Thanks to the commitment of our fantastic employees, we continue to offer the same great service, despite the ongoing restrictions and difficulties, as we enter 2021 in yet another lockdown. We want to share with you how things have started for us in this new year and we hope that you share in our wish to see a better world emerge from this ongoing crisis.
Community at our heart
Working in our community has always been important to Bookers & Bolton Solicitors and now, more than ever, it is crucial.
Every year we sponsor a room at Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homeless charity, because we believe every young person has the right to a safe and secure home in which to grow. This year could see the worst homelessness crisis in Centrepoint’s 50-year history, with over 120,000 young lives at risk. If you want to do something to help then you too can sponsor a room, from as a little as £12 a month, by visiting their website: www.centrepoint.org.uk/turningpoint
Closer to home we support many local charities such as the Alton Community Bus. Fran Light, our receptionist, still calls regular users to check they are doing ok, despite the bus being unable to run at present. They are always happy to hear from her and she loves chatting to them.
Senior Partner, Gideon Cristofoli, often offers free legal advice to local charities to help them with setting up and applying for charitable status. He and Practice Manager, Paula Langley, are trustees for Alton Community Bus and Pure Sea, a charity whose aims are to clear our waterways and oceans of plastics.
Gideon is also a free legal advisor to the Alton Community Cupboard, that helps save food waste from supermarkets and distributes it to those who want it or are in need. He delivers for the cupboard alongside Practice Manager, Paula Langley, and the firm help out with printing and other admin needs where they can.
Gideon understands the stresses of daily life and the impact it can have on mental health and so is a free legal advisor to Happy Days, a mental health charity that aims to support people and equip them with the skills they need to live happy and productive lives. More details and resources can be found on their website https://www.happydaysforeveryone.com/.
Paula & Gideon continue to volunteer for Alton Mutual Aid and want to thank every single person who has volunteered from across Alton and surrounding areas. Since helping to set it up last year, they have seen thousands of shopping and pharmacy deliveries take place to those isolating or unwell. It really has been a remarkable effort by all involved and has shown the community spirit that has always been in our town.
Due to the reduction in Stamp Duty, our conveyancing team have been run off their feet for the past few months! This welcome saving has encouraged people to move, ensuring the local property market is buoyant. Having great support from local estate agents, who value the quality and speed of our work, has ensured our team are happily busy. With Perfect Portal, our app that shows everyone where they are in their matter, we have happy clients too.
Head of Property, Debbie Taylor, has the following advice:
‘The Stamp Duty holiday deadline is 31 March 2021 and it is unlikely to be extended, the Chancellor has recently announced, meaning instructions now are unlikely to benefit. However, it’s always best to spend time finding the right home for you and your family and not be rushed by temporary promotions. Many properties have increased in value due to the demand the Stamp Duty holiday has brought and this will drop off again when it is over. So, don’t panic – we are here for you whenever you decide to move.’
After the 31 March 2021, First Time Buyers are still exempt from Stamp Duty on properties costing up to £300k and so there is hope that the market will remain positive. More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/stamp-duty-land-tax
Wills & Probates
In 2020, we saw people understandably wanting to put their affairs in order with a new Will or Lasting Power of Attorney and so our Private Client team have also been busy. It is always sad to see a rise in probate and estate work but it is understandable during this current health crisis. Our wonderful team have guided people through these difficult times with their usual efficiency and compassion.
Matthew Porter, Partner and Head of Private Client, says,
“We have embraced the new online probate application process for professionals and are working in accordance with HM Courts & Tribunal Services’ (HMCTS) new procedures for obtaining grants of probate. Despite the delays that we are experiencing in the issuing of grants of probate, we are now better placed to provide updates to executors and beneficiaries.
Currently HMCTS advise that they expect to issue a Grant of Probate 8 weeks after they receive the application.
There remain significant delays in some aspects of the administration of estates but not all institutions have problems, so it is not all bad news and some estates can still be administered in a timely manner.
We have also seen an increase in adverts for Will writers that are not Solicitors and so not regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. We ask everyone to do their research before using such a company. You could ask:
- How long has the company been around?
- Who is actually advising you?
- Are they qualified?
- Will the company be there in years to come if things go wrong?
- Do they have Professional Indemnity Insurance?
Your Will is a very important document, particularly if you have a property or other assets of value, and it is important that you trust the person preparing that for you.”
Family & You
Next week we herald the return of our Head of Family, Solicitor Hannah Anderson, from maternity leave. We thank Paul Wilson who has been ably covering in her absence and wish him well in his future ventures.
We have not seen the rise in family matters that was predicted, with Covid potentially pushing many relationships to breaking point. We do wonder if this is due to the strain of moving during lockdowns and if some broken families are staying together through necessity rather than choice.
We have been busy advising many clients on children matters, helping estranged parents work through what is best for their children during these difficult times.
The Government have just announced support for victims of Domestic Abuse as we acknowledge the rise in cases and the strain that many are under due to Covid. We urge anyone who needs help to get in touch, with us or a relevant helpline or body. More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/home-secretary-announces-support-for-domestic-abuse-victims
The commercial world is busy as businesses restructure, refinance or bring in new partners and shareholders.
Companies continued to renew leases and take leases of new properties that have become available as the change in planning classes allows for greater flexibility. Planning Use Class E of the Use Classes Order 1987 (as amended) was introduced on 1st September 2020 and covers the former use classes of A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional), A3 (restaurants and cafes) as well as parts of D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure) and puts them all into one new use class. This allows buildings to be easily re-purposed for alternative uses without making time-consuming planning applications.
Being a business ourselves, we understand the pressures on many businesses to survive and adapt during these incredibly challenging times. Gideon Cristofoli, our Senior Partner and Business expert, will use his 27 years of experience to help in any way he can.
Whatever the new year brings you can rely on us for your legal needs. Contact us on 01420 82881 and we will be happy to help, whatever the lockdown situation.
And finally – thank you! Without you, our loyal clients, and the wonderful feedback and recommendations you give, I am sure that our local business would not have survived the rough times we have all experienced in the last 10/12 years. All of us are extremely grateful.