Are you due a Refund for Lasting Power of Attorney Fees?

 

We reported back in July 2017 that the Office of the Public Guardian would be making partial refunds to people who had paid to register their Lasting Powers of Attorney between the 1st April 2013 and the 31st March 2017.  This was due to the Office of the Public Guardian making savings on their operating costs which weren’t passed onto the public at that time.shutterstock_119205097

The Office of the Public Guardian have now announced that either the donor of the power or their appointed attorney can make the application for a refund.  Full details can be found on the Government website https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund but applications can be made online  or by telephoning the Office of the Public Guardian on 0300 456 0300 (choose option 6).

 

What Might I Be Entitled To?

How much you get will depend on when you paid the fee.  You will also be entitled to 0.5% interest on the sum due.

When you paid the fee Refund for each power of attorney
April to September 2013 £54
October 2013 to March 2014 £34
April 2014 to March 2015 £37
April 2015 to March 2016 £38
April 2016 to March 2017 £45

You’ll be entitled to half the refund if you paid a reduced fee.

The Office of the Public Guardian has estimated there will be some £89 million pounds to be refunded, so they are estimating it will take up to 12 weeks to process the refunds.

Finally, if the donor of the power has since passed away, a refund can still be claimed.

For further information, please contact us on 0121 308 8231.

 

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Why Making a Will is Tough for Parents of Children with Disabilities

Statistically speaking, some 60% of the population haven’t made a Will. Of the 40% that have, around 20% of those need to review those provisions. Scary, isn’t it?

For parents with children who have disabilities, there are no specific statistics on how many of them haven’t made a will but in my 14 years’ experience as a wills Solicitor, I would guess it it will be an even higher percentage than 60%.

service-disability

Over the years, I’ve given numerous talks on behalf of Mencap and other organisations, such as schools and charities, who support the parents of children with disabilities. I’ve talked about the issues which surround making a will when you have a child with disabilities and I’ve made many wills for parents in this situation, ranging from children with very mild to moderate disabilities to those who have very severe disabilities. In talking to many of these parents over the years, I’ve gained an insight into why many don’t act to make wills. In order to help other parents who may be in a similar situation, I thought I’d share those reasons with you, together with my responses.

Top Reason – the Ostrich Approach

No-one likes to think of a time when they won’t be here for their children but for parents of children with disabilities, this can be even harder to think about. For most of us, when our children are adults in the eyes of the law, they can take care of themselves and whilst we may not be around, they will manage. For those parents of children with disabilities, especially those with severe disabilities, it can be a real worry to think about who will care for your child as they may never be in a position to care for themselves. This tends to mean that parents just don’t think about it as it’s too upsetting for them to do so. They take the ostrich approach of sticking their head in the sand and no planning gets done.

Answer: Whether you make plans or you don’t, the inevitable will happen. It is surely better to have a will in place setting out your plans for your child, so that you can rest easy in the knowledge you’ve taken care of everything that you possibly can for them.

Second Reason – my child doesn’t understand the value of money

We all want to pass on our hard-earned money to our children and give them as much of a head start as possible but, when you have a child with a disability, it may not be as simple as that. If your child does not understand the value of money, this can be a huge problem as it may not be appropriate to leave them a large inheritance that they will not be able to manage. They may have no, or limited, skills to manage the funds or they may use it inappropriately.  There is also the risk that they may become susceptible to third parties who may want to relieve them of your hard earned money.

Answer: Trusts can be used to help provide for children who cannot manage funds themselves.

Third reason – my child will lose their benefits, there’s no point me giving them anything

Some children with disabilities may be reliant in the long term on means tested benefits. Therefore if they inherit money, they will have to declare this to the DWP and they may then lose those benefits. Many parents feel that they are giving with one hand and the DWP are then taking it away with the other hand. Some parents, therefore choose not to do anything as they can’t see the point in leaving anything to their child in this situation.

