Leave the Paperwork Alone. Don’t Mess With It.

The rule in Pigot’s case. Leave the Paperwork Alone, It’s Not Worth It.

As a Notary, I spend my working days preparing paperwork. Why do I do that? Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest to answer.

Why do I prepare words and print them onto paper and then ask you to sign and then add my own signature?

Why for example, do I not prepare a short video film, in which you and I speak to the camera as evidence of whatever transaction we are effecting? Or a voice record? Or an emailed document which is digitally signed and then converted to a PDF or XPS.

The obvious reason is that most of these ways of recording or documenting transactions have only been possible within the last fifty years or fewer.

The law moves slowly and cannot react to technology changes overnight. Also the law is based on precedent. Today’s rules are the result of earlier decisions.

And for the past thousands of years, records of transactions have been documented and stored, by using ink on parchment or paper.

So history is part of the reason. So is philosophy.

In the later middle ages, the status of a written document was different from what it seems to be now. In the minds of most people today, the actual paper document is seen as mere evidence which proves what was agreed. The actual agreement is thought of as a historical occurrence, not the actual piece of paper.

But back then, in the sixteenth century and earlier, the paper document was considered to be the actual transaction. So, the contract itself was entirely bound up into  the parchment, the seal, the ink.

Until, in anno 8 Jac. Regis the case of Winchcombe v Pigot came before the English Courts.

When? Anno 8 Jac. Regis.

Or, the eighth year of the reign of King James. Who, as you know, was already King of Scotland, and took the English throne in 1603. So eight years later was 1611. Do I have to spell everything out?

Here is a link to the law report of Pigot’s case in 1611.

Incidentally, I love the wording of the case following, on the last page of the link. Alexander Powlter was a clergyman who burnt down a house, a heinous and exorbitant felony in anyone’s book. And as we all know, “anyone who shall be taken for house-burning feloniously done, shall in no ways be replevisable”. [Anyone?]

Back to the case of Pigot. There was a debt agreed in the form of a Bail Bond, Pigot owed “the Sheriff of Oxford” Sixty Pounds as a bail surety. The written bond was held by a third party who added an additional description of the Sheriff, by adding the full name of that office holder, Mr Winchcombe. So it now read in translation from the Latin language actually used – “the money is due to the Sheriff of Oxford – MR WINCHCOMBE–“.

The bond came to be payable, Mr Pigot had a look at it and said “It’s been changed – so I don’t have to pay anything”.

Prior to this case, that was the law. If a written bond, contract, deed, was altered, it became void in law.

This court of 1611 decided, no – it the amendment is not “material”, and is made by a person who has no direct interest and is not a party to the original, then the amendment is of no effect and the deed shall be written as it was drawn.

This became known as “The Rule in Pigot’s case” and has been in place in England ever since, for the past 400 years.

But what it is really saying is, that the immaterial intervention by a third party, is the ONLY case in which an alteration of a Deed does not render it void.

Compare that with the position for Wills, which are creatures of Statute.

There, if I find my widowed father’s will and read that he has left me £40 and the rest of his massive estate to the Donkey Sanctuary, what is the effect if I change the £40 to £40 million?

Under the rule in Pigot’s case, because I am an interested party, and because the change is not immaterial, the effect would be to render the Will void. Then the rules of intestacy would apply, the poor old Donkeys would get nothing and I would get the estate or a large share of it.

But no, under rules relating to Wills, the unauthorised amendment would be treated as if it had never happened and the amended Will would take effect as it was originally written. That’s got to be right hasn’t it?

Because of its harsh consequences, many jurisdictions have abolished Pigot’s Rule. As near to home as Northern Ireland, it has been abolished. But in England it carries on.

So what does that mean for you and me, people who hold documents for ourselves and our clients?

It means, don’t mess with documents.

Don’t amend then, don’t try to correct them.  Just don’t touch them.

So don’t even think about doing what is so often done [even if not perhaps especially in the big City firms of lawyers] – witnessing signatures to documents with significant [i.e. “material”] blanks in them, dating them, and then filling in the details after. Void. Void VOID. Pigot’s Rule. Or else, Negligence claims will follow.

OK. Got it? Good.

What song shall we have? [After it’s signed, you] Don’t Want Anything To Change. Link here .

