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Palmers Solicitors promotes litigation specialist to Associate Solicitor

Palmers Solicitors promotes litigation specialist to Associate Solicitor

Colin Adamson, dispute resolution and litigation specialist at Essex-based Palmers Solicitors, has achieved the next stage in his career with a promotion to Associate Solicitor.

Qualifying as a solicitor in 2003, Colin soon specialised in civil and commercial litigation, developing particular expertise in property disputes, contractual matters and consumer disputes.

He has also driven the growth of the firm’s unique education offering, providing legal advice and support to parents, students and education providers on admissions, exclusions and SEND provisions.

A dedicated champion of neurodiversity, Colin works to enhance awareness, development and support for neurodiverse staff at Palmers Solicitors, as well as providing legal services to neurodiverse clients.

Speaking on his promotion, Colin said: “I am delighted to continue my career at Palmers with this new role.

“Since coming to the firm in 2023, I have enjoyed the variety of work that I do and the substantial opportunities for growth the team has provided.

“In particular, I’ve been able to embrace being neurodiverse and supporting others both inside the firm and out. This is the most inclusive and accommodating team I’ve ever worked with, so I’m excited to continue that work in a position with more responsibility.”

As part of his Associate role, Colin will also drive the development of Palmers Solicitors’ residential and commercial property disputes teams within the Litigation Department.

Luke Morgan, Supervising Director of Litigation at Palmers Solicitors, said: “Colin’s focus, enthusiasm and in-depth understanding of litigious matters provides an excellent and important arm to our litigation offering here at Palmers.

“I look forward to seeing him succeed in his new role and continue to develop his specific areas of practice in our department.

“He has also taken major steps towards refining our approach to neurodiversity, which we continue to support and appreciate.

“Congratulations to Colin – we’re all excited to see his progress in this new role.”

Breaking your lease without breaking your contract – Understanding break clauses

Breaking your lease without breaking your contract – Understanding break clauses

For business owners, flexibility can be as valuable as stability when it comes down to finding the right commercial property.

Understanding how to effectively include, negotiate, and utilise break clauses can save your business considerable time and money. Here’s what you need to know:

 

What is a break clause?

A break clause is a section of a commercial property lease which allows the tenant to break the lease and exit the property at a certain point before the end of the lease.

In the case of properties such as offices, a lease may last 10 years with a break clause at five years.

They are appealing to tenants because, in the case that a company grows or needs less space within the period of a lease, tenants can leave the property in search of a tenancy which better meets their needs.

 

Break clauses in commercial property contracts

A break clause must be explicitly included in the lease agreement to be valid.

When drafting or reviewing a lease, it’s crucial to pay close attention to the wording of the break clause to ensure it aligns with your business needs.

Typically, the clause specifies conditions under which the lease can be terminated early, including notice periods, any financial penalties, and the state in which the property must be returned.

This means that you need to have your lease carefully reviewed before signing it and make sure that it will be suitable for your business for the entire duration of your lease term prior to the break clause.

 

How do I negotiate break clauses?

Negotiating a break clause requires a balance between your need for flexibility and your landlord’s need for security and an assurance that they will have tenants for a specified amount of time.

You should be aiming for a break clause that allows you to exit the lease with minimal financial burden, such as negotiating early exit fees.

This will provide you with the option to respond to changing market conditions or business needs.

Landlords, on the other hand, may seek to include conditions that protect their investment, such as longer notice periods or requirements for the property’s condition upon termination.

 

Key points to negotiate with your landlord

As we have said, there are three major issues that you’ll need to negotiate with your landlord in order to reach a mutually satisfactory contract:

  • Notice periods – This is how far in advance you must inform your landlord of your intention to terminate the lease. Shorter notice periods offer more flexibility for tenants, while landlords may prefer longer periods.
  • Break penalties – Some break clauses include financial penalties for early termination, even though you are doing so within the bounds of the contract, so you can make your lease more cost-effective by negotiating these costs down.
  • Condition of Premises – Although not specific to break clauses alone, most early termination clauses state that a property must be left in a certain condition. Returning the property in good condition is always best practice to avoid contractual disputes.

