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20 July 2016

A recent decision made by a number of high street banks means that the amount that will be released from a deceased customer's account without a formal Grant of Representation has increased. However, this may not be the good news it seems at first sight.

The usual process when someone dies is that banks and building societies freeze their accounts until the person dealing with the estate - the Executor (where there is a Will) or the Administrator (where there is no Will) - has applied for the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration. In the meantime, the only access allowed to accounts is to pay the funeral bill and any Inheritance Tax. This ensures that the right person deals with the estate, and the estate passes to the correct beneficiaries.

That said, the Small Estates Procedure has always allowed accounts holding less than a set amount of money to be closed without the need for a Grant. This amount is no more than £5,000 but separate to this, each bank and building society has set its own limit where they will close an account without the need for a Grant.

Whilst the limit set by banks etc. has historically been up to £15,000, many high street banks have now made a decision to raise their limit, with some increasing it as high as £50,000.

It seems the thinking behind the increase is to make life easier for those dealing with the estate. However, obtaining a Grant is a legal requirement which helps ensure that the right person deals with the estate, and the right people are paid the correct amount of money.

Is it right that banks are now able to bypass this procedure and release large sums of money?

The risk now is that potentially large sums could be released to those who are neither responsible for dealing with the deceased's estate, nor a beneficiary of the estate.


Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

Click here to return to the Probate area.

20 July 2016

There have been numerous stories the news recently about the ownership of online and digital assets when someone dies. With more than 6.8 billion mobile devices and more than 2 billion social media accounts in the world, it's no surprise that this is becoming a bigger issue. The big question lies in the question of ownership, not of the device itself but the information stored on it.

Music purchased from an online store such as iTunes only provides the purchaser with a licence to use the information so it cannot be transferred to a beneficiary. Digital photos and videos will depend on whether they are original or downloaded from someone else's website or Facebook page. If they aren't original a person may not have any authority to pass this information to any beneficiary or purchaser of the device.

If the deceased did own the rights to any software or downloads on the device, those rights may not automatically be transferred with the ownership of the device itself. One example would be with intellectual property for a novel written by the deceased that is saved on a device. The deceased may have given the associated intellectual property rights to one person but left the device itself to someone else. The intellectual property would need to be copied and then deleted before the device can be handed over.

Additionally, if any intellectual property saved was created during the course of the deceased's employment, the employer may own the intellectual property rights. This needs to be transferred and deleted before the device is given to the beneficiary or sold.

Computing devices may also uncover if the deceased had online banking accounts, PayPal or gambling accounts not currently part of the estate. This information about other funds or debts needs to be taken into account when dealing with the estate.

The deceased's personal representative will need to review the information on the deceased's computing device and take necessary action to ensure all relevant laws are complied with. If the devices are protected using passwords, then they may need to enlist a suitable expert to assist with gaining access.

There is also the issue of the deceased's online passwords. The way to make sure all online accounts, whether social media, email or bank accounts, can be accessed after death is to make sure that passwords are included (and kept up to date) as part of the documentation when planning your estate.

Oratto can assist with all areas of estate planning and estate administration so please contact us if you have any questions about anything raised in this article.

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

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20 July 2016


In recent years, an increase in spouses of different nationalities battling to have their divorces heard in jurisdictions considered most likely to decide in their favour has given rise to a phenomenon known as “forum shopping”.

But it is another kind of shopping – online grocery shopping to be precise – that has been thrown into sharp relief by national news speculation on the looming divorce of one of the founders of the online grocery delivery firm, Ocado, Tim Steiner, and his wife of 16 years. Perhaps, they wonder, the divorce financial settlement will result in shares in the company changing hands.

According to various reports, Mr Steiner has filed for divorce on the grounds of his wife’s unreasonable behaviour, an assertion which she is said to be contesting.

One article, in The Times, has not only claimed that the dispute between the pair might adversely affect Ocado’s share price and image with customers but could force Mr Steiner to sell some of his stake to fund a settlement.

I believe that the issue might be fuelled by the very recent decision of a High Court judge that the founder of another online retailer, ASOS, should pay his ex-wife £70 million following their divorce (

The terms of that divorce financial settlement included deliberation on the division of shares in the fashion business. 

Interest from the media and the money markets is not entirely misplaced. Just over a decade ago, the entrepreneur behind the French Connection store chain was forced to sell £38 million worth of shares in order to pay for his divorce (

However, as eager as the courts will be to see Mr and Mrs Steiner come to a resolution and move on with their lives, they will be keen to avoid destablilising a successful business, not least because it could be the principal means of paying for a divorce.

In a number of cases which we have been involved with, businessmen and women unable to fund a divorce from their own assets will establish if it’s possible to borrow money before having to liquidate some or all of their shares.

Leaving aside Mr Steiner’s personal circumstances, he might well have spoken to his fellow directors because they would see their own shareholding affected by any sale.

As well as meeting the priorities of need and fairness, the courts always want to foster creative and equitable solutions. In Tim Steiner’s divorce, it might be allowing him more time to raise the money to achieve a “clean break” settlement, if, of course, he’s not able to do that already.

Whether it is in relation to spouses who have made their money in retail or other industrial sectors, divorce does indeed have the ability to affect business, both in terms of shareholdings and turnover, not least because it can distract directors from the job of running a company.

