Marriage and Civil Partnership – Changes Coming. A Notary Muses.

Marriage and Civil Partnership – Changes Coming. A Notary Muses.

If we look back a hundred years – so within living memory – it was quite clear what being married meant. There were two parties, one of them a man and the other a woman. The man was the Head of the House. The woman was legally subject to the control of the man. All money she might have earned was treated for tax purposes as money earned by him. The land and property the woman might have owned before she married, became the man’s on the marriage day.

So quite apart from the illegality of homosexuality in England at that time, the idea of two persons of the same sex being married to each other simply had no meaning. Marriage was about money and control, from a legal point of view.

By year 2000, all of the above had gone. Except that a marriage could still only take place between a man and a woman.

What a marriage actually was legally and indeed politically, however, had changed completely and today it seems to me to be – what? A public statement of commitment? A romantic ideal? A tax saving relationship? Something to do with religion?

Let’s just stay away from metaphysics and keep our eyes on the money.

Marriage is a tax saving relationship. Income tax marriage allowance, some pensions benefits on death of a spouse, the ability to share assets providing capital gains and thereby doubling the tax allowance, and huge Inheritance tax advantages – all available to a spouse or widow/er.

So in 2004 all of these tax advantages were made available to same-sex couples too. It had seemed to prevailing opinions, unfair that these very practical benefits should be available to parties to a marriage but unavailable to people who were totally committed to each other, but could not get married for reason of gender.

So civil partnerships for same sex relationships came into being.

That’s all fine then.

But things moved on. Public opinion and human rights rules persuaded the lawmakers that marriage should be available to everyone and since 2014 same-sex couples can marry.

OK that’s fine too.

But it has created an oddity. Now, same-sex couples choose to marry, or choose to become civil partners. But – An opposite sex couple can marry, or stay single, but they cannot become civil partners.

It might seem obvious to many that civil partnerships were intended to allow a form of marriage which did not offend too much those of more traditional views and sensibilities. That didn’t last long did it?

But surely, now that anyone can marry, there is really no remaining point to the whole civil partnerships thing? A legal creation which has outlived its need or usefulness?

Trouble is, not everyone who is a member of a civil partnership actually wanted to get married – and now they are quite happy as they are. And if civil partnership were to be abolished? Well it can’t happen retrospectively can it? And whilst possible, it might well be seen to be a retrograde step if a Government were to announce that after a future random date no further civil partnerships could be entered into.

So whether or not this is counter-intuitive, the plan announced now by Theresa May is not to abolish civil partnership but, quite the opposite, to extend them so that a couple who are mixed-sex can become civil partners.

Who will do this? That is a matter for speculation, a game we can all play. Perhaps, couples who are “anti-religious”? Anyone else?

Let’s have another look at those tax advantages.

I suspect it does happen, that men and women presently marry each other because they are close friends or maybe run a business together, even though they live in separate homes or even separate cities. But many others in that position would be put off by the social presumption that a marriage must be a sexual relationship.

And above all, remember in England that actual marriage, when entered into by opposite-sex partners, is voidable – can be annulled – on the grounds of “non-consummation”.

The other two arrangements – Civil partnerships between same sex couples and Marriage between same-sex couples – cannot be annulled for this reason. Whether or not the partners in these arrangements have sexual intercourse is of no concern to the law.

It seems to me unthinkable that the proposed future civil partnerships, between opposite sex couples, will require a sexual relationship.

Which if I am correct, opens the door to opposite-sex civil partnerships being entered into between a man and a woman who would not in a million years have sex with each other, but who have a close relationship whether emotional or financial, and who would like to be able to leave large sums of money to the survivor after first death, without having any tax to pay.

Maybe a widow and a widower who certainly don’t want to marry again, but who have found companionship, a mutual love of spending time together.

So Hooray

One last thought – Perhaps the people who might most benefit from being in a civil partnership and might be the keenest to enter into one for tax reasons, are still unable to do so.

