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Wills and probate lawyer Alex Mitchell provides advice and guidance on probate

Friday, May 11, 2018

A leading wills and probate lawyer is urging Cheshire residents to seek professional advice if they are named as the executor of a will.

Alex Mitchell, partner and head of the probate team at Watsons Solicitors in Warrington, is seeing an increasing number of cases be delayed or incur financial penalties due to a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach.

And Alex, who is a student member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) Group, is keen for people to avoid issues during an already challenging and emotional time.

“Losing a loved one brings many emotions to the fore,” she said.

“Our single aim is to help those named as an executor of the will avoid unnecessary concerns and worries.

“For example, there are technical details that might not be apparent or noticed when filling in the relevant forms to obtain grant of probate.

“One common hurdle is the topic of Inheritance Tax. Getting this information incorrect could lead to financial penalties and delay the process. In addition, some people assume relatives including nephews and nieces qualify for the Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB). However, the RNRB only applies to direct descendants such as children and grandchildren.

“It’s these technical details that make it imperative the executor speaks to a solicitor experienced in wills, probate, and inheritance.”

Alex, a probate lawyer with more than 14 years’ experience, believes a lack of knowledge around probate could be a cause of the problem.

She added: “We often get asked ‘why do I need probate if there is a will?’.

“We don’t make the rules – but we are there to support people. It’s important to remember that the purpose of probate is to protect people’s estates and ensure it is passed to the intended parties.

“It also provides accountability. In order to be granted probate, you have to swear on oath that you will administer the estate properly. Also, it holds the executors to account and they can be summoned to appear in court to answer any queries.

“At Watsons Solicitors we can provide as little or as much involvement as is required. This can extend from simply checking and filling in forms, to sorting through boxes of documents, to attending the property to undertake checks.

“One of our clients commented that dealing with us relieved a huge amount of stress. She was able to advise friends and family to contact Watsons, which removed her from arguments and issues.”

Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 60 years, specialises in wills and probate, employment law, family law and conveyancing.

The team of experienced solicitors each hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.

Watsons Solicitors reflects on 12 months of giving back to Warrington

Monday, April 16, 2018

A leading Warrington law firm is celebrating supporting sport and community groups in the region.

Watsons Solicitors, which has been based in the town for 60 years, sponsors a number of local organisations and raises money for charity each year.

And 2017/18 was no exception with thousands of pounds donated and schools and sports teams benefiting from shirt sponsorship.

The firm of solicitors donated £2,000 to the Warrington Wolves Foundation, which serves to change people’s lives through sport and runs a number of projects focusing on physical, emotional, and healthy wellbeing for all ages.

The donation was presented to the club’s officials by comedian Adam Hills during the UK’s inaugural physical disability rugby league match at Victoria Park.

In addition, Watsons Solicitors sponsored Chapelford Village Primary School’s football team, which allowed the school to purchase new football kits.

And it is also active in the business community, and plays a major role in the Warrington Business Awards, which re-launched for 2018.

Partner and family law specialist Danny Hudson is on the awards committee and Watsons Solicitors is sponsoring the businesswoman of the year category, with the winner announced at the awards ceremony in June.

The awards, which celebrates the best of Warrington’s businesses, will be in aid of the Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball foundation, which supports those affected by terror attacks.

Danny said: “The people of Warrington have supported our team for many years, so we feel it is only right to give something back.

“Warrington has lots of worthwhile community projects which can achieve brilliant things with support from businesses like Watsons Solicitors.

“The sponsorship is a team effort with all of our staff getting on board to raise funds for causes that are close to home.

“If anyone is seeking support through donations or sponsorship, I urge them to get in contact with us to find out more.” Watsons Solicitors specialises in employment law, family law and conveyancing.

The team of experienced solicitors each hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.

Employment lawyer warns Cheshire businesses ahead of gender pay deadline

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A leading employment lawyer in Warrington is warning the region’s businesses of possible significant consequences for missing the gender pay gap reporting deadline.

