Proof of Life – sounds like the title of a Thriller movie!

Proof of Life – sounds like the title of a Thriller movie! In fact it is a Notary Thing. Louise Morley Explains …

Here at AtkinsonNotary we see many clients who have foreign pensions and have been requested by the foreign jurisdiction to produce a “proof of life” certificate duly notarised.

What this means is that the Notary is confirming that the client is still alive and is able to carry on claiming his/her pension.

The main reason for the Pension trustees to require this is that there are fraudsters in the world who could quite possibly take on the identity of a deceased person who had been collecting a pension and carry on claiming after the rightful beneficiary’s death.

This is obviously wrong but unfortunately there are fraudsters in this world! Who knew?

So the process is that a “proof of life” has to be issued – depending on the foreign jurisdiction this can be requested once every three months, once every six months or even once a year.

Don’t worry though – if you need a Proof of Life certificate then the process to see the Notary is very simple – an appointment can be made very easily and you would need to attend with identification documents. The Notary will then check your identification document and complete a certificate to warrant to the foreign jurisdiction that you are alive and still entitled to collect your pension from England.

Here is a report from 2012 which refers to English pensions fraud. –Link Here-

It doesn’t seem that things have tightened up if these links are any guide –Link Here – – And Here-

But a swift Google search indicates what might be a record – a Japanese lady now 86 has been claiming her parents’’ pension for the past 50 years. Wow. -Link Here-
If you are a Pensions trustee, food for thought perhaps. Use a Notary and you may not be singing this song. –Link Here –

As ever, for documents for use around the world do contact me or Chris Atkinson here at AtkinsonNotary E7 Joseph’s Well Leeds LS3 1AB, phone 0113 8160116 and email or via the website



Documents For India Need Notarisation? Louise Helps You Through The Maze

Documents For India Need Notarization? Louise Helps You Through The Maze.

A high percentage of my workload relates to documentation prepared for clients with Indian connections. Typically this will be paperwork relating to Powers of Attorney or to the Administration of the Indian Estates of deceased relatives.

If there were only one message I could give, it is that it ultimately costs more to get it wrong than to get it right. Taking shortcuts in respect of legal documentation for any foreign Country is a recipe for wasting money.

Typical mistakes include the following:
1. Drafting the Deeds yourself.
2. Failure to Witness as required
3. Failure to Notarise
4. Failure to legalise

There are more mistakes which can result in rejection of your documents in India, but these four above are far and away the most usual.

To expand on these –

1. Drafting the Deeds Yourself.

Christopher Atkinson has been a Notary for over Twenty Two years and we have a copy of every Indian Power of Attorney that he has ever notarized. There are many hundreds of them and each one is different in words or in format. If you have any experience of India, you will know that nothing is standardized there. Most Indian Lawyers consider that their documents are the only correct ones. The Moral – Get your lawyer in India to draft your paperwork. If you draft it yourself, or even if we draft it for you, most probably they will reject it. It can be emailed over to UK and then I can print it at my office for you.

2. Failure to Notarise.

There are unfortunately many Solicitors who appear to be willing to countersign as the “Notary” witness on Indian Deeds. This is ALWAYS WRONG. A Solicitor who is not also a Notary, is not accepted in India as an appropriate Certifier for your Deeds.

3. Failure to Legalise

This is a tricky area. India has signed the 1961 Convention of The Hague and your Notarized documents should be legalised with the Apostille stamp. But, to muddy the waters, often documents will be accepted without this, and on the other hand sometimes Indian lawyers incorrectly ask for an Indian High Commission Stamp. This article is too short to give full details of all the problems, but I can explain if you phone or email me. Also we have written other blogs on the subject, if you use the index on our website searching for “India” or “Apostille”.

4. Failure to Witness.

With the exception only of some Bank Deeds, all Indian Deeds executed in England and particularly Powers of Attorney require that your signature is witnessed by two adults in addition to the Notary.

And do not do what we have sometimes seen. A client with a Deed for India requiring two witnesses and the notary, brings us a document already signed by two friends, who do not appear with him at our office.

“What are those signatures?” We ask – reply, – “those are the witnesses! They can’t get time off work, so they signed it last night, ready for me to sign with you today!”

No really, we have seen this several times.

There are so many ways to get this wrong, only one way to get it right. Again, I do explain what is needed whenever a new client contacts me, and in my Office I can provide these extra Witnesses.

