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Olivia Benner joins Thomas Horton

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Olivia Completed her LLB Law degree at Keele University in 2011 and undertook LPC whilst working as a paralegal in 2013 -2014.

Olivia obtained a Training Contract and worked in various areas of law including: Wills and Probate, Conveyancing , Family – public and private law, and is a Fully Accredited Police Station Representative.

Olivia was admitted as a Solicitor in May of this year and joined Thomas Horton in September 2017 as a Solicitor in the Care Department.

Helena Palomino qualifies as a Fellow of The Institute of Paralegals and member of the Professional Paralegal Register

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After 15 years working in law firms and 11 years assisting commercial property solicitors as a PA and legal assistant, Helena Palomino decided to further her career by undertaking a specialist paralegal qualification in commercial property.

On 16 January 2017 Helena qualified and on 31 August 2017 she attended her graduation ceremony at the Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

Helena is now a Fellow of The Institute of Paralegals and a member of the Professional Paralegal Register.

Well done Helena

 

COURT RULES THAT ‘WRETCHED UNHAPPINESS’ CANNOT BE GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE

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COURT RULES THAT ‘WRETCHED UNHAPPINESS’ CANNOT BE GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But this is the sad reality for Mrs. Tini Owens, whose application for divorce was rejected by the Supreme Court on Friday 24th March 2017

Mrs. Owens is seeking to end her 39 year marriage on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, she made 27 allegations in her divorce petition about the way her husband, Mr. Hugh Owens, treated her, including that he was “insensitive in his manner and tone” and said she was “constantly mistrusted” and felt unloved. Mr. Owens defended the petition, asserting that the troubles the couple faced had been exaggerated by his wife, and that he felt they ‘had a few years left’ together to enjoy.

Mrs. Owens’ petition was refused by a Family Law Judge, and her appeal has also now been rejected, with Judges ruling that her allegations were “of the kind to be expected in marriage” and that Mrs. Owens’ application was “an exercise in scraping the barrel”.

Unreasonable behaviour, the ground upon which Mrs. Owens sought to divorce, is a substantive test, meaning that the behaviour need only be unreasonable to that particular person regardless of how others might feel. The casual disregard the Court appears to have shown Mrs. Owens, deeming her “more sensitive than most wives”, is unlikely to endear the Family Courts to their female patrons, and their dismissal of the substantive element of unreasonable behaviour lends further weight to the argument that Family Courts are lagging behind modern times, especially when it comes to their attitude towards gender roles.

This judgement is also likely to bring the fault based divorce into further disrepute, with many Family Law specialists already believing that the Court’s current requirements to apply for divorce are old fashioned and overbearing. In the 21st Century, should the Courts restrictive processes be allowed to impose upon people’s lives and freedoms in this way? Mrs. Owens no doubt feels very hard done by, forced to remain in a loveless marriage by an institution charged with upholding justice and civil liberties.

If you are concerned about navigating a tricky divorce, or are worried about what this ruling might mean for you, rest assured that here at Thomas Horton, we pride ourselves on staying ahead of the curve, and equipping ourselves to give our clients the best advice and service possible.

Call our Family Department today on 01527 839417 to discuss your options moving forward, and how the knowledge and expertise of 150 years of legal services can benefit you.

 

Naomi Grace Whitfield

Family Department

Coffee Talk

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We are all familiar with those super brands that make it big and seem to stand their ground in the marketplace.

Whilst there is of course a power that comes from being a large provider or part of a franchise, it is not without its drawbacks. A big brand is not the same as a strong brand

Our firm prides itself on delivering a local, professional and personal service that has been built on a commitment to quality and client care, and one which is just as powerful as larger companies.

 

I love my coffee, and I am perfectly happy going to Starbucks, standing in a long queue before my order is hurriedly taken. My name is then shouted out by a disinterested teenager, my drink pushed across the counter and off I go.

There are reasons why they scribble little personal comments on chalk boards: Firstly, they’re told to; and secondly, they recognise the commercial reality regarding the way they provide their service which is, by its very nature, impersonal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not singling out any one provider, they are all the same and from all of these establishments I’m perfectly happy with my coffee. It’s fine but we don’t always want just fine do we?

When I spend time in Worcester, there is a particular coffee shop I prefer to use. It’s not one of the big franchises, which are closer and cheaper. So why do I walk further and, importantly, pay more?