Companies with more than 250 staff must report information about the differences between what their male and female employees earn.

The 4 April deadline for private sector employers is just days away and Latham Parry, partner and head of employment law at Watsons Solicitors, believes organisations could face intervention by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) as part of a crackdown on gender inequality in the workplace.

Latham is also keen to alert employers that negative or misinterpreted stats could lead to reputational damage and possible discrimination claims.

He said: “This topic has already received a lot of coverage, and will, quite rightly, continue to do so. There appears to be an inequality in the workplace and this is a vital step to addressing that.

“I expect a fairly robust response from the government, which could be similar to the approach already taken to name and shame employers who do not pay the minimum wage.

“There are a number of risks for employers in Cheshire.

“Firstly, missing the deadline could lead to an investigation by EHRC, possibly an unlawful act notice being issued and, if that is not complied with, potentially a conviction and a large fine.

“Secondly, any negative results could damage the firm’s reputation. This can lead to concerns from stakeholders, including current and prospective customers, politicians, and employees, as well as impact future recruitment campaigns.

“Finally, inadequate communication around the data could lead to people misinterpreting the figures. If there is a gap, it might not be an indication of an employer doing anything wrong.”

Follow Latham’s tips below about the gender pay gap:

  1. Keep your number of staff under review. Employee numbers can fluctuate, which means businesses could find they trigger the requirement to report information on the gender pay gap.
  2. Assign suitable people internally to be responsible for collating the data, analysing it, and signing it off. I would recommend involving someone from HR and payroll, who know the company’s workforce structure and data systems, as well as a senior person to assume overall responsibility.
  3. If there is a gap, be proactive and progressive about how you will tackle the gender pay inequality in your company. Use this as an opportunity to generate some good publicity.
  4. Provide a narrative to put the figures into context. Just because there is a gap, it does not necessarily mean a company has acted inappropriately. Statistics can sometimes be misleading. As well as putting the data into context, a narrative also allows you to share what measures you have put in place and other positive news such as how the gap has shrunk over time.
  5. Employers can also consider carrying out an independent equal pay audit on an informal basis. This can be used to identify potential discrimination arising from unequal pay for equal work. The EHRC has produced an equal pay audit toolkit to help employers.
  6. Review your equality policy, and speak to an employment law firm if you don’t have one.

Latham has more than a decade of experience in employment law and joined Watsons as a partner in 2015.

If you have any queries regarding the gender pay gap, please speak to our employment team on 01925 571 212.

Did you know every organisation in Cheshire now has new responsibilities for data protection?

Friday, March 2, 2018

The law regarding protection of data is strengthening, giving people greater control over their own personal data, and requiring organisations of all sizes to be more accountable and transparent.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), comes into force on 25 May 2018, and will replace the current Data Protection Act.

Here’s a guide to GDPR from Chris Hanratty, managing partner at Watsons Solicitors.

What is personal data?

  • It is any information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified, in particular by reference to an identifier.
  • Personal identifiers constitute personal data, including name, identification number, location data or online identifier.
  • It includes automated personal data and manual filing systems
  • Personal data that has been pseudonymised – key-coded – may also be covered

 

Who in your organisation does GDPR apply to?

  • It applies to ‘controllers’ and ‘processors’.
  • A controller determines the purposes and means of processing personal data.
  • A processor is responsible for processing personal data on behalf of a controller. The processor must maintain records of personal data and processing activities, and has legal liability if responsible for a breach.

 

Take action – what you can do now

  • Tell decision makers in your organisation about GDPR
  • Document what personal data you hold, where it came from and who you share it with. You may need an information audit.
  • Review your current privacy notices and plan for any necessary changes
  • Check your procedures to ensure they cover all the new rights individuals will have
  • Designate someone to take responsibility for data protection compliance
  • Update procedures for handling requests within the new timescales
  • Identify the lawful basis for your processing activity under GDPR and update your privacy notice to explain it.
  • Review how you seek, record and manage consent
  • Decide whether you need systems to verify children’s ages and to obtain parental or guardian consent for data processing activity
  • Put in place procedures to detect, report and investigate a personal data breach

If you are unsure about GDPR, or have queries, please don’t hesitate to contact Watsons Solicitors. We are a leading law firm in Warrington, and have the expertise and knowledge to guide your business through GDPR.

