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Cycling Accidents & Highway Code Review

Following government advice to commuters to avoid public transport and use alternative forms of transport to work, cycling retailers are reporting significant increases in the sale of new bicycles and increased demand for parts and servicing.

Moreover, the Department for Transport and local authorities have expressed intention to invest heavily in cycle friendly transport infrastructure. At a local level, the Tees Valley was also selected as a pilot area to trial the use of E-Scooters with a view to legalisation of same.

The government has, in addition to announcements and initiatives to promote alternative forms of ‘active travel, initiated a review of the Highway Code for pedestrians and cyclists. One of the key elements of the proposed reform is establishing a road user hierarchy which places vulnerable road users at the top together new rules and guidance on distancing and road position in order give greater consideration to, and prioritisation of, the needs of vulnerable road users.

The increase in alternatives forms of transport, such as bicycles and E-Scooters does give rise to an increase in risk to users of those modes of transport, particularly if cars are being preferred to public transport. It is important that if the Highway Code is reformed in favour of vulnerable road users, motorists will also need to be mindful of any changes and modify their driving accordingly.

The risks to cyclists are laid bare in a Government report (March 2018)* which suggests that in the period 2011 to 2016, an average of 2 pedal cyclists were killed and 62 seriously injured per week in reported road casualties. Moreover 92% of cycling casualties and 75% of cycling fatalities involved collision between a cyclist and a motor vehicle.

The potential effects of a collision between motor vehicle and cyclist can be devastating for victims and their families, potentially resulting in life changing injuries and potentially fatality. The same can also be said of collision involving motor vehicles, including motor cycles, and pedestrians.

Whether you are a motorist, pedestrian, cyclist, motor cyclist or passenger, our expert Personal Injury team can assist you and provide sensible, practical legal advice to enable you to assist with the handling of claims arising from such incidents.

 

*https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/686969/pedal-cycle-factsheet-2017.pdf

Witnessing Wills by Video Link Legalised

The Government is introducing legislation to allow people to use video-conferencing technology for the witnessing of Wills being made during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ordinarily, a Will is required to be signed in the physical presence (or at least line of sight) of two witnesses which has caused a number of problems during the pandemic, especially with those self isolating. Largely, this is due to ensuring the person creating the Will fully understands its contents, has capacity and that there is no influence being exerted on them to dispose of their estate in that way. Whilst solicitors have been taking extra steps to ensure the formalities can still be complied with to protect clients, a number of providers have utilised video signing in a  desperate attempt to get Wills signed.

In response to this the law (the Wills Act 1837) will be amended to state that whilst this legislation is in force, the ‘presence’ of those making and witnessing wills includes a virtual presence, via video-link, as an alternative to physical presence. The legislation will apply to wills made since 31 January 2020 and will apply for Wills made up to two years from when the legislation comes into force (so until 31 January 2022), however this can be shortened or extended if deemed necessary.

Alex Spurr, head of our Wills team and member of the Society of trust & Estate Practitioners (www.step.org) and Solicitors for the Elderly welcomes the news, however urges caution.

“It will still be necessary to ensure that all the usual checks are carried out, that the video calls are accurately recorded and should only be used as a means of last resort.  Throughout the pandemic our team have been able to assist all clients except those hospitalised with signing Wills correctly and will continue to do so in preference to video signing. Where we move to execute a Will via video link under the legislation, we will then re sign the Will under normal protocols once we are able to do so for security purposes”

Full guidance is yet to be issued by industry bodies as to the exact recommended process for signing Wills by video link and once these have been issued we can provide further guidance to our clients on the availability of video link witnessing. It has been suggested that the following steps will be included.

  • The will maker should hold the front page of the will document up to the camera to show the witnesses, and then to turn to the page they will be signing and hold this up as well.
  • The will-maker should ensure that the witnesses can see them actually writing their signature on the will, not just their head and shoulders.
  • The same, original Will document should then be taken to the two witnesses for them to sign, ideally within 24 hours.
  • A second video call will then be required with the witnesses should hold up the will to the will maker to show them that they are signing it and should then sign it.

