A titan of comedy has died and in his last days chose to marry his long-standing fiancée. Despite the uncontroversial (perhaps even romantic) nature of this decision, some elements of the press appear to be describing his marriage, with some glee, as a final insult to the tax man.

Sir Ken Dodd was engaged twice in his life and married once, at the very end. He was a man who seemed to favour long engagements, both romantically and professionally (as the length of his shows famously demonstrates). Jane Austen would not approve.

A man who is most famous for his comedy and eccentricity did previously endure a brush with the tax man – the 1989 trial for tax evasion for which he was famously acquitted. Nevertheless, that does not mean that all his actions should be overshadowed by this incident from nearly thirty years ago.
Sir Ken Dodd’s estate does, however, as a result of his marriage, have the benefit of something called the “spouse exemption” and the “transferable nil rate band”. What are these?


The spouse exemption, very simply, allows an individual to gift assets, either on their death or during their lifetime, to their spouse or civil partner without any inheritance tax becoming payable.

So, provided Sir Ken left all his assets to his new wife in his Will, then they are exempt from inheritance tax. This applies no matter the value or extent of his estate.

This is a very generous exemption that is not enjoyed in every country. It was not always enjoyed in the UK either. Prior to 1972 there was no such thing as a spouse exemption and if a husband or wife died and left assets to the surviving spouse then estate duty (the inheritance tax of the day) would not apply. Between 1972 and 1974 there was a limited spouse exemption of only £15,000.


The “Nil Rate Band” is the amount that an individual can transfer on their death before becoming liable to inheritance tax. At the moment this is £325,000 per person.

Before 2007, if you didn’t use your Nil Rate Band by passing assets on to people other than your spouse then you’d lose it. Since October 2007, if you pass your assets on to your spouse or civil partner they also gain the use of your Nil Rate Band – it’s been transferred to them. So they have two Nil Rate Bands on their death – their £325,000 and the £325,000 from their deceased or civil partner giving them the much-advertised £650,000.


The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the new residential nil rate band has not been mentioned. This new tax allowance can also be transferred. However, it only applies when the assets are ultimately inherited by “lineal descendants” such as children, grandchildren or step-children. Tragically Sir Ken and Lady Anne were not blessed with children and so Lady Anne’s estate is unlikely to benefit from her Residential Nil Rate Band or his transferred Residential Nil Rate Band.


The most efficient tax planning a person can do is to marry, particularly if they have a long-term partner for whom they wish to provide. But it doesn’t matter when a couple marry. If Sir Ken had married five years ago the effect would be the same as marrying two days before his death.

Of course, from an adviser’s point of view, it is best to be married or enter a civil partnership while hale and hearty. Very few of us ever have warning of our impending death and even fewer have the ability to organise a marriage or civil partnership in so short a time. If the worst had happened then Sir Ken’s estate would have had to bear inheritance tax on all but £325,000 and his fiancée would receive a greatly reduced amount.

Some people have ethical, social or religious objections to marriage but the fact remains, the spouse exemption and the transferable nil rate band are only available to spouses or civil partners.


Marriage voids a Will made prior to the marriage unless it has been specifically drafted in expectation of that happy event. In addition to tying the knot with his fiancée, Sir Ken would also have needed to prepare a new Will particularly if he had specific wishes.

However, he may have relied on the intestacy rules as many people do. It is always easier for the family to have a Will to rely on, and the intestacy rules are very much one size fits all.

As always, with matters of inheritance, death or taxes, get professional advice before taking any steps.

If you require advice, please do not hesitate to contact Leyla Kent on 01273 322813 or by email

Fixed costs in medical negligence claims

Clinical NegligenceThe Government has finally issued a response to its consultation on fixing costs for medical negligence claims.

The aim, it appears, is to reduce the costs for the NHS.

Claimant’s personal injury solicitors and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) are needless to say disappointed at the response which appears to focus on the needs of the NHS to save costs, rather than the needs of patients who receive treatment.

