When the word ‘development’ means different things to different people.

Hugh Ellins

The case of Fishbourne Developments Limited v Stephens highlights the problems where words are not given clear meaning in legal documents.

Fishbourne and Stephens had entered into an Option Agreement in respect of 117 acres of land.  The Option was exercisable “if and when the Purchaser (Fishbourne) obtains a Planning Permission”.  Planning Permission was defined in the Option Agreement as:

“a planning permission granted by the local planning authority permitting any development of the Property”.

Fishbourne obtained a planning permission for the construction of a new roof on one of the buildings on the Option Land.  Fishbourne claimed that it was able to trigger the Option on the basis that it had a planning permission permitting development.  Stephens said, no that was not what the Option Agreement meant.  Assumedly, the objection was based on the fact that by reason of the limited extent of the area having the benefit of a planning permission what Stephens would be paid for the land was appreciably less than he was anticipating.

Stephens claimed that what the Option Agreement meant was a planning permission for development of a new building which should apply to all or a substantial part of the Option Property.

Presumably because Fishbourne thought it would acquire the Option Property at, as they say, a good price, it opposed Stephens’ stance, relying on the technical definition of the word ‘development’ – as to which see the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 s.55.

The dispute ended up in the Courts which found in favour of Stephens.  Whether the decision is right or wrong and whether it will be appealed is not the point.  The point is that the Option should have been drawn so that there was no margin of error or misinterpretation.  I appreciate that modern Option Agreements seem to have more definitions than actual provisions and that lawyers seem to spend unnecessary hours in agreeing the definitions.  This case explains why that is necessary.

One of the difficulties is where, as in this case, a word can be interpreted in more than one way. 

Here is something to keep you amused whilst subject to restriction and not able to go to the pub.  Try finding a simple definition of a table.  You may say a table is made of wood and has four legs.  I know tables made of glass with no legs.  Keep going – and have fun!

Hugh Ellins – June 2020

Estates: on 6th February 2020, the statutory legacy is increasing to £270,000.

Janet Strong, Associate Solicitor in our Wills and Estates Team

If someone dies without making a Will, they are called “intestate”. There are  rules setting out who should inherit in such circumstances.

If the person who has died does not have any surviving issue (children or other descendants), their surviving husband, wife or civil partner receives everything.

If the person who died had a husband, wife or civil partner and children, the husband, wife or civil partner is entitled to personal belongings; a “statutory legacy” (which is currently the first £250,000 from the estate); and half of any estate which is left.

There are further rules setting out who should inherit if the person who died did not have a husband, wife, civil partner, children or grandchildren.

For deaths after 6th February, the statutory legacy will be increasing to from £250,000 to £270,000.

Sometimes, certain family members or dependants can make a claim against an estate if they do not feel that these rules make reasonable financial provision for them. This might be the case, for example, where a couple is not married, or if stepchildren are involved.

To avoid the need to rely on the rules of intestacy, it is best to make a Will so that you can set out who should inherit your estate.

If you would like to discuss Wills, or would like advice regarding the estate of someone who has died (whether they have made a Will or not) , please contact me or one of my colleagues in our Wills and Estates department on 01793 532363 or janet.strong@bevirs-law.co.uk

Divorce reforms back on the table

As Parliament returns from its Christmas break, many family lawyers will be pleased to note that divorce reform is back on the agenda.

The Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill was first introduced in June 2019. However, progress has been thwarted twice, first due to prorogation of Parliament and then due to the December general election. However, on 6th January 2020, it was finally introduced to the House of Lords.

The current law surrounding divorce requires spouses to evidence one of five “facts” to demonstrate that a marriage has broken down irretrievably; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation (with consent) or five years separation (without consent).

Studies show that 90% of family practitioners believe that the law in this area is outdated. It often requires separating parties to point a finger of blame and drag up allegations of conduct. Invariably, this exacerbates what is already an emotionally charged situation, causing unnecessary stress and heartache for the whole family, including any children.

By introducing a no-fault divorce, needless antagonism will be removed from the divorce process. The requirement to evidence one of the five facts will be replaced with a statement of irretrievable breakdown. Parallel changes will also be made to the law in respect of civil partnerships.

There appears to be a general consensus in Parliament that this bill delivers much needed reform without undermining the institution of marriage. For family lawyers who have long campaigned for a no-fault divorce process, this is welcomed news.

