New Legislation has been put before Parliament which, if implemented, would introduce a new banded charging scheme for fees for obtaining a grant of Representation.

At the moment, families pay a flat fee on estates worth over £5,000.   Under the present scheme an application by an individual costs £215 and by a solicitor £155, however a new tariff is to be introduced imminently which will see the fee for estates of more than £2 million rise to  £6,000

The new scheme has been decided upon by the Government after the 2016 consultation produced a majority of more than 90 per cent against the proposal to link the cost to the value of the estate.  Back in April 2017 plans to change the application fees were shelved but are now back on the agenda albeit in a slightly different format.

On the plus side, those with smaller estates will benefit from the estate value below which no fee is charged rising from £5,000 to £50,000. The proposals are expected to remove 30,000 estates annually from the charge for probate, but to raise an additional £250 million overall.

The fees will depend on the amount the estate is worth: 

  • Estates worth less than £50,000 will pay nothing, meaning estates worth between £5,000 and £50,000 will save £215 compared to the current system
  • Estates worth from £50,000 up to £300,000 will pay £250, a rise of £35
  • Estates worth from £300,000 up to £500,000 will pay £750, a rise of £535
  • Estates worth from £500,000 up to £1 million will pay £2,500, a rise of £2,285
  • Estates worth from £1 million up to £1.6 million will pay £4,000, a rise of £3,785
  • Estates worth from £1.6 million up to £2 million will pay £5,000, a rise of £4,785
  • Estates worth more than £2 million will pay £6,000, a rise of £5,785

To discuss how to make sure as much of your estate as possible goes to those you would like to benefit from it, contact Lucy Bluck or a member of the private client team on 0808 166 8870 or speak to Debra Lourenco to arrange an appointment on the same number.

The legal ownership of property is not always the same as the beneficial ownership and disputes can arise when no documentation is executed to show the two are different. Such was the case in a recent dispute which occurred after a couple who had two children but never married broke up. The male partner worked in the IT industry and earned the greater part of their income. The female partner was a midwife, who switched to part-time working then gave up work to look after their young children.

The couple had moved to Hampshire from London, buying a property for £740,000 financed largely by the sale of the male partner's property and a joint mortgage of just under £500,000. The female partner paid £39,000 to assist in the purchase, which was registered in joint names.

When the couple broke up, the ownership of the property was disputed. At the heart of the dispute was whether they intended to purchase it as joint tenants, as the female partner contended, or as tenants in common, as the male partner asserted. If they had purchased it as joint tenants, the value would be split between them equally. If they had purchased it as tenants in common, it would be owned in unequal shares corresponding to their respective contributions to its purchase.

Among the evidence given was that the male partner said in a conversation in a pub, "We are now 50:50 owners but that means you owe half the debt as well." The ownership of the property was recorded at the Land Registry as being a joint tenancy, this being consistent with the advice of the solicitor who acted on the purchase that in the event of either partner's death, the title in the property would pass to the survivor.

At the original hearing, the judge ruled that the value of the property should be split equally. The male partner applied for permission to appeal, arguing that whilst he would have been content for title to pass if he died, while he was alive he would not have accepted a 50:50 split on a sale as he had provided more of the capital for the property's purchase. He also contended that the evidence presented at the first hearing could not displace the assumption that the ownership would be in the ratio of the respective partners' contributions.

In refusing the right to appeal, the High Court placed emphasis on the fact that the male partner did nothing to show that it was intended for the beneficial interest he had in the property to be different from the legal interest.

The moral of the story is that if you are buying a property with someone else and the legal title rests with all the buyers, you must ensure that if the beneficial interest is different, the appropriate documentation is put in place.

We can advise you on any aspect of property purchase and make sure that any necessary agreements are dealt with.

For advice on all aspects of the law relating to family law matters, contact Karen Moores on 0121 700 1400, email; for property related matters contact Adam Oleskow or complete our online enquiry form.

The process of divorce in the UK has for many years been seen as rather long-winded and tending to produce more conflict than need be. One of the reasons for this is that the grounds which demonstrate an 'irretrievable breakdown' of a marriage – the justification for a legal divorce – effectively apportion blame for the breakdown. This can cause the debate to become more argumentative than is necessary.

The Government launched a consultation last year and changes to the system were proposed to bring in 'no fault' divorce. These have met with overwhelming approval.

The Government has therefore promised to introduce legislation in the next Parliamentary session, which begins in May.

Says Emma Gray,

While we wait to see the detail of the legislation, the proposals are broadly to be welcomed and should allow the negotiation of care arrangements for children and the financial settlements to be conducted in a less confrontational way than is often the case.

