Milestone Moments for Writing a Will

Throughout most of the world, disposal of an estate has been a matter of social custom. According to Plutarch, one of the best known Greek biographers and essayist, the written will was invented by Solon, an Athenian politician and lawmaker born in 638BC and was originally a device intended solely for men without an heir.

So much has changed of course but at present, will writing campaign group Will Aid indicate that only around half of the adults in the UK have made a will. By asking a cross section of people with a will what caused them to make one, Will Aid discovered  that one of the commonest reasons was hitting a significant birthday. 20% of those interviewed said landmark birthdays such as turning 30, 40 or 50 were one of  the primary reasons for making their first will. There are indeed other milestone moments that prompt writing a will such as getting married, having a child or buying your first property.

In reality though it does not matter how old you are or whatever your circumstances, having a professionally drawn up will in place is the best way to ensure your wishes are met after your death as you should never assume that your assets will automatically pass to the people closest to you.

Key reasons for making a will include:

  • Reassurance: A will is the best way to help ensure your savings and possessions go to the people and causes that you care about.
  • Avoiding disputes. Disputes over assets can arise among family members. By leaving a will you remove any doubt about how you want your estate dealt with.
  • Looking after your children. A will allows you to appoint legal guardians for your children.
  • Your funeral: Your will can be a way to let people know whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated, and the type of funeral service and music you would like.

There have been a number of notable wills through time. The Nobel Prizes were established by Alfred Nobel’s will.  The longest known legal will is that of Englishwoman Frederica Evelyn Stilwell Cook. It was 1066 pages and had to be bound in four volumes. The shortest known legal wills are those of Bimla Rishi of Delhi, India “all to son” and Karl Tausch of Hesse ,Germany “all to wife” both containing only two words in the language they were written in (Hindi and Czech respectively). While your own will may not make the headlines it still is extremely important to have one.

For advice on writing or updating your will please contact Heather Warnock on 0141 552 3422 or by email on heather@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Parkers Take Note

I was chatting to someone the other day who said they had received a parking ticket for parking their van in a Morrison’s car park for four hour. The gentleman said he was just going to throw it away because it was unenforceable.

With my solicitor’s hat on I told him that this unfortunately was a common myth and that recently motorist ,Carly Mackie, received the largest ever parking fine in Britain amounting to £24,500. Ms Mackie had been issued with multiple parking charges by Vehicle Control Services Limited who were employed by the factors of her parents’ housing estate to provide a parking scheme. In the estate there were visible signs , eight in all,  advising that a permit was required to park in the area and the consequences of a fine if the terms and conditions were breached.

Despite this Ms Mackie parked her car outside her mother’s home and ignored the almost daily parking charge notices on her windscreen. She wrongly believed she was entitled to park her mini without a permit within the private parking area and that the tickets were unenforceable. Ms Mackie had been offered a parking permit but declined on principle.

However the private firm Vehicle Control Services Limited took her to court last year when she had racked up an £18,500 bill for ignoring more than 200 penalty notices. The action raised at Dundee Sheriff Court was defended by Ms Mackie on the basis that Vehicle Control Services Limited had no right to issue the parking charges and therefore she was under no obligation to pay them.

Generally speaking the public accepts that Local Authorities are able to issue parking tickets known as a fixed penalty. But car parking operators are able to issue parking charges for private car parks provided they display signs in the parking area setting out the terms and conditions of use.  If a motorist parks a car within a private parking area  which has clear signage setting out terms and conditions of using the car park then the driver is taken to have accepted the terms and has entered into a contract which if breached can lead to charges being applied.

In a written judgement of the case Sheriff George Way said Ms Mackie had “entirely misdirected herself on both the law and the contractual chain in this case” and ordered her to pay £24,500.

So be warned!

Employment Tribunal Fees Ruled as Unlawful

On 26 July 2017, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld an appeal by UNISON that tribunal fees, introduced by the UK government in 2013, are unlawful under UK and EU law. The ruling, described as “momentous”, has led to the existing fees regime being quashed.

UNISON’s claim, first issued in 2013, was that employment tribunal fees prevented employees on low incomes and those facing discrimination from accessing justice. Judgments from the High Court in 2013 and the Court of Appeal in 2015 both ruled in favour of the Government.

From July 2013, tribunal claims were classified as type A or type B based on how long the claim would take to be resolved. A single claimant filing a type A claim required to pay fees of £390. Type B claims attracted fees of £1200.