 

The same Will document is required to be signed by all the parties which may cause some issue for the Wills already witnessed remotely and cause them to be excluded form the legislation and remain invalid. our advice is to have your Wills resigned in a compliant manner to ensure that they are valid and anyone who has signed a Will remotely should speak to their provider and ask for written confirmation that their signature is in compliance with the new legislation. If you are aware that the above process was not followed, for example counter part documents were signed, then we would advise you to insist on it being now done so correctly. Anyone encountering problems with this from their provider should seek legal advice.

The signing section of the Will should also be amended to make reference to the fact the Will has been signed via video link.

For anyone wishing to make or update  a Will during the pandemic, our specialist team remain operational and ready to assist you.

 

LPA Digital Notification Service Launched

The Office of Public Guardian (OPG) has commenced a new digital service to help people acting as an attorney in England and Wales confirm that a  Lasting Power of Attorney exists and to help update to financial institutions, healthcare providers and other interested organisations.

Once a lasting power of attorney (LPA) is registered, attorneys and donors will be sent an activation key to allow them to create an account online and add the LPA to the account. They can then create an access code that they can give to any other relevant organisation, so that it can view an online summary of the LPA and authenticate its holder. This should enable attorneys to more easily confirm their authority to act where necessary. Currently a certified copy of the LPA has to be provided to each bank or institution, often having to have these sent through to legal departments to check the validity and status, causing delays in activation. The new process should enable a more speedy verification.

Initially the service will be for LPAs registered from 17 July 2020, although the OPG has plans to extend it to previously registered documents in 2020 in due course.

This is a welcome use of technology to potentially assist attorneys to act on behalf of Donors of LPAs, especially where Donors may need assistance as soon as the LPA is registered. This will certainly assist in some cases where Donors and Attorneys are comfortable using IT but there will still be a need for certified paper copies for the foreseeable future as not all have access or confidence in the digital world.

Trust Advice Darlington

Challenging An Estate After Someone Has Died

In England & Wales, a person is generally able to write a Will to distribute their possessions and wealth as they wish to do so or, if they have not written a Will, the Intestacy Rules stipulate who will inherit. There may however be occasions when there is cause for concern and someone may wish to either challenge a Will’s validity or the gifts under the Will.

Q1 – Can I challenge the validity of a Will?

The validity of a Will can be challenged on a number of grounds and the most common reasons are:

  • Invalid execution of a Will – there has been some error in creating the Will, for example it has not been correctly witnessed.
  • Undue influence – the deceased was manipulated into writing the Will.
  • Lack of Capacity – the deceased did not understand what they were writing or signing.
  • Fraud –  where perhaps a signature has been forged or the Will pages tampered with.

 

Q2 – Can I challenge the contents of a Will?

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 enables a claim to be brought against an estate by certain classes of person who are financially dependent upon the deceased and have been excluded from a Will entirely, or not provided for adequately.

Generally, those entitled to bring such claims are spouses, cohabiting partners or minor children. In limited circumstances adult children may be able to bring a claim.

Where someone has acted significantly based upon a promise of inheritance, it may also be possible to claim.

Q3 – What are the time limits involved?

The time limits depend upon the type of claim being made, however there is often a strict 6 month time period after the Grant of Probate/ Letters of Administration are issued to the Executors/Administrators, so it is always better to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Q4 – Can I get a copy of a Will? 

Once  a Will goes to Probate, it becomes a public document and you can apply for a copy from the Court. It is possible to lodge a search with the Court to see if Probate has been granted or be notified of when it is, and receive a copy of the Will.

Q5 – Can I stop Probate being granted if I have a claim? 

A ‘Caveat’ can be entered at the Probate Registry.  The caveat effectively places a block on the issuing of Probate and alerts the Court that their may be a dispute. A Caveat will last six months unless it becomes ‘sealed’, after which it can only be removed by agreement or Order of the Court.

Due to the short time limits to bring a claim, and often the emotional aspects of doing so, we would recommend that you speak to our legal experts as soon as practical to explore any potential claim you may have and your options.

 

New Divorce Legislation – A landmark day for separating couples?

What has happened?

On 25th June the ‘Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020’ received Royal Assent.  The new legislation will also apply to judicial separation and civil partnership dissolution petitions.

Why was this needed?

