Wills by Text? Legacies by Voicemail?

Wills by Text? Legacies by Voicemail?

Apparently, Wills written on paper, signed by the Testator and two witnesses and dated, is all a bit last century.

Here is a link to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph –Link Here –

With the headline “Could a Text become your Will?” the newspaper is referring to a newly released report of the Law Commission.

According to the Telegraph, the Commission calls for the law to be relaxed to allow notes, emails and voicemail messages to be used in place of a written will.

The Law Commission has been set the task of considering whether the modern rules of will making in 2017 should remain the same as those which have been in place since 1837.

The reactionary response would be, why change what works? The revisionist response would be, Yebbut, is it working though innit? [Revisionists speak like that, I feel sure]

The fact is that whilst most people in England would probably agree that making a Will is important and something that they should do, in fact less than half of the adult population has done so. Should the making of a will therefore be “easier” than it is at present?

The link to the Law Commission report is here – Link Here – at first glance the newspaper report seems alarmist. Do a word-search [control;+F] through the report and there is no specific mention of email or text as being the suggested basis of a valid will.

There is no specific recommendation that the creation of a valid will made in England should in future abandon the use of pen and paper and witnesses, in favour of a quick text.

Rather, the report seeks to recognise that the true purpose of the law should be to ensure that the wishes of a person making a will can be put into effect after death, even if some oversight has been made in the formalities of the will.

It says, the rules about making wills, are a “means to an end, not an end in themselves”.

So, if someone has made it very clear what their wishes are, does it truly matter whether the record is on paper or hard disc or Facebook? Thus the Commission seems to recommend that in such a case, the absence of an actual paper Will should not stop a Court form being able to operate a “dispensing power” in order to ensure that those wishes come into effect.

My own view is that whilst the Law Commission is not recommending that Wills should no longer be on paper, there is a big risk here. The Law of Unintended Consequences. Or in other words, most changes make stuff worse. You can quote me on that.

In this case I predict the thinking will be “if the Courts are to be give a dispensing power, why go to the expense of making a “proper” Will?”

And Cynics will say, there is nobody as inventive as a disappointed person left out of an inheritance, trying to find a basis for a court case.

The report itself admits that an earlier report from 1980 which considered relaxing the rules, in the end decided against doing so, reaching the conclusion that this could lead to “more expense, litigation and delay in cases where it can least be afforded, noting that the homemade wills are the ones which most often go wrong.”

More expense delay and litigation? Seems to me that as soon as there is a chink in the armour, just as soon as there is even a notion in the mind of a disappointed non-beneficiary that the Court might deem an email or an unprinted computer document or diary entry to be sufficient evidence of intent as to amount to a legal Will, here comes argument and there goes certainty.

And when certainty is out of the window, litigation lawyers make money! See the Bleak House Jarndyce v Jarndyce extract below*.

And this even this new report does articulate [and then argues against!] the thoughts which most lawyers will have had upon first reading the Telegraph article, – it says, I paraphrase “the potential recognition of electronic documents could provide a treasure trove for dissatisfied relatives  … who may be tempted to sift through huge volumes of texts emails and other records trying to find one to put forward as a record of intent – as a Will”.

You really think so, Sherlock?

Here is a link to be downloaded at the foot of this internet page  – Link Here – a response form which you can complete then print and post, or email.

You have until 10th November to tell the Commission your own view.

Link Here –Put It In Writing – (It’s a song)

And as always, please do remember whenever you have documents to Notarise to use abroad, you can contact me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary E7 Joseph’s Well Leeds LS3 1AB, phone 0113 8160116 and email notary@atkinsonnotary.com or via the website http://www.atkinsonnotary.com

* “Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.”

Charles Dickens

Never A Dull Day in Leeds. Duller Than Colombia, Mind.

Notaries in England have a role which is really Clerical at base. We establish facts, and we prepare Certificates in which those facts are set out as genuine. Our Certificates are then relied upon in foreign Countries.

In other countries, the role of the Notary is often wider than this.

A Notary in France acts in a way similar to that of the English Land Registry. S/He records local land ownerships and the transfer of land and in many areas actually stores the title deeds.

In areas of Spain, the Notary can act as a small claims court, hearing disputes and issuing legally enforceable judgments.

