Bringing Up Baby

It seems to me that there is something of a baby boom going on just now and recent statistics back this up. Without doubt, starting a family is life changing and becoming parents is a joyful and emotional event for young couples. That said, amidst all the delight it is also a time when new parents should be giving consideration to some legal and financial matters.

  • According to “The Guardian” newspaper the cost of raising a child to the age of 21 has soared to £222,458. Quite a lot of money: so financial planning is a must.
  • When a baby is born, both parents are respectively entitled to maternity and paternity leave. New Mums must take at least 2 weeks maternity leave after giving birth (or four if they work in a factory). Any working Mum is entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave – 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave as well as 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is payable for 39 weeks. For the first six weeks it is paid at 90% of the mother’s weekly earnings with the following 33 weeks being paid at the SMP rate or 90% of weekly earnings, whichever is the lowest. The SMP rate from April 2013 is £136.78 with the standard rate being reviewed every April.  For Dads the allowance is much less generous, with only two weeks paid paternity leave if the mother uses her whole SMP allowance. Flexible parental leave will be introduced in 2015 allowing parents to choose how they share the care of their baby during its first year. It is important that would- be parents  know what leave they are entitled to and inform their employers accordingly.
  • Many couples find that their city centre love nest flat may no longer meet their needs as a trio. Perhaps it is time to move up the property ladder to somewhere with more space.
  • Couples raising a family and buying a home together need to take out life insurance. The amount to be insured is entirely up to the couple concerned but certainly should cover the mortgage in full and ideally should provide income cover as well.
  •  Do not forget about wills. When a baby is born it is vital that wills are drawn up to ensure that in the event of both parents dying , provisions are made to ensure their child is looked after. Who is to have the guardianship of the newest arrival in those tragic circumstances? Grandparents may be getting a little old for child rearing, siblings may not be available and friends may be reluctant. Although it seems morbid, it is an issue that needs to be discussed and resolved.
  • Children do not stay babies forever and most parents will inevitably be required to pay for child care, school fees or university fees, especially south of the border. Depending on individual circumstances parents may be in a position to help children out financially while they are students , or when buying their first home or getting married . It might be appropriate to set up trusts to protect assets for the future.  Advice about how to save on inheritance tax and capital gains tax should always be sought.

We at Mitchells Roberton can help with all of the above. If seeking advice please contact Elizabeth Baker on 0141 552 3422 or email her on eb@mitchells-roberton.co.uk.

Thinking of babies I decided to check out the most popular names for babies in Scotland. You might be interested to know that  the top three favourites for boys are Jack, Lewis and Riley and for girls Sophie, Emily and Olivia!

Powers of Attorney – Increasingly vital – A Cautionary Tale

A  Will means that after you have died your affairs will be administered in accordance with your wishes and not just as the law dictates, but ask yourself what would happen if you were laid up temporarily or permanently by illness or accident? Who would pay the bills, do the banking and cover the many other financial transactions we all have to do as part of daily life. Standing orders and direct debits only go so far, but what if there is no one who knows how to check them? Moreover, if important medical or care decisions arise -which course of treatment- which operation- who makes the decision if we are not capable ourselves?

 Here is a cautionary tale.

A  gentleman in his later years was admitted to a Glasgow hospital after a fall. A successful operation put right the broken bones and a slow and lengthy hospital convalescence followed. Some months later the gentleman was ready to be discharged as his fractures had completely healed. Regrettably, however ,  through an entirely separate illness his mental powers had deteriorated  whilst he was resident in hospital,  such that he was no longer capable of taking decisions.

It was clear that the patient could not stay on his own and required to go into care. His family found an excellent Residential Home which had a room immediately available, so it appeared a satisfactory outcome had emerged to the trauma which had begun on the day of the fall.

