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Help 2 Buy ISA’s Closing

Tomorrow, 30th November 2019 will see the Help 2 Buy ISA scheme closing. It will be the last available day to open an account that allows First Time Buyers to save towards a house purchase with the government adding 25% bonus on completion.

Fear not, they have been replaced by Lifetime ISAs, a far less catchy name! LISAs (oh wait it is catchy) allow more savings per year, BUT, have to be open at least one year before they can be closed (H2B ISAs only needed to be open three months). If you’re purchasing as a couple each person can have their own LISA resulting in double the bonus.

If you have any queries in relation to H2B, LISAs or any other conveyancing matter please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be legal advice or research but if you do wish to receive advice on any of the content discussed please contact us on 028 3752 5400 and we will be happy to help you. Please note that whilst we will aim to provide accurate information the world changes at a fast pace so always follow up with your solicitor to ensure you are fully up to date with same. For complete Terms and Conditions please see the relevant section of our website.

Knowing Where to Start

I was talking to someone earlier this who said if she’d known how she’d have incorporated her business, i.e. become a limited company. Instead, she continues to trade under her own name. There is nothing inherently wrong with this but it can lead to paying higher taxes or exposure of personal assets to liabilities of the business.

Many of the simplest things people can do to help their businesses or personal affairs are straightforward and picking up the phone to ask their solicitor should at least get them pointed in the right direction.

This lady had assumed to incorporate would have been costly and asked me if it was a big job. I told her she could do it herself online with 10 mins and a debit card to pay the £13 fee.

There are numerous advantages to incorporating but it won’t suit everyone. Transferring a business into a limited company will protect the individual’s non-business assets from debts that might arise from trading. If an individual is simply trading as themselves their own money and property could be vulnerable should the business rack up debt it’s unable to pay. The current tax system also seems to favour a limited company but this can change as easily as a government.

This wasn’t meant to be a post about the pros and cons of a business structure. It’s about knowing where to start in a given problem.

One of the best ad campaigns the Law Society ran was ASK – a solicitor knows. Which is great! Provided the solicitor in question does actually know the answer you’re looking for.

Be it business structure, leases, employment contracts or supplier/customer contracts a solicitor can make sure you’ve got the best foundation to make your business successful. For private client matters, having a will, power of attorney, and some consideration of the ownership of your assets will provide you with what’s needed in 90% of cases.

The Truth About Privacy

Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights – Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

This week in Cardiff a man has taken legal action in response to his facial image being recorded by South Wales Police using automatic facial capture technology. It’s not that your face is simply videoed, as it is in CCTV etc, but your facial features are mapped using computer software. “It is just like taking people’s DNA or fingerprints, without their knowledge or their consent,” said Megan Goulding, a lawyer from the civil liberties group Liberty.

How much privacy do we have/expect anyway?

You’re doing your weekly shop in Tesco and someone takes a photograph of you. Do you have a right to privacy? You’re sitting in your car in a traffic jam and someone records you on their phone. Do you have a right to privacy? Ultimately, the answer is no. Once in a public space (and your car, what with the windows and all, counts), you have no right or expectation of privacy.

You may have surmised that there is protection from the state and protection from individuals built into Article 8 quoted above. You’d be largely right. But what sort of expectation can we have for privacy when everyone has a camera in their pocket and there is a security camera on every corner? There is no right to privacy in public but this legal theory was developed before the prevalence of technology made it possible for people to record and store your appearance, actions, and speech with ease.

So with individuals now able to surreptitiously record us what about the state? A man was recently fined for covering his face from the police facial recognition camera in London. Other than cost/ineffectiveness it’s hard to imagine anything but a wider rollout of this technology.

So you’d be forgiven for thinking in your home (or should that be a smartphone), “I’m sure to be protected there right?” Not necessarily. Theresa May’s crowning achievement as Home Secretary was to introduce the Snoopers Charter. This allows state agencies from the police to the Scottish Ambulance Service Board to get warrants for access to your communications and other personal data. And what happens that data once the agencies have it? Only ten years ago, the police were found to be holding onto innocent peoples DNA indefinitely.

That says nothing of scandals at the corporations that are the size of states. I’m looking at you Facebook, here, here and here. And you Google (who’s company motto once upon a time was “Don’t be evil.”), here, here, and here.

So what to do? Sorry I’ve no happy ending here, just assume you’re always being watched. Because you probably are. It’s not 1984, it’s not modern day China. BUT if you ever have to ask if you have an expectation of privacy in a situation – you probably don’t.