Just as a brother and a sister cannot marry each other, so a brother and a brother or an uncle and a nephew– and a sister and a sister or an aunt and a niece – are excluded from same sex civil partnerships. I cannot believe that this exclusion will be removed from opposite sex [brother and sister, uncle niece etc.] civil partnerships either.

So Boo.

Let’s wait and see whether it happens. Seems to me the Government has more on its plate to worry about just at the moment.

Here’s a song for couples

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GDPR Again, and One Unintended Consequence.

GDPR Again, and One Unintended Consequence.

Before the start of the new GDPR on 25th May 208, I wrote a couple of blogs about the preparation that all businesses would be wise to have made.

Link Here

Remind me what’s -GDPR? – It’s the Europe-wide General Data Protection Regulation.

The main purpose of the new Regulation is to protect data from misuse. To stop data about person A from being mishandled by person or organisation B who holds that data and to codify the rules as to what may, and what may not, be done with data held. And the fines which can be imposed for mishandling data have been massively increased. That is, MASSIVELY increased.

These have been the reason we have all been receiving emails along the lines of “Don’t Lose Touch – We Love You” – from companies which are seeking your consent to continue to send you advertising.

They think that they may fall foul of the new regulation if they continue to bombard you with emails without justification. And no doubt the easiest – most incontrovertible – justification for them to enter into their records and databases, is specific consent.

In fact, in many cases the new rules do not mean that no-one who has not positively requested an email can be sent an email.

If there is already a basis for contact between the sender and the receiver, for example between a Notary with his client, or colleagues in the provision of legal services then there is a legitimate interest to both me and you in sending these Blogs. –your own receipt of this email.

Your interest is to be updated as to legal matters relating [if sometimes obliquely] to the world of Notarial affairs, my interest is to disseminate my views on such matters and of course thereby maintain contact with you.

These emails are not the main thrust of the GDPR in any case – and if you decide you don’t want future emails then you can unsubscribe from mailings.

What GDPR is mainly about is to punish holders of data about you if they are careless with it. Or more precisely to frighten them so much about the consequences of losing or mishandling data that they don’t make mistakes in the first place.

If they do let your data get into the hands of criminals, you can be caused great damage. This might be financial – many people are careless with passwords. So if a, say, supermarket website has your passwords and loses them to a thief, these might be the same passwords you use for your bank account.

Or if a medical centre or police authority get hacked, details of a person’s mental health issues or criminal record could give rise to blackmail or the ruining of reputations.

As is usual with any new rules and regulations, there are unexpected consequences.

Here is one: The cost of obtaining medical records and notes from a Doctor.

If you have suffered an accident or an assault or otherwise been hurt, proving the extent of your injury is an important part of any claim you may want to make. Any insurance company will require to see medical evidence that you are hurt.

It used to be that you would have to pay your doctor about £50 or so – sometimes a lot more in a complicated case – to get your medical notes released.

Now, as the person (“the Subject”) about whom your Doctor (“the Data Holder”) holds those notes you have the right under the GDPR to be provided with all of those notes free of charge. It is called a Subject Access Request – SAR.

This is causing a lot of fuss in professional circles. Doctors are having to do a lot of work for no money. It is not just a matter of pressing “print” on their computers. Your notes may include reference to other people. Those references will have to be deleted – redacted – or else in complying with an SAR from one patient, the Doctor will be breaching GDPR in respect of another person’s data. Complicated and time consuming.

It is possible that Doctors are, and will be, now required to prepare more SARs than they ever were, even for people who have no injuries or potential court cases. Some people just like to read their own medical records, and now it is free, well, there you go.

Then there is the misapprehension reported in the Law Society Gazette, that some Doctors think that Solicitors are now getting these Medical reports free but are continuing to charge their clients the same £50 as before. Which is nonsense of course, but unhappy folks sometime do talk nonsense.

The reality is that GDPR is making Doctors work on preparing their reports for no money.

Doctors have no choice. They cannot opt out of holding the patients’ data, it is essential that a Doctor must know a patient’s medical history and the idea of keeping that data in their heads or in a card index system is a non-runner. So they must accept that they are Data Holders.

And if they are Data Holders, they are subject to the GDPR. It’s the Law.

