Government to ‘consider’ introducing new electronic Wills

The government is considering a complete overhaul of the outdated method of making a Will. Under the new proposals it might be possible to make your Will in far simpler ways than at present. These new procedures could in some circumstances even include making a Will by email. At present there are strict requirements that must be met for a Will to be valid.

Naturally a Will is a very personal and powerful document. It expresses your views and wishes after you are dead. This in itself has led to many complications and of course Wills can be manipulated, even under the existing rules. There are concerns that relaxing these rules will bring with it benefits as well as further possibilities for abusing the last wishes of the terminally ill and elderly. People often make a Will when they are at their most vulnerable.

The government has denied that a proposed change to the laws surrounding wills could result in people sending wills by text message, as it concedes it is yet to consider the potential for increased fraud and litigation.

Responding to questions in parliament, junior justice minister Phillip Lee said that although a consultation by the Law Commission considered allowing for the provision of electronic wills (when technology allows) it would not mean that a text message could constitute a will.

Lee was asked what assessment the government had made to ensure people were protected by fraud should the Law Commission’s proposals be accepted.

Lee said: ‘The Law Commission has not made proposals to allow wills and other testamentary dispositions to be created by text message or similar informal routes. The Law Commission is, however, currently considering the law of wills, including how the law can provide for the making of electronic wills, whilst ensuring testators are protected against risks of fraud and exploitation.’

He added that the government would consider any recommendations but currently had no plans to change the legal requirements for creating a will and so no assessment of the potential for increased fraud and litigation had been made.

In July, the Commission published a consultation paper inviting views on several issues relating to will laws.

The relevant passage that sparked fears of wills by text message was in relation to introducing a dispensing power. A dispensing power, which is not currently available in England and Wales, enables a court to recognise a will as valid even if the usual formalities have not been complied with.

The commission said that if a dispensing power were introduced there are ’strong arguments’ that it should apply not only to traditional written documents but also to those in an electronic format, including a digital document or audio recording.

An example of where a dispensing power might be used could be if someone seriously ill in hospital might have more immediate access to a tablet or smartphone than to a pen and paper, and may be more able to speak than to write, the commission said. It added that it would be for the courts to assess the facts in an individual case.

The Law Commission consultation closes on 10 November. It is an opportunity for anyone with an opinion on the proposals to have their say. We encourage you to take the time to provide your comments to the proposals.

If you haven’t made a Will yet or are thinking of changing your Will, contact us on 020 8401 7352 and we can assist you. The costs of making a simple Will are next to nothing compared with the peace of mind that it gives you and your beneficiaries.

G4S earn millions from Home Office Immigration contracts despite evidence of abusing deportation detainees

This week secret filming by the BBC Panorama inside the Home Office’s Brook House detention centre gave the world a preview of the abuses being committed against some of the most vulnerable in society. Abuses that are silently sanctioned by the Home Office.

Nevertheless the Detention Centre’s private contractor, G4S, is still hoping that its deal to run Brook House and neighbouring Tinsley House will be renewed by the Government. The company could also stand to make more money from another £600 million Home Office contract up for renewal: managing asylum seeker accommodation on the outside of detention. It seems that there is no end of money being earned, despite humiliating whistleblowing of the atrocious and inhumane practices of some G4S staff.

However, G4S is by no means the only corporation profiting from the detention and deportation machine. Indeed one other, Carlson Wagonlit, just had its own deal to organise deportation flights renewed for another 5 years.

The Home Office has created a “hostile environment” for migrants and this presents an outsourcing goldmine for private businesses willing to take advantage of the opportunity. Public sympathy is lacking for anything to do with immigration and sadly there appears to have evolved a culture of ‘turning a blind eye’ to practices that would be totally unacceptable in a normal prison environment.

Currently, nine of the Home Office’s eleven detention centres are run by private companies. G4S run the two Gatwick centres of Brook Hose and Tinsley House. Mitie has control of Colnbrook Detention Centre, Harmondsworth and Campsfield House; Serco runs Yarl’s Wood; GEO runs Dungavel and Tascor, a subsidiary of Capita runs and maintains Larne House and Pennine House short term immigration holding facilities.