Answer: Certain types of trust can be used to help provide for children who are in receipt of means tested benefits. The funds are owned by the trust and not the child, so their benefits are not affected, even though the trust funds can be used for the child.

Fourth reason – I just don’t know where to start thinking about this

Many parents of children with disabilities feel overwhelmed at the thought of making a will because they don’t know where to start or how they will resolve the issues in making appropriate provision for their child. So instead of seeking advice, they do nothing.

Answer: a good friend once said to me “You don’t know what you don’t know”, which is some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. How can you expect to make decisions about your child’s future if you don’t know what the law allows you to do and what options are open to you. Of course, you will feel confused and unsure. If my car makes a strange noise, I don’t lift the car bonnet and look at it thinking “How can I fix this? I don’t know how to do it!”. I call the local garage and have experts look at it and tell me what my options are. It’s really the same with making a will. Have a chat about your situation with someone who specialises in preparing wills for families like yours and they will give you the options that are open to you. Once you know the options, it’s generally very easy to make a decision.

If you are a parent of a child with a disability, or you know someone who is, and you haven’t made a will, I can help. I offer an initial no obligation, no charge meeting to discuss your situation and to advise you about the options available to you, to help you make decisions so that you can begin the journey to properly protect your child and family.

Rebecca Head of Four Oaks Legal Services

Rebecca Head of Four Oaks Legal Services

 

Rebecca Head is a Solicitor and Director of Four Oaks Legal Services and can be contacted on 0121 308 8231.

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A Real-Life Cautionary Tale…..

As a Solicitor who deals with elderly client matters, I come across some really sad situations for families.  However, taking advice and acting on it, at the right time, can mean a difficult situation is made slightly easier and not a whole lot worse for the families involved.

Rebecca Head of Four Oaks Legal Services

Rebecca Head of Four Oaks Legal Services

I visited a Tamworth couple recently at their home.  They had been married for many years and sadly the Husband had vascular dementia.  His Wife had called me previously when her Husband was in the early stages of diagnosis of the disease and whilst he was still capable of making his own decisions.  I’d advised her that her Husband should put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place to cover his Property & Affairs as soon as possible, as with vascular dementia, a decline in mental state can happen more quickly than with other types of dementia.  I was particularly concerned about this couple as many of the family assets were held in her Husband’s sole name, including their family home.  The lady was very reluctant to talk to her Husband about these matters and therefore decided not to.  She contacted me again some months later to visit them to discuss matters with them both.

The meeting was prompted by the fact that the Husband’s condition had deteriorated considerably.  The lady was attempting to care for her Husband at home but the house they lived in was a large house.  She felt that if they moved to a small bungalow then she would be able to avoid her Husband having to be cared for in a residential setting.  She had seen a bungalow that would be ideal for the parties needs and wanted to sell their home but obviously could not do this without her Husband’s consent.

After a thorough assessment about his understanding, it was apparent that the Husband was no longer capable of making a Lasting Power of Attorney.  A person must understand the nature of their actions to put one in place.  I explained to the Wife that she must now make an application to the Court of Protection to ask the Court to appoint her to manage her Husband’s affairs and to give her authority to sell her own home.  Such applications can take several months and are very costly, often costing several thousands of pounds.  This therefore meant that the family were unable to buy the bungalow they wanted and that would have suited their needs.  Had they taken steps earlier to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, this incredibly difficult situation would have been avoided.  Whilst it may not have solved the issue that the Husband was poorly and would deteriorate, it would have provided the family with more options and less stress at a crucial time.

Please contact Rebecca for a no obligation discussion, if you or your family may be affected by these issues.

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Great News for Tamworth Wellbeing Cancer Support Centre

IMG_1225Congratulations to TWCSC for Winning the Community Group category at the Tamworth Business and Community Awards on Saturday 7th October 2017. Stuart McIntosh is Chair of the Trustees for TWCSC which is a registered charity that helps to support people affected by all cancers and other chronic illnesses. The Centre is run by a team of dedicated volunteers providing essential support to local people.

