Thursday, 5 March 2015

Are DIY Wills really worth it?

Making a Will is essential to ensuring that your savings and assets are distributed according to your wishes. However many people in the UK fail to make a Will due to the sadness of the subject and due to the cost. On a whole, solicitors will charge between £100 and £300, with a £600 plus fee for inheritance tax advice or for other complex planning.

However, in contrast to this, DIY Wills offer a cheaper alternative, usually costing around a mere £20. Some have suggested that with just a quick look online, you will find a wide range of DIY kits to help you make a Will.

Whilst this 'off-the-shelf' option may seem more attractive due to its price, many argue that this is a risky approach. Using a DIY Will, comes with many risks such as errors and if strict witnessing rules are not followed correctly, your Will document could become invalid.

These types of errors can have serious implications and can often lead to your estate being eaten away by legal bills or unnecessary tax. A report from the Co-operative Legal Services has revealed that poorly drafted or ineffective DIY Wills caused a prolonged probate ordeal for 38,000 families a year. As a result, up to 10% of the value of a persons estate is then taken away by additional fees incurred by an ineffective Will. So with the average estate in the UK standing at £160,000, around £16,000 would be wasted away to probate fees.

If you are looking for a solicitor to help you with your Will, it is advised that you choose a Wills and Probate Solicitor who is accredited with the Law Society. Will writing services are also available from other providers, however before instructing them it is essential that you ensure they are governed by a regulatory body such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

So what are the rules of Intestacy?

If someone dies intestate (without a Will), the persons estate is then distributed according to the rules of intestacy. In October 2014, these rules where changed for the first time since 1925 in order to simplify the old system. One of the biggest changes made was for couples who are married or are in a civil partnership but have no children, will now inherit the entire estate if their partner dies intestate.

Under the new rules and when children are involved, the surviving spouse or civil partner will get:
  • all the property of the person who passed away
  • the first £250,000 of the estate
  • 50% of the remainder of the estate
  • remaining assets are held for the deceased's children
However, it is important to note that these new rules do not apply to those who live together and are not married. This means that cohabitees do not automatically have rights to their partners estate if they die without leaving a Will.

For further information and advice on Wills and Probate visit willsandprobate.mtasolicitors.com

Working Time Regulations - Know the rules?

Working Time Regulations states that employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid holiday each year. This equates to 28 days paid holiday for those employed full time. If an employer chooses to provide additional paid holiday then this too is acceptable.

This 28 days provides an entitlement of 20 days paid leave per year (or the pro rate equivalent for part-timers) plus the 8 bank and public holidays in each year. Therefore, the 8 public holidays would count towards a workers 28 days statutory paid annual leave entitlement.

Holidays

Companies which operate on a holiday year running from 1st January to 31st December will provide at least 8 public holidays. However holiday running from April to March will see 5 of those public holidays fall on different days each year. This means that holidays running from April to March could fall foul of its statutory obligation to provide 28 days paid leave if Easter falls early one years and late the next.

So for example, if a holiday year runs from 1st April to 31st March 2016, the employer will have 10 days of public holidays. However by contrast for example, if a holiday year runs from the 1st April to 31st March 2017, only 6 days of public holidays will go towards the statutory allowance.

Contracts

The regulations should not be breached if an employers contract states that they are entitled to 28 days holiday (or pro rata equivalent) inclusive of bank and public holidays. This is also the case when employers are entitled to more than the minimum of 20 days plus bank and public holidays. However, if a full time worker's contract states they are entitled to 26 days for the 2016/17 period, the regulations would be breached. In circumstances such as this, an employer should allow for an extra 2 days paid holiday in order to comply with the law.


Payments in lieu

Organisations which will be affected by this Easter time anomaly for 2016-17 may be persuaded to make a payment in lieu of 2 extra days holiday. However, this would be contrary to the regulations. It is important to be aware that it is unlawful to 'buy-out' an individuals minimum right to leave except where employment has ended.

Possible Solutions

Where there are 10 public holidays in the year such as 2015-2016, productivity can be affected. This suggests that employers should consider a longer term solution. In order to prevent breaching the contract, employers could seek workers agreement to:

  • change the holiday year
  • change the wording in the employment contract
  • carry leave over into the following year (this will account for the additional 1.6 weeks leave provided by EU law)
Before the 2015-2016 years starts, employers should consider checking their employment contracts and how to make amendments if necessary.

If you would like further information or advice on working time regulations simply click here. Or alternatively you call MTA Solicitors on 0208 313 5121.





Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Tax Perk for Buy-to-Let Landlords

For all of you who know about our FREE legal advice forum, LawStore Social, will be aware of a recent article relating to the new energy efficiency regulations coming into force for landlords in 2018. This change in both the law and regulations will see landlords being banned from renting out homes in England and Wales if the property falls below an E on the EPC rating.

Following on from the latest regulation news for landlords, buy-to-let landlords are now being warned that they should act now in order to claim a tax perk on home improvements. This £1,500 tax relief has been designed to help landlords meet the new ‘green’ targets. With only a few weeks left to apply for this tax relief, the government is urging landlords to use this money as a way of boosting their properties energy efficiency through insolation or a new boiler. This tax relief is only available until April 2015.