For advice on all family related matters, please contact our specialist team at Bevirs Law.

Heather Reilly – Solicitor in our Family Team

More good news for 2020!

Congratulations to Emily Bourne; who after being with the firm for 6 years has now become a Chartered Legal Executive. Well done Emily; from everyone at Bevirs.

Emily Bourne – Chartered Legal Executive in our Residential Property Team

A great start to the New Year!

Today we thought we’d share some positive feedback received from a client about their experience with our Family Team.

“Heather has been my solicitor for over a year now and from start to finish has been friendly, professional and has gone above and beyond to ensure I was always kept informed of everything in the court proceedings and that I had good understanding of every possible outcome. I would just like to thank Heather for all her hard work, I truly appreciate the time and effort you have put into my case”. Anon.

For expert family law advice, please contact a member of the team at Bevirs Law.

Heather Reilly, Solicitor in our Family Team

Celebrating 100 years of women in law.

December 23rd 2019 marked a historic day; the 100th anniversary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 receiving Royal Assent. This law opened the legal profession to women.

Helena Normanton, who had lodged a petition at the House of Lords when her application to become a pupil in 1918 was refused, reapplied on 24 December 1919 and was admitted to Middle Temple. The first female magistrates were appointed soon after. Dr Ivy Williams was the first woman to be called to the English bar in 1922. However, she never took up practice and instead, was the first woman to teach law at a British university.

Three years later, in December 1922, Carrie Morrison was the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor. She was aged 34. In the years immediately after qualification she spent much of her time working as a “Poor Man’s Lawyer” in the East End of London, providing legal help to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it. She was also a strong advocate of Divorce Law Reform.

The profession has made great strides over the past 100 years. Women now make up just over 50% of practising solicitors and over 60% of new entrants.

Whilst there is still a way to go; reports show that many women in law are struggling to break through the glass ceiling and reach senior positions. However, at Bevirs Law, we are proud to say 50% of our partners are female and 72% of our fee earners are women. We have many talented women in our firm and will continue to champion them and support them throughout their career progression.

Heather Reilly 23.12.2019

Bevirs Law attends Headway’s Annual Awards

Nicola Heales, Hayley Tarrant and Luke Flavell
Jackie and Luke Flavell, Finalist for Headway’s Carer of the Year 2019

Nicola Heales and Hayley Tarrant had a wonderful afternoon attending the Headway Annual Awards 2019. They were joined by their guest, Dr Henderson Slater, Consultant in Neurological Disability and Rehabilitation, at the Awards Luncheon held at The InterContinental, Park Lane in London on Friday 6th December.

Every year, Headway’s members, friends and supporters come together to pay tribute to the very special brain injury survivors, carers, volunteers and campaigners whose personal achievements have earned the respect and admiration of everyone around them.

Their incredible contributions were moving and inspirational, and we were honoured to be part of the celebrations marking their outstanding achievements.

We were lucky to sit alongside Jackie Flavell, her husband and son. Jackie was nominated for Headway’s Carer of the Year Award. Jackie’s son Luke sustained a traumatic brain injury following a car accident in July 2012. Against all the odds, and with intense treatment he pulled through but when Luke returned home it was clear that life would never be the same. Jackie became Luke’s full-time carer and listening to their journey first hand left us feeling that Jackie couldn’t be more worthy of the prestigious award.

Jackie was presented with a finalist certificate by Ryan Mason, a former professional football player who retired from competitive football in 2017 after sustaining a brain injury while playing football. Ryan talked about how his life changed in an instant as a result of his head injury and the challenges he has faced in rebuilding his life. We wish Ryan every success in his new role as the Under 19 Academy Coach at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

The event is the highlight of Headway’s year when everyone comes together to show their appreciation and to be inspired by the many dedicated individuals making a difference to the lives of those with brain injuries.

Bevirs Law, Head of Personal Injury and Trustee of Headway Milton Keynes, Nicola Heales said: “The Headway Awards Luncheon is always a must-attend event for everyone working in the field of brain injury. It is truly inspiring to see the highly deserving winners take to the stage to be recognised for their contributions and to prove beyond all doubt that there is indeed, life after brain injury.”

To learn more about Headway, visit: www.headway.org.uk

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