 

Commercial property solicitor offers advice ahead of predicted growth for Warrington region

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A top commercial property solicitor in Warrington has provided key advice for businesses in the region when it comes to renting, selling or leasing.

It comes on the back of a prediction for 2018 for the commercial property market in the town by a leading estate agent.

Callum Morgan, assistant surveyor at Morgan Williams, believes warehousing and offices, which both enjoyed a strong 2017, will continue to improve over the next 12 months.

He said: “The on-going redevelopment of the town centre last year is set to continue in 2018 and, in particular, the £107 million Time Square scheme is advancing rapidly, all aiding the ‘recovery’ of the town centre.

“In addition, in 2017, Warrington saw an expansion in the residential sector in the town centre with many office buildings converted to residential accommodation and we predict that during 2018 this will continue.”

The active commercial property market in the region means many businesses and landlords could be seeking guidance on a number of key areas.

Kerry Baird is a solicitor at Watson Solicitors, a leading solicitors firm in Warrington, and she is keen to ensure all parties are aware of their rights and adhering to the law.

Here are her top tips for some of the most common topics of interest. If you have any questions about the below, or any other commercial property matter, please call 01925 571 212 or email Kerry.Baird@watsonssolicitors.com.

What general advice do you have for anyone involved with commercial property?

Everyone’s knowledge about commercial property is different, and there is always a piece of information you may not know, have forgotten, or not thought about. For example:

  • Is it a new start up that needs a short lease or frequent break clauses to leave premises without liability if the business falters?
  • If the planning permission you require is not in place would an Agreement for Lease work for you so the landlord is committed to give the lease to you but only if you get planning. If not you’re not bound.
  • If you’re a tenant, are there any incentives available such as a reduced rent period?
  • Do your research. For example, can you take advantage of incentives in regeneration areas, or from improvements in the local road networks like Centre Park Link or the planned Warrington Western link road?

 

What advice do you have for purchasing commercial property?

Use the knowledge and experience of your commercial property agent, and get a full structural survey. Another very important point is to ensure the planning use/permissions you require are in place before you exchange contracts.

What advice do you have leasing?

We often see parties entering leases without legal advice. This could leave a tenant not fully understanding their obligations for repair, registration, or whether they’ve ‘contracted out’ of security of business tenure.

Or for a new landlord, it could result in them not realising the tenant is entitled to stay beyond the end of the term.

We can ensure you are fully appraised whether a landlord or tenant, and, with advice, more favourable terms could be negotiated.

What advice do you have for selling?

Take the advice of an experienced local commercial property agent about value. Make your property as attractive as possible – for example, can you increase the value or appeal by applying for additional planning permissions? Get your paperwork up to date and ensure you are compliant where relevant, for example commercial EPC, fire risk assessment, and asbestos management report.

What are the common pitfalls to avoid?

We know leases over seven years must be registered, but a tenant without advice may not. This can have implications to the business if you wish to borrow money when the lender requires a secured charge, or if you would like to assign or sub-let to another.

In addition, everyone knows stamp duty may be payable when buying a property, but it can be payable when you enter into a lease too.

Is there anything else that’s important to know?

A contentious area can be dilapidations at the end of a lease term. We advise parties to agree a Schedule of Condition prior to entering into a lease because this can assist when dealing with dilapidations at the end of the term. A commercial estate agent can prepare this document for you.

High financial and reputational risk for firms without a staff social media policy

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Social media and other electronic means of communication enable everyone to communicate to whoever they like, all the time.  We are all publishers today.

But what if an employee posts on social media something confidential about their employer?  Or that’s derogatory about a customer or client?

Whether from the company or their personal account, damage is done and the customer can sue for breach of confidentiality or damages.