Office Closure for Easter

Please note that we will be closed the following days for Easter holidays:

  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • Tuesday 22nd April

We will be reopening on Wednesday 23rd April.

The Long-Awaited Second Munger Post

This is the second post in a series of posts on the wit and wisdom of Charlie Munger, a former lawyer and investing savant. Part 1, in which we covered his maxim that the most important marketing a solicitor can do is the current work on his desk, can be found here.

“A great business at a fair price is superior to a fair business at a great price.” Charlie Munger

In this quote, Munger is able to distill into a sentence one of his investing maxims. First, focus on the product you are buying, then see whether the price is fair. It’s better to pay a fair price for the product that is good and fit for purpose than pay a cheaper price for an inferior product. Some may call it being cheap.

Of course, if you’re buying plastic cups where one product is indistinguishable from the next (i.e. a commodity) then the price can become the differentiating factor with little to no downside.

When you’re purchasing something that isn’t a commodity (e.g. a service like legal advice) the product or service offered needs to be of sufficient quality to get the job done. Otherwise, potential disaster awaits. And it follows if potential disaster awaits, then what price savings you gained are lost in the ensuing problems.

Of course, some may suggest that legal advice IS a commodity, something you’ll be shocked (SHOCKED I TELL YOU) to hear I disagree with. Given the disparity in backgrounds, offices, and personnel it would be foolish to suggest “one size fits all” legal advice will be sufficient.

So when next deciding between products and services decide whether you want a great product at a fair price or a great price for a fair product.

Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be legal advice or research but if you do wish to receive advice on any of the content discussed please contact us on 028 3752 5400 and we will be happy to help you. Please note that whilst we will aim to provide accurate information the world changes at a fast pace so always follow up with your solicitor to ensure you are fully up to date with same. For complete Terms and Conditions please see the relevant section of our website.

No Will; No Problem?

New research suggests that 60% of adults in the UK don’t have a Will, but is this a problem?

If you die without a Will you are known as intestate, the rules of which are covered under the Administration of Estates Act 1955 (peruse at your leisure).

Who’s your Executor in an intestacy? Well, technically no one. Instead, you have an Administrator who will likely be the person or people who will inherit the majority of your estate.

So no big deal, right? Someone, although you won’t know who, will be there to administer your estate, but how will it be administered. Enter the 1955 Act again.

Priority of inheritance in an intestacy:

  1. Your spouse/civil partner will inherit the first £250,000, with everything above £250,000 split between spouse/cp and children.
  2. If your spouse/cp predeceased you, all shall be split between your children in equal shares.
  3. If no surviving spouse/cp or children, your estate shall pass to your parents.
  4. If no surviving spouse/cp, children or parents, your estate shall pass to your brothers and sisters (or their children) in equal shares.
  5. If no surviving direct family, next of kin (eg. aunts and uncles) shall inherit your estate.

Maybe you’re happy with the above legislation’s forced order of inheritance and think it will suit your estate. The important thing is you’ve thought about your affairs.

Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be legal advice or research but if you do wish to receive advice on any of the content discussed please contact us on 028 3752 5400 and we will be happy to help you. Please note that whilst we will aim to provide accurate information the world changes at a fast pace so always follow up with your solicitor to ensure you are fully up to date with same. For complete Terms and Conditions please see the relevant section of our website.

Terms You’ll Hear When Making a Will

When making your will we’ll try and keep things as clear as possible. You’ll occasionally hear terms you might not be familiar with. So for the curious, here’s a glossary of the legalese.

Jargon Buster –

Administrator – A person appointed by law to finalise your affairs if you die without leaving a Will.

Beneficiary – Anyone who receives something from your Will.

Bequest – (also often called a legacy) A gift in a Will. Gifts are normally pecuniary (a specific sum of money), residuary (generally stated as a percentage share of what is left after all other gifts have been made) or specific (a particular item or property).

Codicil – An addition or amendment to an existing Will.

Estate – The total value of everything you own at your time of death, minus any outstanding commitments.

Executor – A person you appoint to make sure the wishes stated in your Will are carried out.

Guardian – A person appointed by a parent to look after their children in the event of their death before the children reach adulthood.

Intestacy – The situation that exists if you die without a valid Will. Currently provisions for dealing with this are covered under the Administration of Estates Act 1955.

Inheritance Tax- A tax levied at 40% of the value of your estate over the first £325,000. Gifts to your spouse or a charity are exempt. There are other reliefs (agricultural and business property) available.

Nil-rate Band – The portion of your estate you don’t pay inheritance tax on. Currently set from £0 up to £325,000 each, there are ways to increase your nil-rate band if necessary (making less inheritance tax to pay).