In many Countries and in some States of USA, a Notary can officiate at a Wedding.

But it is a new one on me, to read of a Notary actually seeking to change the Law, by Notarial certificate.

If this newspaper article is to be believed – link here- a Notary in Colombia has done just that. He has by his certificated paperwork, cleared the way for a marriage between three parties, all of them male.

Crikey.

In reality it seems to me that the Notary, who is mentioned many times on the internet as an active advocate for gay rights in Colombia, is being somewhat provocative or challenging to the government there. Of course some newspapers have picked up this action and described it as the first “three-way Gay Marriage”.

If this were really what the Notary has achieved, he has apparently wielded power more usually the preserve of an elected government.

And, opened the door to a new jurisprudence, with a lot more new questions than answers.

The Laws and Courts of most Countries, certainly in England, have been battling with matters of entitlement to assets on the breakdown of two-party heterosexual marriages for hundreds of years and there is still no consensus that any fixed and reliable resolution has been reached.

Imagine the scope for new esoteric argument about money and property and children when a breakup could be potentially three way, or one partner leaving the other two.

The reality is perhaps less extreme: it may be that the Colombian Notarial documentation is more akin to a “Pre-Nup” – a form of contract in which the three men set out the terms of their relationship in regard to ownership of property and dealing with matters such as maintenance or inheritance in the case of a future separation or death. [Bit like a partnership agreement between a firm of Solicitors? Only a bit, mind]

But headlines no doubt sell newspapers.

At any rate, Colombian Notarisations do seem to be a bit more sensational than my quotidian existence here in Leeds.

CONSENT TO TRAVEL – What is a Child?

I can perhaps also use my Blog this week to underline one point which may not occur to parents of young persons travelling abroad.

Louise and I have written on many occasions, and will do again, to bring home to our clients the need for notarised certificates of consent when children are to travel with grandparents or other adults, but not with both parents.

What we have perhaps not stressed, is what is a “Child”.

The reality is that there is no agreed international definition of the age at which adulthood is reached. We have this week noted the need to certify parental consent on behalf of a twenty year old “child” to travel alone – for the United States, where the age of adulthood in many States is still TWENTY ONE.

[Imagine how a man of twenty would feel, when he can’t get on an aeroplane because he hasn’t got a notarised “note from his Mummy”.]

Ok, here’s a song for this week Link here

As ever, please do remember whenever you have documents to Notarise to use abroad, you can contact me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary E7 Joseph’s Well Leeds LS3 1AB, phone 0113 8160116 and email notary@atkinsonnotary.com or via the website http://www.atkinsonnotary.com

OCI Visas/Sponsorship Declarations – INDIA.  Are You Eligible?

OCI Visas/Sponsorship Declarations – INDIA.  Are You Eligible?

If you have a significant connection with India but are not now a Citizen of India, read on.

Most countries in the world are happy that its citizens can hold dual nationality when appropriate. So if you are a citizen of USA and become naturalised as a British Citizen for example, you can hold both US and UK passports.

Other countries are not willing to allow this. India is one such – as are Austria, PR China, Japan and others. So, if an Indian Citizen becomes British, then Indian Citizenship is lost. Not because Britain objects, but because India objects,

Yet again, some countries make it a requirement upon granting citizenship that the previous nationality be abandoned. So if an Irish person becomes Spanish, then Irish citizenship is lost. In this case, not because Ireland objects, but because Spain objects.

It’s complicated.

But, this Blog focusses on India: – where there has been a lot of unhappiness over the years about the consequences of the loss of Indian Citizenship when, in particular, US or UK or Canadian Citizenship has been acquired. There are large numbers of people who have lost Indian Citizenship, but who still have significant connection with India and want to travel there regularly. This, coupled with the fact that it can be a very long-winded and expensive palaver to apply for and obtain a Visa to travel to India, and for a Visa which then expires and has to be applied for all over again next year.

So since 2006, the OVERSEAS CITIZENSHIP OF INDIA (OCI) scheme has been created. There are many advantages for an eligible OCI holder – the main one, is that it is a lifetime travel/residence visa.

We see many Indian clients who wish to apply for an OCI Visa.  I have set out below some information which may assist you if you are thinking of applying for an OCI card.

What is OCI?

OCI – Overseas Citizenship of India.  It is a card which enables the holder to be able to travel and stay in India as many times as required.