As ever, Please do contact me and Louise whenever you need Notarial certification or Legalisation – at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com or phone me on 0113 816 0116 (internationally 0044 113 8160116)

Cases About Cases. It’s Intellectually Complicated.

If I copy your idea and sell it as my own, you can sue me and win your case.

If I copy your design and sell it as my own, you can sue me and win your case.

But if I only “sort of” copy your design, just not very well, and give it a nice bright paint job, and sell it as my own, you can sue me and lose half a million quid.

Welcome to the wacky world of Intellectual Property – “IP” to the lawyers.

Have a look at the article on the Telegraph website here 

Trunki cases are the suitcases which look like cartoon animals on wheels, for young children to stride on and get under your feet in airports. They were invented by Rob Law.

Except an IP lawyer will tell you, that you can’t invent a suitcase with wheels. That was probably the next project worked on by the original caveman, after he had finished inventing the actual wheel.

So a lot of the outrage when PMS International succeeded in asserting its right to market the Kiddee suitcases [which are, surprise surprise, suitcases which look like cartoon animals on wheels, for young children to ride on and get under your feet in airports] is misplaced.

Yes anyone can make a suitcase with wheels, you can’t be sued for it, just as Ford can’t sue Volkswagen for making powered tin boxes with wheels.

But what Trunki was trying to do, was prove to the Courts that their actual design of suitcase had been copied. Very hard to do.

They had to prove first that the relevant design elements of a Trunki case had actually been protected by their Design registered and second that the Kiddee product had incorporated them, so that in effect, you cannot tell a Kiddee product from a Trunki product.
And by jingo, they are jolly similar looking. This is the Trunki.trunki

And, the Kiddee kiddee

They are certainly so similar in design that the litigation between the two manufacturers has been dealt with before three courts in the past years, and at the start in the High Court, Trunki were the winners.

Here is the Supremes Court’s final judgement in favour of Kiddee in full.

Famously, the Trunki had been presented to the TV Dragons Den entrepreneurs who declined to invest in it, saying that the makers would be unable to protect their design from copiers. Clever Boys and Girls, those Dragons.

So if there is a moral to all of this, it must be that IP is pretty jolly complicated.
Complicated to understand, never mind to protect.

Do you know your Copyrights, from your Design Registrations? What is a Patent when it’s at home and how does it differ from a trademark?

This stuff is so important, to protect investment and jobs. Not only are the rules complex and at first sight contradictory in England, but there are likely to be additional and different rules and procedures applied in different countries abroad.

This is why there are in England firms of lawyers who are specialist Trademark and Patent Attorneys. They need to employ or work closely with engineers, manufacturers and scientists, because the first task in protecting your IP, even before knowing and applying the law, is to understand exactly what your product is – what makes it unique – what elements of it can actually be protected by the law.

As a Notary involved with assisting registrations and Court Applications around the world, I work closely with firms of IP Attorneys and if there is one message I seek to get across to you, it is that it is absolutely crucial, for inventors and intending manufacturers to take their specialist advice before going to market.

Or else, get ready, someone will be stealing. Stealing like a thief in the night – cue for a song link here.

As ever, Please do contact me and Louise whenever you need Notarial certification or Legalisation – at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com or phone me on 0113 816 0116 (internationally 0044 113 8160116)

Probate Fees Consulting. How Much Would You Like To Pay?

Probate Fees Consulting. How Much Would You Like To Pay?

So last week your bag of bits from the shop cost £430.00. Round you go again to the shops this week for another bag of bits. “We’ve changed the price this week, it’s £40,000.00 – is that OK?”

Really? Seems a little steep.

Yes, it’s the Government’s Probate fees consultation.

Have you heard about it: is it just me living a sheltered life or has the media ignored it? I honestly thought it was a joke – the internet is full of lies after all. But no.

Seems that the Court system is going bust on present projections of costs against fees, and Probate fees are the soft target. Never mind that actually, according to the Law Society, the present level of fees for Probates “fully covers” the costs of the Probate registry.

So yes, How does a £40,000.00 Probate fee sound? Up from £430? Admittedly the worst case, but, if a Husband who owns property worth over £2million leaves it all to his wife, at present she will receive £2 million, or the property title, tax free, after paying £215.00 to the Probate registry.