For help or advice on the new rules and how it will impact on your divorce, please contact Emma Gray on 0121 746 3300 or email

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Proving negligence and that someone has suffered injury, loss or damage can be tricky, but the real challenge often lies in establishing the causal link between the two. The Court of Appeal confronted one such issue in a so-called ‘wrongful birth’ case.

The case concerned a woman who was concerned that she might be carrying the haemophilia gene because a relative suffered from the condition. She underwent a blood test at her local medical centre and was reassured when told that she did not have haemophilia. The GP who gave her the results of the test accepted that she had breached the duty that she owed her patient, in that the test did not establish, one way or the other, whether the woman was a carrier of the gene.

The woman became pregnant four years later and gave birth to a baby boy who suffered from both haemophilia and autism. The GP’s lawyers accepted that, had she been aware that she was a carrier, the woman would have opted to terminate her pregnancy and the boy would not have been born. On that basis, a judge awarded her £9 million in compensation, that sum representing the additional costs involved in bringing up a child with haemophilia and autism.

In upholding the GP’s challenge to that ruling, the Court noted that the woman had asked to be tested solely for the haemophilia gene. The fact that the child had also been born with autism was a matter of chance and the risk of that occurrence had not been increased by the GP’s negligent advice. The ruling meant that the woman was entitled only to the extra costs associated with rearing a child with haemophilia. Her compensation was, by agreement, reduced to £1.4 million.

For help or advice on this or other clinical negligence matter, please speak to Adam Hodson on 0808 166 5638 or a member of the Personal Injury Team.

Rise of the machines at work - accidents at work - roboticsThis phrase has become notorious and conjures images of machines taking over a complacent society walking blindly into self -inflicted destruction as machines potentially become the new super predators.

This rise of technology and digital transformation among businesses of all types has led to the widespread automation of key processes in order to make workplaces as efficient as possible. With this, the rising adoption of robotics in industry means that health and safety issues are growing increasingly complex.

Manufacturing is one sector in which the use of robots is becoming increasingly widespread, but retail and healthcare have also experienced a rise in this type of operations. Robots are able to carry out tasks deemed too dangerous for humans to perform, such as lifting or moving heavy objects or handling dangerous substances. There are also new wearable robotic devices in use that can reduce the risk of injury or aid the rehabilitation of staff members who have been injured.

In scenarios where robots work alongside humans, there are a series of risks that need to be mitigated. For instance, many factories have installed cages and guards to avoid unwanted interaction between humans and fixed robots. However, with new developments in technology creating robots that can move autonomously around a workplace, new risks arise.

Cited as the first human killed by a robot, Mr Robert Williams was an assembly worker at Ford’s Flat Rock plant in Michigan. He was crushed to death by the arm of a one-tonne robot on the production line on 25 January 1979. The court concluded that he was struck on the head due to inadequate safety measures. Whilst this incident occurred some time ago, accidents like this will only increase as manufacturers and society seek to increase automation and rely upon ever changing technology.

More recently a 21-year-old, was part of a two-man team installing the stationary robot in a car plant. The young man was struck by the robot's arm and pressed against a metal plate, he unfortunately died of his injuries soon after. An argument arose and it appears the technician was apparently inside the cage when the accident occurred. According to a statement released by the manufacturers, the robot did not malfunction. However, would this accident have occurred(????) maybe, but we would contend the robot was merely fulfilling the task without regard, thought or conscience to those around and herein lies the problem. Machines fulfil their function without compassion with the end justifying the means in terms of their function. Time will tell if this aspect is ever addressed.

However, mechanism (?) should have been put in place and it was incumbent on his employers to do so. Risk assessment procedures should be carried out to ensure they account for the full range of potential hazards posed by the use of robots. Common causes associated with accidents involving robots should also include human error, control errors, mechanical failures, environmental effects, malfunctioning power sources and improper installation. In addition, employers should look closely at their employees’ skill set, as skills required to work with robots are likely to be different and more technical.

It is therefore surprising no Health and Safety legislation exists in relation to the specific use of robots in the workplace but a more generalised obligation does exist on employers to take reasonable measures to make sure their employees are kept safe

The benefits offered by the use of robotics and automation in the manufacturing industry are plentiful; however, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that everything possible is carried out to minimise the associated risks.

In the event that you have been injured whilst at work please contact our Personal Injury team on 0808 166 8827 for advice.

Appointing loved ones as executors of your will may seem the natural thing to do, but there are very good reasons why it is often wiser to appoint professionals. A case in point concerned two sisters who fell out bitterly after one of them arranged for their father’s burial in the back garden of his home.

The father left his estate equally to his daughters and appointed both of them as his executors. Following his death, aged 80, the older sister and her son arranged for his remains to be buried in his garden with due dignity. The younger sister objected that this had been done without consulting her and that her sibling had also refused to inform her of the exact location of the grave.