Eligibility

  • was a citizen of India on 26 January 1950 or at any time thereafter; or
  • belonged to a territory that became part of India after 15 August 1947; or
  • was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26 January 1950; or
  • is a child or a grandchild or a great grandchild of such a citizen; or
  • is a minor child of such persons mentioned above; or
  • is a minor child and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India; or
  • is a spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder registered under section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application

There are full details LINK HERE on the Indian government website and a link to an on-line application facility LINK HERE.

My involvement in all this as a Notary is that the Applicant for OCI who has acquired UK Citizenship by Registration or Naturalisation, is usually expected to submit their cancelled last Indian passport as part of the OCI application.

Typically, the passport is not available. It may have been lost at home, or retained by the Home Office in Croydon and lost, or surrendered by the Home Office to the Indian High Commission and lost. In that case, the Indian Authority will require a Notarised Affidavit to be prepared, explaining the circumstances of the loss of the passport.

So if you require an OCI card and need an adviser who can assist then please do get in touch – we can help you find the right direction and of course we can prepare any supporting Affidavits that may be required.

And, as always, please remember whenever you have documents to Notarise to use abroad, you can contact me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary E7 Joseph’s Well Leeds LS3 1AB, phone 0113 8160116 and email notary@atkinsonnotary.com or via the website http://www.atkinsonnotary.com

 

Signatures. Fraud. Passports. Notarial Musings

Signatures. Fraud. Passports. Notarial Musings.

I think we can all agree that if everyone in the world were honest, there would be no need for the Notarial profession. Or any Lawyers, probably.

In that Utopia, every signature would be unforged and every contract genuine, and accepted by the signatories as genuine for ever after.

In the world we actually inhabit, not so much.

So we need Notaries, to witness the making of signatures. To be able to give evidence afterwards, of what took place, and who signed what. To check that the signer is not trembling with fear, in the presence of third parties making threats. To check that the signer is in their right mind, is old enough, and so on.

So the starting point is, that unwitnessed signatures are unreliable.

After all, with a bit of practice, I could make a mark which would look just like your signature. And you could write mine. And so on. Indeed, one of the first lessons a handwriting expert will teach, is that an honest person never makes two signatures exactly the same.

OK, we all agree then, signatures unwitnessed, – not much use.

When you next renew or obtain a British Passport, you will find that it no longer contains a print of the signature you made when you applied for it.

The thinking behind this – shall I say, the “thinking” behind this – is explained on the Government website as “an essential development for improving HM Passport Office’s online application service, by removing the need for customers [yes that’s right, customers. George Orwell might as well never have happened] to send signed paper forms and printed photographs when they apply for passports”.

Ok, so I have just looked online to see how to get a passport on line. The steps are – fill in the application, pay by card, then PRINT a Declaration form and SIGN it and post it off. By snail, just like Granddad used to.

So the removal of the need to send signed paper is not actually a thing. Perhaps the intention is that one day it will be.

I still don’t get it though, do you? If we are computer literate enough to apply online, then presumably we know how to upload a photo of our faces? And possibly the best of us can figure out how to upload a photo of our signatures. So that means the Passport office will still have a digital version of a signature which it could attach to the new passport, just like last year?

Am I being slow? Please enlighten me.

So anyway, now we have our new passport, there is no signature on it and we need to sign it.

I am presented with passports several times a day, because whenever I notarise for you, I need to be satisfied of your identity, best proven by your passport.

Guess what? None of the new passports I have been shown, have been signed by the Holder.

I also notice that when I am paid by credit cards, mostly they have not been signed either. People don’t bother, by and large. The signature card was vulnerable to forgery [see above!] so we use PINs instead.

So when I am given an unsigned passport, I suggest to my client that they should sign the passport, because that’s what the Gov. site says, – Link Here.

What I have failed to find out, is why? Why must there be a signature on a passport? What does it prove? Especially when, if you are a child, or have suffered a stroke, you are excused signing. But children and patients can still have a passport. You are still “You”, and you can still travel.

And of course, this change has opened a new category of fuss and nonsense.

Travel chat rooms are full of worried folk who signed in the “wrong place”.

Or, “The website says, use black-ink ball point pen. I have used blue ink. Can I still travel?”