Not so: the problems were far from over .At a practical level, all that was required was for the gentleman to be  taken from the hospital to the Home by taxi or ambulance, only a short distance across the city. Everyone was in favour. The hospital wanted to discharge their patient, the Home wanted to receive their new resident ,the family were desperate for the move of their father to a more appropriate environment and indeed the patient seemed happy enough with the idea.

Unfortunately nothing could happen, in view of the client’s loss of mental capacity. It was here that Mitchells Roberton  were consulted .Notwithstanding that everyone involved in their client’s present and future care wanted the transfer to take place, neither the hospital nor his social worker could permit the move. In the eyes of the law the client had become what is called a “compliant adult” legally incapable of consenting to or disagreeing with the transfer and so had fallen foul of The European Convention of Human Rights ,Article 5 which states :-

“Everyone has the right to liberty……no one shall be deprived of his liberty save…..in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law.”

The Courts in Scotland have interpreted this as meaning that a “compliant adult”, legally incapable of agreeing to one care regime or another, is deprived of his liberty in breach of Article 5. Not only could the patient not be moved, he was strictly speaking being detained only on an informal basis, without consent or authority. There was no consent as the “compliant adult” was unable to provide consent by virtue of his condition and there was no one with the requisite authority appointed “in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law.” In the circumstances for the patient to have been discharged and moved to another care environment would have been quite wrongful, however desirable.

The Courts deemed the appropriate action to be the grant of a Guardianship Order under the Adults with Incapacity Act on the basis that only this way would the necessary safe guards and statutory  and regulatory framework to protect the adult come into play. The family had to petition the Court for the appointment of a Welfare Guardian, in other words a guardian with specific powers to enable decisions to be taken in respect of matters of personal care and welfare such as in relation to residence, which guardian hardly surprisingly  turned out to be the close family member whom the client was more than likely to have asked to be the Attorney in the first place ! Even though pursued as a matter of urgency and with Decree being granted on an interim basis, the matter consumed considerable amounts of time, energy ,expense  and worry.

The problem would have been solved if the adult had at some point in the past granted a Power of Attorney, containing welfare powers, which could have come into force when capacity was lost and would have enabled the client to be moved from the hospital to the Home at the earliest date, on the decision of the appointed attorney.

Obtaining a Power of Attorney is not difficult. We can draft deeds adjusted in accordance with individual requirements and guide clients through the execution and registration processes.

If you believe having a will is important and let’s be honest it’s likely that you do –then you will probably believe a Power of Attorney is a Good Idea. So please take it further and start the conversation about a Power of Attorney. If you would like us to help call Kathryn Bready on 0141 552 3422 or e mail kb@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Thinking of starting a business? We can help.

Do you find yourself full of that New Year optimism, having spent the Christmas holidays finalising your plans for that business which you are now putting into action?

There are many good reasons to start your own business. You control your unique destiny, you feel pride in building something personal to you, you choose the people you work with, you can challenge yourself and take on the risk and reap the rewards.

However, amidst all the excitement of fresh entrepreneurial challenge, it is helpful to remember that enthusiasm alone may not be enough to garner the success of your business and that there is little substitute for sound planning and structuring.

Here are some tips we have put together to assist you:

  1. It is essential to prepare a business plan to outline objectives, financial matters, resources needed and realistic timescales as to what is to happen and when. Business planning is an essential element of running any good business particularly given the growing uncertainty all businesses are now facing coupled with ongoing changes in consumer behaviour. In any event most new businesses rarely have the ideal of being self financing and will require external funding and the production of a credible business plan is one of the primary requirements for any business owner seeking investment.
  2. Right from the outset trusted advisers should be sought. No matter the size of your business getting robust legal, financial and tax advice is crucial. Legal advice will be required in a wide number of areas when starting up a business. For example once you have carefully chosen your business name you must ensure it is not being used by someone else and you should also think if you want the name protected by trademark. Corporate advice will be needed to choose the structure of your business. There are a number of structures available from operating as a sole trader to starting a limited company or partnership each having their own advantages and disadvantages. Legal advice will also be needed to prepare all the start up paperwork, including employment law advice if you intend to hire staff and property advice if you are purchasing or leasing commercial premises.
  3. If your business requires funding there may be the need to grant guarantees or securities in favour of the relevant lending institution and again we can assist.
  4. There may also be the need for you to meet certain regulatory requirements. There may be specific conditions for a particular industry sector such as licensing needs within the hospitality industry, or EU safety requirements for certain products or UK e-commerce laws.
  5. All solicitors would advise you to put everything in writing : all agreements, documents, terms and conditions etc. This will protect you against any future disputes.