In fact the saving here is entirely to the benefit of Insurance Companies. If no money is paid to Doctors for records, then the Insurance won’t have to reimburse claimants for those payments.

Ironic that, since it is Insurance Companies by and large, who refuse to believe that anyone is an honest claimant who is actually injured, and who are the only party demanding to see the medical records in the first place.

I don’t think it was ever actually the intention of the GDPR drafters that Doctors should be required to work harder for less money, for the benefit of Insurance Companies.

Unintended consequences. Here’s a Wiki link.

I didn’t know about the Great Plague measure of 1665 in London. Due to the incorrect belief that the dogs and cats in the city were carrying the Plague, they were killed on sight. In fact it was the rats that had the plague, and the dogs and cats would have killed the rats, given the chance of, you know, being alive themselves.

As ever, if you require our services or if you have any queries on any of the services that we offer then please so not hesitate to email us and

Or alternatively please telephone on 0113 8160116 or 07715608747. Please also visit our website

Certify Your Degree Chapter 2 – Original or Copy? Open letter to Southampton University. Maybe others.

Certify Your Degree – Original or Copy? Open letter to Southampton University. Maybe others.

Last Weeks’s Blog dealt with the ins and outs of the Notarisation of University Degrees and other Educational Certificates.

This is – or should be – the process by which a Notary checks that your Certificate is genuine, then endorses a copy of it accordingly, before sending the marked copy for Apostille and/or other Consular stamps.

And I say copy – usually it is a copy. Because by making and marking a copy, this leaves the student holding his original, unmarked, Degree certificate.

However, some countries specifically require that it is the ORIGINAL award certificate which must be notarised and submitted to prospective employers. The United Arab Emirates often make this a requirement and there are others.

Then what is a student to do? If they want the job, they’d better do as they are told.

So they go ahead and their original degree certificate, notarially marked and verified, goes to be stored in the records of UAE.

Next, a few years down the line the student may wish to take a job in a different country.
And that different country requires a notarised verified copy of the original degree certificate.

But hang on, you gave that to the UAE and you can’t get it back. Or, even if you can, the original certificate has got notary stamps on it from years ago and the stamp of the FCO and of the United Arab Emirates Consulate and that may be unacceptable to the country where you want to work now.

So the student will need to apply to the University, for a clean replacement Degree certificate. Shouldn’t be a problem.

As soon as you even think the words – “this shouldn’t be a problem”, you just know there will be a problem.

Here is a link to the website of Southampton University – Link here –

Specifically, we are told “If the original certificate has been lost, stolen or damaged, you can apply for a replacement. This will state ‘Replacement Certificate issued’ at the bottom of the certificate, and will have a different audit number which will automatically invalidate the original certificate.”

You would hope a University would be careful and think matters through a little more cogently than that. Not to say, more helpfully to its students.

Southampton seems to be saying – you cannot have a replacement certificate if you already hold the original. Unless it accepts that by being notarised, stamped by FCO and the UAE consulate, it has been “damaged”,

Has it? I don’t think so.

But there is surely a wider issue.

If I own a house or a car I do not expect the Land Registry or DVLA to quibble about issuing proof – office copies- v5 – as often as I see fit to request it. Nor would they.

If I spend five years or seven getting a degree or PHD, the degree is mine. By which I mean the qualification, not the piece of paper.

Students having given the matter all that time and energy to obtain a Degree and paying the University several thousand pounds these days to get it, it is surely unacceptable if the University believes that “title” to the degree vests in the sheet of paper?

If their “Replacement” footmark is not intended in some way to de-value the replacement certificate, then what is it for? Who in their view should care whether it is a replacement?

Perhaps the case could be put to the Vice Chancellor that the University owes to its students unqualified assistance in proving that they hold the qualification which the University has awarded.

If it seeks to impose conditions inconsistent with requirements of the potential employers of those students abroad [however misguided in our eyes] it does the student a significant disservice and eventually if words gets round that any particular University is obstructive it may eventually find itself short of students?

Nor do I understand how the issue of a replacement can actually “invalidate the original” whatever Southampton University might say on its website. If I have a degree then I do have a degree. So how can the first certificate be “invalid?”

