Children of Murderers – Inheritance Simplified

In England and Wales, the law prevents a person who has unlawfully killed another person (or a person who ‘aids, abets, counsels or procures the death of another’) from benefiting from their crime – so a person convicted of murdering their spouse, for example, cannot inherit their estate or the proceeds of a life assurance policy in their name.

However, the practical impact of the legislation can create some undesirable effects, especially relating to the entitlement of the children of the victim, so the Government is amending the law so that the person who has committed the offence is treated for inheritance purposes as if they died immediately before the person they have killed.

In addition, the children of the perpetrator will normally be able to inherit their parent’s interest in an intestate estate.

The new law will come into force on 1 February 2012.

Plain English Campaign petitions Government for a plain language Act

Chrissie Maher, the founder of the fantastic Plain English Campaign, has launched an online petition to Government to introduce a plain language Act for all public documents.

Here are the details of the petition, which can be found and signed here.

After campaigning since the early 1970’s, Chrissie Maher officially launched Plain English Campaign to fight for clear public information. In the US, President Obama signed the US Plain Writing Act of 2010 on October 13, 2010. The law requires that federal agencies use "clear Government communication that the public can understand and use."  Clear communication is at the heart of our society, and is an essential tool for both our personal development, and the future of all our nations. We call on the UK Government for a UK Plain Language Act that follows similar guidelines to the US Act (details can be found on this link  Unnecessary jargon creates a fog of confusion, apathy, and inactivity.  Plain English brings clarity and the power to take action. Clear information is not a luxury to be dependent upon our changing fortunes.  It is a human right - it will help our economy recover, and needs to be law.

Independent Schools fail in attempt to keep charitable status

An attempt by the Independent Schools Council to persuade the court that independent schools are charities on the ground that they provide education to some people who cannot afford to pay full fees has failed.  In giving its long awaited ruling, the Upper Tribunal emphasised that in each case it was the policy followed by the trustees of the independent school that would determine whether it delivered a service which was of benefit to the public or not.


The ruling says that trustees of independent schools must make "more than de minimis or token provision" for the poor, but they should do this by deciding what is appropriate in their individual circumstances.  The tribunal expressly avoids being prescriptive about how trustees should act. "We decline to give any sort of ruling which is intended to be definitive," it says. "Each real case will depend on its own factual circumstances."  They say a school providing bursaries or scholarships to 10 per cent or more of its students probably passes the public benefit test, but a school where the only public benefit provision was a scholarship to one person each year would be unlikely to be doing enough.  On the level of bursaries, it says, "we consider that 1 per cent remains too low".

Kernott v Jones: Supreme Court rules on cohabitation property rights

The Supreme Court has now ruled in the 2010 case of Kernott v Jones, in which the respective shares of a property bought by a couple who cohabited and then split had to be decided.  The published decision can be found at:

The Court of Appeal had previously awarded Mr Kernott 50% of the value of the house  in which he had lived with Ms Jones.  The Supreme Court has now overturned that decision and instead awarded him only 10%.  The reduced award means that the amount that he will recover from the sale of the property will be dwarfed by his legal costs.

The case highlights the importance of signing a Declaration of Trust when cohabiting or buying a property with another person, setting out how the proceeds of sale are to be split if the property is later sold.

HMRC Crack Down on Foreign Property Tax Avoidance

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has established a new team of investigators and specialists in order to identify wealthy tax avoiders.

One of the first targets of the 200-strong ‘Affluent Team’ is wealthy individuals who own land and property abroad.  HMRC is applying sophisticated data mining techniques to publicly available information in order to identify individuals who own property abroad.  Risk assessment tools will then be used to highlight those who do not appear able legitimately to afford the property, as well as those who do not appear to be declaring the correct income and gains from the property.

The Affluent Team will also focus on commodity traders and people holding offshore accounts. It will work in co-ordination with existing units from across HMRC, including those that deal with corporate entities, residence and domicile issues, and trusts and estates.

Noel Edmunds in Court over Gentleman’s Agreement

TV presenter Noel Edmunds’ argument that a friend had agreed to supervise major renovations to his house in Exeter – later sold for £2 million – without charge, was rejected by the court this week.  Edmunds argued that Ulrik Lawson had agreed out of his friendship to undertake the exercise for nothing.  There was no paperwork, the agreement having made ‘on a handshake’.

This claim was made in relation to one of two disputes between the two men, both of which were decided in favour of Mr Lawson.  In addition to the sum awarded by the court to Mr Lawson, Mr Edumunds now faces an order for legal costs estimated at £800,000.

The case highlights the importance of recording all agreements in writing, even if made between friends, in case there is a dispute in the future.

‘Boiler Room” Front Man Jailed

An estate agent who acted as a ‘front man’ for a dubious investment company and persuaded wealthy people to invest in what appeared to be a respectable investment company in Switzerland (but which was in fact a ‘boiler room’ operation selling valueless ‘investments’) has been jailed at Exeter Crown Court.

The scam involved the promise of exceptional returns for little risk, and was supported by impressive-looking but fictitious marketing material.

Despite using an alias and taking elaborate procedures to avoid detection, the fraudster was caught when the use of his girlfriend’s mobile phone enabled her to be located.

He admitted defrauding investors of more than £160,000, but investigators believe that the true scale of the losses to investors is far greater.

If you are offered returns on investments which are well above the market rate and which seemingly involve little risk, be very sceptical and do your homework thoroughly.  In the UK, investment advisors are required by law to be regulated by the Financial Services Authority and redress may be available for bad advice or fraud.  Where the investment advisor is not based in the UK, there is likely to be little or no investor protection.

First Conviction Under the new Bribery Act

The Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July 2011. It is an offence under the Act for a person to request, agree to receive or accept a financial or other advantage intending that, in consequence, a relevant function or activity should be performed improperly.

In what is the first conviction under the Act, Munir Yakub Patel, a former Magistrates’ Court clerk, has pleaded guilty to bribery and misconduct in public office.  Mr Patel admitted taking a £500 bribe from a member of the public to prevent details of a speeding charge from appearing on the Court database.  He also pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office regarding similar offences.  Mr Patel will be sentenced on 11 November.

New rules planned to ensure that medical tourists pay their bills

Free NHS treatment is only available to those who are "ordinarily resident" in the UK or who are otherwise exempt from the charges.

“Ordinarily resident” is a common law concept meaning someone who is living lawfully in the United Kingdom voluntarily and for settled purpose, as part of the regular order of their life for the time being.  Nationality or past or present payments of UK taxes and National Insurance contributions are not taken into consideration when establishing residence.  The only thing relevant is whether you ordinarily live in the UK.

Changes to the Immigration Rules currently before Parliament will mean that those subject to immigration control who fail to settle an outstanding bill of £1,000 or more for NHS treatment will not be allowed to enter or remain in the UK until the debt is settled.  The NHS will share information with the UK Border Agency to enable it to identify debtors.  It is anticipated that the £1,000 threshold will catch 94 per cent of outstanding amounts owed to the NHS.
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