There are of course other ways to get things wrong. Some Deeds will be rejected unless you add photographs. Some Indian Lawyers demand [wrongly] that you use pre-stamped paper purchased in India. Some insist on green paper, some insist on strange sizes of paper…

The message I am hoping to give, is that time spent on preparation, in contacting your foreign lawyers and quizzing them in great detail as to EXACTLY what they want from you in England, will not be wasted. Otherwise the experience can turn into a frustrating and expensive [in both time and money] series of trial and error experiments.

As I say, I shall be only too happy to assist you through the maze. You can contact me or Mr Atkinson here at AtkinsonNotary E7 Joseph’s Well Leeds LS3 1AB, phone 0113 8160116 and email or via the website

Government Ignores Your Input. Surprised? New Probate Fees.

Government Ignores Your Input. Surprised? New Probate Fees.

Here is a link to my Blog a year ago. Probate, How Much Would You Like To Pay?

In Brief, The Government invited you to respond to its consultation as to whether you think an increase in Probate fees from, at their highest, £430 today [for a couple dying together, or one shortly after the other] to a new sum of £40,000.00, was about right.

Yes, seriously, the new fees will be more than 9300% of the old ones. Nine thousand three hundred per cent. This is not a bad dream, though it’s not a good one either.

The new scales are
• £300 for estates worth more than £50,000 and up to £300,000
• £1,000 for estates worth more than £300,000 and up to £500,000
• £4,000 for estates worth more than £500,000 and up to £1 million
• £8,000 for estates worth more than £1m and up to £1.6 million
• £12,000 for estates worth more than £1.6m and up to £2 million
• £20,000 for estates worth more than £2 million

As I said , This is after consultation.
So, clearly, the general public thought that the increased fees are a jolly good thing.

Actually, not exactly, no.

The results are here LINK

What do we see? – Out of 829 responses as to whether the fee for probate should be proportionate to the estate value? Bearing in mind that the actual work done, and the cost of it, is not proportionate to the estate value, not surprisingly,:-

695 said – No, it makes no sense.

So in the context of a referendum, the vote for the status quo, the “remain” vote if you like, was over 75%.

Over 75 per cent.

With 71 responses abstaining, the vote for changing the status quo was:-

7%. Seven percent.

So there you are, the Government ask for consultation. Their proposals are overwhelmingly rejected – let me rephrase that – are supported by 7%, and will proceed.

Makes you proud, innit. Can’t Afford to Live, Can’t Afford to Die. Song Link here

As ever, do contact me or Christopher Atkinson here at AtkinsonNotary [0113 816 0116 or or ] where we shall be more than happy to assist and help you through the maze whenever you have paperwork to be processed for foreign countries.

Airlines. Borders. Escalating Problems for Families Travelling Abroad.

Escalating Problems for Families Travelling Abroad.

The subject of foreign travel has been aired before in my Blogs but a recent call from a client reveals that the problems are getting even more difficult.

To recap, there have been cases reported of children being taken out of one country into another, without the consent of both parents. Typically this happens when a marriage or family relationship is ending, and one of the parents of children have a wide family circle in a foreign Country.

So in a case where, say the mother is African, – the first thing the father knows of the breakup of his marriage, may be when he wakes up one morning to find that the mother and his child/children are now living in Africa.

If the father does not consent to that, the taking of the child is viewed by the English Courts as kidnapping. Depending upon the foreign Country involved, it may or may not be viewed as a crime in the Courts of that country.

Alternatively the child might be taken abroad after a divorce by one parent, in defiance of a court Order. That also of course would be viewed in England as a criminal offence, a contempt of Court.

The next step, trying to retrieve the situation and obtain an order in the Courts of a foreign Country that a child must be returned to England, can typically take years and cost a fortune financially, to say nothing of the emotional cost suffered by all concerned. Not least of course, by the children who are the innocent parties.

Some Countries have created strict rules as to what papers are required to be produced before a person travelling alone with children is allowed to cross their borders. South Africa may be the best known such country, but many others have similar rules.

So let’s think this through. If you are a single person kidnapping your child in this way, you know that you are increasingly going to be asked for Notarised consents from the absent parent.

Light-bulb moment, – you need to travel with an accomplice. Because two adults with children will look like a family, yes? Nothing to suspect, waved through the border.

OK, so, staying one step ahead of that logic, the airlines and border guards are realising, we’ve got to deal with this now. They are understanding that there is no reason to drop their guards and relax just because there are two adults with a child.