TWCSC host regular drop-in sessions where members of Four Oaks Legal Services and Four Oaks Financial Services provide free initial advice to those with any queries or problems. We are always supplied with an endless supply of coffee and cake and made to feel incredibly welcome.

Congratulations again and well done from all at Four Oaks Legal Services

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Rebecca Head Defends Lasting Powers of Attorney

Rebecca Head has defended lasting powers of attorney after comments from a former senior judge that powers of attorney may leave elderly people open to abuse

lasting-powerRebecca is a member of the national group, Solicitors for the Elderly which says with the right advice, powers of attorney can act as important safeguards

If you’ve ever made or considered making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) the comments of a former Senior Judge of the Court of Protection, Denzil Lush, may have caught your attention last week.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40887323

A LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.

In the foreword to a new book on the subject, Mr Lush raised concerns about the “lack of transparency” in how appointed attorneys manage older people’s finances. The former judge went on to criticise the Ministry of Justice as being “disingenuous” in its promotion of the legal document.

However, Rebecca said LPAs are effective safeguards when created responsibly:

“Senior Judge Lush’s comments have given rise to fears that LPAs are a direct avenue for financial abuse. However, his comments must be put into context, as his 20-year career at the Court of Protection will have presented him with the very worst cases of financial abuse.

“An LPA can be a positive and effective legal tool, which ensures your wishes are respected should you ever lose capacity. Senior Judge Lush’s comments should highlight the clear need for professional advice when considering powerful legal documents of this nature.”

If you would like to talk to Rebecca about LPAs and if they are right for you, please call her on 0121 323 2070.

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Happy Birthday to Us!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

We celebrated our first year in business in July and were delighted to welcome friends, local businesses and clients who have supported us throughout our first 12 months, to our First Birthday Party!

After being well fed and watered in the luxurious surroundings of Aston Wood Golf Club, we sat back and enjoyed entertainment from White Eskimo (with Stuart’s son Robbie on bass guitar).  We can’t imagine there are many Solicitors who celebrate Birthday’s with an up and coming rock band….another reason, we are “clearly different”!

White Eskimo

White Eskimo

We would like to say a tremendous ‘thank you’ to everyone who attended and helped us raise a whopping £290.85 for our nominated charity, the Tamworth Wellbeing and Cancer Support Centre, by participating in our Heads and Tails game.

Here’s to the next 12 months…..

 

Joanna, Beckie, Kelly & Stuart would like to thank all of our clients and professional contacts for the support over the last 12 months.

Joanna, Beckie, Kelly & Stuart would like to thank all of our clients and professional contacts for the support over the last 12 months.

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Stuart is being let out of the office again……..

Stuart loves to get out of the office!  So, on Thursday 21st September, we thought we’d let him out……

Four-Oaks-Raw-0039-high-res-24-1800px

Stuart will be speaking at MeetUp@Marstons, which is a monthly networking event organised by the Burton Small Business Group.  Stuart enjoys nothing more than to wax lyrical about terms and conditions and will be helping the businesses in the room understand whether their terms and conditions provide the legal protection they need.

 

 

For further information, or to book a ticket to the event, please follow the link below:-

http://burtonsmallbusiness.co.uk/index.php/2017/07/26/business-ts-cs-at-sept-meetup/

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LPA Overcharged Fees to be Refunded

It was announced on 20th July that the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) will be refunding some £89 million in “excessive” Power of Attorney registration fees for applications dating back as far as 2013.

On 1st April 2017, the OPG reduced the registration fee to £82 from £110.  They claimed that an increase in the number of applications, together with greater efficiency in processing applications, meant  a lower fee could now be charged.  Government agencies are not permitted to run at a profit without legislative authority.  During a recent review, the Ministry of Justice stated that the earlier fees charged meant that the OPG were running at a profit and these additional fees were not permitted.  Those additional fees are to be refunded.

