Tag Archive for: chester law firm

We’ve expanded our Wills, Trusts & Estates team

We’re delighted to welcome Georgina Roberts to our growing Wills, Trusts & Estates team.

Georgina, who grew up on the Wirral, joined us in September and specialises in all aspects of private client work.

She said: “Private Client is an interesting area of the law and I really enjoy helping people at what can sometimes be a difficult and stressful time of their lives.”

Georgina is also a full member of Solicitors for the Elderly, which means she is trained to work with older and more vulnerable clients.

You can find out more here about our Wills, Trusts & Estates work which includes the creation of wills, trusts and inheritance tax planning, Powers of Attorney, administration of estates and Court of Protection work.

Leaseholders: Right to Manage your Block

By Megan Bedwell, a Paralegal in our Commercial Litigation Team.

Many leaseholders are finding that their service charge demands are increasing but the level of service is not improved because of those additional charges.

Most leaseholders are aware they have a statutory right to collectively purchase their freehold but there is another and much cheaper route to consider if they wish to take control of the management of their block, without having to find the funds to buy the freehold.

Right to manage is available to leaseholders in a building which enables them to take over management responsibilities of the freeholder.

There are several qualifying factors which allows the leaseholders to exercise their right:

  1. The building must be made up of flats (houses don’t qualify).
  2. At least two-thirds of the flats in the building must be leasehold – with leases that were for more than 21 years when they were granted.
  3. At least 75% of the building must be residential – for example, if there’s a shop in the building, it can’t take up more than 25% of the total floor area.
  4. They must live somewhere else if there are less than 4 flats in the block – unless the block was purpose-built as flats, rather than converted from another type of building.
  5. There is no requirement (unlike collective enfranchisement) to hold no more than two leasehold properties so one person owning all the flats can still exercise their right to manage their block.
  6. Any number of owners can set up an RTM company – but at least half of the flats in the building must be members of the company before it can take over management.

The tenant who wishes to be part of the right to manage must be a long leaseholder (has a lease of 21 years or more) and the lease must not be a business tenancy. The leaseholder does not have to reside in the property, and they can hold more than two flats and still be involved, unlike the enfranchisement route.

There are many benefits to pursuing the right to manage route as opposed to enfranchisement.

Right to manage is a procedure which leaseholders can pursue without permission or authority from the Landlord or Management Company. If the requirements above are satisfied, then the right to manage can proceed.

If leaseholders are frustrated by their landlord’s actions of poor management or upkeep of the building, there is no requirement for the leaseholders to prove that this is the case and therefore no requirement to justify their application of a right to manage. This provides a substantial benefit for leaseholders in that they can proceed down the right to manage route without needing to gather evidence to support their decision. It provides ease for all leaseholders pursuing this route.

The right to manage is a cheap and cost-effective route in comparison to looking to acquire the freehold.

Legal costs will still be involved, but this will not involve the leaseholders covering the costs to purchase the freehold. The right to manage process is also quick, especially if it is not disputed with a counter-notice.

The leases do not need to be varied when the transfer of management takes place. The management responsibilities are acquired once the acquisition date is provided.

Another advantage has been shown in the recent case of Eastpoint Block A RTM Company Ltd v Otubaga [2023]. The Court of Appeal held that a right to manage has a right to enforce untransferred covenants ‘in the same manner’ as the landlord and they can commence an action for damages for breach of covenant or for an injunction restraining breach (in the county court) or a claim for section 168(4) determination (in the First Tier Tribunal). This allows the right to manage company the opportunity to recover losses where they have experienced a breach of a covenant, which provides members of the company with more confidence and reassurance in pursuing the process.

The overall process of right to manage is straightforward and can save you money in the long run. It provides you with control over the building, enabling decisions to be made mutually between parties who hold the same interests. It can help maintain a positive relationship with your neighbours and allows discussions to take place that are in each other’s best interests in establishing the best way forward on crucial management matters for the building.

If you would like to arrange a free initial consultation with a member of our litigation team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk


Cullimore Dutton renews its support for KidsBank and their Christmas One More Gift Appeal

We are delighted to have renewed our support for Cheshire charity KidsBank making it our nominated charity for the next six months.

Colleagues at the firm will be holding a series of fundraising events over the coming months to raise money for the charity. They will also be collecting donations of toys, clothes and toiletries from now until November 30th to help children living in poverty in Cheshire this Christmas.