And this week I have received news from the “Notary News Group” from my colleague Katie Beckett that this logical next step has been taken at least by one airline – bear in mind that airlines are involved in this, both by bad publicity if it turns out that they have carelessly allowed kidnappers to take children onto their flights and also because they are made to pay fines if travellers they have flown abroad are refused entry and have to be flown back to England.

She says – “I recently had a panicked call from a client at Heathrow airport waiting to board a flight to SA with her husband and two teenage children. All four had the same surname and both parents were the biological parents of the teenage boys (i.e. no complications whatsoever). All four had valid British passports but the airline was demanding a notarised copy of the birth certificates of the two teenagers to show that the people they were travelling with were, in fact, their parents.

They accepted a scanned copy of the notarised birth certificates but my point is this – the airlines into SA seem to have become ridiculously strict on this point so normal rules do not seem to apply.”

So, last week, on a flight to South Africa, two happily married parents with their two teenage children were denied boarding at Heathrow airport because they could not show notarised Birth certificates of the children. Required, by the airline, to show that the adults were indeed the parents.

This requirement exceeds the likely requirements of the South African border guards, but clearly the Airline was not willing to take any chances and has imposed its own, more stringent, requirement.

Should we blame it? Of course it is a tremendous inconvenience if a legitimate family miss a flight because they have not thought to take with them evidence that they are related.

But, compare that with the “inconvenience” in the worst case, where a child’s life is completely turned around and disrupted when he is used as a pawn in a war between his parents and taken from home, family, schooling to seek to make a new life in a foreign country. Inconvenience, for him, is not the word.

All this stuff doesn’t make things any easier for the honest traveller, just one more thing to put up with, but the only advice possible now for me to give, is, if your children are under 18, get their birth certificates Notarised before travel abroad in EVERY CASE.

And of course, if one only, or no parent, is travelling with them then you need to prepare the usual notarised consents as per my earlier blogs.

Or, take your holidays in the UK? Just a thought. Here’s a song

As ever, do contact me or Christopher Atkinson here at AtkinsonNotary [0113 816 0116 or or ] where we shall be more than happy to assist and help you through the maze whenever you have paperwork to be processed for foreign countries.

Reminder To Lawyers – Don’t Do Favours, Don’t Accept Favours.

Reminder To Lawyers –  Don’t Do Favours, Don’t Accept Favours.

This week a case is reported which may give one or two Solicitors and Property Managers [or all of them] a timely reminder to review their practices and procedures.

As I am a retired Solicitor, having worked for many years in Bradford, which is a friendly place by and large, this pitfall could very likely have caught me too.

It relates to the complicated world of Leasehold Enfranchisement of flats and apartments.

What has happened is that a group of leasehold owners of flats in a large building has decided to buy the freehold. This is something they can only do because Statute Law defines the right which they have, depending strictly upon how many owners [what percentage of the whole number of leaseholders] have to be involved, how long the terms of their leases are, how many years they have to have already lived in their flats and many other scenarios and conditions.

Indeed it can be a big job for a professional advisor even to work out whether in any particular case, the right to buy the Freehold can be claimed.

The point is, the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act of 1993 is a fairly long and very complex written Law. Every word in it is there for a reason and if you qualify, fine, and if not, you don’t. There are no grey areas, The Law is the Law.

As the policeman used to say, “I don’t make the Law, you know, I just enforce it. But I’ll tell you this – If the Law says Stand on Your Head then Over You Go Sonny”

OK, Got That?

Anyway, here is a link to a very clear Guide, placed on the internet by London Lawyers Pemberton Greenish.

So as you will see, once the Leaseholders have got together and decided to buy, they value the Building and serve a formal notice of their requirement to buy, which includes their offer for the purchase price. This is a process over which they may have taken years.

On the other hand there you now are, the Landlord, owner of the building, happily receiving your rents and living on your yacht [possibly!], when suddenly you get this horrible notice.

Crikey, you need to have a bit of a think.

And yet, the Notice you have received says that you are given only two months and a day to give your clear response in the form of a written counter-notice.

You have got a lot to do, in just two months and if you are the Solicitors acting for the owner, you will know the feeling of having to chivvy on your client, and surveyors and valuers to get their acts together and then inspect their reports and all the leases and value the land and buildings and assess the “marriage value”.

It is an art, not a strict science, to value the right price to be paid. Obviously if all the leases are for 1000 years, the value of the freehold is really just the amortized rent, given the tendency for human beings to die.

But on the other hand if the leases have only a few years to run before they are going to expire, the price will be a very great deal higher.