Capita/Tascor has the additional contract of being in charge of “escorting” prisoners onto deportation flights — a contract G4S lost following the killing of Jimmy Mubenga in 2010. The planes themselves are flown by many airlines including charter company Titan Airways.

G4S’ current contract to manage Brook and Tinsley Houses is due to expire next spring. The deal was announced for re-tender last year, with a closing date for bids of 31 December.  But nine months later, there is still no news on whether G4S will stay in charge, and the new contract is supposed to begin in May 2018. G4S has said that it is continuing with its bid to renew the contract. The Home Office has a habit of refusing to comment when faced with specific questions.

New asylum housing contracts have been announced too

Two new contracts to run other pieces of the UK border regime have been announced in the last month: a £600 million tender for asylum seeker  housing; and renewal of the Home Office’s long-standing deportation flight-booking deal with “travel services” multinational Carlson Wagonlit.

Asylum seekers, when they’re not being locked up in detention centres, may be offered temporary housing in dispersal areas around the UK, and this housing is also outsourced for profit. For the most part asylum seekers are shipped out to slums and economically deprived estates, mostly in the North West and North Eastern England.

The system was last put to tender in 2011, under a scheme called “Compass” which invited companies to bid for six regional areas. Unsurprisingly G4S, Serco, and a joint venture involving Reliance were awarded all the contracts. Reliance later sold its prisoner transporting division to Capita, who then renamed it Tascor. So apart from logos, nothing really changed.

Thus the Home Office created a system where the same companies run both detention centres and outside accommodation for asylum seekers: a “one stop” solution where the same huge corporations move and transport refugees and immigration detainees from cell to what the Guardian newspaper termed a “rat-infested” hovel.

The new Asylum Accommodation contracts will start in September 2019 and last five years. They are likely to be divided up regionally, as in the current system. Full details aren’t out yet, as for now this is just a “consultation” period before the procurement process begins in November 2017. The winners are supposed to be picked by the end of 2018.

Questions have existed for years about how G4S managed to continue retaining these contracts despite overwhelming evidence of , became a byword for squalor, management intimidation, and facilitating racist attacks. More worryingly for the government and its corporate partners, they also hit financial troubles. In 2014, a National Audit Office report slammed the scheme, describing how G4S and Serco “struggled to get the contracts up and running”. The three companies themselves complained of losing money, because they were housing more people than they had planned for. In 2016 CEO Ashley Almanza claimed G4S could lose over £100 million on the deal, and said: “Were this contract before us today we would not be entering into it”. Any financial hit would have worsened when the Home Office exercised its option to keep the contracts running an extra two years until 2019.

Given Almanza’s comments, it might seem that G4S won’t be rushing to bid again. Campaigners against the G4S contract, though, are more sceptical. G4S don’t disclose how much money they are actually making (or losing) on these deals.

Carlson Wagonlit: specialist deportation travel agents

The renewed £5.7 million “travel services” contract , announced on 21 July 2017, went through with no such opposition. It involves booking flights for people being “removed” (the Home Office euphemism for deportation), as well as for their “escorts” (security guards). This includes both buying tickets on scheduled flights run by mainstream airlines, and chartering whole planes for the Home Office’s secretive mass deportation night flights. The contract will run for up to seven years, starting this November. The Home Office estimates in the contract announcement that it will spend £200 million on deportation tickets and charters over that period.

immigration-solicitors

BBC Panorama exposes Brook House Asylum & Immigration Removal Centre

On the front line of the fight to control immigration, BBC Panorama goes undercover in an Immigration Removal Centre and reveals chaos, incompetence and abuse. The centre is a staging post for detainees who face deportation from the UK. It is a toxic mix, and detainees who have overstayed visas or are seeking asylum can share rooms with foreign national criminals who have finished prison sentences. Some have been held in the privately run centre for many months, even years.