Happy business planning and if you need our assistance please contact Ross Leatham on 0141 552 3422 or email him on rjl@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Let’s have that conversation about why everyone should have a Power of Attorney!

We can present statistics, production efficiency models, delivery times and accurate numbers of this and that as much as we like, but for each and every one of us the twists and turns of life remain unpredictable apart from the inevitability of eventual death.

Many people understand the need to have a Will but fail to recognise the importance of having a Power of Attorney in place. Let me put it simply, a Will covers a deceased person’s wishes whereas a Power of Attorney is for the living. In short, a Power of Attorney is a legal document which gives another person authority to act and make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.

A  popular misconception is that Powers of Attorney are only for the older generation with conditions such as dementia becoming increasingly common. Indubitably all elderly people should grant a Power of Attorney in favour of a trusted friend or family member to manage their affairs if they were to lose capacity. But Powers of Attorney are not just for our respected older citizens; they are for anyone over the age of 16 in Scotland. An accident or illness could happen at any time causing you to lose the capacity to act on your own behalf and unless you have a Power of Attorney in place nobody has the power to act for you, not even your immediate family, causing potential difficult problems with banks, healthcare providers and other organisations.

If a Power of Attorney is not in place and you lose capacity then application may need to be made to court to give others the legal authority to deal with your affairs, an avoidable, time consuming and expensive procedure.

So we must talk about Powers of Attorney. Whilst making a Power of Attorney may be considered solely a pragmatic, legal move to grant peace of mind, I am fully aware of the emotive issues surrounding such instructions. Who would be the best Attorney? Will other members of my family be upset about my choice of Attorney? Will I be giving up my independence of thought too soon? Can I revoke the Power of Attorney at any time?

We are here to have that important conversation whenever you want. Please just call and ask to speak to Kathryn Bready on 0141 552 3422 or email kb@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Shared Parental Leave Changes from April 2015

On 29 November 2013, the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills released its response to the “Consultation on the Administration of Shared Parental Leave and Pay.”

From April 2015, mothers and fathers will be able to share up to 52 weeks’ leave and 39 weeks’ pay.  This will allow a couple to take leave either simultaneously, one after the other or permit one partner to take the balance of leave after the expiry of compulsory maternity leave.

Many employers fear the new system will increase the administrative burden as an agreed pattern of leave will have to be agreed between not only with their employees but also between the two separate employers.  Following the response to the consultation, several changes have been introduced:

  • Employees will have to give notice of shared parental leave by 15 weeks before the expected week of child-birth (or adoption);
  • Employees will have to give at least eight weeks’ notice of each period of leave they will actually be taking;
  • Employees can notify employers of intention to take shared parental leave and amend this arrangement a maximum of two further occasions;
  • To ensure they can remain on maternity leave if they choose to, mothers can revoke otherwise binding notice to opt into shared parental leave up to six weeks following birth;
  • Each employee may take up to 20 Keeping In Touch (KIP) days during a period of shared parental leave;
  • An employee whose shared parental leave totals 26 weeks or less has a right to return to the same job;
  • An employee who takes shared parental leave in excess of 26 weeks shall have the right to return to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable , a similar job;
  • Couples must take their entitlement to shared parental leave not later than 52 weeks from date of birth or adoption.

If you have any questions please contact Paul Neilly on 0141 552 3422 or email paul@mitchells-roberton.co.uk