Legal Updates

How Does Inheritance Tax Work?

Inheritance tax is a proportional payment of a person's assets paid back to the government once they have passed away. It’s a complicated topic, as there are exemptions and varying rates according to personal circumstances. For law students and legal secretaries, there’s a number of factors that you must take into account when advising an individual on their inheritance tax requirements.

Many people want to try and reduce their tax liability as much as possible. Providing accurate advice during a client’s will-writing process and advice to relatives after a death can help with this. To help you begin to grasp the ins and outs, we’ve created a short guide to how inheritance tax (IHT) works.

Modern Updates to the Civil Procedure Rules

Those of you who have studied law or who are currently working in the legal profession may already be familiar with the Civil Procedures Rules (CPR). For those who are not, the CPR came into effect in 1999 to ensure that justice is obtained when people go to court. They were created to make civil proceedings cheaper, quicker and fairer, as well as providing a system that was easier to understand. The rules are used by the County Courts, Court of Appeal and High Court of Justice during civil cases in England and Wales. Each year the rules are amended in line with changes in law, procedure, and societal shifts. Some years see big updates whilst others are only minor. In the past, many old-fashioned legal terms and procedures were removed.

Is Leasehold Legal Estate in Land to be Abolished?

The only realistic answer to this is, “Maybe, maybe not!”

Those of you who have studied Land Law through ILSPA will be familiar with legal estates in land – freehold, leasehold and commonhold. Recently, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for ‘Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’, categorically stated that: “The outdated feudal leasehold system in England and Wales, must be abolished – it needs to go and needs to be replaced by a better system”. The better system, for all intents and purposes being commonhold.

Can Visual Intrusion of Land be an Actionable Tort?

We don’t often come across court decisions concerning trespass, but it is an interesting area of law to delve into. In a way, it is similar to the tort of nuisance but more divided. For example, trespass encompasses trespass to the person (assault and battery), false imprisonment (including wrongful arrest) and trespass to goods and conversion. Trespass and nuisance are often seen banded together, which is much more common, but not so common as the tort of negligence, which is the ‘leader of the pack’, so to speak. Historically, trespass is possibly one of oldest of the torts. Why? Because this tort basically applies to land and, historically, land was the most important of things.

Autrefois Acquit – Double Jeopardy

Those of you who are studying criminal law or working in a criminal law department may not have come across the concept of ‘Autrefois Acquit’ before. In fact, it is very rare, but I mention it here because it has reared its head in the past year. I also mention it because when I was a law student, in the long distant past, legal maxims in a language other than English (mainly in Latin or French) were certainly not uncommon. Indeed, when I very first started to learn law - Roman Law was a compulsory subject for a law degree and the paper was written in Latin. I had come across Latin as a schoolboy, but I wasn’t very good at it. You will, therefore, understand my great relief when the law degree requirement for a pass in Roman Law was abolished very soon after I started my legal studies.

Wills and Probate - Recent Developments

In the increasingly complex world of the private client lawyer there are many challenges, both old and new. This month we will consider four of these potentially challenging areas and review what recent developments have occurred. 

Capacity

The longstanding test to establish if someone has mental capacity to make a Will is set down in “Banks v Goodfellow 1870”. However, since the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 came into force there have been several (unsuccessful) cases challenging whether the MCA should replace the “Banks” case as the test for mental capacity. For the moment the “Banks” test remains the one the Courts will use and, in simple terms, establishes that a person must:

Cohabitation – Is Reform on its Way?

In last month’s publication of our journal, there was an article on the “Top Three Legal Myths’, which included the myth regarding cohabitation, i.e. of there being no such thing as a ‘common law wife’, or a ‘common law husband’, or indeed a ‘common law marriage’, that is to say a couple who are living together, with or without their children, and are not married or under a civil partnership. As was shown, the conception of such a thing is, in fact, a misconception – and it can be a serious one at that. If that relationship breaks down, such couples have extremely few rights when it comes to aspects such as finances, property and most seriously of all, the children of their relationship,

The Top Three Legal Myths

Many of us have a basic understanding of some aspects of the law, but there are a few areas where myths seem to persist. For example, is there such a thing as a Common Law wife or husband? Does a Will guarantee your wishes will be followed after your death? And if you break the law unwittingly because you genuinely didn’t know the action you took was illegal, the courts will be lenient. These are three commonly held beliefs – but how accurate are they?

Let’s take a look at each in turn: 

Myth 1: ‘Common Law Wife or Husband’.

Have you ever thought that living with a long-term partner gives you ‘legal’ rights in law similar to that of a married couple?

If so, then you are wrong! There is no such thing as a ‘common law wife or husband’.

Mediation – A Solution to the Court Crisis

Partly because of the pandemic and perhaps because of years of chronic under-investment, the UK court system is under pressure. Case numbers are rising and the time taken for claims to reach trial is increasing year on year. More use of alternative dispute resolution is seen as a solution, so there is a proposal to make it compulsory in commercial disputes. We will consider the case for this and compare how compulsory mediation has worked in family matters where it has been a feature for nearly 10 years.

Matrimonial disputes and mediation

Civil Litigation Reforms 2022 – The Online Dispute Resolution System

This is the third and final article this year on reforms to civil procedure where we will outline the Court’s expanding use of online case management systems.  

The digitisation of County Court processes has been evolving over several years. While the Damages Claims Portal (the Portal) has been described as a “pilot” since 4 April 2022, it has been mandatory for ‘damages only’ claims to be issued digitally by firms.