Pensions on Divorce:

A recent survey has found that a third of married couples were unaware that they could benefit from a share of their spouse’s pension upon divorce.

A pension is often the second most valuable asset of a marriage, next to equity in the family home and in some cases is the only asset of the marriage.  It can therefore be a valuable resource and if not taken into consideration, parents in particular, who have taken career breaks to raise children, may be at risk of selling themselves short when looking at securing a fair share of the assets of their marriage.

Pension sharing orders were introduced back in 1999 and although they have been available to divorcing couples for 2 decades, they are still overlooked by some people.  The orderis only effective upon decree absolute and will divide a pension scheme so that each spouse will hold their own pension fund entirely independent of the other.

Almost any pension can be shared, including additional state pensions and pensions in payment.

The family team at Bevirs Law can advise you in relation to your potential entitlement to a share of pension funds and any other assets, following a marriage or civil partnership breakdown, we can refer you to an independent financial advisor who can search the market to find the best place for you to invest your pension credit.

If you require any advice on the above topic please don’t hesitate to contact Michelle Bowyer or any member of the team on 01793 532363.

Michelle Bowyer, Associate Solicitor – Family Team

Calne Rugby

A fantastic picture of Calne Rugby Team in their new shirts. We already sponsor their main shirts but wanted to also sponsor their new dress shirts.

Great that they rolled them out for the first time after their 43-19 win against Marlborough on Saturday. Well done lads!

Calne Rugby

Are you currently going through the compulsory or voluntary redundancy process? If so, you are likely to require legal advice.

Stuart McNeil, Partner and Head of Family and Employment

A settlement agreement is a voluntary, legally binding, way to bring employment to an end on agreed terms. It’s a way of achieving a clean break and for you to receive compensation for any potential claims you may have, in exchange for agreeing to drop the right to bring any future claims against your employer.

We can offer you, specialist, legal advice and guide you through the negotiations with your employer  to reach an outcome that will safeguard your interests.

The costs involved are usually payable by your employer, at least in part, but most often in full.

If you require any advice on a settlement agreement then please contact Stuart McNeil on 01793 532363.

Are you buying a house with a Septic Tank?

Kim Thurston, Conveyancing Executive in our Residential Conveyancing team

So, you have found your “dream” home, set deep in rural countryside.  However, is it a dream or a (potential) nightmare?

As you may, or may not, be aware, the rules governing Septic Tanks and Sewage Packet Treatment Plants change on 1 January 2020.

From 1 January, 2020, all Septic Tanks and Sewage Packet Treatment Plants must be made to comply with the Environment Agency’s General Binding Rules within a reasonable time.  It is suggested that 12 months may be reasonable.  However, if a system is already causing pollution a much shorter time would be appropriate.

Sellers and Buyers need to deal with this issue early to avoid delays in transactions.

Septic tanks are designed to settle the waste matter and to subsequently discharge this into a correctly designed drainage field.  Discharge must not flow to a tunnel or soakaway or in the case of a septic tank directly to surface water.

A drainage field can best be described as an infiltration system made up of a series of rigid pipes with holes or slots, placed in trenches, over drainage stone and arranged in a closed loop design so that the effluent can trickle through the ground to be treated by bacteria in the underlying soil.

The septic tank itself is an underground settlement tank which allows the solids to sink to the bottom, forming a sludge and the floating solids and dead bacteria float to the top thereby forming a crust leaving the resulting septic liquid to flow out to a drainage field.

The new or  upgraded septic tank or sewage packet treatment plant must be of the correct size and installed by a professional. The system must, of course, be of a size suitable to the number of persons residing in the subject property and is not a hit and miss affair.

Of course, it is a sensible idea to regularly  have the tank emptied – usually annually dependent upon its size and the amount of people using it.  There are various “warning signs” that a septic tank is failing and these can include:-

  • Foul smells around the area where the tank is sited.,
  • “Greener” grass growing in the vicinity of the tank.,
  • “Gurgling” noises emanating from the plumbing, to name but a few

Possible causes are the tank “backing up” which will require it to be emptied more frequently, tree/shrub roots growing through the walls of the tank or a “collapsed baffle,” which is, in essence, a very serious issue where could allow solids to flow into the soakaway system which is only designed to deal with liquid waste.  Ultimately, if this happens, then waste and waste water may well back up into the property itself!

A lot of the smaller tanks, i.e. serving just one family home, are granted an Exemption Certificate by the Environment Agency, and you would be wise to enquire as to one does already exist.

If you are considering selling or purchasing a property with such apparatus, then you are strongly advised to obtain specialist advice as to whether the system is working properly and as to suitability of the system to ensure no action be rendered against you by the Environment Agency and to avoid any delays in the transaction.