One in three children in the UK are living in poverty and 7.2 million families in the UK are going without essentials.

Staff, friends, partners and clients are being invited to donate a gift to the charity’s One More Gift Appeal, to donate to their Crowdfunding page, or to volunteer some time to help Cullimore Dutton and the charity to process and distribute presents from the charity’s Christmas Hub in Ellesmere Port to children facing hardship.

Andrew Wright, Managing Director of Cullimore Dutton, said: “This is our second year supporting KidsBank, an inspiring charity that does so much to help families in Cheshire.

“We are encouraging everyone in the business to get involved to do their bit to help, whether that’s donating a gift, giving their spare time to fundraise or helping to distribute the gifts we collect to families in need.

“We’ll also be giving staff time during their working hours to support the appeal so they can help to process and distribute all the gifts. Together, we can make a difference and help to change lives.”

KidsBank Chester was set up in 2019 by Cathy Pettingale based on the idea of food banks, but supplying pre-loved and new toys, clothes and equipment to children aged between 0-12 years within the Cheshire West and Chester area. To date almost 111,000 items have been gifted to KidsBank families. Each year the number of children referred at Christmas has doubled.

Cathy Pettingale, Founder and Director of Operations for KidsBank, said: “We’re delighted that Cullimore Dutton has nominated KidsBank as their chosen charity for the second year.

“Each year we help to provide gifts to children who would otherwise not receive a present at Christmas. In 2022, with the help of our supporters, we ensured 790 children were provided with gifts. We anticipate up to 1,500 children will need our support this year.

“We try to give as many children as we can a bundle of gifts and sometimes this is all they have. By helping to provide gifts to all children referred to us, we can help provide hope and joy to those families and help improve mental health and well-being.”

Cullimore Dutton will be accepting donations of gifts, marked for the ‘KidsBank Appeal’, at our office on 27 Newgate Street, Chester CH1 1DE between Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, between now and November 30.

We will then be helping the charity to distribute the gifts during the first week of December.

If you’d like to find out more please contact us. 

The KidsBank Christmas Wish List has lots of ideas for boys and girls of different age groups.


Retirement Planning: Are you avoiding the conversation?

By Dom Richmond, Head of Financial Services at Cullimore Dutton

I spend a lot of my time advising couples on their retirement planning.

Sometimes, couples arrive for their first meeting having given the subject plenty of thought and agree as to how they would like their later years to pan out.

It doesn’t follow that they have the means to fulfil their retirement dreams, but at least they have a joint plan.

But more often than you would think, couples have spent years avoiding the subject of retirement and what emerges at their first session with me or one of my colleagues can come as a surprise to one or both partners.

In fact, it is often the case that couples have invested more time in choosing their pet dog than how they would like to live between the ages of 65 and 90.

This can be as simple as one partner telling me that they would like to spend a few months of the year living abroad, only for the other partner to reveal that they would never countenance this because they would miss their social life at home.

The difference between getting your financial planning right for retirement or failing to plan can be stark.

People often make assumptions that they will be able to enjoy a certain lifestyle upon retirement, but that can be fraught with danger.

Clients will come to us for the first time at different ages, but commonly they will be in their 50s.

We will always spend time at the first meeting trying to understand what their retirement aspirations are and how they will be able to achieve these, whether that is from savings, pensions, property or other assets.

Our team has a range of tools that enable us to model what a couple’s retirement will look like based on the various elements outlined above. These are the same for most clients.

Sometimes, we will start the conversation about the ‘R-word’ at the first meeting and then ask our clients to do a little bit of homework before returning for the next meeting. Occasionally, if it is a clear a couple are not on the same page regarding the kind of retirement they want, we will have separate discussions and then bring the couple back again to try and find common ground.

Our job is to help our clients put in place the right financial plan for them, one that is aspirational but achievable and that will enable them, at the right point, to enjoy the retirement that they want.

Every client’s retirement plan is different due to their means and also how they want to spend their later years. Some clients want to be able to enjoy multiple holidays abroad, while others prefer to be more UK based but have the financial freedom to be able to travel across the country seeing their children and grandchildren.

