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Blanchards Bailey’s five important New Year’s resolutions for 2017

The beginning of a New Year is naturally a time for reflection and evaluating your life choices. New Year’s resolutions offer the perfect opportunity to finally get around to making those all important changes you promised yourself but just never managed to do before.

While the typical focus at this time of year is on improving your health and diet, it is also important to consider other aspects that can change your life - and that of your family and business - for the better. Below are five important resolutions for 2017 our partners would encourage our clients to consider.

1. Ensuring client Wills benefit from inheritance law changes

Lots of people tell us they have been meaning to review their Wills for years but just never seem to get around to it. But with the government introducing an extra Inheritance Tax allowance from 6 April this year it means many will stand to lose out on some or all of the extra allowance if they leave their Wills as they are.

By making simple changes to people’s Wills, Blanchards Bailey has been able to secure the extra allowance for clients where appropriate.

The changes mean there is a potential to extend the Inheritance Tax allowance (known as the Nil Rate Band) from £325,000 to £500,000 for an individual, and from £650,000 to £1m for a married couple and those in a civil partnership.

You can only be sure this relief will apply if you have an up to date Will that reflects the new legislation (read our article in the spring 2016 edition of Law for Life for more details and to see if you qualify).

There are many reasons why it is important to keep your Will updated. These include changes in your marital status, having children, death of a family member, change in value of your estate or ownership of your property, as well as having new assets or debts.

If you don’t already have a Will, now is the time to act. Planning for the future too late can often leave loved ones in a difficult and upsetting situation. Taking care of those close to you will give you - and them - peace of mind.

Blanchards Bailey’s expert team will consider your unique financial and family circumstances and offer practical solutions that ensure your wishes are met.

Contact Jerome now to make or update your Will by calling us on 01258 483616 or email jerome.dodge@blanchardsbailey.co.uk

2. Avoiding penalties for commercial property clients after introduction of “Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards”

A financial penalty will apply to landlords who let out non-domestic premises that do not meet the “Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards” from 1 April 2018.

Landlords, therefore, should now be considering how to improve their property’s energy efficiency rating in advance of the regulations being introduced. Failure to do so may well mean the property cannot be let in the future and consequently investment values could fall.

Furthermore, local authorities will be able to issue penalty notices as high as £50,000 if the breach has been ongoing for less than three months or up to £150,000 for a breach of more than three months.

When undertaking works, it is important to consider whether to achieve the bare minimum ‘E standard’ or try for a higher rating to future proof your property. Lenders are likely to impose conditions on finance agreements which could mean properties with a substandard rating will no longer get funding.

The requirements are certain to have an impact on the drafting and interpretation of commercial leases. It is important, therefore, that advice is taken in key areas such as repairing obligations, service charge provisions, alterations and rent reviews.

While there are certain conditions where landlords are exempt from meeting the minimum standard (such as with leases less than six months or leases of 99 years or more), we can guide you through the new legislation to give you peace of mind.  

For more information contact Sarah on 01258 483618 or email sarah.heath@blanchardsbailey.co.uk

3. Support campaign for “no fault” divorce

Blanchards Bailey is lending its support to the campaign led by Resolution, the family lawyers group, to introduce a ‘no fault’ divorce procedure in the UK.

Many of our clients find that divorce and separation is a time of extreme conflict and heartache. It puts families under great pressure when there is a lot to sort out, such as trying to manage the finances and making sure the impact on children is minimised.

Sadly, present divorce law makes things worse by forcing couples to blame each other unless they can wait two years to get their divorce. Blanchards Bailey’s family team believes the law urgently needs to change to allow people to break up with dignity without such a lengthy wait.

Currently, the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This can be proved by either recording details of their partner’s adultery or citing five or six things about the other person they don’t like, making an already difficult and distressing process even harder.

While we still have the ‘fault’ based divorce, we will use our experience to draft a petition that meets the legal requirement but causes as little distress as possible to pave the way for settling the financial and children issues as amicably as possible.

Contact Lisa now if you need advice on starting divorce proceedings by calling 01258 488216 or email lisa.holden@blanchardsbailey.co.uk   

4. Advise how Data Protection changes will affect everyone

Data Protection laws are changing and it will affect everyone, so it is vital people know where they stand under the new legislation. The Data Protection Act 1998, drafted before social media and cloud computing, is now outdated, which has prompted the change.

The adoption of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (the "GDPR"), which comes into force on 15 May 2018, will mean that most businesses have to change their policies, procedures and contracts with third parties this year to comply. Businesses will need to know and understand how to store, handle and use the data they hold so they do not breach the GDPR.

Consumers, customers and clients will see a change in how data is handled along with increased security relating to the flow of information both electronically and over the telephone. People will need to know and understand how their data should be handled to protect themselves and what to do if a breach occurs.

The key changes to be aware of include:

  • Much higher fines for breaches - penalties up to 4% of a company's worldwide turnover or €20,000,000 (whichever is higher) can be imposed following a breach of the GDPR;

  • Mandatory notification - it will be mandatory to report all breaches of data protection to the Information Commissioner within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach, unless the breach is unlikely to result in a risk for the rights and freedoms of individuals;  

  • Sensitive personal data - stricter rules apply to the processing of sensitive personal data such as medical information;

  • Consent - consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous, provided by a clear affirmative statement or action which can be easily withdrawn;  

  • Mandatory Data Protection Officers - the protection officer's role will be to deal with data protection issues for the organisation;

  • Data processors will be liable for breaches - more detailed data controller to data contracts will need to be specifically drafted to include data protection clauses. It is unlikely current contacts will comply.

For advice on the changes contact Paul today on 01258 483607 or email paul.dunlop@blanchardsbailey.co.uk

5. Help homeowners avoid potential pitfalls when buying or selling

The New Year is a popular time of year for homeowners to start gearing up towards selling or buying a property. Inspired by the impetus of a fresh start, people excitedly make plans for pastures new, whether they are looking to upsize due to a growing family or downsize to free up capital for retirement.

However, buying and selling your home is notorious for being one of the most stressful and complicated financial transactions you will undertake, not to mention one of the most significant events you will go through in your life. Unfortunately, many things can go wrong between an offer being accepted and the exchange of contracts that can cause the initial agreement to fall through. In fact, in the past two years in the UK three out of 10 homebuyers have seen their purchase collapse despite having had their offer accepted by the seller.

Apart from the heartbreaking reality your dream move is not happening, you also have to face up to covering the costs incurred – on average around £3,000. Expenses for surveys, mortgage valuations and brokerage fees quickly build up. Sadly, just to add your woes, these cannot be recovered.

Tips to prevent the deal from falling through include:

  • Know the warning signs of a buyer or seller backing out - failing to return papers, make payments to third parties, return phone calls or missing appointments are all signs of cold feet

  • Understand the buyer’s circumstances - if your buyer has a related sale, make sure they have accepted an offer and the sale is progressing at a reasonable speed. If your buyer is in rented accommodation, ensure they can serve notice and leave the property within the timescales you want to complete. Your estate agent should be able to get this information from anyone making you an offer

  • Show an interest in the transaction - the seller can get nervous about the sale progressing if they do not feel like you are invested in the purchase. If you make sure that your searches are applied for promptly and you are actively following up with your lender to progress your mortgage offer, this can help to ease any concerns that the seller may have

It is important, therefore, to have the guidance of a legal adviser with expert local knowledge throughout the entire process to avoid potential pitfalls and give yourself the best chance of success.

If you are thinking of buying or selling your home and are looking for advice, contact Alan today on 01258 488218 or email alan.horne@blanchardsbailey.co.uk

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