The unusual circumstances of the burial contributed to a deterioration in the sisters’ relationship. Although it was eventually agreed that their father should be exhumed and laid to rest in a churchyard beside his wife, the siblings continued to disagree as to how that should be achieved. They also failed to see eye-to-eye in respect of the administration of the estate and, in particular, the sale of their father’s home.

After the younger sister launched proceedings, the High Court found that her older sibling had misconducted herself in her role as executor. It was expedient and necessary to remove her from that office. Given the strength of bad feeling between the siblings, the Court also directed the younger sister’s removal and the siblings’ replacement as executors by two independent and experienced lawyers.

For help and advice on matters such as this please contact Samantha Hughes on 0808 166 8827 or email

Everyone has a story of a “bad divorce”.  It usually involves lots of legal costs, stress, court proceedings and hurt feelings. 

Is it possible to have a good divorce?  Here are some tips which may help:

  • - Choose a family lawyer who is a member of Resolution.  We abide by a code of practice which says we will do everything we can to ensure that you and your former spouse remain on good terms whilst at the same time providing you with specialist family advice.
  • - Unfortunately we still need to say why the marriage has broken down to start divorce proceedings.  Hopefully that will change with the campaign for a no fault divorce, but in the meantime if possible agree on the reasons why the marriage has broken down and avoid “fault”.  If you have been separated for 2 years and both agree, then you don’t need to set out lots of details of the other party’s bad behaviour or adultery – just say you have been separated for 2 years and you both agree.  If that is not an option, don’t set out pages and pages of bad behaviour and don’t name the other party if adultery is the reason the marriage is at an end.
  • - Start with the commitment to reach agreement on money and child arrangements.    Consider the collaborative process.  This is all about you and your lawyers working together in one room to try to sort out arrangements for money and children. 
  • - Put yourself in the shoes of your child.  How would you feel if you couldn’t see your Mother or Father?  How would you feel if your Mother or Father made nasty comments about each other to you?

Divorce is hard.  I am not convinced that you can have a “good” divorce, but I do think you can have a “better divorce”.

Please contact Amanda Holland on 0808 166 8827 to discuss this or other related family law matter.

Merry Christmas from all at Syndey Mitchell LLP

One very good reason why you should sign an up-to-date and professionally drafted will is to ensure that your chosen beneficiaries are accurately identified. A High Court case on point concerned gifts to a cottage hospital that did not exist and to equally illusory maternity and children’s wards of another hospital.

The case concerned a couple who, by their wills, made various gifts to good causes, including the hospitals. There was no record of the cottage hospital named in the will ever having existed. The other hospital mentioned had become a specialist cardiac and cancer treatment centre and had neither a maternity nor a children’s ward. In those circumstances, the trustees of the will sought judicial guidance as to the correct destination of the gifts.

The Court found that the gift to the cottage hospital should go to an NHS trust that runs a community hospital which serves the same area. That was on the basis that the community hospital was the same as, or had subsumed the charitable functions of, the putative cottage hospital.

The gift to the other hospital was permissive, rather than mandatory, and could be read as conferring a discretion on the recipient. The gift thus did not fail due to the closure of the maternity and children’s wards and the NHS trust that ran that hospital was entitled to use it for its general charitable purposes.

In giving effect to the couple’s testamentary wishes, the Court also ruled that gifts of jewels and clothing that the woman had made to a close friend who had since died should go to the latter’s daughter. A gift to a parish church, which was not specifically named in the will, would go to the parochial church council of the parish within which the couple had lived for many years and were buried.

For help and advice please contact Samantha Hughes on 0808 166 8860 or email

Sydney Mitchell shortlisted for Medium Law Firm of the Year in the The Law Society Legal Awards

Sydney Mitchell are proud to announce that the firm has been shortlisted for Medium Law firm of the Year.  The awards will take place in London on 17th October.

The judges were extremely impressed with the quality of nominations this year. The success stories received featured a remarkable number of inspiring achievements demonstrating the outstanding skills, experience and determination that continues to drive our profession.

Sydney Mitchell are proud to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award. 

We thank our staff for their hard work and excellent service levels that result in our nomination for such awards.

Well done to all for reaching the shortlist.  To put this into context there are 10,500 law firms in the UK so it is a real accolade to be shortlisted.

Good luck to all firms at the Awards in London on 17th October 2018.



UK Top Tier Firm 2020 Lexcel Practice Management Standard Birmingham Law Firm of the Year for 2011 Resolution Collaborative Family Lawyer
The Law Society Accredited in Family Law Conveyancing Quality Scheme


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