LSB Launches Consultation into Regulation of Will Writing and Estate Administration

The Legal Services Board (which is the independent body responsible for overseeing the regulation of lawyers in England and Wales) announced today that it proposes to recommend to the Lord Chancellor that the list of "reserved activities‟ in the legal sector be amended to include will writing and estate administration.  This will mean that only authorised lawyers will be able to undertake this work on behalf of clients.

The call for regulation follows recent scandals connected to "cowboy" will writing companies, including the dumping of 1000 Wills on a pavement when an unauthorised company went out of business, and a high-profile BBC Panorama investigation into fraud in will writing and estate administration.

The aim of the regulation is to achieve "better regulation: to support innovation and competition; to deliver consistent consumer protection; and ultimately to improve consumer confidence to choose and use legal services."

For more information see: LSB Press Release 27/9/12 and Consultation Document.

Husband Has No Interest in £40 Million Home

In the midst of acrimonious divorce proceedings, a High Court judge has ruled that a husband has no interest in a £40 million London home which was bought during the course of the marriage but is held by a trust based in the Cayman Islands.

The house was registered in the name of a nominee company prior to the execution of the discretionary trust.  Under the original terms of the trust, the husband and wife were granted life tenancies of the property.  However, following the breakdown of the marriage, the trustee executed a deed which purported to exclude the husband from any beneficial interest in the property.

Rejecting the husband’s plea that he is entitled to a 50% beneficial interest in the house, Mr Justice Underhill ruled on the basis of the formal documentation that the entire beneficial interest in the house is held by the trustee.

The judge acknowledged that the exclusion of the husband from any interest in the property without his consent ‘may seem harsh’, particularly in light of arguments that the property was bought with family money generated by the husband’s business.

However, the judge observed that it had never been the husband’s intention to use the house as his primary home.  He had also not objected to his wife’s view that the property would be held on trust, ultimately for their children, and that he would not have access to its capital value.  The wife’s continued occupation of the property as life tenant was entirely consistent with the former couple’s joint intentions during the subsistence of the marriage.

Armstrong’s is supporting Remember a Charity Week 2012

This week see how a piece of paper can do truly amazing things.

Charitable legacies are the foundation for many good causes in the UK and are vital in continuing their work.

Leaving a gift in your Will can literally keep these charities alive.  That’s why we’re taking part in Remember A Charity Week, to help raise awareness about the importance of charitable gifts in Wills.

It’s a common myth that you have to be wealthy to leave a gift in your Will, but nothing could be further from the truth.  After taking care of family and friends, you’ll be amazed at what one final gift, no matter how big or small, can do.

So, during this Remember A Charity Week, give a thought to your favourite charity.  And, when the time is right, after taking care of your loved ones, consider including a charity in your Will and help the work live on. Find out more at www.rememberacharity.org.uk.

Catholic Adoption Agency in Charities Test Case

In an important and controversial test case, a Catholic adoption agency is asking a High Court judge to grant it the right to deny its services to same-sex couples in accordance with the tenets of the Church.

Catholic Care is instrumental in finding new homes for ‘hard to place’ children in the Leeds area and argues that its voluntary activities save the public purse about £10 million-a-year.

However, the charity says that, if it is forbidden by equality and anti-discrimination laws from restricting its services to married heterosexual couples, the church collections and other voluntary donations that fund it will inevitably dry up and it will be forced to close.

Catholic Care is asking Mr Justice Sales, sitting in the Upper Tribunal, to sanction a change in its charitable objectives so that it can lawfully turn away same-sex couples as prospective adopters.

However, lawyers for the Charity Commission argue that drawing a distinction between same-sex and heterosexual couples would amount to a breach of the Equality Act 2010 and a violation of the ban on discrimination contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lawyers for Catholic Care argue that, if the charity's principled objections to placing children with same-sex couples are not acknowledged, ‘the alternative is that the services are not provided at all, to the detriment of children in need of adoption.’

Catholic Care has a proven track record of finding homes for hard to place children and argues that, for every child removed from the care system and placed with adoptive parents, local authorities save about £1 million.

Support given by the Catholic community is dependent on the charity operating in line with the Church's understanding of the family unit and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds had said that church collections could not be sanctioned for an ‘open’ adoption service.

The charity’s barrister said: ‘The question in this case concerns the activities of a particular charity and the proportionality of permitting it to restrict its adoption services to married couples when the alternative is that it provides no adoption services at all’.

Referring to the charity's ‘unusual predicament’, she said that the Charity Commission's focus on the rights of same-sex couples was ‘tantamount to putting the interests of the helper before those of the helpless.’

Arguing that Catholic Care's work is consistent with human rights laws generally, she told the judge: ‘There can be relatively few social problems more acute than the adoption crisis in England and Wales. The contribution of the charity to seeking to resolve that problem is accepted by all sides to be important and significant.’

Mr Justice Sales is expected to reserve his decision on the case until a later date.

Judges rule that the Health Lottery is legal

The High Court has ruled that that the Health Lottery is legal, despite a plea by Camelot (which operates the National Lottery) that its structure and objectives fail to comply with the terms of the 1995 Gambling Act (the Act).

The Health Lottery was launched in October 2011 and is made up of 51 community interest companies (CICs), each representing a region of the UK and each operating weekly lotteries in rotation.  Profits from the Health Lottery are paid to the People's Health Trust and used to tackle health inequalities.

In a judicial review challenge, Camelot argued that no licences should have been granted to the Health Lottery, as the CICs were established and are conducted at least in part for the purpose of private gain.  Camelot also argued that the Health Lottery is, in reality, a single lottery and thus breaches the mandatory restrictions on proceeds and non-commerciality of lotteries laid down by the Act.

In defending the case, the Gambling Commission argued that none of the CICs were established or conducted, even in part, for private gain and that the statutory restrictions are not concerned with profits that may be made by the Health Lottery as an external lottery manager.

Dismissing Camelot’s challenge, Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, sitting with Mr Justice Kenneth Parker, said that the Gambling Commission had correctly interpreted the Act.  He focused on the non-commercial nature of the CICs rather than their contractual relationship with the Health Lottery.

Ruling that ‘each week’s lottery is a separate lottery’, Lord Justice Burnton said there was also no legal basis for aggregating proceeds generated by each of the CICs when considering whether the financial limits laid down by the act are exceeded.

The judge concluded that whether multiple society lotteries should be permitted is ultimately a political question for the government or parliament (rather than the Courts) to decide.