If you would like a free initial consultation with a member of the Financial Services team simply click on the “Speak to Our Experts” button on this page, call us on 01244 729 073 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Louise Holmes​, Cullimore Dutton Wills, Trusts & Estates

Estate Planning for Blended Families

Estate Planning for Blended Families: Navigating Wills and Inheritance

Blended families have become increasingly common in today’s society. As relationships evolve and individuals remarry or enter into new partnerships, estate planning becomes a crucial consideration to ensure the fair and smooth transfer of assets to loved ones.

In the context of blended families, where there may be children from previous relationships, navigating wills and inheritance requires careful thought and legal expertise. This article aims to provide valuable insights and guidance for UK residents in such situations.

Understanding the unique challenges
Blended families face unique challenges when it comes to estate planning due to the complex dynamics involved. Considerations such as protecting the interests of biological children from previous relationships, providing for a new spouse or partner, and addressing potential conflicts among family members require thoughtful planning.

Updating your will
One of the most critical steps in estate planning for blended families is updating your will. A well-drafted will ensures that your wishes regarding asset distribution are clearly outlined. Failing to update your will after entering a new relationship may lead to unintended consequences, with assets potentially passing to the wrong beneficiaries or even causing legal disputes.

When updating your will, it is essential to consider the following points:

Spousal/civil partner inheritance rights
In the UK, a spouse or civil partner has certain automatic inheritance rights, regardless of what is stated in a will. It is important to understand these rights and ensure that your wishes align with them. Consulting with a knowledgeable solicitor will help you understand and navigate these legal requirements effectively.

Provision for biological children
If you have children from a previous relationship, you may wish to ensure that they are adequately provided for in your estate plan. This can be achieved through specific provisions in your will, such as leaving assets or establishing trusts to benefit your children.

Providing for a new spouse or partner
Many individuals want to provide for their new spouse or partner while also ensuring that their children receive their fair share. Various strategies, such as life interest trusts or discretionary trusts, can be implemented to strike a balance between these competing interests. Seeking legal advice will help you determine the most suitable approach based on your specific circumstances.

Guardianship of minor children
If you have minor children, it is vital to address guardianship arrangements in your will. Clearly, designating who will assume guardianship responsibilities ensures that your children will be cared for according to your wishes.

Communication and managing expectations
Open and honest communication is essential when navigating estate planning matters within blended families. Discussing your wishes and intentions with all relevant parties can help manage expectations and minimise potential conflicts. Consider involving family members, especially those directly affected by your estate plan, in the discussion process. While conversations about inheritance can sometimes be uncomfortable, addressing these matters proactively can help avoid misunderstandings and resentment later on.

Seek professional guidance
Given the complexities involved in estate planning for blended families, it is strongly recommended to seek professional guidance from a reputable law firm specialising in estate planning and family law. An experienced solicitor can provide tailored advice, help you understand the legal implications, and ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive and legally sound.

Regular review of your estate plan
Lastly, it is crucial to periodically review and update your estate plan and will to reflect any changes in your family dynamics, financial situation, or legislation. Life events such as births, deaths, divorces, or significant financial changes may necessitate adjustments to your Will or other estate planning documents. By conducting regular reviews, you can ensure that your estate plan remains up-to-date and aligned with your current wishes.

Navigating your will
Estate planning for blended families requires careful consideration and professional expertise. Updating your will, effectively communicating with your loved ones, and seeking the guidance of an experienced solicitor will help you navigate the complexities and ensure that your wishes are met. By undertaking these essential steps, you can achieve peace of mind, knowing that your estate will be distributed according to your intentions, ultimately providing for both your new family and your children from previous relationships.

How we can help
Our expertise and assistance can provide you with confidence when Estate Planning for Blended Families and ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected. Our team are all specialists in this area of law so we can ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family.

If you would like a free initial consultation with a member of the Wills & Probate team simply click on the “Speak to Our Experts” button on this page, call us on 01244 729 073 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Ajith Prasad

It’s time to mediate

It’s time to mediate

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has recently confirmed that mediation will soon be compulsory for civil claims valued up to £10,000 (small claims track), with changes coming into effect during 2024. This will see mediation become more common in most small claims proceedings.

Compulsory mediation
Compulsory mediation will apply only to specified money claims, but it will eventually expand to all small claims i.e. claims up to £10,000.

In terms of how this will look in practice, a Claimant will bring proceedings in the usual way, however when a defence is filed and the case allocated to the small claims track, the parties will be advised by the court that they must now mediate.