Warrington employment law specialist Watsons Solicitors is urging every company, big or small, to ensure it has a robust social media policy.

Latham Parry, partner and head of the employment law department, said: “The speed with which social media content can be uploaded means it’s easy to post before you’ve reflected on the consequences of what you’re saying.

“It isn’t just words.  Warn employees about video content also.  A clip of operatives fooling around on a construction site, which shows the customer’s and the employer’s branding, can cause reputational damage and attract attention from health and safety bodies.

“In an office scenario, it’s all too easy to make a post public, when you thought you’d clicked private to send it to your closed group of contacts.

“Would an employee have written the same content in a letter they send by Royal Mail, or a fax?”

He recommends employers:

  • Have a policy in place that deals with electronic communications including texts and social media posts
  • Train staff about the policies, using real-life examples
  • Ensure staff understand this relates to personal and work-related communications.  Facebook is as important as LinkedIn.
  • Remind them that no mention should be made of customers without their approval

 

He added:“We would urge any employer to review their social media policies by speaking to an employment law specialist.”

Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 50 years, specialises in employment law, family law and conveyancing.

The team of experienced solicitors each hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.

Click for more information on employment law.

Watsons sponsors 2018 Warrington Business Awards

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Go-ahead companies and executives are being invited to enter the 2018 Warrington Business Awards, by its chairman, Watsons Solicitors partner, Danny Hudson.

A leading Warrington law firm, Watsons Solicitors is also sponsoring the Businesswoman of the Year category.

Entries are now open for the prestigious awards, whose winners will be announced on June 8.

The initiative will support the Tim Parry Jonathan Ball Peace Foundation, in the 25th anniversary year of the Warrington bombings.

Danny Hudson is a keen supporter of business networking, having previously run the Warrington First group  for 10 years.

He said: “Winning a Warrington Business Award brings prestige, press coverage and extensive professional business contacts.

“This is a not for profit event, organised by a group of volunteers, and we have a panel of 30 to 40 very credible judges, ranging from MPs to company owners and directors.

“There are 12 categories, so hopefully something for everyone that wishes to enter.”

He added: “Watsons decided to sponsor the Businesswoman of the Year category, because we know there are plenty of female leaders out there whose successes have so far have gone unrecognised.  We’re expecting a good number of entries.”

Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 50 years, specialises in family law, employment law, and conveyancing.

Previously run by a local newspaper, the awards were relaunched in 2015 as a not for profit organisation by a group of businesspeople.

The 2018 awards comprise:

  • Launch Event – 1st February 2018, 6pm
  • Dinner at the Peace Centre with guest speakers Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester and Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor.
  • Limited tickets cost £25 and can be bought by emailing wendy.parry@foundation4peace.org
  • 8th June 2018 – the glitzy spectacular that will be the Warrington Business Awards 2018 at a prestige venue in Lymm.
  • July 2018 – a winners and sponsors event: a chance for reflection and networking at a cocktail and drinks reception.

For details visit http://www.warringtonbusinessawards.co.uk

Employment solicitors in Warrington warn of expensive holiday pay claims after ECJ ruling

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Employers who have wrongly classed their workers as self-employed contractors could now face substantial claims for unpaid holiday, following a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the case of King v The Sash Window Workshop Ltd.

Latham Parry, a solicitor specialising in Employment Law in Warrington, says that the ECJ ruling in King has significant ramifications in relation to the right to holiday pay in the UK.

Mr Parry, who heads the Employment Law Team at Watsons Solicitors, Warrington, said: “Companies often regard people who work for them as self-employed, independent contractors, but the reality isn’t always so. The employment tribunals and courts have recently dealt with a number of high profile cases including Uber, Addison Lee and CitySprint, where so-called self-employed contractors have been able to establish ‘worker’ status, meaning that they acquire certain legal rights, including the right to paid annual leave.