APIL’s President, Brett Dixon, has stated:

“So called NHS never events – injuries which are serious and largely preventable – have stayed at the same level in the past 2 years.”

He continues:

“The urge to streamline costs and procedures must go hand in hand with a real systemic consistent reduction in avoidable injury.

Only then will the NHS become more efficient and only then will we see an end to the needless suffering of patients.”

This will inevitably also result in a saving on legal costs.

The Government’s attention appears to be on the wrong issue, dealing with the outcome rather than the cause of the problem.

If you are in any way concerned about the Government’s proposals which will have an impact on the numbers of claims which are being brought by claimants currently, please do not hesitate to contact Parisa Costigan on 01403 224608 or by email

Personal Independence Payments (PIP)

On 16 March 2017 new regulations were laid out by the Government in response to a Tribunal decision in the case of MH v Secretary for State for Work & Pensions 2016. The new regulations in effect excluded eligibility by a claimant who may have suffered from a mental illness or psychological distress.

These new regulations which have been rushed through by the Government without consultation were subsequently brought before the court in a case of RF v SSWP and Others 2017 and The High Court has now ruled that the amendments to the regulations as rushed through by the Government were unlawful. The case will now mean that 1.6 million Personal Independence Payment claims made in the last 4 years will have to be reviewed.

The effect of the case is that those with an acquired brain injury and those with mental health issues may now have their payments increased.

The DWP will contact anyone affected. There is also no requirement to undergo a new assessment. However, the process is likely to take several years to be completed.

If anyone is affected by these issues, they should contact their local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or the Department for Work & Pensions whose number is 0800 917 2222.

Court ruling no longer required to provide care for patients in a permanent vegetative state

This was the decision of Mr Justice Jackson in a recent case involving M, a 50 year old woman who had Huntington’s disease. Here the court agreed with the hospital and her family that withdrawing nutrition from her was in her best interest. She died in August 2017. In future, therefore, a court ruling will not be required to end care for patients in a permanent vegetative state.

It is understood however that the official solicitor who has been appointed by the State to act on behalf of such patients is likely to appeal this decision.

Currently doctors can legally withdraw treatment from a patient if relatives consent, without needing a court order, for example, where a do not resuscitate order is made. However, removing sustenance from an individual in a minimally conscious state has up until now been treated differently. This was because following the House of Lords ruling in the case of Tony Bland who was left severely brain damaged following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, this was the stance adopted. He died some 4 years later.

According to research by the BBC, there are currently over 100 patients in England and Wales in a permanent vegetative state or minimally conscious state.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by any of these issues and would like further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact Parisa Costigan, head of personal injury and clinical negligence department, Coole Bevis LLP for a free no obligation chat on 01403 224608 or by email

50,000+ Britons with metal-on-metal hips told to have x-rays and blood tests over toxic fears

Metal on metal hip

More than 50,000 patients with metal-on-metal hips are being told to undergo x-rays and blood tests after watchdogs have found that they may be more toxic than originally thought to be the case. This safety alert has been issued by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).The new advice means that 56,000 patients, i.e. every single person with such an implant is being asked to undergo a series of medical tests to establish whether they are suffering muscle or bone damage and metal toxicity.

This could result in thousands of people having to undergo revision surgery to replace the implants.

It appears that the alert has been issued because of growing evidence that muscle damage caused by the implants can become progressively worse and even irreversible, sometimes with patients apparently not suffering any symptoms.

Following a series of investigations by The Telegraph, widespread problems with the devices have been uncovered. The device has now been largely phased out.

Metal-on-metal implants were introduced in the UK in the 1990s when they were promoted as offering better mobility than those which use a metal ball and a plastic socket. In particular, they were seen as a better option for the younger patient who was likely to be more active and who was likely to put more pressure on the joint.

If problems are detected early and monitored, treatment is likely to be put in place at an earlier stage with a better outcome.

All women who have had the implant it would seem will need to have annual checks for the rest of their lives under the guidance even if they are currently suffering no symptoms.

The reason why women are particularly likely to need revision surgery, appears to be, that with the use of smaller components used in such surgery less margin for error is allowed.