The covert footage, recorded by a detainee custody officer, reveals widespread self-harm and attempted suicides in a centre where drugs, particularly the synthetic cannabis substitute spice, are rife. Many officers do their best to control the chaos, but some are recorded mocking, abusing and even assaulting detainees.

Undercover ; Britain’s Immigration Secrets

Divorce Process Part 4: Obtaining the Decree Absolute of Divorce

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This is the final part in a Four part review of the divorce process entitled ‘Obtaining the Decree Absolute of Divorce.

Overview

The Decree Absolute is the final decree of divorce which ends the marriage. It must be applied for to be granted and will not be automatically issued by the courts. Before it is granted the steps set out in the previous three articles must have been completed to the satisfaction of a District Judge.

The application for a Decree Absolute of Divorce must be made on a special form which can be obtained from the court office.

Once the Decree Absolute of Divorce is granted, copies will be sent to all parties in the proceedings.

The date the marriage comes to an end is the date which is on the Decree Absolute of Divorce. Before this date the parties were still legally married. Once the Decree Absolute is issued, both parties are free to re-marry.

The Petitioner can apply for a Decree Absolute six weeks after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi of Divorce. However the Respondent cannot apply until 18 weeks after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi of Divorce.

If the respondent is applying, they will also need to swear an affidavit setting out the reasons why it is the Respondent applying for the Decree Absolute rather than the normal procedure, where the Petitioner applies.

Where there is a delay and neither party to the marriage applies for the Decree Absolute within twelve months after the decree nisi, then whomever is applying for the Decree Absolute will have to give a written explanation to the court, often by filing another affidavit, explaining the reasons for the delay, and confirming that no further children have been born to the parties.

Procedure

The petitioner can apply for decree absolute anytime from 6 weeks from the date the decree nisi is pronounced. Where the Petitioner applies, the Decree Absolute is usually granted automatically at this stage.

No further court hearings are required and the process is usually done by post only or by attendance at the court office and the payment of the applicable court fee.

Where the petitioner does not apply for decree absolute, the respondent can apply. However; the Respondent cannot apply any earlier than 18 weeks from the date of the pronouncement of the decree Nisi of divorce.

Applications by the Respondent for a Decree Absolute are not automatically granted and will always be considered by a judge, first.

Where there is a delay of 12 months or longer from the pronouncement of the decree nisi of divorce to the application for a decree absolute, either party to the marriage can still apply for the decree absolute.

But they must satisfy the judge by way of a statement setting out the reasons for the delay, confirming that they have not been cohabiting with the other party to the marriage for any periods of six months or longer and confirming that no other children have been born, whether or not parented by both parties to the marriage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Decree Absolute mean I am divorced?
Yes, this is the final decree of the court in the marriage. Once granted, the parties are free to re-marry.

Do I need to keep the Decree Absolute Certificate?
Yes, this is an important legal document and you will need to present it if you plan to marry again.

It is also often required for other purposes. If you lose it, you can obtain a replacement from the court for a fee.

My Decree Absolute was granted and we agreed finances informally. My ex is backtracking on that agreement, can I apply for Ancillary Relief?
Probably – an application for Ancillary Relief can, in certain circumstances, still be brought after the marriage has been dissolved. It depends on many factors, including whether you have remarried or are cohabiting with another person. You will need to seek professional legal advice about this from a Solicitor.

My ex and I have reconciled and want to stay together, can we cancel the Decree Absolute?
No,  the divorce is final. If you do wish to remain in a marriage with your ex, then you can remarry them again though.

Divorce is a potentially complex legal process and you should always ensure that you receive independent legal advice specific to your particular circumstances from a qualified adviser.

Should you have any queries about your own personal circumstances Contact us for guidance and advice relating to your particular circumstances on 020 8401 7352.

The information provided in this article is general information only and it is not intended that you should rely on this information as advice relating to your specific circumstances.

Divorce Process Part 3: Obtaining the Decree Nisi of Divorce

divorce-solicitors-croydon

This is the Third part in a Four part review of the divorce process entitled ‘Obtaining the Decree Nisi of Divorce.