The parties will complete a directions questionnaire (a document used by the Court to determine how to allocate the case) and the claim will move to the Small Claims Mediation Service where mediation appointments will be offered within 28 days.

Crucially, the mediation will be free, and the parties will have a separate 1-hour long telephone conversation with a mediator. If a settlement is agreed, a legally binding formal agreement will be recorded with the court. If agreement is not reached, the dispute will be heard by a judge in the usual way. The judge will be able to impose sanctions on parties that did not comply with mediation. The sanctions could include automatically ruling in one party’s favour or ordering that one party pay part or all the other sides legal costs.

Pros and Cons
There are a number of advantages of mediation including claims being settled more quickly and at less cost to the parties when compared to litigation. Also, compulsory mediation may remove the stigma of being the first party to propose it, which might encourage more parties to engage in mediation.

In terms of downsides, forcing parties to mediate where it is clear the parties will not reach an agreement may lead to time and resources being wasted.

While compulsory mediation will only apply to cases up to £10,000 for now, it is likely that the MoJ will increase the scope to higher value claims up to £25,000 (fast-track) and possibly those over £25,000 (multi-track).

While compulsory mediation may not be to everyone’s liking, it is ultimately a positive step by the MoJ and should help parties resolve disputes more effectively and alleviate pressure in the court system.

If you are considering filing or defending a civil claim and would like a free initial consultation with a member of the Litigation team simply click on the “Speak to Our Experts” button on this page, call us on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Sarah Gill

From dental nurse to Senior Paralegal

Senior Paralegal Sarah Gill joined our busy Wills & Probate Team in 2017. Here she talks about her former career as a dental nurse and what inspired her to retrain in the law.


How did you get into the law?

I grew up on the Wirral and when l left school I did a secretarial course at my local college, then started my first job as a receptionist for a firm of solicitors.

After being promoted to secretary, an opportunity came up to work in the NHS and train as a dental nurse – my original ambition. I worked for the Community Dental Service on the Wirral for four years and absolutely loved it.

My husband’s job took us both to Yorkshire for a number of years. I couldn’t find a job as a community dental nurse so went back to work for a firm of solicitors.

When we returned to the North West in my early thirties, I was offered a job as a paralegal and spent two years studying remotely for a Specialist Paralegal Qualification in Wills, Probate and Administration through the University of Strathclyde.

It’s a very rare qualification to have in England and there are not many of us. But it’s excellent because it provides you with the knowledge and understanding of the procedures involved in the preparation of wills and the administration of estates.

It also provides formal learning and a recognised qualification to bolster my many years of experience in wills and probate.

What do you love about your work?

It’s just brilliant. As a Senior Paralegal I’ve got my own case load of about seventy files at any one time. These can range from straightforward wills and grant applications to making a lasting power of attorney. I am also able to assist charities on occasion, such as Cancer Research UK via their free will service.

Like many of us on the team, I’ve had Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends training which teaches you about the signs and symptoms of dementia and the small ways you can help people through a better understanding of the condition.

The training is really helpful when you’re giving advice on wills and considering a person’s capacity to sign.

It may sound cheesy but I want everyone to have what they have the right to. I also like helping people. I get calls from people every day who have lost a parent or sibling and it’s good knowing I can help them at a time when they are most distressed and grieving.

Most people see probate as a bit of a minefield, but I carefully guide them through it step by step. You are the one on their side and who is thinking straight for them at a time of need. It makes it all worthwhile when someone drops you a little note afterwards to thank you for making a difference.


Would you recommend a career in the law?

Yes, definitely. My career journey shows that you don’t have to get into the law via a traditional path such as taking a law degree. I’d love to see more people coming in to the legal profession as paralegals.

Many will want to work their way up to become a solicitor but there are exciting career opportunities to grow and stay as a paralegal.

I was 41 when I qualified, and I believe my life experience brings a lot to the role. It’s also good fun to now be mentoring some of my younger colleagues who have joined Cullimore Dutton in their first jobs.

Life outside work?

The supermarkets recently announced a shortage of fruit and vegetables in the UK so I’m pleased I’ve been growing my own for years. In my small garden I grow all sorts from potatoes, onions and garlic to herbs, rhubarb, tomatoes and lettuce.

I’ve got strawberry plants and golden raspberries ready to go this summer too.

There’s nothing quite like growing your own produce, picking it and eating it minutes later. Any surplus I don’t need I exchange with my local fruit and veg swap shop.

