The Importance of being Earnest … how safe is your identity?

Sarah-Varani-150x150CIFAS – the UK’s Fraud Prevention service recently published the annual Fraudscape report which found that if you’re a 46-year-old male living in a major city then you are more likely to become a victim of identity theft than anyone else in the country. Cities including London, Leeds, Glasgow and Manchester were found to be the country’s fraud hot spots. Recorded fraud was up 25pc last year, with 276,993 cases reported in 2014, compared to 221,075 in 2013. One in five people has lost money as a result of cyber crime, the average loss per online attack being £247 per person.

Simon Dukes, chief executive, at CIFAS, said: “The frauds we are recording point to increasingly sophisticated, predatory and organised criminals. This is crime on an industrial scale.”
Celebrities such as Beyonce, Jay-Z and Britney Spears have had their private details stolen and posted online. If it can happen to them, could it happen to you?

It’s not unheard of for criminals to pick through peoples rubbish to get their hands on any sensitive information they can. A full picture of your identity can be obtained from documents such as bank or credit card statements or the contents of your handbag or wallet. Don’t forget that this can also be pieced together from information you provide online. Criminals are hacking through weak passwords and taking advantage of consumers over the internet by creating fake links, sending phishing emails (pretending to be a genuine company you may have dealings with) and even managing to install spyware on your devices in some cases. You may also receive unsolicited calls asking for personal information by criminals posing as your bank, Microsoft etc.

If criminals do manage to get hold of details such as your full name, address, date of birth, phone number as well as credit card details or bank account numbers, they may be able to steal your identity. They could use your name to open accounts, get credit cards and loans or apply for state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licences.
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Where there’s a will, there’s a way …

Sarah-Varani-150x150… of disinheriting your estranged spouse.

Although once the decree absolute is issued, any will you may have in place is read as if any reference to a previous spouse is removed entirely, during separation and the often lengthy process of divorce you are at risk of them inheriting under your will if you do not change it in the interim. (Or indeed if you do not have a will at all – under the intestacy rules).

In all honesty whilst in these circumstances a Codicil revoking a gift to a named beneficiary could be used to “cut out” the estranged husband/wife from the estate (provided you already have a will in place already) the best advice really would be to draw up a whole new will which does not make any provision for the estranged spouse. This should then sit alongside a letter of wishes setting out the reasoning behind the lack of any bequests to try and limit any potential claims against the estate.

Under inheritance legislation, it is possible for certain individuals to make a claim for provision out of a deceased’s estate where reasonable financial provision has not been made for them in the will. This includes the spouse or civil partner of the deceased. A claim for provision cannot succeed though unless the court is satisfied that the will does not make reasonable financial provision for the person making the claim. What financial provision is reasonable depends upon who is making the claim. A spouse or civil partner may seek financial provision that is reasonable in all the circumstances, whether or not it is needed for his or her maintenance. The court does not have to decide whether the deceased acted reasonably or unreasonably.
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Please release me, let me go………..

Sarah-Varani-150x150Airlines will be keen to give you your marching orders as soon as possible after a recent decision by the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on the time at which a flight is deemed to have arrived. The Court concluded “…… that the ‘arrival time’, which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subject, corresponds to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft,”

“Passengers continue to be subject, in the enclosed space in which they are sitting, to various constraints. It is only when the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft and the order is given to that effect to open the doors of the aircraft that the passengers cease to be subject to those constraints and may in principle resume their normal activities.”

The ruling is significant for all EU regulated flights where passengers are entitled to between €250 (£200) and €600 (£480) in compensation (in addition to expenses) if a flight is delayed by at least three hours.
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Hands off its mine!!! An update on the legal status of prenuptial agreements

Sarah-Varani-150x150Currently couples can make nuptial agreements before or during their marriage or civil partnership to set out how their property and finances will be dealt with if they were to separate or divorce.

Although the courts in the UK have begun to recognise the validity and importance of prenuptial agreements in “the right circumstances” following the landmark case of Katrin Radmacher and Nichols Granatino in 2010 (where the Supreme Court said that their prenuptial agreement should be given “decisive weight”), there is no guarantee that such agreements will be upheld creating uncertainty for both parties.

However, the Law Commission published a report, Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements on 27 February 2014 and recommended amongst other things that prenuptial agreements should be legally enforceable after the needs of the parties and any children have been met.

