prevent double taxation where the same assets could be subject to tax here and abroad.  Where there is no treaty, the UK gives unilateral relief for foreign tax but the conditions which have to be satisfied mean that it does not always work perfectly.

Four of the treaties are “old” (India, Pakistan, France and Italy) and in theory give rise to tax planning opportunities but in the light of the countries’ domestic tax systems, it is often only Indian and Pakistani clients who can avail themselves of these.

Finally, it is always essential when undertaking an international estate planning assignment to take account of other taxes as well as inheritance tax – e.g. capital gains tax – or their overseas equivalents.

As remittances increase, generations continue to migrate, and protectionism and globalisation fluctuate, cross-border tax will be a vital part of estate planning. This has created a climate where tax experts need to not only know their own jurisdiction, but also have the knowledge to see barriers and call in expertise from other jurisdictions. The world we now live in, and the one after coronavirus has reshaped the globe, requires tax experts to have access to more than just the knowledge within the confines of our own borders. In this climate, we need the personal connections overseas and the ability to foresee barriers if we are to deliver private and business clients the best service possible.

Philip Harrison is a consultant at Wilkes working across our Birmingham and Solihull offices Philip specialises in advising business owners and high net worth individuals on estate planning, involving the protection of family wealth as well as inheritance tax mitigation.

He helps his clients to devise a comprehensive estate planning strategy with the aim of taking maximum advantage of available tax reliefs, especially for business or agricultural assets.  He also manages the implementation of his clients’ estate planning strategies, which might involve direct gifts to children or grandchildren or the creation of family trusts or family investment companies.

If you have any questions regarding this update you can contact Philip on pharrison@wilkes.co.uk or 0121 233 4333.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, we have been approached by many clients wishing to prepare or update their existing Wills and put in place a Lasting Powers of Attorney (“LPAs”).

Can I still make a Will or LPAs despite the lockdown?

It has been declared that lawyers who prepare Wills are key workers and so we have continued operating during this time. We will initially take instructions for your Wills and LPA’s via telephone or video-streaming services such as Skype and Zoom so that we can fully understand your needs.

We will then send your draft Will or LPAs to you for your approval via email or post. We are on hand to answer any further questions or queries you may have regarding the drafts to ensure you receive the high-quality and tailored legal advice you would in a face-to-face meeting.

How do I sign my Wills and LPAs?

Under Wills Act 1837, a Will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. Whilst the Law Society and the Ministry of Justice are considering relaxing these requirements, there has been no changes yet. We can provide you with detailed instructions about how you must sign your Will to ensure that it is valid whilst complying with government guidance for social distancing.

We are also happy to oversee the Will signing ourselves providing this is outdoors, either at your home, or by advance arrangement, at either our Birmingham or Solihull offices/ other outside spaces, whilst of course, still recognising the social distancing rules.

Similarly, LPAs must be signed in the presence of an independent witness and then certified by a certificate provider of your choice. We are happy to provide information and answer any questions you have regarding how this can be achieved by you independently or in our presence whilst still following the social distancing rules.

Members of our Private Client Team have prepared various video guides which talk about the importance of a Solicitor drafted will and also The Court of Protection & Lasting Powers of Attorney. You can watch these using the links below.

The Importance of a Solicitor Drafted Will – Watch here

The Court of Protection & Lasting Powers of Attorney – Watch here

If you would like to enquire about preparing a Will or Lasting Powers of Attorney please contact Ellie Holland on 0121 733 8000 or eholland@wilkes.co.uk.

In this article Kate Campbell-Gunn, Associate Solicitor in our Birmingham Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence Team discusses the difference between primary and secondary victims.

Personal injury law recognises two sorts of victims, primary and secondary victims.  A person who is injured or even killed by another’s negligence is a primary victim.  In a medical perspective this would be a patient harmed by their medical treatment.  However, a primary victim’s immediate family member may become a secondary victim, if they actually witness the negligence and then suffer psychiatric injury.

The law sets down a strict criteria for secondary victim claims:
  • It was reasonably foreseeable that a person of normal fortitude would suffer from a psychiatric injury
  • The secondary victim has a sufficiently close relationship with the immediate victim
  • There was sufficient proximity to the accident &
  • The psychiatric illness was caused by shock as the result of the sudden appreciation of a horrifying event.

The case law to date has found against secondary victims claiming psychiatric damage when a prolonged period of time has passed on the basis is does not satisfy the proximity test. However, in the recent case of Paul v Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, children of a man misdiagnosed some 14 months prior witnessed his death when out on a shopping trip.

At first instance, the Judge held against them however on appeal it was found that the event was sufficiently shocking to them and caused them to suffer psychiatric injury and as there was a direct link between the negligence and them witnessing the death, they could claim.

Situations where this may occur are:
  • A patient is given emergency treatment and on returning to ICU, where their wife is waiting, the wrong injection is administered negligently and causes a fatal allergic reaction.  Witnessing that tragic event caused the wife psychological injury who may pursue a claim as a secondary victim.
  • A patient is given negligent treatment which causes their condition to deteriorate and possibly death or severe disability.  Witnessing a loved one worsen over time may be sufficiently traumatic to trigger a recognised psychiatric disorder.
Birth and Secondary Victims

Secondary victim claims occur more commonly in the labour and delivery suite.  Where an expectant Mother or new born baby is injured or sadly dies due to a hospital’s negligence, the consequences are devastating for the whole family.

Often new Mums choose a birthing partner to be with them every step of the way in their labour.  This is usually a partner or parent and if they witness a horrifying event leading to their psychological injury, they can become secondary victims.

Kate comments; ‘The case of Paul very much turned on the specific facts and there still exists a strict criteria for establishing a secondary victim claim, however this case goes some way into recognising that, particularly in relation to medical treatment, often there can be some time passed between the negligence and the loss. This allows for more scope when considering secondary victim claims.

Kate has advanced and successfully concluded various secondary victim claims including a claim by a daughter after witnessing her mother shortly after death following a fall from a bed and a claim by two parents and a close aunt in a claim for the mis-diagnosis death of a child from sepsis.

If you have any questions in relation to this article or have any other Personal Injury related queries please contact Kate Campbell Gunn on 0121 733 4314 or email kcampbell-gunn@wilkes.co.uk.

Our Personal Injury Team are on hand and working across both our Birmingham & Solihull Offices. In light of the current situation surrounding COVID-19 The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors are offering a complimentary, no obligation initial consultation designed to help you understand any issues facing you or your business and help you map out the best route forward.

To take advantage of this offer please call 0121 733 4303 or email helpline@wilkes.co.uk

In this video Ann-Marie Aston, Partner & Court of Protection Lead and Sophie Fenn, Associate Solicitor at Wilkes answer some frequently asked questions about The Court of Protection and Lasting Powers of Attorney.

If you have any questions in relation to any matter arising from this video update please contact aaston@wilkes.co.uk or call us on 0121 233 4333.

As part of our COVID-19 Helpline & Resource Centre we are offering a no cost, no obligation, initial consultation to businesses and individuals affected by COVID-19. Please email helpline@wilkes.co.uk to take advantage of this offer or call us on 0121 733 4303.

In this video Kevin Lynch, Head of the Probate Litigation team at Wilkes answers some frequently asked questions around probate litigation including the Inheritance Act and Caveats.

If you have any questions in relation to any matter arising from this video update please contact klynch@wilkes.co.uk