Monthly Archive July 2014

ByMichael Morrison

Wills and Contentious Probate: Have you made a Will?

The importance of making a will to ensure your property is left to those intended is highlighted by this contentious intestacy case.

The carer of a wealthy widow has been vindicated in a High Court battle over her flat and £1.3 million fortune, in a case which involved a genealogist from BBC show Heir Hunters.

Tanya Vasileva looked after her friend, Gertrude Stanley, in the years before her death at the age of 89.

Mrs Stanley, who had fled to London from the Nazis on the eve of the Second World War, believed she had no living relatives after her sister died in a concentration camp.

She promised her flat to Miss Vasileva in return for her years of care. After the widow’s death, in December 2009, she moved in.

But Mrs Stanley had not made a will, and a legal wrangle ensued after Peter Birchwood, a professional genealogist who has appeared on BBC series Heir Hunters, traced two distant cousins of Mrs Stanley.

Heir hunter: Peter Birchwood

Mr Birchwood, acting on behalf of Mrs Stanley’s estate, argued Miss Vasileva was a “trespasser” who should be ousted from the property and made to pay £50,000 for her years of rent-free occupation. But a judge ruled Mrs Stanley had promised the flat to her carer and said Miss Vasileva had “done her best” to look after the widow.

Judge Mark Raeside QC awarded Miss Vasileva £20,000 from the estate and dismissed Mr Birchwood’s financial claim against her. But he also estimated the value of the care provided by Miss Vasileva to be only £70,000, compared with the £160,000 value of the flat, and said she would have to leave by December so it could go back to the estate.

The High Court heard how Mrs Stanley fled Vienna and arrived in London in May 1939, when she was 19. She and her husband, Lawrence, lived together in their Belsize Park flat for 48 years, until his death in 1994. They did not have any children.

Despite her fortune, most of which was discovered in bank accounts and shares after her death, the widow lived a frugal existence and worried she would run out of money, the court heard. In 2002, the court heard, Mrs Stanley met Miss Vasileva at the supermarket where the younger woman worked. Miss Vasileva, who had  moved to the UK from Bulgaria the year before, said they struck up a friendship after she delivered Mrs Stanley’s shopping.

After a stay in hospital in May 2005, Mrs Stanley phoned Miss Vasileva and asked if she could come to collect her. She did not want any professional carers and asked Miss Vasileva if she would help her stay in her own flat.

It was then that Mrs Stanley first said she wanted her friend to have her flat after she died — a promise she repeated many more times, the court heard.

Miss Vasileva looked after Mrs Stanley — including cooking, cleaning and helping her bathe — until she went into a care home in April 2009.

After the case Miss Vasileva said: “We weren’t just friends, we were more  like grandmother and granddaughter, we were very close. She will always be in my heart.”

Original reporting  by the London Evening Standard on the 8/7/14.

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DNA Tests: Paternity – Family Law

Justice minister Simon Hughes discloses steps aimed at dealing with increase of unrepresented litigants following cuts to legal help.

A DNA swab test

A DNA swab test. Simon Hughes said that we are funding DNA tests which will figure out who the dad is instead of having three days of legal argument.

Free DNA tests are being offered to accelerate resolution of conflicts over the paternity of kids, the justice minister Simon Hughes has revealed.

Pilot programs launched in Taunton and Bristol belong to a campaign aimed at taking on difficultiess in family courts, which have been inundated with unrepresented litigants following cuts to legal aid.

Speaking at a Westminster Legal Policy Forum debate in London, Hughes asked for all youngsters over 10 to be enabled to take part in separation cases so that their views might be considered and recommended that family courts need to become recommendations centres to prevent excessive choice to legal representatives.

Those who consistently appear in the family courts would, according to the minister, in future be helped by the government’s Troubled Families Unit, headed by Louise Casey, which was arranged to expand its work from 120,000 to 400,000 households.

Hughes said: “We are funding DNA tests which will figure out the issue about who the father is instead of having three days of legal argument.”.

The Taunton and Bristol pilots, including one rural and one metropolitan area, was likewise offering free hair tests– made use of in alcohol and drug courts to assess whether people have been abusing alcohol or medicines.

The purpose was, likewise, to provide clear answers to common allegations and prevent hours of expensive legal argument and delay. The project is being run by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), but funded by the Ministry of Justice.

The president of the family court division, Sir James Munby, was recently compelled to adjourn a contact case because the father, a founded guilty sex culprit, was unrepresented and not able to pay a professional to challenge the mom’s evidence. The judge has asked the MoJ to solve the issue.

Susan Jacklin QC, chair of the Family Law Bar Association, stated many litigants in person felt “totally at sea, worried, nervous and stressed” when appearing without legal representation.


DNA Paternity Testing

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ByMichael Morrison

Highest Ever Conviction Rate For Domestic Violence Announced

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, is expected to announce that the conviction rate for domestic violence prosecutions has reached its highest ever level.

Figures due to be released will reveal that 74.6% of those prosecuted for domestic violence were convicted in 2013-4. This is 58,276 defendants. Domestic violence now makes up more than ten per cent of Crown Prosecution Service‘s total casework.

Prosecutions for offences of violence against women and girls overall also showed the highest ever conviction rate at 74.4%, and an 11% increase in the volume of defendants charged since 2012-13. Over 8,000 more cases than last year were brought to court, with over 6,500 more convictions.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said:

‘The conviction rate for domestic violence is higher than ever before. Three quarters of people who are prosecuted for domestic violence offences are now convicted. What’s more, nine in ten of the domestic violence convictions arise from guilty pleas meaning that the vast majority of victims are spared having to give evidence in court. I hope victims of these terrible offences will take some confidence from this, and that perpetrators will take note.

I am incredibly proud of what the CPS has achieved in recent years in tackling violence against women and girls. Taken as a whole, referrals from police are up, prosecutions are up, and convictions are up. This is in no small part due to the leadership shown by dedicated specialist coordinators in every CPS area and the determination of our prosecutors and case workers to see justice done for victims of crime. The work of external experts from organisations such as Women’s Aid and rape crisis centres has been invaluable locally and nationally to inform our policies and practice. We remain committed to building on our achievements further and continuing to address areas for improvement.’

The Solicitor General, Oliver Heald QC MP said:

‘Violence against women and girls is not acceptable, and those that commit violence need to know that they are not going to get away with it. Getting that message across is one of our key priorities and the criminal justice system has a key role to play acting as a deterrent to would-be offenders, and punishing those who do commit these crimes.

I’m pleased to see the vast improvement the CPS has made in handling their prosecutions for these sorts of crimes, and that we have the highest ever conviction rate in Domestic Violence cases. There is still more to do, but this is good news and shows what can be done when the whole criminal justice system works together to make improvements.’

Original reporting by Jordans – Family Law 2/7/14

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