And one further question to address is, what is a signature anyway?

American passports are also issued unsigned, and with a guidance that you should “sign your full name”.

That is an oxymoron if your signature is just an initial then an amorphous squiggle. Because if you follow the advice and sign, it’s not your full name. And if you follow the advice and write your full name then it’s not your signature, or at any rate not your usual signature.

And the USA guidance is, do NOT use a ball point pen. Which on one hand is sensible, because ballpoint ink is more easily removed than black fountain pen or gel ink. But, on the other hand blue fountain pen ink is usually washable!

Out in the real world, away from silly rules, people are using unsigned passports and travelling from country to country. Usually the border officials don’t notice. When they do, they suggest that you sign your passport when convenient, and wave you through the gate.

So what is it actually for, this signature, once we can identify who needs to make one and who is exempt and what a signature even is, full name or squiggle, what colour and what kind of ink?

If you work at the Passport office, get in touch and give us a clue.

But one new pitfall arising is that the beloved Foreign and Commonwealth Office has decided that a certified copy of a passport cannot be stamped with an Apostille, if the original passport is unsigned. Because that would be – what? Illegal? Again, why?

But if you are a bureaucrat, faced with one more reason to refuse to issue your stamp – well you wouldn’t say no. Link here

For advice on all of these matters and for all the usual foreign dealings too, – as always – you can contact me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary E7 Joseph’s Well Leeds LS3 1AB, phone 0113 8160116 and email notary@atkinsonnotary.com or via the website http://www.atkinsonnotary.com

Notarised Consents to travel – An Update from Louise Morley At AtkinsonNotary Limited

Notarised Consents to travel – An Update from Louise Morley

We have written many blogs in relation to Consents to travel – see earlier blog links here:

https://atkinsonnotarypublic.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/ruined-holidays-abroad-children-crying-thousands-of-pounds-wasted-dont-let-it-happen-to-you/

and

https://atkinsonnotarypublic.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/its-cold-here-in-yorkshire-travel-with-the-kids-take-paperwork/

As mentioned previously South Africa has been the forefront of requesting such consents – and if a child is to travel with only one or no parents then they will not be able to travel to South Africa without having such a consent notarised.

It seems more and more countries are now following suit – airlines are now checking that before they even let you on a plane that the necessary consent(s) are in place.

I really wanted to remind all our contacts and client that it is almost certain that if you have a child who is wishing to travel without one or both parents then a consent must be provided

We deal with many of these consents on a weekly basis and can prepare the necessary paperwork that is required.

Some countries have their own specific template of what the consent should say – if in doubt then please speak with me or the Notary and we can advise accordingly.

The appointment would be relatively short – the consenting parent or parents would need to bring to the appointment their passports and a proof of address for each signatory. We would also need to see the long-form Birth Certificate of the child [this is the certificate that states the parents’ details].

The same information above applies for any guardian(s) of a child – the only additional piece of information we would need to see is a Court Order confirming the authority of the guardian.

I get asked many times by clients whether a consent would be required and whether this has to be notarised – my advice is every time YES YES YES – you do not want to get to the airport to be turned away by the airline or the Border guards. This would be awful for all parties concerned – all the planning and preparation and expense wasted in an instant.

I  would imagine at this stage that to try and see a Notary – perhaps in the night-time as well – would be near impossible – there are not many Notary Publics in the country, I think at the last count there are approximately 800 in England and Wales – however most of this 800 are located in the South of England so one would imagine that you would be highly unlikely to be able to meet a Notary in this emergency – and remember airlines usually give travellers around 2 hours between booking in and flights to depart. The airport will not allow for a consent to be written by the parent and signed without this being done before a Notary Public.

Well what is it that the Notary does, you may ask? A Notary is a legal officer who is authorised to assist in paperwork for use in many countries of the world – what the Notary is warranting to the foreign jurisdiction is that he/she has checked the consenting parent(s) identification, Birth Certificates and keeps a full record of all documentation seen.

It is the international process that any documentation for use overseas usually needs to be put before a Notary in the first instance.

Every day we hearing more horror stories of travellers being denied travel due to the fact that no consent has been dealt with.

Do not fall victim – we have the consents, we can help, we can make it easy and straightforward and more to the point hassle-free and giving you peace of mind.