MHRA’s Clinical Orthopaedic Experts have “…observed that soft tissue necrosis may occur in both asymptomatic and symptomatic patients and believe early detection of these events should give a better revision outcome should this become necessary.”

In 2013, NHS hospitals were told to stop fitting most metal-on-metal hip replacements after a study found unacceptably high failure rates amongst some patients.

Compared to other hip replacements, metal-on-metal hip devices have been found to wear down more quickly in some patients. This potentially causes damage and deterioration in the bone and tissues around the hip, which medical checks are designed to monitor.

If you are not sure what type of implant you have or have any concerns about your hip, you should firstly consult your doctor for advice. If you do have a metal-on-metal implant, then you must ensure you attend any follow-up appointments you are invited to.

According to the NHS, you should look out for warning signs and should contact your doctor if you have:

  • A pain in the groin, hip or leg;
  • Swelling at or near the hip joint;
  • A limp or problems walking;
  • Grinding or clunking from the joint.

Although this might not mean that the device is failing, these symptoms do need investigation.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this latest advice, you should speak to a specialist solicitor about any potential claim that you may have, not only in relation to having to undergo further operations, but also any financial consequences as a result of the same.

If you wish to speak to a specialist solicitor in this field, please do not hesitate to contact Parisa Costigan, head of personal injury and clinical negligence department, Coole Bevis LLP for a free no obligation chat on 01403 224608 or by email

St. Catherine Hospice ‘Make a Will Fortnight’

make a will fortnight

As a result of our participation, we raised £3,020.00 for the Hospice.

Original article follows:

Our Horsham Private Client team are participating in St. Catherine Hospice ‘Make a Will Fortnight’. From 8 – 19 May 2017 we will be offering 30 appointments allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Instead of paying our solicitors for their professional advice and the preparation of your Wills, we ask you to make a donation to St Catherine’s Hospice. The suggested minimum donations are:

  • Single will – £100
  • Joint wills – £150

By taking part in Make a Will Fortnight, you will know that those closest to you will be looked after and that you’re helping local people. To make an appointment contact Tina Broomer on 01403 210200 by Friday 5 May at the latest.

Proposed Probate Court Fee Increases

Probate Wills Trusts: Coole Bevis LLP, solicitors: Brighton, Horsham, Hove, Worthing: Sussex

Back Down in Proposed Probate Court Fee Increase

Following a nationwide backlash against the proposed hike in probate court fees, we are delighted to report, the proposal has now been shelved as the government state there will not be enough time, before the general election in June, for the proposed increase to be implemented.

Following the election, the government will have to decide whether or not to push ahead with the changes, although it is hoped the any changes applied, will be on fairer basis.

We will report any further changes as and when announced.

our original article published on 15 March follows

Many members of the public will be unaware the Government is proposing to significantly increase the fees for obtaining a Grant of Probate following the death of a loved one. Currently a flat fee of £155.00 is payable for the issuing of a Grant of Probate when a solicitor files the application. When solicitors file the application, the role of the Probate Registry is purely administrative, and the value of the estate has no bearing whatsoever on the nature of the work undertaken by the Probate Registry. However, despite the Government’s consultation on proposed fee increases having been overwhelmingly rejected, they still plan to impose the following new fees.

  • £300 for estates between £50,000 – £300,000
  • £1,000 for estates between £300,000 – £500,000
  • £4,000 for estates between £500,000 – £1,000,000
  • £8,000 for estates between £1,000,000 – £1,600,000
  • £12,000 for estates between £1,600,000 – £2,000,000
  • £20,000 for estates over £2 million

These fees would be payable in order to obtain the Grant of Probate necessary to administer an estate, but in many cases there may not be sufficient liquid assets to cover the cost of fees, as many families’ wealth is represented by the value of their property. These proposed increases could therefore cause considerable financial difficulties for families following the death of a loved one. There are also risks that families will seek to reorganise their affairs to avoid the need to obtain probate, putting themselves at risk, and potentially leaving themselves with insufficient assets for the remainder of their lives.