If these proposals go through, she would receive the £2 million tax free, but have to pay £20,000.00 for the Probate fee. There is no extra work to be done by the Probate Registry, no pretence is made that this is so. Simply the Government says, the Courts need this money.

If the £2million property is the family home, and she hasn’t got £20,000.00 to pay to the Probate Registry just after her husband has died, she can jolly well sell the place. Imagine the cheek of her, not wanting to move out of a place full of memories of her recently deceased husband. Come on old lady, the Courts need the brass.

Of course all this stress and upheaval may kill her. Excellent. A house that is far too big for an old lady is back on the market and of course, if she is dead, but now with an estate worth over £2million, that’s another £20,000.00 for the courts. Before inheritance tax, obviously. Just gets better and better.

Given that it was a central tenet of Karl Marx’s social ideal, that inheritance down the generations would become impossible when there is no private wealth, does it seem odd that the present proposals come from a Tory Government?

I do have one thought from a Notarial viewpoint. Imagine the same couple, with £2 million assets in England, but in joint names. Now, when Husband dies, there is no need to get a grant of Probate. £20,000.00 saved.

But, hang on, imagine Husband has a holiday flat or time-share in Turkey in his own name. Worth £10,000.00. And he has £10,000.00 worth of South African Rand in his foreign Bank account. How is the widow going to get those assets worth £20,000.00?

It’s not too hard, the Turks and the South Africans will send me the money, if I prepare the necessary certificates together with an English Grant of Probate.

That Grant of Probate costs £215.00 to get today. Oh, crikey. Next year it will cost £20,000.00 if the proposals go through. Just to get £20,000.00. She can’t just walk away, there are likely to be penalties from Turkey if she doesn’t sort it out. Bit of a problem.

The Official consultation ends after this month so if you have any opinions, get them in. Here is a link https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/fee-proposals-for-grants-of-probate

Some might say, if you don’t like these proposals, but do think that the Courts system should not be allowed to go bust, then what is your alternative? OK, you have rather got me there, I do admit. Good job I’m not the Government.

Take it away Johnny Cash AFTER TAX

As ever, Please do contact me and Louise whenever you need Notarial certification or Legalisation – at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com or phone me on 0113 816 0116 (internationally 0044 113 8160116)

Beard or No-Beard. Travelling to India After Change of Appearance?

Beard or No-Beard?

Not an afternoon Game Show, perhaps it could be. (Can you recognise which of these six bearded ladies is Angela Merkel? Which of these clean-shaven men is Father Christmas? Well, ok, perhaps the concept needs a little work.)

One of the jobs we are requested to assist with is to Notarise Affidavits in relation to a person’s “change of appearance” – this is most usually required for individuals who hold an Indian passport. (Though not only, indeed I have done this for a US citizen today)

If your passport has some time left on it, yet your photograph no longer resembles you, then it is always wise to apply to have it updated and if you are an Indian citizen and living in England then it is a strict requirement to update your passport with a new photograph.

The usual scenarios which trigger the need for a passport to be updated are:

Baby in arms to child;
Child to teenager
Teenager to Adult,
Non-turban wearer to turban wearer;
Turban wearer to non-turban wearer;
No-beard to beard;
Beard to no-beard.

There may be more which I have not yet come across. I presume a facial tattoo, or its removal, would be on the list for example.

I can prepare the necessary supporting form of Declaration to do this, to be signed when we meet.

Also I need to see with your current or expired passport which shows the old photo. Of course you need to provide me with couple of new photos also.

Then you can affirm the supporting document with me and, after I add my notarial Certificate and stamp and seal, it is ready to be submitted to the Indian High Commission or its agents for the issue of your new or amended passport.

This procedure is well understood by VF Services (UK) Limited who are the agents for the High Commission of India in relation to passport services and is usually completed in a short time with very little fuss. So, if you think that the above relates to you then please do get in contact with us.

Far better to do this before you travel halfway round the world. Because it is entirely possible, if you do not look like your passport photograph, that you will not be allowed on the plane. Worse still, you might be allowed onto the plane, but not allowed to get off it in India!

So I need a song about changes. Chh-chh-changes? No, not that one. Link here

As ever, Please do contact me whenever you need Notarial certification or Legalisation – at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com or phone me on 0113 816 0116 (internationally 0044 113 8160116)