Please do contact me louise@atkinsonnotary.com if you would like to arrange an appointment to deal with a travel consent. Website is http://www.atkinsonnotary.com and to phone me it’s 01138160116

Random Musings From a Notary – Number Eleventeen

Random Musings From a Notary – Number Eleventeen.

Sadly there are plenty of blogs available for those who want to read about terrorism and elections and Brexit and the general horror that is the day to day news in 2017, and perhaps some of them even contain useful information.

So instead please consider this blog as a calm and stress free place where you and I can pass the time in quiet contemplation of one or two legal developments which may be of passing interest, but won’t raise the pulse unduly.

So, – squatters’ rights.

Here’s a case – link here – where the owner of a houseboat has claimed that he should be registered as the freehold owner of the part of the river his boat has floated above for the past more than twelve years. An important point here is that at low tide, the boat settles onto the riverbed.

In fact, the original application to the Land Registry Tribunal had been successful and this case is the actual Appeal, made by the Port of London, seeking to get their bit of riverbed – and river – back into its ownership.

Who knew? Not me anyway, that it would even be possible to obtain ownership of a bit of river by parking your boat, even after twelve years.

In this particular case however, the Port of London were able to persuade the Court that the claim should fail and the registration be rescinded.

Because, said the Court, to be a squatter successfully you must make your claim obvious. So, if I fence off your field and the only access to the now fenced area is a locked gate and I’ve got the only key, you can clearly see what I’m up to.

In the case of the boat, said the Court, the intention to claim the ownership of the riverbed was not made obvious. It just looked like a parked boat.

So, if you have a house boat, put a sign up. It might work, but only on a tidal river.

OK, so not a case of general application then. But interesting enough to mention, I hope?

Next up, in reference to my earlier Blog – link here – about the system of disclosure of criminal records, you may recall that as long as we have rules about disclosures [however “unfair” their application can sometime be] coupled with a requirement to apply Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [called the right to privacy] there will be applications to the Court.

Basically the two laws are incompatible.

So in this month’s reported case of “P”– Link Here –, one of the applicants is a man who has two sexual offences recorded. They must, in accordance with the Rules, be disclosed on his Criminal Record to be given to his prospective employer when he applies, more than nine years later, for a job with children.

That’s the law.

But, the offences were committed when he was only thirteen. He was really just a child, with a child’s immaturity. His acts were, as the Court recognised and stated, acts which could in the most favourable light, be viewed as an “ordinary part of the process of growing up”.

So Article 8 – the “right to privacy” would say they should not be disclosed.

There is nothing in this case to suggest that matters have moved on a jot since the clash of laws was last brought before the Courts. The Judges are being asked to decide on individual cases, the law is therefore basically uncertain and contradictory.

As the Judge said, this latest case makes it clear, if it wasn’t before, that Parliament should understand that there is a problem with the operation of the scheme – of criminal records disclosure – and address it.

Until they do, the Courts will continue to be asked to deal with problems which are not problems they should be required to solve.

And finally, food for thought for the conveyancing lawyers reading this.

As you know, before completing the purchase of a registered house or registered land for a client, it is necessary to make final “searches of the Register”. The reason includes the fact that a search result will give a “priority period” – several days of grace during which no alternation can be made to the Register by anyone else and within which you can register the new title of your client.

This protects your client from, say, any chance that the seller may be a crook intending to take money from several “buyers” – sell his million pound house to twenty buyers all on the same day, then run away and let them chase his dust.

BUT, during the period protected, you need to get on and register your clients’ new property into their names.

The period of protection CANNOT be extended. You can make a new search, but if some other registration is pending to the title, and if the new search is made after the date of the other application then the new search will not extend your earlier search protection.

This means, there is a gap between purchase and registration, within which, if you are slow, a third party might get in to the title ahead of you. And the whole point of registration of a title is that you are not the legal owner of your new house, until the land registry says you are. By a completed registration.

Here is a report of a case where a buyer has fallen into the “registration gap”.– Link Here –

It seems to me that three firms of solicitors have between them, or each, made a mess of their tasks.

First of all a purchaser P paid for a transfer of land which should have reserved rights of way for the neighbour over a “shared” access, but did not. Then P’s solicitors messed about and did not get on with the job of registering that title, and in the meantime the sellers sold another plot to purchasers P2 and did grant them rights to use the accessway.