Many professional organisations such as Solicitors for the Elderly, a renowned organisation of which many of our private client solicitors are members are lobbying the Government urging them to reconsider, and there is also a gathering momentum on a Parliamentary petition asking for the proposals to be reconsidered.

If you have been affected by any of the issues referred to in this article, please contact Jenny Murphy, head of Private Client, Coole Bevis LLP for a chat on 01403 224627. or by email

Recovery of NHS charges – tariff and cap increase from 1 April 2017

NHS recovery of charges Coole Bevis LLP, solicitors: Brighton, Horsham, Hove, Worthing: Sussex

The Department of Health currently, through the Compensation Recovery Unit, operates a system which allows for recovery of National Health Service costs following injuries where people claim and receive personal injury compensation.

The tariff and ceiling on charges (cap) payable by Compensators for the recovery of NHS treatment and ambulance charges under the NHS Injury Costs Recovery scheme will increase from 1 April 2017.

From 1 April 2017, the maximum amount that can be charged is £49,824 and for ambulance charges the maximum that can be charged is £205 per person per journey.

If you have been affected by any of the issues referred to in this article, please contact Parisa Costigan, head of personal injury and clinical negligence department, Coole Bevis LLP for a free no obligation chat on 01403 224608 or by email

“No bright line division between what is a repair and what is an improvement”

improvement -v- repair for Landlords?

Improvement -v- Repair

In Waaler -v- Hounslow LBC [2017] EWCA Civ 45, the Court of Appeal considered the landlord’s ability to recover the costs of improvements under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (the 1985 Act).

It upheld the decision of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) finding that the same legal test applies to all categories of work falling within the definition of “service charge” (i.e. repairs or improvements). However, different considerations come into the assessment of reasonableness in different factual situations.

By way of reminder, section 19(1) of the 1985 Act limits a landlord’s ability to recover costs in the service charge to the extent that they are reasonable. There are two elements to the reasonableness test:

  • The costs must have been reasonably incurred; and
  • Any works or service to which they relate must be of a reasonable standard.

In this case, the landlord, Hounslow LBC, replaced window units in a block of flats as the hinges were inadequate for the weight of the glass in the tilting windows and which in turn required the replacement of the exterior cladding of the building and the removal of underlying asbestos.

The question was whether the works were “reasonably incurred”.

The Court of Appeal upheld the Upper Tribunal’s decision that it was not reasonable to replace the windows with new units, which amounted to an improvement rather than a repair. The costs of doing so were not “reasonably incurred” and therefore not recoverable from the leaseholders as service charge.

The landlord should have taken particular account of the:

  • interests of the leaseholders
  • leaseholder’s views on the proposal
  • financial impact of proceeding.

The Court of Appeal considered there to be a real difference between:

  • work which the landlord is obliged to carry out – where it is possible for a leaseholder to form a view in advance as to the kind of works involved and the likely scale of costs; and
  • work which is an optional improvement – where it is quite impossible for the lessee to form any idea of the extent of his potential liability.

The factors that a landlord should consider when carrying out improvements may be more extensive than when carrying out repairs, depending on the factual circumstances.

Moving forward

The Court of Appeal declined to provide any guidance for the future as the “open textured nature of a test of reasonableness makes it dangerous even to attempt to be prescriptive. Factual situations are almost infinitely variable and different considerations come into play in different circumstances”.

What will be welcomed by landlords is the Court of Appeal’s view that, where there is more than one possible reasonable course of action, it is for the landlord to choose which reasonable course of action to pursue (which need not be the cheapest), rather than the Tribunal.

However, there will inevitably be an increased administrative burden on landlords to show that they have considered alternative approaches and the financial impact on tenants, particularly before moving forward with improvement works. This would also seem to bring greater focus on evidencing compliance with the statutory consultation process. A landlord’s failure to do so, is likely to give leaseholders ammunition in challenging service charges.

For advice on leaseholder disputes or any aspect of this article, please contact Rebecca Turnbull-Simpson.