Once the Divorce Petition has been acknowledged by the Respondent, the court will then start the process toward pronouncing the decree nisi of divorce. The importance of the decree nisi is twofold.

First it is the initial decree of your divorce. No divorce can be finalised before a decree nisi is pronounced first.

Secondly, no financial settlement or Orders relating to the finances of the divorce can be made by the court until the decree Nisi has first been pronounced. A decree Nisi also indicates that you are well on the way to being divorced.

Overview & Procedure

When the Respondent returns the Acknowledgement of Service form to the court, the court will forward a copy of this to the Petitioner.

The Petitioner must then draft and swear a statement in support of the petition for divorce and they must also exhibit a copy of the acknowledgement of service form to their affidavit confirming that the signature of the Respondent appearing on the acknowledgement of service form is accurate and also confirming that the facts set out in the divorce petition have not changed materially.

The Petitioners statement will be filed at the court where it will be reviewed by a District Judge. The judge will then decide whether the statement is acceptable and if so, will set the matter down in the Special Procedure List, for the pronouncement of the decree Nisi of divorce.

The date of that pronouncement will be advised to both the respondent and the petitioner. It is called the Special Procedure List because as a general rule there is no need for either of the parties to attend the court for that hearing.

In the absence of any representations by either party at the Special Procedure List hearing, the court will simply pronounce the decree Nisi of divorce and copies will be sent to the parties.

However; where the Respondent objects to paying the costs of the divorce or wishes to make some other representations, then attendance at the Special Procedure List hearing is essential by them.

The Decree Nisi is the first Order made by the courts in relation to the divorce petition. It is a significant stage in the divorce and once it is pronounced then six weeks after the date of it’s pronouncement, the Petitioner can apply to the court for the Decree Absolute of Divorce.

The Decree Absolute of Divorvce is the final Order of divorce and once obtained the marriage has been dissolved and the marriage is at an end.

Also , the Decree Nisi is important because it is only after the pronouncement of the decree nisi that the Court can make any final orders concerning the financial aspects of the divorce.

This applies even if the parties to the marriage have agreed the financial aspects of the divorce by way of a Consent Order. It is therefore important that the decree Nisi is obtained first.

Once the decree Nisi is obtained, the speed at which the divorce progresses to a Decree Absolute is very much in the hands of the Petitioner. This is because the Petitioner can apply, six weeks after the pronouncement of the decree Nisi, for a final decree of divorce, being the Decree Absolute.

However; the Respondent cannot apply for this until 18 weeks after the date the decree Nisi is pronounced.

This is one of the reasons why it is sometimes beneficial to be the Petitioner in divorce proceedings, because the Petitioner often has the lead when it comes to deciding the speed at which matters will proceed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a Decree Nisi mean – does it mean I am divorced?
Not quite yet. The Decree Nisi signifies that the court has accepted the grounds for divorce as well as the Respondents acknowledgement and the divorce can progress toward a final Order.

You are divorced only when you receive the Decree Absolute of divorce. Before this, you cannot legally re-marry and there can be other consequences too, including your rights and entitlements in the event that your spouse or you die before the decree absolute of divorce.

The court has pronounced my Decree Nisi – what do I do next?
Before progressing the matter on to a final decree of divorce, this is an important stage to consider whether there are any issues in relation to the finances of the divorce that need to be resolved.

If the financial aspects of the divorce are still unresolved then any application to the court in this regard needs to be filed now.

Delay beyond this stage in addressing the financial aspects of the divorce can mean that one or both of the parties may well lose out on their entitlements.

The financial aspects of the divorce are called Ancillary Relief proceedings.

Should you have any queries about your own personal circumstances Contact us for guidance and advice relating to your particular circumstances on 020 8401 7352.

The information provided in this article is general information only and it is not intended that you should rely on this information as advice relating to your specific circumstances.

Divorce is a potentially complex legal process and you should always ensure that you receive independent legal advice specific to your particular circumstances from a qualified and experienced solicitor.