So it is not surprising – and it is in the nature of human behaviour in the face of deadlines – that all the necessary reports arrive at the last possible moment. And the Solicitor then has to prepare the Freeholder’s notice and get it signed and get it round to the leaseholder’s solicitors within the deadline time.

And if the last day for service is a Saturday, and if you ring up the other side on Friday and they say fax it over to us, and if their fax machine turns out to be broken, and if you telephone and a friendly chap called Dave answers and says “OK just email it to us for now and post it to us for Monday”, well that’s OK isn’t.

Although many Statutes deal with the need to give and receive notices, it is odd that there has until now apparently been no definitive ruling as to what “IN WRITING” means.

Of course in the 19th and early 20th Centuries and earlier there was no doubt. Writing meant on paper – or parchment. Vellum perhaps. But in the years since, now that electronic methods, fax, email, text, WhatsApp have existed, the law has been silent.

So whilst most lawyers will have prepared and sent notices on paper, what about a case like this, where time was running out? And in the situation where there seemed to be nothing in the law that said email was impossible?

I mean, you phoned, and you spoke to Dave, and he said “it will be fine – email it now and send the paper in as fast as you can”. Just like I might have done in Bradford.

So here is the case LINK HERE

And not surprisingly, it’s bad news for this particular landlord’s Solicitors.

This is the Judge’s reasoning:-

The Paper version with a signature – the “original” counternotice – landed on Monday, too late.

But the email had arrived in time, and Dave had said he would accept it. [But who on earth was Dave? Bloke in charge of paperclip procurement and fax machine maintenance poorly executed?].

And even if he had been the senior Partner, he has no power to waive the Law. [Stand on Your Head, remember?]

And the Law? That says “notice must be served”. And by implication [since the amending Act of 2014 says notices can be signed by agents as well or instead of the actual parties] the notice must be signed.

And, says the Judge that means it must be paper. Because an email or a fax cannot transmit an actual signature into the hands of the recipient. Only a scan of a signature. So, never mind that Dave was trying to help. The Law’s the Law. [S. on Y H.]

And whilst those of you in short trousers may think this is all very Luddite and that emails should have replaced all paper years ago, I think this decision is right.

After all, how many emails do you get every day? Hundreds? More? Dubious “Banks” wanting you to “refresh your details” – yeah right – and your Garage saying your car needs a service, Amazon asking you for an unpaid review of the camera you bought last year and on and on.

The Court is saying, we don’t blame any busy solicitor for deleting the lot of them. And if it includes a legal Notice from a Freeholder, so what. He should have written.

In this case, a very expensive lesson to learn. Because the delay means that the Freeholder has lost the right to negotiate on price and has to accept the Leaseholders’ first and presumably lowest offer. In London that could mean millions lost.

See the heading, and Don’t Do Favours, and Don’t Accept Favours. There are no shortcuts.

But there is a link, here Write a Letter. Take it round by hand. Ignore Dave.

As ever, do contact me or Christopher Atkinson here at AtkinsonNotary [0113 816 0116 or or ] where we shall be more than happy to assist and help you through the maze whenever you have paperwork to be processed for foreign countries.

Documents for use in P. R. of China? Louise Explains The Road-Blocks

Documents for use in P. R. of China? Louise Explains The Road-Blocks

If you have a personal or a commercial document which you require to use in The People’s Republic of China then after Notarization it will need the further stamp of the PRC Embassy in England before it will be acceptable to the authorities abroad.

But please note that legalising your document(s) with that Embassy is not straightforward.

For private documents you as the Signatory of the document or the Holder of it, if it is, say, a copy of your Criminal Record check or University degree will need also to provide a photocopy of your passport or Driving Licence. If you have neither, perhaps because you are unwell and can no longer travel or drive, you may have to obtain a new passport before matters can proceed.

In relation to commercial documents it is required that again a photocopy of the legal representative’s passport and a Companies House document be also produced to the Embassy – the second in order to prove the legal status of the Company and its representative – which means that if the particular papers are executed by a person who is not a Board Director then there is a problem.

The Embassy requires a copy of a Director’s passport to be produced.

We have taken on a recent case where our client has contacted us from The People’s Republic of China wishing to commence litigation proceedings there against an English registered company trading in PR China.

The Chinese Court has ordered that our client should obtain and submit a Notarised Certificate of Good Standing from Companies House in England to confirm that the Company is still in existence.

So after Notarisation and obtaining the Foreign and Commonwealth Apostille the snag is that our client is not of course a Director of the Company to which the Certificate of Good Standing relates.