I suppose they mean that they will not confirm the original to be genuine if it is thereafter copied to them for verification. Are they entitled to do that? It could cost a student hugely. Could a student not sue them if they did?

Funny old world, isn’t it? Link Here – Bit of a Nightmare?

Don’t worry, we will help – Remember, if you require our services or if you have any queries on any of the services that we offer then please so not hesitate to email us and

Or alternatively please telephone on 0113 8160116 or 07715608747. Please also feel free to visit our website

Notarising Educational Degrees and other Certificates.

Educational Degrees and other Certificates.

Here is the scenario – After a long and hard and expensive slog finally a student is awarded a degree. Fantastic, I can go and work in China, or USA, UAE, wherever, because now I have the qualification I need.

And, on the day that the University exam results are released, chances are that the University will publish them in the newspapers.

So it shouldn’t be too hard for me to certify, when the new employers in South Korea, Qatar or anywhere want me, as a Notary, to confirm for them that you have a genuine degree.

I just phone the University and ask, right?

Wrong, actually.

Because the University which was quite happy to print the fact of your Degree in the Newspapers last year, has now come over all coy. Ooh, deary me, it thinks. GDPR. Computerised private Data. Data Protection Act. Information Commissioners. Mummy, help me.

The sad fact is that after a student has worked years and years to get a qualification, now the University is most reluctant to assist and confirm that the degree is actually genuine.

And even worse, if the degree which the student claims to have is actually a forgery, the university is reluctant to tell me that either.

Anyway, as a Notary I am very used to all this nonsense and I can in fact verify your degree. We just have to negotiate the various obstacles and barriers the Universities have created because of their misunderstanding of the legal differences in status between their records of your degree and their records of, say, your disciplinary hearings or medical history.

But in the light of the fact that it is actually quite difficult to get at the truth, I am aware that many Notaries and nearly all solicitors when they are instructed [and Solicitors have no standing in foreign countries anyway, and should not be instructed] are bypassing the business of verification altogether.

They do this by taking your certificate, copying it, and writing on it that the copy “is a true copy of the original document from which it was made”.

Of course this is pointless because if the original certificate is a fraud, a fake, then the genuine copy of it is a genuine copy of a fake. And the foreign employer doesn’t want to see a copy of a fake piece of paper – it wants to know whether you really are a Doctor.

[There are some exceptions to this general rule, if the end user will be dealing with verification through its own agency]

But in all other cases, the risk you run with doing it that way is that you are setting up problems for further down the line. The certification may be rejected – perhaps days before you are due to travel. Or perhaps after you have arrived, so that you are suspended from working.

So, with AtkinsonNotary, there are no weasel words. We do not certify your copies “this is a true copy of the original” and leave it at that, which is actually valueless to the end-user who is still completely in the dark as to the status of that original.

When you instruct us we do the job right, and your certificate will say “This is a true copy of the original document. The original document is GENUINE as I have verified. The University of xxxx is an accredited Institution of Education in England”

We can then get all additional stamps rewired by the end-user:- the Foreign Office Apostille and Consular legalization, whatever is needed.

Your choice. Go elsewhere, buy cheaply, buy often! Or I would suggest, instruct me, do it right, do it once.

Of course there are all sorts of other issues that can arise and we do have the expertise to resolve them. You might be surprised how often the Universities do not write the full name of the student into the certificate for example and I have more than once seen the name spelled incorrectly and the student had not even noticed. No matter, we will sort it. In fact, to use a little Yorkshire – it’ll be reet.

Here’s an appropriate song – Link Here –

Remember, if you require our services or if you have any queries on any of the services that we offer then please so not hesitate to email us and

Or alternatively please telephone on 0113 8160116 or 07715608747. Please also feel free to visit our website

Summer Holidays Abroad? Got Your Notarised Consent to Travel?

Summer Holidays Abroad? Got Your Notarised Consent to Travel?

It is that time of the year – the big mid-year school holiday break! – Foreign holidays are being booked by parents for their children to enjoy travelling with  – Both parents? One parent? or no parent?