Then P2 got their title registered whilst P was dithering, within the Registration gap.

By the time P got their title registered, the rights of way of P2 were on their title.

I would be interested in knowing a bit more background to the case and its actual consequences. It seems to me that if P had actually been registered with a title which showed that no one else was able to share their accessway, this would have been something the Seller did not intend: it was the Seller’s mistake. It would have given P the right to claim money for granting the right of way to P2.

As it is, P finds himself unable to claim the benefit of what would have been a mistake anyway. Does he have a claim against anyone? Perhaps the registration gap has worked in an unusually benign way.

But no doubt some Solicitor will have pay compensation to some-one.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, innit.

Music – link here

And, as always, please remember whenever you have documents to Notarise to use abroad, you can contact me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary E7 Joseph’s Well Leeds LS3 1AB, phone 0113 8160116 and email notary@atkinsonnotary.com or via the website http://www.atkinsonnotary.com

Don’t do professional favours for your friends. Just Don’t, OK.

Don’t do professional favours for your friends. Just Don’t, OK.

And if I may add, as a general rule, don’t accept favours either. Certainly not from the Godfather –

“Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, consider this justice a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.”
— Don Corleone, The Godfather

I mean, when he puts it like that, it’s fairly clear you’ve crossed a line I think.

I wrote this Blog link here last year. As I said then, the facts of this case follow a classic chain of events which could well be the plot of a film – although thankful no horses have been harmed.

It has the trope of – man and wife M&W ask friend F for a favour. “You are an Expert Architect, could you just have a look at a quote I’ve got from a contractor it seems too high to me”

[And I wonder, when a friend asks you “Could you just”? – Why do they put it like that?

[As if they are describing the favour they are asking as a mere triviality which it would be churlish of you to refuse and is to them not really a priority in the slightest?

[When of course, what they mean is – “This is of the utmost importance to me and you are the only person in the world who can help me but I don’t want to let you know that and I certainly don’t want to pay you”.]

And F gets involved and before you know it woohoo M&W and F are no longer friends at all and there is a court case Link here about a claim for £265,000.00.

In the 2016 case judgment the Judge found that F was fully entangled in the case and that her duty of responsibility was notwithstanding that she had not been paid a penny and concluded – “However, [nothing] should discourage the parties from seeking to settle their differences. I cannot think of a more appropriate case to which mediation is suited.”

Yeah right, fat chance of that between ex-friends.

So this year F has lost her appeal, – the 2017 case report Link here seems little more than a repetition of what the Judges told her last year. Of course, the Court fees will have increased hugely.

It all boils down to – if you are approached to assist anyone, by your best friend or by a stranger, who is asking you to help because you have skill and ability which they lack, then to the extent that you do so, whether or not any contract is written, you are responsible for acting with “reasonable skill and care”. Working for nothing does not change that.

Except to the extent that it might make you loathe your former friends even more.

Of course, it is in the nature of non-psychopathic humans, to wish to help their friends.

And don’t think its only Architects who need to be on their guard.

And not only, don’t do favours. Also, Don’t assume in professional life that you can trust your friends and relax your standards.

Here is a link to a case in which a Solicitor has been ordered to pay £7,500.00 plus costs of £32,469.86. Because, he made a mistake in “lowering his guard” when acting in a new matter for a family he had acted before on several previous occasions. So, because he trusted them, he failed to be as thorough as his professional rules require, indeed he himself described his work as sloppy.

A case where no fraud actually took place. Simply where, if it had, the Solicitor’s involvement would not have revealed it or stopped it. If I may compare it to the cliché, a case where the Solicitor left the stable door unbolted. The fact that the horse stayed in the stable, is deemed to be neither here nor there.

As a general rule of thumb, if in doubt, perhaps we should always ask ourselves – what would Ted Hastings* do? – Yes, “Follow the Law to the Letter. To the Letter, Mind.

“Now we’re sucking on diesel. OK, Stand Down.”

And, as always, you can contact me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary E7 Joseph’s Well Leeds LS3 1AB, phone 0113 8160116 and email notary@atkinsonnotary.com or via the website http://www.atkinsonnotary.com

*He’s in Line Of Duty. He’s the Good Guy. So far.