The report includes the draft” Nuptial Agreements Bill” which if passed will make “qualifying prenuptial agreements” legally binding.
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“That was my first instinct — to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was a greater need to protect myself…….”

Sarah-Varani-150x150You’ve written your will and are happy that you have protected your nearest and dearest after you have passed away but what about looking after yourself during your lifetime?

A lasting power of attorney is specifically designed to protect you during your lifetime should you ever lose capacity due to accident, illness, infirmity or old age (or if you just can’t be bothered with the hassle of managing your own affairs at some stage in the future). Whilst we all hope the worst will never happen unfortunately one of those events is likely to happen to most people.

By 2025, more than 1 million people in the UK will have dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. One in five people over 85 already suffers from it, with rates significantly higher among women than men.

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) should be seen simply as a piece of insurance providing protection that you may need at some stage in the future and something that protects your wishes it is very important if you are a couple but is absolutely vital if you are single.

There are two different types of lasting power of attorney:

•    health and welfare
•    property and financial affairs

It is up to you whether you decide to make one type or both but you must be 18 or over and have mental capacity – the ability to make your own decisions – when you make your LPA(s). You may need a court-appointed deputy instead if you’re not able to make your own decisions.
Continue reading ““That was my first instinct — to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was a greater need to protect myself…….””

“The best-laid plans of mice and men oft(en) go astray…”

Sarah-Varani-150x150You’ve worked hard all year, done all that preparation and packing  and been looking forward to sunning yourself on a beach, a spot of sightseeing or even a more active holiday , so it’s extremely aggravating when that holiday does not live up to your expectations for one reason or another. Where a holiday has not lived up to the standards you anticipated because of a fault on the part of for example the travel company, airline or accommodation provider, it may be possible to claim not only for the cost of the holiday, but compensation for the loss of enjoyment. Continue reading ““The best-laid plans of mice and men oft(en) go astray…””

The ‘right to die’ debate: an update on the legal position

Debbie-Haskell-150x150The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can occasionally be seen as giving rise to controversial discussions particularly once the basic tenets are interpreted and re-interpreted, especially with regard to unique circumstances. One such matter is the emotive debate considering the ‘right to die’ which regularly appears in the media today. It may surprise some to know that this is not a new or modern debate; views on the right of an individual to end their own life have been recorded from at least the classical era, and the views and reasoning expressed are not dissimilar to those of today.
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“We live we die and the wheels on the bus go round and round”

Sarah-Varani-150x150“Empires collapse, Civilizations disappear, Health deteriorates, bodies turn to ash, but life will always go on”

A bucket list of 50 things to do before you die might include sky diving and swimming with dolphins but bearing in mind the above musings one of the items on the list should probably be making a Will. A Will is much more than a means of distributing your property when you’re gone especially if you have children. Even if you already have a Will you should make sure it is kept up to date, for example if you remarry then an existing Will is revoked. Continue reading ““We live we die and the wheels on the bus go round and round””

Lost Luggage – Your Rights

Debbie-Haskell-150x150Summer is (finally!) here and it’s time to slip on your holiday shoes and get away from the rat race for a short time. Your bags are packed and the sunscreen’s on but when your feet set down at your perfect holiday destination your bags don’t!

Your airline has lost them and so begins the merry go round. You’ve waited patiently by the carousel for your luggage only to realise that it is not there, then you queue up to a desk to speak to a member of staff to report the loss. There may be forms to fill and you may have to ring them every day to see where they are and your perfect break is ruined. Continue reading “Lost Luggage – Your Rights”

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Sarah-Varani-150x150However in both instances you can do some forward planning by drawing up a Will and consulting an accountant. In a digital world though, a Will may not be enough to safeguard your treasured digital possessions. There are numerous legal, cultural, and technical issues that could prevent access to these records, and if you don’t take steps to make them available to your nearest and dearest, your digital legacy could be lost forever.

Currently, your personal representatives (executors appointed under your Will or administrators appointed by the court if you were to die intestate) have the legal authority to deal with your affairs. They are obliged amongst other things to collect in and protect any assets including any digital assets you may have, settling any debts and expenses and distributing in accordance with your Will or under the intestacy rules. Digital assets have value, sometimes sentimental, and sometimes an intrinsic monetary one, just like a boxful of jewellery.
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