We have done many blogs over the years about the need for Consent to Travel for children travelling with one or no parents but due to the time of year I think a reminder blog would be useful.

As mentioned previously, South Africa now insists on a notarised Consent to Travel on every occasion that a child is to the visit the country without both parents.

Thousands of holidays have been ruined because people have not prepared the necessary documents. Here is an example

Here is another

Increasingly more and more European countries are now insisting on such a Consent to be produced.  Portugal is now giving the advice that a Consent to Travel must be produced.

So what do you need to do?

Firstly please ring to arrange a mutually convenient appointment to meet with the Notary.  South Africa is the only country at present that has their own specific form which they require completing and notarising. For any other country we can prepare a suitable notarised Consent.

What do you need to bring for the Notary to prepare you a Consent to Travel:

We would be required to see the consenting parent’s/guardian’s passports and a proof of address i.e bank statement or utility bill.

Also please bring the child’s long form Birth Certificate [the long-form certificate shows the parent(s) names]. If you do not have a long form certificate and the child was born in UK we can purchase this on your behalf. Also do note that this Birth Certificate should be carried on the journey in due course,

If possible please bring the travel itinerary – it is useful to mention flight times and numbers in the consent.

Also if possible please bring original or a copy of the passport of the travelling adult and of the child. This is not essential, because those passports will be carried on the journey.

It is a lot of fuss and palaver, looked at from your point of view. Sorry about that. But look at it from the Airline’s and Border Guards’ viewpoint. They are working to stop children being abducted, kidnapped or trafficked.

And, of course, most instances of child abduction are committed by one of the parents. Here is a link to a list fourteen pages long of cases in European Court of Human Rights. Rule of thumb, how many thousands of abductions for every case which reaches that Court?

So really, no point in arguing, just get in touch with us and we will help you through the maze.

This week’s song  – song h ere –

Remember, if you require our services or if you have any queries on any of the services that we offer then please so not hesitate to email us  and

Or alternatively please telephone on 0113 8160116 or 07715608747.  Please also feel free to visit our website



Bank Accounts Abroad – Today, Spain. Louise Assists.

Bank Accounts Abroad – Today, Spain. Louise Assists.

Increasingly, our clients are seeking our help in the matter of closing down foreign bank accounts – most recently we have received a request to close down a client’s bank account in Spain.

Can we help? – Well yes we can once the paperwork has been prepared. I always advise that the first port of call would be to make contact with a lawyer in the country the bank account is in. It is getting increasingly difficult to pass the stringent tests applied when closing down bank accounts overseas and moving the funds back to England.

It can save a lot of time and therefore money in seeking specialist advice from a Lawyer in the jurisdiction, who of course will be able to speak directly with the bank on your behalf to ascertain the best way forward.

One of the main difficulties one would imagine is the initial communication with the bank – if you do not speak the language, then it can be a frustrating affair to try and obtain instructions when the bank clerk does not speak English as a first language if at all and you do not speak Spanish for example.

We have seen clients who have been advised by one clerk to “just jot down a note to say you wish to close your account and sign before a Notary in England and then get a Foreign Office Apostille” [if you do not know what a Foreign Office Apostille is then see here – a link to my earlier blog-].

Just jot down a note?

I suppose that in a sense the advice is right, but it’s not useful. Because the words of the note you decide to write, are unlikely to be the words of the note that the Bank official had in mind.

If the Bank does not provide the actual text of document of what it needs then the chances of it accepting and acting upon a note written by a layman in English language are remote to say the least.

The classic scenario is that a note is duly written, then Notarised and then endorsed with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Apostille, and paying for a courier to send the “note” directly back to the bank. Job done so the client thinks – Bank receives the document and confirms to the client that “it is very nearly right but not quite! – Sorry you will have to start again”. Frustrating or what? – a costly trial for the poor client!

So what now, well of you go and start again in the hope that this time the bank’s second set of instructions will do the trick – make an appointment with the notary, blah blah blah spend more £??? to hopefully close down the account – again no guarantee – from experience it seems that one bank clerk has a different idea to another bank clerk as to what is actually required and because of the language barrier the poor client ends up going round and round in circles and this can go on and on without having the desired effect.

