You Get What You Pay For

The Court of Appeal has handed down a decision which should give considerable pause for thought to anyone who is tempted to use a ‘law shop’ or similar provider rather than a qualified and experienced firm of solicitors to handle their affairs. The case was, in principle, simple. The woman who brought it was unhappy with the financial settlement she received on her divorce and considered that the firm which had acted for her with regard to it had been negligent in not advising her that she should not have agreed to the settlement offered. The decision in the case ultimately depended on the contract between the woman and her…

Property Dispute Delays Estate Administration

Disputes over strips of property are common, and a typical result is that the resolution of the dispute costs many times the value of the land in dispute. This can cause particular problems when an estate is involved, as the executor is faced with potential costs and delay in administering the estate. A case of this kind was eventually decided in January 2016, nearly three years after the death of the property owner. The area in dispute was an old and overgrown access road that divided two pieces of property, one of which was owned by a farmer who died in 2013. In 2009, the farmer had applied for planning…

What is a House?

Another case on the definition of what constitutes a house for the purposes of the ‘right to buy’ legislation has been heard, providing further clarification on this contentious point. The premises in question were a small high street shop with residential accommodation on the upper floors. When originally built, the kitchen and scullery were on the ground floor, but over the years the shop had been extended into that area. The upstairs had also been modified, with an external staircase being added and a new kitchen built. The downstairs of the property was let out for use as a newsagents and the upstairs used as residential accommodation. In 2010, the…

Do You Hold US Assets?

If you hold assets in the USA, you should be aware of an issue that has started to arise in estates in which there are US shareholdings, especially where these are managed by brokers in the US. The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that any estate with US assets files an Estate Tax return, following which it will issue a certificate to give clearance for the estate assets to be released. Normally, this procedure, although often lengthy, is straightforward. Recently, however, instances have been reported where brokers holding shares have demanded that estates register with the IRS as if they were financial institutions, in order to comply with the…

Overzealous Executor Faces Cost Penalty

Choosing the wrong executor for your will can create considerable problems, as a recent case shows. A woman had appointed two executors to administer her estate. One was her son, the other a professional. The two did not see eye to eye and the professional began making demands of the son to explain withdrawals from the woman’s building society account prior to her death and making accusations that she had been neglected. He then proceeded to carry out an investigation and even informed the police, who found that there were no grounds on which to take any action. The professional then raised bills on the estate for this work and…

European Court to Decide on Jurisdiction in International Maintenance Dispute

The arrangements for custody of children and for meeting their financial needs when a marriage breaks down are often problematic. When there is an international element, things can get very complicated indeed, as a recent case involving the children of an Anglo-German marriage which ended demonstrates. When the couple divorced in Germany, an order was made for maintenance to be paid by the father to the mother, with whom the children remained in Germany. The father, a UK resident, stopped complying with the payment order, alleging that his ex-wife was obstructing his efforts to have contact with their children. The first issue to be dealt with was essentially whether the…

Neighbours From Hell Pay Price for Bad Behaviour

Nuisance neighbours are one of the most unpleasant issues that a property owner can face. Where the conduct is sufficiently bad, however, the law does provide a remedy, as was illustrated by a recent caseinvolving a couple whose dream of peace and quiet in their country retreat was shattered by their neighbours. The couple had bought a farmhouse in rural Cumbria as a second home and were then able to purchase some of the surrounding farmland. The farmhouse and the land had been sold together in the 1960s, with just a cottage adjacent to the farmhouse retained for the retiring farmer’s son and his family. The farmland had subsequently been…

New Law Provides for Prison for Tormentors

A new law which provides for prison sentences for people who attempt to torment or exert psychological control over others has come into force and includes online harassment in certain cases. The legislation is contained in the Serious Crime Act 2015, which creates an offence of ‘controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships’. For an offence to be committed, the behaviour must be repeated or continuous and the victim and perpetrator must be ‘personally connected’.Furthermore, the behaviour must have a serious effect on the victim and be such that the perpetrator knows or ought to know that it will have such an effect. Crucially, ‘the perpetrator and victim…

Reminder – Non-resident CGT Returns

Non-residents who sell a property they own in the UK are reminded that they are required to inform HM Revenue and Customs through the submission of a non-resident Capital Gains Tax return (NRCGTR) and to pay any applicable CGT within 30 days of completion. A NRCGTR is required to be submitted for all such disposals, even if there is no CGT to pay. It should also be included in the appropriate annual tax return. To calculate the appropriate gain or loss on the property sold, it will be necessary to assemble information on the original purchase costs (including legal fees etc.) and any subsequent capital expenditure on the property, together…

Son Who Fleeced His Dementia Sufferer Mum Stripped of Power of Attorney

Most people would rather have their affairs looked after by a loved one if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves. However, a case in which a son helped himself to hundreds of thousands of pounds of his elderly mother’s money showed that it can often be better to employ a professional to do the job. Before the woman, aged in her 90s, developed severe dementia, she had signed an enduring power of attorney in favour of her only child, giving him complete control over her affairs if she became incapable. He sold her house after she moved into a care home, generating net proceeds of more than…