Make sure to do this in plenty of time before you plan to take possession of the property and avoid signing a contract that you are not happy with.

 

When break clauses may not be appropriate

Despite their benefits, break clauses are not always the most useful approach to a tenancy.

The most important thing to remember is that break clauses typically go both ways, meaning the landlord can also break your tenancy at these points without legal repercussions.

For tenants planning to invest significantly in the leased property, securing a long-term lease without a break clause can offer more stability, ensuring that your investment is not lost due to an early termination.

Landlords, particularly those with sought-after properties, may prefer leases without break clauses to ensure a stable, long-term income stream.

For bespoke advice on break clauses and commercial property contracts, please feel free to get in touch with our Commercial Property team.

NDAs and Confidentiality Agreements – Protecting your business during a transaction

NDAs and Confidentiality Agreements – Protecting your business during a transaction

Safeguarding sensitive business information is crucial at all stages of a company’s journey, especially during pivotal moments such as acquisitions, sales or mergers.

In these situations, confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are essential tools for protecting your business’s valuable assets and securing its competitive advantage.

However, without solid and enforceable confidentiality measures in place, business owners may find themselves vulnerable to risks that could compromise the integrity and value of their business.

 

What to consider in an NDA?

Key business transactions often involve sharing sensitive information, including:

  • Financial statements
  • Legal commitments
  • Strategic business plans
  • Unique technologies
  • Undisclosed partnerships

The essence of your business’s value is entwined with these critical pieces of information. Sharing this kind of information without a safeguard can threaten not just the transaction but also the competitive position of the business involved.

NDAs act as a protective barrier, enabling the safe exchange of vital information under the assurance that it remains confidential and legally shielded from unwarranted exposure.

Finding the perfect balance between openness and security is critical. Over-sharing can jeopardise a deal while appearing too reserved might deter potential partners.

NDAs help delineate the boundaries of what’s confidential and who’s privy to it, fostering a productive environment for due diligence and collaboration without risking your strategic interests.

 

Legal protection and enforcement

Enforcing NDAs and confidentiality agreements adheres to specific legal standards, including mutual agreement, value exchange, intent to create legal relations, and clear terms.

Should a breach occur, the aggrieved party has several legal avenues to pursue, from cease-and-desist letters to court-ordered injunctions, damages, profit recovery, and indemnities against third-party claims.

Initiating legal action requires presenting a compelling case of breach and impact, with the proceedings typically launched in the High Court or County Court, based on the case’s complexity.

It’s crucial to note that NDAs cannot be used to conceal illegal activities or prevent whistleblowing. Their enforceability can also be contested if deemed overly broad or unreasonable.

In scenarios where confidentiality is of utmost importance, parties may seek a court-issued confidentiality order to protect sensitive information disclosed during legal proceedings.

 

Setting up an NDA

The intricate nature of business acquisitions introduces various risks, including technological, staff, and cultural integration challenges.

Confidentiality agreements are vital in managing these risks by guarding against premature deal disclosures, which could unsettle employees, alienate customers, or invite competitors’ interference.

Moreover, NDAs and confidentiality agreements encourage innovation and collaboration, providing a secure foundation for businesses to explore new ventures and partnerships while protecting their intellectual assets.

You must seek independent legal advice during a transaction to ensure that your interests are properly protected by the right confidentiality measures.

For guidance on crafting NDAs or confidentiality agreements for your next business transaction, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert team.

What happens if you can’t pay Inheritance Tax?

What happens if you can’t pay Inheritance Tax?

In short, you may face delays or difficulties in applying for probate and distributing assets according to a Will or rules of intestacy.

When someone passes away and you become responsible for administering their estate as their Personal Representative (PR), you may become liable to pay Inheritance Tax (IHT) on their assets.

This will be due on the total value of the deceased person’s estate if this totals more than £325,000, unless certain exceptions apply which can reduce the IHT due, including if the deceased person:

  • Leaves money to charity in their Will
  • Passed on certain business assets
  • Leaves assets to their spouse
  • Leaves a first or main home to their children or grandchildren
  • Gave away assets seven or more years before their death

You’ll need to work out the value of the deceased person’s taxable estate to calculate if IHT is due.