My advice is to start by seeking seek the guidance of a professional – who will be able to speak in the “mother-tongue” to the bank and ascertain what document(s) are required and your adviser can prepare the wording of such document(s) – this even can be written in the foreign language i.e Spanish for example and emailed across directly to us for you to sign before the Notary – this would mean one visit only and one expense to the Foreign Office.

It is a bit of a no brainer really! Seek guidance from professional and save yourself time and money in the process. But it is the fact that nine out of ten times in our experience this is not done.

The same applies for closing the bank account of a deceased person – if the executors are wishing to close down a foreign account then various documents will need to be submitted – usually notarised and apostilled first – mainly Death Certificate, Grant of Probate etc.. sometimes a notarial certificate is also required if the deceased person died without leaving a Will – the certificate required from the Notary usually sets out England’s intestacy rules – again this will then need to be submitted to the Foreign Office.

So the message is, do not think it will be easier or cheaper to try to do what the first Bank Clerk suggests and cut out the lawyers, in relation to foreign Bank accounts and assets generally.

Instead, come and have a word with me and I will put you on the right track.

Really this guidance is good for all aspects for preparation and execution of documents for use abroad. I suppose people understand that a technical document like a court paper or a Power of Attorney will need professional guidance, but assume that the closing of a Bank account should and will be simple. Rookie error!

Don’t get it wrong – song here –

Remember, if you require our services or if you have any queries on any of the services that we offer then please so not hesitate to email us and
Or alternatively please telephone on 0113 8160116 or 07715608747. Please also feel free to visit our website

Make a Will. Are Friends Electric?

Make a Will. Are Friends Electric?

I have blogged several times about the wisdom of making a Will. Everyone who is an adult with at least a bank account to pass on, should do so..

I suspect that everyone reading this does already understand and agree, but there is often a marked reluctance about actually taking the step.

I will probably blog again and set out once again all of the compelling reasons for making Wills.

But perhaps if I do list all of the good reasons, I still won’t identify the new trend recently identified in China as one of them.

According to a report in the Chinese Global Times, Lily Tong has prepared her new Will and presented it the local Notary so that her son will be cared for after her death.

Lily is only 25 so there is every reason to hope that she will be around for a long time yet, but she believes you can’t be too careful and I would agree.

Except that in this case her “son” is virtual. And, by the way, a Frog.

So her concern is that should she die then her digital frog – which only exists in a video game – would itself “die” without someone to log in and recharge its virtual life support.

At first glance, and perhaps at second and third, there is plenty to laugh at. There was the craze of Tamagotchi in the 1990s, digital creatures hatched from eggs on your keychain fob which also needed regular attention or they would “die”. I don’t remember anyone wanting to make provision in their Will for the long term care of a Tamagotchi.

But at a fourth glance, perhaps there is something about the immersive nature of the video game, of the virtual reality, which speaks to the human brain particularly of teens and young adults.

And if what really matters to you in your life should not be the subject of your Will, then what should?

And then again, there have been science fiction stories from the 1960s or earlier suggesting that one day a human’s mind, its experience, memory and personality could be downloaded and stored into a computer. So then, the person will die, but will live on forever in the computer, continuing to think, make decisions – be “alive”. Even more alive in a way than Lily’s frog, but still only virtual.

And those virtual persons will need maintenance and care. Someone to keep the computers on and backed up.

Or then again, again, when robotics goes further, perhaps it will be the robots and the computers, and the virtual personalities which used to be humans, who become the carers for the humans?

So that before the time that Lily does die after several decades, perhaps it might be her virtual frog who has actually taken over her care?

Is there anyone else who feels that the pace of life is accelerating beyond the ability of the law to keep up?

Here’s the song – link here-

In the meantime, and until then, Remember, if you require our services or if you have any queries on any of the services that we offer then please so not hesitate to email us  and

Or alternatively please telephone on 0113 8160116 or 07715608747. Please also feel free to visit our website