It is something which people looking to start firms are becoming more conscious of – for instance, taking out pre-nuptial agreements to limit the impact of divorce on their commercial prospects. Whether checking out online or of a marriage, payment details are to be ignored at your peril.


Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.


Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.

20 July 2016

The end of a marriage is never an easy thing to contemplate or, indeed, to reflect upon. Regardless of whether the relationship was long or short or whether the process followed emotional fireworks or was handled rather more amicably, people can understandably emerge from it feeling rather bruised.

Those who’ve been through the experience are often sought out for views which might guide others in a similar position. Their opinions are, naturally, also of interest to lawyers whose role it is to advise and support couples facing up to lives as ex-husbands and wives.

It’s why my eyes were drawn to the comments of the former England footballer-turned-television presenter Gary Lineker who divorced for the second time earlier this year.

In an interview with the Radio Times seized upon by numerous national newspapers (, he accused divorce lawyers of being “manipulative” who create “hate” between separating spouses.

Furthermore, he suggested that there should be a “mathematical equation” to simplify the process of divorce and save couples money.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I take issue with what Mr Lineker’s had to say.

I sympathise with anyone whose marriages have come to a close. I particularly applaud those people who, like Mr Lineker and his ex-wife, the model Danielle Bux, appear to have parted on good terms. However and whatever his motive, I believe that he’s quite wrong on a number of points.

During the same interview which has captured the headlines, he described how “it’s very easy to get married and very difficult to get divorced”. As Mr Lineker and Ms Bux now know, that’s not necessarily the case.

It can, of course, be difficult to deal with the emotions involved in divorce but the process itself is actually a rather straightforward administrative exercise.

Most couples, like Gary and Danielle themselves, manage to divorce without any rancour at all. The difficulties only really occur when there are contentious topics, such as children or finances, to deliberate on.

Even then, the job of a divorce lawyer is not to stoke whatever difference of opinion there may be but advise and support a client on the course of action most appropriate to them.

Whilst we might imagine from media coverage that all divorces result in a “courtroom battle”, going before a judge is the very last resort.

For those individuals unable to come to an agreement over the kitchen table or following initial discussions with lawyers, there are the options of collaborative law and mediation, both of which aim to achieve a constructive outcome by discussion alone.

All of those methods can be concluded quickly and fairly cheaply, too. I appreciate Gary Lineker’s pitch (no soccer pun intended!) for an improvement in the system  of divorce but I feel that his “mathematical equation” simply wouldn’t work.

The circumstances and dynamics of divorce are as particular as the people going through it. It is not as though, to coin a well-worn phrase, “one size fits all”.

Any extra administration of the sort implied by Mr Lineker’s suggestion would, I’m sure, not exactly be greeted with glee by courts which are already over-burdened either.

Just as he wouldn’t have enjoyed reading unfair reviews of his performances on the sports pages, divorce lawyers never like seeing criticism which we believe to be unwarranted splashed across the front pages either.

It’s true that we are considered something of a necessary evil by some people but, given the situations that we become involved in, we take the ribbing as part of the job.

Despite Gary Lineker’s views being, in my opinion, very much offside, I’d still invite him to chat through his experiences in order to help other couples achieve their goal of a simple, speedy and pain-free divorce.


Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.


Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.

20 July 2016

Getting married is a step not taken lightly.

Whereas previous generations regarded tying the knot and having children as an important and relatively routine part of the process of growing up, that compulsion has been gradually weakening over the course of the last few decades.

There had, admittedly, been something of a rally in the number of men and women getting hitched in recent years, possibly as a result of an improvement in their finances as the country emerged from the recession of 2008. However, the frequency of marriage is on the decline once more, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS has found that, in 2013, there were 240,854 marriages – down 8.6 per cent on the year before.

Arguably the greatest single factor in that drop is the prevailing attitude to marriage among Britons young and old. Whilst marriage is less popular, cohabitation has more than doubled in the space of 20 years.

There were two other strands of data in the new ONS account which caught my eye.

One is the difference in the over-65s to marriage.

Men, especially those who had previously divorced, appear wary of marrying – and perhaps divorcing - again. That contrasts sharply with their female counterparts.

It could be because many divorced women in middle-age and even older will be less financially independent than men, chiefly because they are part of the generation who became housewives rather than pursuing a career. More women in relationships also appear to be outliving their partners and, therefore, their fondness for marriage may be born of a simple desire not to spend their remaining years alone.

Another, more novel element is the role of superstition. I have been talking to the Daily Telegraph about the incidence of couples who either brought forward or postponed marriages rather than wed in 2013 (

I know of a number of men and women who did just that because of something called ‘triskaidekaphobia’ - a fear that the number 13 really is unlucky.

It’s a phenomenon which, of course, is already founded on a rich seam of superstition linked to the marriage ceremony itself. Think of perceived omens connected to the weather, the colour of a bride’s dress, dropping a wedding ring and the old chestnut of having “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”.

I don’t wish to question the wisdom of those who err on the side of caution mindful of the risk of joining the ranks of the divorced.

In my experience, what happens in the home and the workplace has a greater effect on whether marriages last the course than rituals and rabbits’ feet. What is clear, though, is that superstition provides yet another reason for those dubious of the merits of marriage not to wed.

Regardless of our personal preferences, we have to accept that for some people, marriage is going out of fashion and reasons of fortune – whether luck or their own finances – make it even less attractive.


Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.


Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.


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