Our client has no connection to that Company whatsoever other than the fact that she is wanting to commence litigation proceedings against it. So of course, she has no access to the passport of any of its Board Directors.

A Certificate of Good Standing of a Company is a public document and any person in the world can obtain such a certificate from Companies House – you do not have to have an affiliation with the Company. But PR China is saying effectively, that for use in PR China you cannot obtain a valid Certificate without access to a passport of a Director.

What do we do in this scenario? Answers on a postcard to me please.

There seems to be a “Catch-22” situation here. Our suggestion for a resolution is that the Court in PR China should be prevailed upon to make an Order requiring that as a condition of defending the action, a Director of the Company must make his passport available to our client. Fingers crossed we will get there. Of course we will.

But, don’t be asking for logic or consistency in the whacky world of Notarisations, there is none to be found.

As ever, do contact me or Christopher Atkinson here at AtkinsonNotary [0113 816 0116 or or ] where we shall be more than happy to assist and help you through the maze whenever you have paperwork to be processed for foreign countries.

Extra Income From Paying Guests? Up To A Point, Lord Copper.

Extra Income From Paying Guests? Up To A Point, Lord Copper.

A case from the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) gives further bad news for English property owners seeking a bit of extra in the form of rental income.

Interest in the booming Airbnb service in England [there are of course several other similar organisations] has created a range of tens of thousands of hosts with rooms or whole properties available and presumably many more owners are considering this possible income earner. Link to Airbnb Here. Link to Daily Mail article here.

There is a tax break available too, the first £1000.00 of income does not have to be declared in income tax returns.

Initially, in England at least, the “early adopters” of Airbnb were people hoping to find holiday makers who would rent a spare bedroom, with or without any meals shared at the family table, whilst having a holiday in the area. An equivalent of “Bed and Breakfast” but usually without the breakfast.

Increasingly the new model is the handing over of a complete property, as a holiday home for the traveller, with no element of home sharing or ability to supervise the occupants’ behaviour day by day.

But, you cannot just join and start tomorrow, if you want to avoid trouble – there are things to do.

By no means an exhaustive list, and in no particular order:-

Planning permission. If you are creating a new guest bedroom in an attic, you will need planning permission for most alterations – link to typical article here- , and Building Regulations compliance in any case in respect of fire safety, alarms and signage.
Also in many areas particularly London, you may need Council permission even if no changes are needed to the property.

Insurance. No. 1. Your insurers should be contacted if you want to be certain that your home cover remains in force in respect of any damage to your home that the new “Guests” may cause.

Insurance. No 2. You may require additional insurance to cover you against liability for any accident or injury your “Guests” suffer falling downstairs, electrocuting themselves using kettles in the bathroom or being attacked by your dog. Or anything bad. [And those injuries might be real, or made up!]

Listed Building? Any works required such as fire escapes, internal signage, new fire doors may well be refused the necessary permissions if your Building is listed.

Mortgage Lenders’ Consent. If you do not own your house outright, then your mortgage lender, Bank or Building Society will have something to say. Most of them will simply say no, and you will risk repossession if you go ahead. The others are likely to increase your mortgage rate as a condition of giving permission. Link here

Landlords’ Consent. If your property is owned on a leasehold then you need not only the consent of any mortgage lender, but probably of your freeholder/landlord also. You need to read the terms of your lease very carefully and once you have done that, I suggest you ask your lawyer to explain to you what the words actually mean.

I am not being more flippant than usual in suggesting that a lay person may not understand the English language. Because, even if your lease is (unusually) written in short and simple words, that does not mean that the meaning is what you think it is.

This is where I began, with the recent Tribunal case. The Lease wording included a tenant’s promise “not to use the premises for any purpose other than as a private residence“. These are not long words but the Court case – which was an appeal from the Tribunal below which was also a trial as to the meaning of the words – engaged a judge and two senior Barristers at least.

You can read it here Link and see that even the meaning of words “private residence” have plenty of scope for ambiguity and disagreement.

So assuming you do need your Landlords’ consent and get it, and get the consent of your lender, and Listed Building Consents, and Buildings regulations are all complied with and planning permission obtained and all new insurance policies put in place, you are ready to go.

What can possibly go wrong?

Apart, that is, from everything you can think of.

There are plenty of horror stories too – here is a sample link.

Here is another link, have a look, just before you take the plunge.

Here is a sad song to cheer you up

And as ever please remember, when you need your papers properly presented for use abroad, book your appointment with us, at AtkinsonNotary [0113 816 0116 or or ] where we shall be more than happy to assist.