The OPG will shortly announce how it plans to administer the refunds to individuals who registered a Lasting Power of Attorney between 2013 and 31st March 2017.  We will update you as and when we have further information.shutterstock_104156891

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Doing Business – Don’t be afraid of the law-it can protect you

shutterstock_187758965When dealing with customers
1. Manage the customer’s expectations.
2. Be clear about what you are selling to them or what services you will provide. Be equally clear about what you are not selling to them and the limit of the services you will provide.
3. Make sure you only ‘do the deal’ with a customer when you are comfortable that you know that you can deliver to their expectations.
4. Do the deal, but only after you have given the customer access to the small print in your ‘terms of business’.

Where the law fits in
1. The small print, the terms of business, should contain all the things that you should think about each time you make a sale but don’t have time to think about.
2. If you sell to private customers (“consumers”), by using a standardised set of terms of business you can ensure that you comply with the new consumer protection law which requires you to give certain information before the deal is done.
3. If things go wrong, your terms of business will protect you as they set out the boundaries of what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for. This puts you in a stronger position to deal with a disgruntled customer.

Distance and off premises selling – 3 important points
1. You must provide certain information if you’re selling goods or services to consumers through your website or by phone or text message (distance selling). Many of the obligations extend to the situation where you are arranging a sale whilst away from your own business base (off-premises selling). Consumers must be given a 14 day right to cancel the sale.
2. If you don’t follow the rules the law now allows the consumer 12 months to cancel the deal. You won’t be able to go to law and enforce non-payment and you may have to pay compensation. You may also be subject to criminal proceedings as it is now a criminal offence not to provide consumers with their rights. Properly prepared terms of business will provide your customers with the information that you must give them.
3. Concluding sales to customers efficiently and professionally and managing their expectations will help set you apart from your competitors!

For an informal discussion around any of the issues in this article please contact Stuart McIntosh on 0121 323 2070 or use the Contact Us form on the website

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5 things you Need to Know about your Will and Getting Divorced

Getting divorced? What effect will it have on your Will?

Getting divorced? What effect will it have on your Will?

  1. Getting divorced does not invalidate your will.

If you have obtained your Decree Absolute (the final court order dissolving your marriage), your will takes effect as if your previous spouse died on the date of the Decree Absolute.

  1. Your spouse remains your next of kin whilst you remain married.

Until you obtain the Decree Absolute, you remain married to your spouse.  Therefore, if you do not want them to benefit under the terms of your will, you may need to change it.  If you do not have a will, your spouse may inherit your estate as your next of kin and you should consider putting a will in place to avoid this.

  1. Joint assets may not pass in accordance with the terms of your will.

If you still have assets, such as bank accounts or savings, owned jointly with your spouse, the assets will still pass to your spouse if you pass away.  Simply having a Will in place that leaves your estate to someone other than your spouse will not override this.

  1. If you own a property in joint names, you may wish to consider owning it as tenants in common.

Jointly held property can be held in two ways.  You can either be joint tenants or tenants in common.  As joint tenants, should one of you pass away, their share passes automatically to the surviving owner.  As tenants in common, should one of you pass away, their share passes in accordance with the terms of their will instead. You may not want to be joint tenants with your spouse and should take advice about becoming tenants in common. 

  1. Pension death benefits are often dealt with separately to your will.

You will need to also update any pension death benefits to ensure your spouse does not benefit from these in the event of your death.  These benefits are often paid directly from the pension trustees to your nominated beneficiary and historically you will have likely nominated your spouse.

Make sure your Will is updated to protect your family

Make sure your Will is updated to protect your family

There may be many things on your mind when you are getting divorced but ensure that your will is considered.  You can make, or change, your will anytime during the divorce process.  You do not need to wait until you have your Decree Absolute, so make sure you take advice early on in the process.

Contact Rebecca or Joanna for further information on 0121 323 2070.

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