You must do this and pay the IHT due by the end of the sixth month after the person has died, otherwise HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will add interest onto the sum due.

How IHT is paid

If IHT is due on an estate, it can be paid in a number of ways, including:

  • From the deceased person’s bank account using the Direct Payment Scheme
  • By you or a relative from your own bank account
  • Using the British Government Stock Scheme
  • Through the transfer of national heritage property
  • Through a trust
  • Via a commercial loan secured against the assets within the estate

HMRC will expect that you pay IHT before applying for probate, which gives you the legal right to administer a person’s estate and sell or distribute assets.

However, in certain circumstances, you may not be able to do this.

This might be because of:

  • Poor liquidity – If the deceased person had a range of assets but little cash, then most of the value of their assets will be tied up and not readily available to pay IHT without being sold, which can’t be done without probate.
  • Complex estate valuation – Valuing an estate accurately can be a complex process, especially if it includes unique or hard-to-value assets such as antiques, artwork, or shares in private companies. This complexity can lead to delays in calculating the exact IHT due, making it difficult to pay the tax within the six-month window after the deceased’s death.
  • Disputes over the Will or estate – Disputes or challenges to the Will can delay the process of settling the estate, including the payment of IHT. Such disputes may need resolution before proceeding with probate, and this can significantly delay the process, making it challenging to pay IHT on time.

If this applies to you, or you can’t pay IHT for any other reason, you must take steps to alert HMRC of this fact.

First steps

If you can’t pay the IHT due on a deceased person’s estate, then it’s critical that you approach HMRC and explain this as soon as possible.

This is because interest at a high rate will be added on to any IHT that is unpaid or paid late.

HMRC may recommend that you make every practical effort to explore ways to raise funds to pay the IHT due. It may also permit you to pay the IHT due against certain assets within the estate in instalments.

If you’re struggling to pay IHT, it’s also important that you stay updated on changes to your obligations and how this may impact your probate application.

Upcoming changes

Following the Chancellor’s 2024 Spring Budget, it is becoming easier to obtain a ‘grant on credit’ for Inheritance Tax.

Under current regulations, PRs of a deceased person are required to pay IHT due on the estate before applying for probate. This currently includes taking out commercial loans if needed.

However, in recognition of the issues this could cause for PRs, the Chancellor has announced that PRs will no longer be required to take this step before applying for a ‘grant of credit’ – meaning probate is granted on the understanding that IHT will be paid later, when assets from the estate have been sold.

For advice on applying for probate and managing Inheritance Tax liabilities, please contact our team today.

Do same-sex couples have equal family rights in the UK?

Do same-sex couples have equal family rights in the UK?

This month marks the 10-year anniversary of the first same-sex marriages in some parts of the UK.  On 29th March 2014 Parliament passed The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 which introduced civil marriage for same sex couples in England and Wales.

To mark the first decade of this landmark ruling, our Family Law expert, Karen Bishop, takes a look at the family rights of same-sex couples in England and Wales.

Marriage

Since 29 March 2014, same-sex couples have had the same legal right to marry as opposite-sex couples.

This also means that they have the same right to divorce and separation.

However, certain institutions such as religious organisations are permitted under the law from prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying in, for example, a certain church.

While some may consider this discriminatory, religious institutions are allowed to deny marriage within their churches or other property to any couple if they feel that the couple does not align with their values.

This also applies to opposite-sex couples who do not follow that religion but, for example, live near to a certain church or religious building and so wish to marry there.

The legislation also enabled civil partners to convert their civil partnership into marriage.

Children

The rights to same-sex couples regarding children can be more difficult to navigate.

This is largely due to the fact that the law historically defines legal parenthood in relation to one biological mother and one biological father.’

However, the law is now evolving to recognise a range of family dynamics and better suit the practicalities of many families.

Consider the example of legal parenthood.