In practical terms, the decision of the Supreme Court means:

  • Fees are no longer payable for Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeal Tribunal claims.
  • Fees paid since 2013 are likely to be repayable by the Government – this will include cases where unsuccessful employers have been ordered to pay employee’s costs.

The President of the Law Society of England & Wales, Joe Egan, described the decision as “a triumph for access to justice, and a resounding blow against attempts to treat justice as a commodity rather than the right it is.” Egan added the decision of the Court supported the views of many that “the hike in tribunal fees… would deny people the chance to uphold their basic rights at work. Today the Supreme Court has vindicated that view and restored access to justice for those mistreated in the workplace.”

The judgement itself points towards a new regime with fees being set at a lower level or a more generous system of remission but this will require legislation so will take time. Another potential consequence is that time-barred claims may now be submitted on the basis that the unlawful fee regime deterred employees from submitting claims in time.

If you are an employer or employee facing difficulties in the workplace, please contact Paul Neilly or Hugh Grant by telephone (0141 552 3422) or email (pdn@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or hjg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk).

Dementia and the World of the Arts

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I recently read a very moving and interesting article in The Observer of 16/7/2017 by Nicci Gerrard called “Say it with a picture or a song”. It resonated with me for certain  reasons, primarily because of the work we do here with adults with incapacity and our involvement with Project Ability Glasgow, an art project creating opportunities for people with disabilities and mental health issues.

As Nicci Gerrard explains “A few weeks ago turning on the radio, I hear a voice saying that creative writing can help wounds heal faster. Startled I turn the volume up. Volunteers were given small wounds; half were then asked to write about something distressing in their life, the other half about something mundane. The wounds of the confessional writers healed substantially more quickly. A thought or a feeling is felt on the skin. Our minds, which have the power over our bodies, are in our bodies and are our bodies: we cannot separate the two. Words, self expression, can tangibly help pain and suffering. Art can be medicine for body and soul”- potent words indeed.

An all party parliamentary group inquiry into the arts, health and well being has been gathering evidence over the last two years and has come to the unambiguous conclusion that the arts used appropriately by health professionals can help with some major social challenges of an aging population, long-term illness, loneliness and mental health ,saving money in the health service. As Lord Howarth of Newport co-chair of the all party group said “The arts have a vital role to play for people with dementia. Research demonstrates that visual arts, music, dance, digital creativity and other cultural activities can help to delay the onset of dementia and diminish its severity. This not only makes a huge difference to many individuals but also leads to cost savings. If the onset of Alzheimer’s disease ( which accounts for 62% of dementias) could be delayed by five years, savings between 2020 and 2035 are estimated at £100bn. Those are powerful statistics, but this isn’t just about money; the arts can play a powerful role in improving the quality of life for people with dementia and for their carers”.

There are projects the length and breadth of the country in theatres, galleries, community centres hospitals and care homes. As Nicci Gerrard describes” I attended one of the monthly sessions at the Royal Academy in London where people who have been art- lovers through their life- and are art-lovers still come to talk about a particular work, led by two practicing artists. We sat in front of an enigmatic painting by John Singer Sargent and there was an air of calmness, patience and above all time and there were no wrong opinions. There are many ways of seeing. People with dementia are continually contradicted and corrected, their versions of reality denied: it’s Sunday not Friday; you’ve already eaten your breakfast; I’m your wife not your mother; anyway you are old and she is dead….In this humanising democratic space, people were encouraged to see, feel, remember and express themselves. Slowly at first they began to talk. There was a sense of language returning and of thoughts feeding off each other. They were listened to with respect and were validated.”

Nicci Gerrard also mentions in her article the film “Alive Inside”. It is a documentary which follows social worker Dan Cohen founder of the non-profit making organisation Music & Memory as he fights against a broken health care system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Nicci Gerrard points to an emotive example “an old man with advanced dementia sits slumped in a wheelchair. He drools; his eyes are half closed and it’s impossible to know if he is asleep or awake. A few times a day, soft food is pushed into his mouth. Then someone puts earphones on his head and suddenly the music that he loved when he was a strong young man is pouring into him. His eyes open and knowledge comes into them. His toothless mouth splits into a beatific grin. And now he is dancing in his chair, swaying. And then this man –who doesn’t speak any longer –is actually singing. The music has reached him, found him, gladdened him and brought him back to life.”  The arts creating a miracle of which there should be more as we realise the wonderful benefits of the artistic world.

To find out more about Project Ability, please visit http://www.project-ability.co.uk/