Probate – The process that determines whether your Will is valid. It is an application to the Court combining the Executor’s oath and the Testator’s completed inheritance tax account.

Testator (male) and Testatrix (female) – The person making the Will.

Trust – A provision you can put in your Will to treat part of your assets in a particular way after your death.

Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be legal advice or research but if you do wish to receive advice on any of the content discussed please contact us on 028 3752 5400 and we will be happy to help you. Please note that whilst we will aim to provide accurate information the world changes at a fast pace so always follow up with your solicitor to ensure you are fully up to date with same. For complete Terms and Conditions please see the relevant section of our website.

The Answer to Fraudsters – Constant Vigilance

The Law Society has received a report of fraudsters sending people emails purporting to be from their solicitors. The scammer pretends to be the solicitor firm and requests they deposit money into a new client bank account.

To our knowledge, this has never happened to any of our clients but please be aware. We will never send you emails changing our bank details! But be on the look-out, and if anyone does every contact you; let us know.

Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be legal advice or research but if you do wish to receive advice on any of the content discussed please contact us on 028 3752 5400 and we will be happy to help you. Please note that whilst we will aim to provide accurate information the world changes at a fast pace so always follow up with your solicitor to ensure you are fully up to date with same. For complete Terms and Conditions please see the relevant section of our website.

Christmas Office Closures

That, as they say, is a wrap🎁 for 2018.

From 1 pm on Friday 21st December the office will be closed.

We will be reopening bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Wednesday3rd January 2019.

We wish you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

It’s The Work On Your Desk

“It’s the work on your desk…It’s the work on your desk. Do well with what you already have and more will come in.”

Charlie Munger

The above is a quote from Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a one-time lawyer. You may not have heard of Charlie Munger, who prefers to shine the limelight on his partner in Berkshire, Warren Buffet. Whilst Buffett draws the plaudits as one of the greatest investors to ever live, Munger is equally extraordinary, a unique thinker. A polymath who has had considerable success both with and without Buffett, to whom Warren attributes a lot of his success, and the reason for close avoidance of many nearly-mistakes.

[For what it’s worth, Munger was unable to talk Buffett out of a large share purchase in Anglo Irish Bank shortly before it’s nationalisation, but nobody’s perfect]

I’ve  been reading a book on Munger, Poor Charlie’s Almanac, and Munger’s wit and ability to turn a phrase has been striking to someone working in the legal profession. The above quote can be correlated to another “Mungerism” which I will cover in a later post, but this quote is worthy on its own.

“It’s the work on your desk.”

To pull the curtain back on the legal profession today, the average lawyer has less and less time to think about the work on their desk. Between external considerations like money laundering, cyber-crime and a cacophony of other noise, a newly graduated solicitor may find that a job in the legal profession is less about digging into statute and precedents and more about managing their clients’ expectations, their bosses’ fee targets, social media on behalf of the firm, presentations and research papers. The list of jobs on top of the work on the desk can seem endless.

For those in upper management, competition is fierce for work and a firms’ ability to stand out, therefore raising their profile to attract more and more clients is a constant pressure. Which brings me back to Munger’s quote;

It’s the work on your desk. Do well with what you already have and more will come in.”

Sometimes that means other issues can arise, such as not renegotiating a utility supplier or not getting your completed files to storage fast enough but for the success of the firm, the focus must be the work on your desk.

Most importantly, by focusing on the work on your desk, not prospective work, not tangential matters, we can deliver the best quality of work to you. If we do the work with diligence and full use of our expertise more will come in. Our own John Taylor has his own phrase for this; “Focus on what you’re getting paid for, not what you hope to be paid for.”

I hope you will forgive me for leaving it there for today. I would highly recommend people read further on Charlie Munger but in the meantime, I must get back to…you get the idea.

[You may wonder how writing blog posts and Facebook updates can assist in completing the work on our desk. The wonders of modern technology, most of which I’m still working out, make it possible to generate blog and social media posts and publish them at different times so work on our desks isn’t being superseded. Secondly, I feel the blog will make me a better communicator, which will ultimately benefit clients. Our social media posts, I hope, are less about self-aggrandisement and more about informing people of useful information, not just clients whom we are in direct contact with. Let me hear your thoughts! – William]

 

Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be legal advice or research but if you do wish to receive advice on any of the content discussed please contact us on 028 3752 5400 and we will be happy to help you. Please note that whilst we will aim to provide accurate information the world changes at a fast pace so always follow up with your solicitor to ensure you are fully up to date with same. For complete Terms and Conditions please see the relevant section of our website.