Only two people can legally be the parent of a child, although more than one can hold parental responsibility, for which the most important roles are to;

  • Provide a home for the child
  • Protect and maintain the child

They are also responsible for other matters including to;

  • Maintain the child financially
  • Choose and provide for the child’s education
  • Consent to medical treatment
  • Agree to any change of name

For opposite-sex couples, legal parenthood is automatically assigned to the child’s birth mother and the biological father of the child will usually also have it, provided he is either listed on the birth certificate or is married to the child’s mother.

But how does this work for same-sex couples?

If the couple involves the person who has given birth to the child, then they are automatically the child’s legal mother.

If the birth mother is married to her partner or in a civil partnership, her partner automatically becomes the second legal parent.

This can also be done through a UK-registered artificial insemination clinic, allowing the birth mother to give written consent for her partner to become the other legal parent, regardless of whether or not the partner is the child’s other biological parent.

Alternatively, if the mother’s partner legally adopts her child, they will then become the second legal parent.

For male same-sex couples, the process is a bit more complex.

Many male same-sex couples choose to use a surrogate to have a child. However, the surrogate will legally become the child’s parent and, if she is married, her partner will be the child’s other parent.

This can be remedied after the birth through a Parental Order. It’s important to bear in mind that the surrogate and her spouse must both agree to this and consent can be withdrawn at any time before the Order is put in place.

Equality before the law?

While it’s clear that same-sex couples enjoy broadly the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples, the law still contains certain issues which can present a challenge, particularly when it comes to a child’s legal parents.

The law is constantly evolving to reflect the fact that families are increasingly diverse.

We stay up to date on new developments and we’re here to help if you and your family face discrimination or simply confusion over your legal rights.

For same-sex couples seeking advice on family law and their rights, please get in touch with us today.

Risks rising for cost-conscious drivers – Understanding ‘fronting’

Risks rising for cost-conscious drivers – Understanding ‘fronting’

The Insurers Fraud Bureau (IFB) has put out a warning to drivers who may be considering placing themselves as a named driver on someone else’s vehicle insurance policy when in fact they are the main driver.

This is typically as a result of the rising cost of insurance, leaving many drivers, usually young drivers, unable to afford their own insurance with themselves as the principal driver.

Instead, another person, very often the parent, will take out an insurance policy, naming themselves as the principal driver and the real principal driver simply as a named driver.

This is known as ‘fronting’. It has become much more commonplace – with recent publicity revealing quotes as high as £8,000 per year for a new driver, and an average of £1,533.

Is fronting allowed?

A deliberate lie in order to obtain insurance is a form of fraud and the results of such a fraud could be:

That the policy is declared null and void, leading in turn to a possible prosecution to driving without insurance; or

The insurance company may refuse to pay out on a claim in the event of an accident and indeed may itself consider a prosecution for fraud against the policy holder.

Often drivers, particularly parents who wish to assist their children, do not appreciate the importance of being accurate when giving information to their insurance company.

As the practice of putting children on as named drivers has become so common, people do not consider it unusual when in fact, the named driver becomes a principal driver – and may not appreciate the implications of this on an existing policy.

What do drivers need to know?

If a driver or policy holder is accused of fronting, then they need to make sure that they are clear in what they have said to the insurance company.

In particular, drivers will need to be clear on the actual use that the car has been put to, including who the true principal driver of the vehicle is.

This may mean (but would not necessarily be exclusively confined to) the person who drives the car most, which may be most often or most miles.

Of course, it is very difficult for anyone to know that information outside of the policy holder or named driver themselves, but a giveaway might be, for example, where a named driver on someone else’s policy has an accident on the way to their work.

Someone who is using the car everyday to drive to and from work is almost certainly a principal driver and not a named one.

Perhaps part of a solution might be for insurers to reconsider the way they accept young drivers either as principal drivers or as named drivers.

Additional questions may better indicate the intended drivers and make the policy terms clearer, particularly to policy holders.

They may also provide the insurance company with additional information they can use to check up on in the event of a claim.

Ultimately, however, the responsibility currently lies with the drivers and policy holder to ensure they are remaining compliant with the terms of their insurance policy – regardless of how common the practice is now becoming.

To speak to Jeremy Sirrell and our Road Traffic Offences team, please contact us