31 March 2016


A review of end-of-life care commissioned by the Royal College of Physicians, NHS England and the Marie Curie charity has found improvements in many areas.  In particular, care is now more likely to be tailored to the individual rather than based around programmes such as the discredited Liverpool Care Pathway. Communication with patients and relatives was also found to have improved.


However, the review also found weaknesses.  Only 16 our of 142 hospital sites in England were found to provide palliative care specialists around the clock, leading to concerns that less experienced doctors and nurses were unable to access expert advice at night and weekends.


18 February 2016


The Ministry of Justice is seeking responses to proposals to make sharp increases in the fees charged for a grant of probate.  Currently, the courts charge a flat fee of £155 where the application is made by a solicitor and £215 if the applicant is any other individual.  Under the proposals, estates worth between £50,000 and £300,000 would pay a £300 fee.  Larger estates would be charged on a sliding scale.  For example, the fee on an estate of more than £300,000 would be £1,000, while an estate of more than £500,000 would attract a fee of £4,000.  At more than £1m the fee would rise to £8,000 while the highest fee, on estates of more than £2m, would be £20,000.  These fees would be in addition to any inheritance tax payable on the estate.


Critics argue that fees at such levels, which would far exceed the cost to the court system of processing the application for a grant of probate, effectively amounts to a an additional tax on death. 


18 August 2015

Changes to European Union inheritance laws coming into force today may affect people in the UK who own property on the continent. 

In the past, a number of continental European countries have had so-called 'forced heirship' laws under which property had to be left to certain family members on death.  The new rules will allow individuals to choose to allow either the law of their nationality or their last habitual residence to determine what happens to their estate on death.  Although the UK itself has opted out of the new regime, it is still possible that what happens to, say, a holiday home in France belonging to a UK national might now be governed by English law rather than French forced heirship rules. Similarly, a French person living in the UK might now be able to choose English law to apply to property which they own in France.

However, local inheritance taxes will still apply to property in the country where it is located, regardless of how it is passed on.

18 July 2015

The Government has announced that the introduction of the cap on care costs payable by individuals will be delayed until 2020.

Under the proposed cap, certain care costs were to have been limited to £72,000 for the over-65s and younger adults with disabilities with effect from April 2016,. The threshold at which people in need of care ceased to be eligible for state help with care costs was also to have been raised substantially. 

The decision was attributed to pressure from the Local Government Association, which represents many local authorities, which argued that their members cannot afford to make up the loss of the contribution currently paid by individuals under the present system.


27 May 2015

Today's Queen's Speech outlined the legislative programme of the new  Conservative government.

The proposals include a ban on income tax, VAT and national insurance increases for five years; a freeze on working-age benefits, tax credits and child benefit for two years from 2016/17; 30 hours free child care a week for three and four year-olds by 2017; a cut in the total amount a household may claim in benefits; further devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; 500 new 'free' schools and further existing schools being turned into academies; a ban on so-called legal highs and the introduction of a "seven-day" NHS by 2020; and the extension of the right to buy to housing association tenants.


13 April 2015


The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act has become law. Much of it will take effect through more detailed regulations to be introduced by government ministers.  The Act covers a wide range of areas, some of which are particularly focused on small-businesses (such as access to finance and the administration of a company's records at Companies House).  Others are relevant to businesses generally, such as the government's attempts to stop the abuse of zero-hours contracts, and further changes affecting Employment Tribunals.


9 March 2015


Users of the civil courts will from today have to pay much higher fees to file larger claims.  All claims valued at more than £10,000 will carry a fee which could be as high as 5%, up to a maximum fee of £10,000.


The changes have been introduced on a short timetable amidst protests from members of the judiciary, legal practitioners and campaigners for access to justice.


The Ministry of Justice has sought to shift the cost of the court system towards users and away from general taxation.  Opponents argue that access to justice is a public good, like education or health services, and so ought to be funded in a similar way.