In addition to this, a further £5,600 is also available as a Green Deal cashback. However, landlords have been warned that the application process for this can be chaotic. In order to claim this, landlords should act now.

Commencing April 2018, it will be unlawful for a landlord to let a property which has an energy rating of E or higher. As a result, landlords will have 3 years in which to make changes to their properties before these energy efficiency rules come into action. Some have argued that the costs to do this could run into the tens of thousands, with both Edwardian and Victorian properties being the most effected. These types of properties are said to take up 10% of the current rental market.

The government has later gone on to argue that tenants pay up to £880 more per year for energy in properties whose energy rating falls below band E. From April 2018, it will be illegal for landlords to attempt to rent out inefficient properties. Failure to comply will result in landlords either being fined or prosecuted if the property is not ‘green’ enough.

However, it must be noted that exemptions apply to properties where work is deemed ‘too expensive’ or it is not possible to make the property more energy efficient. Moreover, from April 2016, rental reforms will make it illegal for landlords to ‘unreasonably refuse’ requests from tenants to make a home more efficient. In an attempt to help landlords, landlords can claim income tax relief using the Landlords Energy Saving Allowance which is due to expire however on the 6th April 2015. Many have argued that this tax relief should be ongoing and not have an expiry date.

Do I need to improve my property? 

All rented properties must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which stipulates how energy efficient the property is on a scale of A to G, with ‘A’ meaning very efficient and ‘G’ meaning inefficient.

The £1,500 being given to landlords in the form of a tax break can be deducted from the cost of the work required from your annual taxable income. This tax perk can be claimed via your self-assessment tax return.

The £5,600 from Green Deal Cash for home improvements is available on a first come first served basis through Green Deal, with the next release of funds expected in April. The remaining costs can then be financed through a Green Deal loan, repayable through the tenant’s energy bills. In order to qualify for this, landlords must first book a Green Deal assessment.

To find out more simply click here. 

Additional funding can also be sourced through Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) which funds £1.3bn energy improvements each year. ECO however is expected to run out on 31st March 2015.

If you are thinking of purchasing a buy-to-let property, LawStore Conveyancing can help you! Lawstore Conveyancing provides direct contact with knowledgeable Property Solicitors, who will work with you to guide you through all the legal processes necessary, ensuring that any potential problems are flagged up as early as possible. 

If you are a landlord or a tenant looking for further information and advice in regards to these changes, simply contact the LawStore on 0845 603 6544 to speak with one of expert advisors.

MTA Solicitors launches new Wills and Probate site

MTA Solicitors launches new Wills and Probate site

Madonna takes a tumble at The Brit Awards

Madonna takes a tumble at The Brit Awards

New Drug Driving Law starts March 2015

New Drug Driving Law starts March 2015

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

New drug driving law take effect…but what are the rules?



As from the 2nd March 2015, a new drug driving law comes into force in order to tackle those who risk the lives of others by getting behind the wheel of a car after taking drugs. This legislation is not designed for those taking legitimate medicines that do not impair their ability to drive. The new law sets limits at very low levels for 8 drugs commonly associated with illegal use such as cannabis and cocaine. The new law also includes 8 prescription drugs.

The table below shows the illegal drugs and limits:

ILLEGAL DRUGS

THRESHOLD LIMIT IN BLOOD
Benzoylecgonine

50µg/L
Cocaine

10µg/L
delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (cannabis)

2µg/L
Ketamine

20µg/L
lysergic acid diethylamide

1µg/L
Methylamphetamine

10µg/L
MDMA

10µg/L
6-monoacetylmorphine (heroin)

5µg/L


The new law also includes drugs which are prescribed and used for medicinal purposes. The table below shows the medicinal drugs and limits:


MEDICINAL DRUGS

THRESHOLD LIMIT IN BLOOD
Amphetamine

250µg/L
Clonazepam

50µg/L
Diazepam

550µg/L
Flunitrazepam

300µg/L
Lorazepam

100µg/L
Methadone

500µg/L
Morphine

80µg/L
Oxazepam

300µg/L
Temazepam

1000µg/L

It is important to note that the limits which have been set for these drugs exceed normal prescribed doses, meaning that the vast majority of people can drive as per normal. However, these people must ensure that: 
  •  They are taking their medicine in accordance with the advice given by a healthcare professional or via the instructions printed on the accompanying leaflet.
  • They’re driving is not impaired.

If you are unsure of the effects of your medication it is best to seek expert advice from your doctor or pharmacist. Road safety group THINK! has suggested that drivers who take prescribed medication at high doses should carry evidence with them such as prescription slips. This is a great way to minimise any inconvenience should you be tested by the police.

So what are the penalties for drug driving?
If you are convicted of drug driving you will face:
  •  A minimum 1 year driving ban
  •  A fine of up to £5,000
  • Up to a year in prison
  • A criminal record
It is also important to be aware that your driving licence will show that you have been convicted of drug driving. This will stay on your records for 11 years.
In addition to these penalties, your insurance costs will increase significantly and may have difficulty travelling to countries such as the USA. Moreover, if you drive as a part of your job, your employer will also see your conviction on your licence.