If you require any advice on the above topic please don’t hesitate to contact Kim Thurston or any member of the team on 01793 848900.

November 2019

How gifts will help Cancer Research

Janet Strong, Associate Solicitor – Wills and Probate Team

Bevirs Law is proud to partner with Cancer Research UK in our will writing partnership, enabling supporters of the charity to have a simple will written or updated for free using the Free Will Service. People who use the service often choose to leave a gift in their will to the charity. Cancer Research have shared with us some examples of the impact these gifts make to local cancer research.

It’s sometimes difficult for surgeons to see and remove all cancer cells during surgery. So, some can get left behind. This can lead to the cancer coming back.  In Oxford, Professor Freddie Hamdy is tagging prostate cancer cells with fluorescent dye. Testing whether this will make them easier to see, remove and examine during surgery.  This approach could help surgeons remove all cancer cells to stop the cancer returning. 

This is only one of the projects you could contribute to by leaving a gift in your Will to Cancer Research UK.

Gifts in Wills breathe life into researchers’ work by funding over a third of their life-saving research. Legacies enable long-term research projects that allow scientists to achieve breakthroughs every day. Each breakthrough inspires the next until the day comes when everyone survives cancer.

Cancer Research UK has made a pledge to their supporters. 82p in every £1 they receive goes towards funding vital research like Professor Hamdy, while the other 18p helps raise more funds to support research.

In the past 40 years, survival has doubled in part thanks to Cancer Research UK’s pioneering research, funded by the generosity of their supporters. Cancer Research UK is committed to ensuring 3 in 4 people in the UK who are diagnosed with cancer survive their disease for 10 years or more by 2034. None of this will be possible without the help of their supporters.

You can find out more about leaving a gift in your Will to Cancer Research UK today by visiting www.cruk.org/legacies.

We have specialists in all three offices who deal with this type of work:

Please contact us if you would like to book an appointment.

23.10.2019

Why feedback matters..

We want every client to have a great customer service experience. The only way we can find out if this happens, is by asking you.

This is very important to us – so we hope you feel able to share your experience with us.

Hundreds of clients share their feedback with us every year, and it helps shape our staff training, how we answer the telephone, what changes we make, and so on. We really do read each and every single feedback form.

So, as you can see, your experience matters to us.

Today we thought we’d share some positive feedback received from a client about their experience with our Property Team. This transaction was particularly  difficult and, with the clients permission, we would like to thank Kim Thurston, a Residential Conveyancer in our Property Team.

“Thanks for all your hard work with the sale and purchase process over the last few months, your assistance was invaluable. I will be recommending you to friends and family when dealing with any other conveyancing work in the future based on your efficient service and excellent professionalism in some difficult circumstances”. Andrew

17.10.2019

Kim Thurston, Residential Conceyancer

Heather Reilly talks about the current piece of legislation known as the Domestic Abuse Bill currently being debated in the Houses of Parliament.

Heather Reilly, Solicitor in our Family Team.

A “landmark” piece of legislation known as the Domestic Abuse Bill is currently being debated in the Houses of Parliament. The Bill is currently on its second reading and has received cross party support.

If passed, the new legislation will introduce the first ever statutory definition of domestic abuse, which will not be limited to physical abuse and will include emotional, manipulative, controlling and financial abuse. The importance of a statutory definition cannot be underestimated, it will help everyone, including professionals such as GP’s, solicitors and judges (as well as the victims themselves) understand what constitutes ‘abuse’.  Whilst it is easy to identify physical violence as domestic abuse, emotional abuse and coercive control is often considered a “grey area”. Without the relevant guidelines, professionals can struggle to identify whether a victim has experienced domestic abuse.  

Psychological abuse can be just as damaging and upsetting for victims as physical violence. Examples include intimidating and threatening behaviour, aggressive shouting or constant criticism or undermining, withholding finances or food, controlling all aspects of their partner’s life such as when they go out, what they wear and who they talk to. If your partner’s behaviour has left you feeling frightened, isolated and unable to make your own choices, this Bill has been drafted to protect you.

Although this Bill has not yet been passed, the Courts are increasingly aware of the seriousness of psychological abuse. This is, in part, due to controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship being made a criminal offence in 2015.

If you have been a victim of domestic abuse, whether physical or emotional, there are legal remedies available to protect you. We can help you obtain an injunction, known as a Non-Molestation Order, to protect you (and any children) from further harm. Such orders can prohibit an abuser from using physical violence, intimidating or harassing you and can even forbid a perpetrator from contacting you directly or indirectly. Breach of a Non-Molestation Order can result in a fine or custodial sentence.

If you are still living with your abuser or have been forced to flee the family home, we can help you obtain an Occupation Order, which requires the abuser to leave the family home and allow you peaceful and exclusive occupation of the property.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please contact Heather Reilly on 01793 532363, to discuss how we can help protect you from harm. Where appropriate, we are able to offer legal aid to fund your application.