This is a landmark day for Family Law Solicitors. For many years there have been calls for the divorce laws to be changed. At the moment the divorce legislation dates back to 1973 and requires blame to be laid at one person’s door. Otherwise you must wait at least two years after separation to divorce by agreement or even worse 5 years without an agreement.

For many separating couples, this extra layer of unnecessary conflict makes things even harder when in reality it isn’t needed. If a relationship has broken down, there are more than enough things for people to contend with.

What does the new Law say?

We have not got all the information yet but the new Act says that you will be able to petition stating just that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. You will even be able to make a joint statement with the other person to say this. The opportunity to contest the proceedings has been removed.

The new Act does however create a minimum time limit of 6 months for the proceedings. This is intended to give parties time to reflect and to sort out any arrangements.

When will the new divorces start?

There is no firm date but we are told that it is unlikely to be until Autumn 2021. This is to allow all the new measures to be implemented. There will need to be new forms and systems. Undoubtedly there will be some problems to iron out along the way but overall this is good news.

What happens between now and then?

Unfortunately, we are stuck with the existing legislation for now. Whilst we continue to work with what we have, we continue to work hard to reduce unnecessary conflict even within the existing rules.

For advice on any family matters and to discuss your personal circumstances, please contact our Family team on 01325 281111 or family@clarkwillis.co.uk.

No 10 – The Right Team

No. 10 ‘The Right Team’

In July 1940, the skies over England were the next phase of Nazi Germany’s European conquest plans as the Battle of Britain commenced. Lasting until the 31st October, the Luftwaffe was intended to destroy the RAF and pave a way for an invasion of England from the continent.

Confident after defeating England’s allies and outnumbering the RAF nearly 4:1, the Luftwaffe failed to defeat the RAF and the invasion of Britain was cancelled, leading to one of Churchill’s famous quotes. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” Whilst not as large as the Luftwaffe, the RAFs strategy, intelligence, and tenacity secured victory over sheer weight of numbers.

Often large legal firms boast that their size is an important reason to choose them as this provides strength, but that may not always guarantee success or a positive legal experience. With national and larger regional practices, a legal matter may be dealt with by paralegals rather than solicitors who lack the same qualifications or experience as a solicitor and may rotate frequently between departments meaning your matter is repeatedly passed between them. Your matter may also be dealt with by a team of people which can cause repetition of information and cause frustration with no one person having responsibility for your matter.

A sole dedicated, experienced and accredited solicitor dealing with your matter from start to finish can have a more significant impact on the outcome and experience.

In addition to the substantive training requirements to become a solicitor, our team have also undertaken additional training and qualifications to make them specialists in their respective areas of practice and respected amongst their peers. This in terms of both legal knowledge and the deployment of it on your matter.

Our Wills, Probate Tax & Trusts team include members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and Solicitors for the Elderly. Our Family & Divorce team include members of Resolution Specialists, Collaborative family lawyers and trained mediators to whom other law firms refer their clients  Our residential property team have been awarded the Conveyancing Quality Scheme to reflect the quality of their work on property sales, purchases, and mortgaging whilst our Dispute Resolution team includes mental health accredited panel members. A full list of our firm and individual accreditations can be found on our website.

In both personal injury matters and property transactions local knowledge can have a significant impact, whether is the notoriety of a specific road junction in the area or a repetitive issue with all properties on the same estate, the intelligence of the area can save time, costs and prospects of a positive outcome.

We can also use our experience to consider what issues may arise in the future and help you plan to face them in advance so that you are prepared and protected. Whether that is a pre-nuptial agreement ahead of a marriage, a Lasting Power of Attorney for illness or asset protection for residential care fee planning, we can take a proactive approach to assist our clients.

With a history of nearly 50 years providing legal services to individuals and members of HM Armed Forces across Darlington, County Durham, the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire, we may not be the biggest firm but we put our emphasis on expertise and quality as we believe this has a more positive outcome for our clients than size. What’s more, we don not camouflage our advice behind legal jargon but use plain, straightforward, clear advice.

‘The Right Team’ is the 10th image in a series of monthly monochrome images to be featured over a 12 month period across our social media channels to highlight some of the key elements of our service so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to see the series as they are released.

For more information on our firm please see www.clarkwillis.com