A Time of Uncertainty and Risk

We here at Busbys wish all clients and readers a very happy and prosperous New Year.  We hope 2019 will bring peace and understanding in the world, and for each and every one of us fulfilment of our hopes and aspirations.  Busbys look forward to providing excellent legal services to our community throughout 2019.

 

UNCERTAINTY

 

2018 has been quite a year.  Donald Trump remained President of the USA.  The world holds its breath every morning to see and hear what his latest salvo of Tweets is aimed at.  From where I sit, he not so much makes America “great” again, but he is making America “grate”, or at least the executive branch of government.  Time will tell whether the Mueller investigation causes any massive fallout for The Donald.  There is global uncertainty, and Brexit will have played no small part in adding to a general state of anxiety.  The capital markets have uncertainty, and I’m certain that is true for each and every one of us.  The sooner we see stability, the better.

 

LEGAL NEEDS

 

Over the last 18 months, statistics revealed that 32% of people had at least one legal need.  For example, many will have had cause to move house.  Many more will have experienced family problems.  Victims of accidents may require compensation if their injuries were caused by others.  Some may have got caught up in the criminal justice system.

 

USING LEGAL SERVICES

 

About 35% of people with a legal need go down the DIY route and try to sort out their problem themselves.  For small businesses, 50% of business owners try to resolve the issue themselves.  Cost is a big factor, and shortly the public will be able to look at solicitors’ websites to get estimates of costs under new transparency guidelines which are coming into effect.

 

USING LEGAL SERVICES

 

The most used legal service of all is for conveyancing.  This is followed by Will writing and Powers of Attorney.  There remains a strong preference for local services using tried and tested high street solicitors who thrive or perish on the kind of services they provide.  The Solicitors Regulation Authority provide robust oversight of solicitors’ practices to provide proper regulation for the profession and protections for the public.

 

RETIREES AND MORTGAGES

 

After death and taxes, another certainty in life used to be mortgage-free properties by the age of retirement.  In this complex world, where children need financial help from the bank of mum and dad to get on the property ladder, and where many more marriages now end at the point of retirement, mortgages for people of retirement age has become a real issue.  There has been a huge increase in people in this age group looking for securing loans on property, and they have found the experience difficult if not impossible.  Reliable statistics show that the number of building society re-mortgages for the over 50s has gone up 19% since 2012.  In the same period the value of lending has also gone up, but this time by 41%.  The Financial Conduct Authority estimates that the proportion of borrowers who are 65 years of age or over will rise from 1 in 6 to 1 in 4 by 2050.  The FCA has requested that mortgage companies do significantly more to help this age group get loans.

 

FESTIVE FALLINGS OUT

 

Christmas is generally seen as a time of festive cheer and family togetherness.  However, lawyers will tell you that January can paint a very different picture.  One big firm of solicitors predicts that in January the number of phone calls to its staff members who deal with Wills is likely to soar by 162%.  Last year that firm received a tripling of Will enquiries asking for amendments to existing Wills and in particular the need for the Will writer to cut out spouses, offspring and siblings.  My own experience tells a very similar tale.  Instead of Christmas being a season to be jolly, it often proves the season to be jolly irritated and upset by one’s nearest and dearest.

 

DIVORCE

 

In a similar vein, January is also one of the busiest times of years for divorce lawyers.  As one firm of solicitors put it: “Spending time together over the holidays can often prove the final straw”.  It appears that daily routine and keeping busy tends to hold many relationships together.  Too much time spent in each other’s company with little diversion can make the heart grow less fond.

 

NOT KEEPING PACE

 

2019 may well see a shift by Government in the field of family law.  Many expert commentators and most of the legal profession are of the view that family law needs to be updated very urgently.  It has simply failed to keep pace with social change and the realities of the world we live in.  A really urgent area of concern is the distinct lack of rights and entitlements available to cohabiting couples.  These are people who have lived together for years, and many have got families, but they have decided not to marry.  There are now 3.3 million cohabiting couple families in the UK.  That is double the figure of 20 years ago.  Cohabitation is also the fastest growing family type.  However, there are very few legal protections available to cohabiting couples, and in today’s world that simply cannot be right.

 

SECURITY THROUGH A WILL

 

As a consequence, it is vitally important for anyone living in a cohabiting relationship outside marriage to ensure that one’s loved ones are fully protected.  By far and away the most important document which can provide security to one’s loved one is to get a Will done.  In the Will appropriate provision can be made for cohabitees and step-children.  Under the Intestacy Rules as they apply from 1 October 2014, your cohabitee will miss out altogether, as will any children of your cohabitee whom you may well regard as a child of the family.  If you are not married or in a civil partnership but have children, everything is shared equally between them.  If you don’t have any children but have parents living, they will share equally what you leave behind.  If you have no children and your parents are dead, your siblings will share your estate between them.  To re-emphasise the point, your cohabitee will get nothing, nor will any step-children.  Instead they will have to rely upon applying to the Court under the Inheritance Act for the Court to consider their position and what financial benefit they should get.

 

CYBERCRIME

 

We see a year-on-year increase in cybercrime.  The main scam faced by solicitors and other professionals is the e-mail modification fraud.  Here fraudsters endeavour to intercept and falsify e-mails between solicitor and client.  The criminal’s intent is to change bank details so money is directed into their bank account.  Robust counter-measures are, of course, taken to defeat these awful people.  My main tip is never to use an e-mail to give bank details to your solicitor, or indeed anyone else.

 

RANSOMWARE

 

Fraudsters also attack with ransomware.  You will have seen even high tech companies being challenged.  In this scam, criminals leave a ransom note on a company’s system.  They say they possess sensitive information which they will publish unless a ransom is paid, and figures quoted can be in the millions.  If the ransom is not paid, criminals then publish the company’s details through Twitter.  If it goes that far, there is need to apply to the High Court to bar anyone from sharing the information published by the hackers.  The Court will also order the removal of information from websites.

 

ACTION

 

If you need help on any legal matters then please do get in touch with us.  You can contact us here at Busbys on 01288 35 9000 or e‑mail us at lawyer@busbyslaw.co.uk.

 

John Busby

Busbys Solicitors

Bude & Holsworthy

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