“The EJC decision in King means that an employer who prevents a worker from taking paid holiday because the employer refuses to grant paid holiday, for example, because the employer wrongly classes the individual as self-employed, is preventing the worker from exercising EU rights.

“The decision goes further and means if the employer refuses to grant paid holiday, the worker can now carry over his entitlement to the following holiday year and therefore accumulate these rights from previous years.

“Claims for holiday pay could potentially be made to as far back as 1996, when the original Working Time Directive came into force.”

Established as an Employment Law solicitor in Warrington, Mr Parry added: “The ruling applies to four weeks’ European annual holiday, so each worker could claim up to 4 weeks’ holiday pay for the last 20 years, or 80 weeks’ pay. This could be financially disastrous for companies which have wrongly classed large numbers of their workers as self-employed.”

In King, Mr King had been believed to be self-employed, so his ’employer’ had not granted paid holiday.

An employment tribunal then held that he was a worker, entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave under the Working Time Regulations 1998, and also that he was entitled to compensation for holiday not taken in previous years.

The employer argued that the Working Time Regulations 1998 provide that, if paid holiday is not taken in a leave year, it is lost, and successfully appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal on this point.

Mr King appealed to the Court of Appeal, which then made a reference to the ECJ.

The ECJ said that any worker prevented from taking paid holiday because the employer refuses to grant it, is being denied his EU rights. The ECJ also held that an employer who fails to grant paid holiday to workers should not be entitled to the benefits of the normal limits on how much can be carried over.

Click for more information about employment law.

Warrington-based family solicitors urge cohabiting couples to seek advice following survey results

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A family law group has warned that Warrington and Cheshire’s unmarried couples who live together could incorrectly believe common-law marriage exists.

A survey carried out by Resolution found that 66 per cent of cohabiting couples are unaware of their rights in the event the relationship ends, and this can lead to consequences when dividing up the finances.

Danny Hudson, partner and member of the family department at Watsons Solicitors, said: “The number of unmarried couples who live together has increased from 1.5 million to 3.3 million in 21 years. Despite this significant growth, the laws have not kept pace with this change in society.

“This research highlights that the government needs to act immediately to protect people in such a situation.

“For example, it’s estimated that 66 per cent of people don’t have wills in Warrington. If a death occurs and that person hasn’t left a will, his or her unmarried partner will not automatically inherit anything, unless they jointly own property. However, a married partner would inherit all or some of the estate.

“Another common scenario is when one of the partners stays at home to care for children. If the relationship breaks down, they may not be entitled to make any claims for property, maintenance or pension sharing.

“We would urge any cohabiting couple to review their rights by speaking to a local family law firm.”

Danny specialises in all types of family law including divorce and is a member of the Law Society Family Law Panel. Watsons Solicitors’ family department also backed calls to reform out-dated divorce laws.

Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 50 years, specialises in family law, employment law, and conveyancing.

The team of experienced solicitors each hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.

Click for more information on family law.

Top Warrington family law solicitor’s term with the Law Society comes to end

Monday, November 27, 2017

A partner and the head of the family department at Watsons Solicitors has completed her term as president of the Warrington Law Society.

Catrin Parry, who joined the Warrington law firm in 2007, handed over duties at the AGM, her final engagement in the role.

The AGM, which was held at the Park Royal Hotel, was well attended by Warrington’s legal fraternity, and Faisal Rashid, MP for Warrington South, delivered the main speech.

Catrin has helped Watsons Solicitors become a leading firm of family solicitors in Warrington. She specialises in local authority children care work acting for guardians, parents, grandparents and children. She also handles all other aspects of family work including matrimonial property disputes.

Catrin, who will stay on in an active role with the Law Society, is also a member of the Law Society Children’s panel and resolution.

She said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my 12-month stint as president of the Warrington Law Society and know it’s in capable hands moving forward.

“The Law Society plays an important role in the region to promote and support solicitors to ensure they can help their clients.”

The new president is Stephen Poyner of FDR.

Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 50 years, specialises in family law, employment law, and conveyancing.

The team of experienced solicitors each hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.

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