Good quality coffee – they know what they’re good at and they do it well. I know I will get consistency of product, ironically because they are smaller.

Personal service – it’s not mass produced, it feels special, with welcoming staff who add that personal touch. I am greeted like a person not a number and the barista knows I’m a lawyer and asks if I have any interesting cases. They are clearly passionate about what they do and they always take the time to ensure that I am satisfied with their product.

Supervision – the owner is a discretely visible presence, offering reassurance that his expectations as to quality are met.

Services – they offer a limited range of products but all are of the highest quality and are freshly made to order.

Environment – the coffee shop is a nice place to be. It feels individual. It’s a place where I want to spend time and a place to which I want to return.

 

So, what can we learn from my small coffee shop experience? That customers will always prefer a personal service and that is exactly what Thomas Horton prides itself on.

We offer lawyers who are passionate about what they do, whilst still caring for the clients they service with pleasant support staff who can answer queries with clarity and enthusiasm. It is more important than ever that law firms only provide services that they know well and can deliver with the highest quality of professionalism and service. It is equally important that the client can see value for money and is therefore prepared to pay for it.

Reception, waiting and meeting rooms should be nice places to be, demonstrating the firm’s commitment to quality. They should be areas where the client feels relaxed and confident about the service they are paying for.

So a brand can be as small as one firm, serving just one area, but if it does it well, and in a way that reassures its customers, then that brand can be an integral part of the community – just as Thomas Horton is.”

Richard Hull, Managing Director

 

Through the Horton family connection, Thomas Horton has been providing legal services in the area since the middle of the nineteenth century and have recently opened a new office in Redditch.

Asset Protection, beware ‘cold call approach’

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Recently I have had several worried, upset clients get in touch who have been approached by companies advising them to put their homes into trust. The companies take a “cold call” approach and arrange a home visit with the older person. They then put forward the suggestion that the older person should put their home into trust which will protect their property from care fees and ensure that there is an inheritance to pass on to family members. As an added benefit, such trusts, generally known as “Asset Protection Trusts” can also, they say, save on probate costs on death. The advice is often, that “you don’t need to speak to a solicitor as they will charge high fees”. Such companies then often pressurise the older person to sign up to a contract there and then and to pay fees upfront – often in the order of £2,000 – £3,000 plus VAT.

Understanding the risks

If you sign up to a contract for services in your own home you generally have a “cooling off” period before you are committed – however both sets of my clients did not change their minds until the “cooling off” period had passed, at which time it was too late.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Sometimes putting your property into a trust may work but not always. It is important to take the right advice and ensure that the risks are properly understood as well as any perceived benefits.

If you do put your home into trust, this is often treated by Local Authority Social Services or indeed, the Department of Work and Pensions as “deliberate deprivation” which could result in no financial assistance being available when needed for the provision of care.

Take a step back and get the right advice

An outright gift of your home to someone other than the person actually living there could mean that the principal private residence relief for capital gains tax purposes will not apply to the property in the future.

If you do put your home into trust and continue to live there without paying a full rent, you could be assessed by the Revenue as being liable for Pre-Owned Assets Tax, which is an income tax charge based on the annual market rent, or the Revenue could consider the property as still forming part of your estate if you continue to go on living there.

You may avoid probate fees on death, you may not, but in effect, the costs these “Asset Protection” or ”Estate Planning” companies charge are often the equivalent of probate fees on death, except they are paid during your lifetime; despite that, there is still administration required on death to wind up the lifetime trust in order to pass on any asset to family members.

Generally, my advice to clients is, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is – take a step back and make sure you get the right and best advice – speak to a solicitor first. It will be less costly in the short and long term.

Changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax

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The Budget on 16 March 2016 provided the long awaited outcome of the recent consultation regarding increased stamp duty land tax for the purchase of second homes and additional residential properties. It also threw us an unexpected curve ball with regard to commercial property SDLT.

Residential Property

From 1st April 2016, any purchase of residential property where the buyer will own more than one residential property (whether in the UK or elsewhere) immediately following completion, will attract SDLT at a rate of 3% on top of the usual SDLT rate. This will have a significant impact on investors and the buy-to-let market and anyone wanting to purchase a holiday home.

As a general rule, the SDLT rates on residential property purchases at a price of £40,000 or more are now as follows: Read More