Social Media and Family Law;

Michelle Bowyer, Associate – Family Team

I have lost count of the number of times Facebook is referred to in divorce petitions or social media posts are stored and relied upon during Children Act and financial remedy proceedings.  Over sharing on social media may be your downfall when it comes to family law cases as photographs and posts can be held on to, by your ex, as a permanent reminder of historical misdemeanours.  The courts have previously been presented with copy text messages and emails as evidence of conduct and are now used to seeing a screengrab of an offensive photograph or comment on social media and will accept this as evidence, if pertinent to your case.

Most importantly, it is an offence to identify children who are subject to court proceedings (unless specific authority has been obtained from the court) and therefore, you must not publish details of your case online, no matter how upset or angry you may feel about the process or the outcome.

Consider this:  you emphatically deny to your spouse that you have bought a property or car or been on an expensive holiday, whilst boasting about your spending (plus a photo for good measure with you looking suitably proud) on social media.  Your spouse is bound to rely upon that within negotiations about division of matrimonial assets, at the very least to show that you have been economic with the truth!

Uploading photographs and sharing details of frivolous expenditure will not help you when you pursue an argument concerning lack of resources and will instead assist your aggrieved spouse.

Criticising your ex-partner online creates a permanent record which could later be referred to as evidence of poor parenting, as could photographs or updates about drinking to excess/drunken exploits or recreational drug use. 

Family breakdown is an extremely upsetting and stressful time and an outlet will be needed but be warned that such outlet should be in private.  Consider not only the legal consequences which could be far ranging but also the impact upon your children who may one day see the record of the public fall-out between their parents.

Michelle Bowyer,

Associate Solicitor, Family team.

Grants of Probate: fees and delays

Janet Strong, Associate Solicitor in our Wills and Estate team

When someone dies, it is sometimes necessary to apply for a Grant of Representation to deal with their estate. There are different types of Grant: executors named in a Will can apply for a “Grant of Probate”; if there is a Will but none of the executors can apply, others (usually the main beneficiaries) can apply for a “Grant of Letters of Administration With Will Annexed”; and if there is no Will, an application can be made for a “Grant of Letters of Administration”.

There have been two significant practical concerns this year relating to these applications. Firstly, a substantial increase in most fees was due to come into force in Spring 2019; and secondly, since Spring, there have been substantial delays in the processing of applications. The two problems are not entirely unrelated: there was a substantial increase in the volume of applications just before the original deadline for the fee change. Other contributing factors to the delay appear to have been a change in the format of the Grants coupled with a new computer system.

Under the government’s proposals, probate fees would have risen from the current fixed fee of £215 – or £155 with a solicitor – to a sliding scale of up to £6,000 depending on the size of the estate. However, it has been confirmed that the Government Minister has decided allow the probate fees increase to lapse.

As to the delays, it has recently been taking months rather than weeks to receive a Grant. The Law Society recently met with HM Courts and Tribunals Service and were told that a 20% increase in resources has been brought in to deal with the increase of applications and putting paper applications onto the new system, which they were told HMCTS is now up to date with. The challenge now sits at the quality assurance and final issue of grant stage.

HMCTS say they have processed 98,000 grants since April this year and have a backlog of applications from March. These need to be dealt with by people who have the appropriate skill/experience. They say they have brought in an additional legal advisers and believe this should help with getting through the backlogs.

It is therefore to be hoped that an end may at last be in sight to the present delays.

If you would like any help or advice regarding Grants of Representation, our Wills and Estates team would be happy to help.

Michelle Bowyer Promoted to Associate Solicitor

Michelle Bowyer, Associate Solicitor in the family team

Bevirs Law would like to congratulate Michelle Bowyer on her promotion to Associate Solicitor, following her successful track record in advising clients with family law issues including divorce, financial arrangements arising from divorce, and child arrangements for both parents and extended family members.  She also deals with preparation of cohabitation and separation agreements as well as pre-nuptial agreements.

Michelle is an experienced family lawyer, practising since 1996 and has been based in our Swindon office since February 2014.

Michelle said: “I was thrilled to be offered an Associate position this year.   I will continue to support Stuart McNeil and the rest of the fantastic family team I work with.  I practice with a passion for the law and with a drive to help my clients work through some of the most challenging times they face.  To be made an Associate of such a lovely firm is validation of my efforts in both practicing law and in my care of clients and I am grateful to the Partnership for this opportunity”.

Stuart McNeil, Partner and Head of the Family Team, said: “Huge congratulations to Michelle on her well deserved promotion. Michelle is a key member of the family team who has proved time and again to be an extremely valuable asset to the firm as well as being well thought of by her clients”.