Baking is an absolute passion and I’m known at work for my gooey centred cupcakes which I often make for work fundraising events. I love watching Bake Off but I’d never want to go on it – far too stressful!

Like quite a few of my colleagues, I’m into running too. I’m a run director for Parkrun, helping over 100 runners walk, jog or run 5km every Saturday morning, and involved with the Whitchurch Whippets, a friendly road running club for adults of all abilities.

I was initially terrified of joining a running club – I thought everyone was going to be Paula Radcliffe standard – but a pal persuaded me to give it a go. We have everything from an injury group for runners who want to walk while they recover to people new to running who can only do a minute and want to build up to 5km.

Staying fit, being social and having fun are just three great benefits from doing it.


The family lawyer and aerialist

An experienced lawyer, Associate Solicitor Kelly Hughes joined Cullimore Dutton’s Family Law Team in December. Here she talks about why she became a solicitor, the importance of supporting people going through a divorce and her acrobatic hobby.


What inspired your career in the law?

I grew up in North Wales, where I still live, and was always interested in a career in the Law. I took Law at A-Level and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the problems solving element, and it was my first insight into how the law could impact on people’s lives. I wanted a career where I could help people and if I could do that whilst they were going through a difficult time in their life that gave me a purpose, which I didn’t think I would get in a different career.


How did you get started?

After finishing school, I studied Law at Aberystwyth University and returned locally to attend the College of Law in Christleton. It was shortly after graduating from here that I got my first position at a law firm in Chester and once I had gained valuable hand on experience, I started my training contract, qualifying in 2009. I worked for a number of Cheshire based law firms before joining the Family Team at Cullimore Dutton in December 2022.


What do you love about your work?

The Family Team here at Cullimore Dutton, headed up by our brilliant Head of Department, Brenda Spain, specialise in all aspects of family law. I enjoy the fact that every day is different and hugely varied. Each case turns on its own facts and merits. It is both challenging and rewarding. I also get to engage and meet with a variety of people, each with their own story to tell.

Cullimore Dutton has such a friendly, inclusive team environment which supports everyone from clients to colleagues, and I think this is something that really stands us out from the crowd.

Having been through a divorce myself recently, it has given me a greater understanding of being on the other side of the desk. It’s helped me appreciate much more how the law impacts on an individual, having been through the different stages myself. I’ve found it helps my clients to know I’ve been in their shoes, to know I’ve had to deal with financial matters from their perspective, and that I too co-parent. When I say to clients that things will get better, I’m speaking from experience, which I believe they do value and appreciate.

What advice would you give to people thinking about divorcing?

It’s never easy to make the decision that your marriage is over. But if it is a decision you have made, it is vital to speak to a solicitor as soon as possible, even if it is just to find out where you stand.  There is no “right time” to divorce and we are here to offer whatever support is needed and we can call upon a wealth of experience.

The choice of solicitor is a very personal one. Often clients want a solicitor who is friendly and approachable but they also want to know that their solicitor can fight their corner when required and will support them in the hard decisions they may have to make by offering them the best advice and guidance throughout their case and discussing the options that are open to them and those that are better for them.


Life outside work?

Outside of the office my life is busy with my two young children and our family dog. “Mum’s taxi” would be a fitting nickname! I try and keep active when I can, which can often be a struggle.

I started running in lockdown (following a couch to 5K plan) and I’m planning to enter a 10km this year. I’ve occasionally roped my son into helping me train, riding his bike alongside me when I run. Like lots of people I find committing to a gym membership difficult, but a few years ago I tried Aerial Hoop, having seen a friend post photos on social media, and I’ve been hooked ever since. My daughter does this also and its lovely to have a common hobby with her, although her flexibility far exceeds mine! It is a fun way to exercise and I find I’m able to switch off from work when at the studio and enjoy some well needed down time.


Cullimore Dutton supports Christmas appeal to help Cheshire children in poverty

This Christmas, we have pledged to support Cheshire charity KidsBank with their ‘One More Gift Appeal’.

Until November 30, we want to collect lots of donations of toys to help some of the 9,000 children living in poverty in Cheshire.

We are looking for support from friends, partners and clients. If you would like to donate a gift to the appeal, or volunteer some time to help us and the charity to collate and distribute presents to children facing hardship, please get in touch.

KidsBank Chester was set up in 2019 by Cathy Pettingale based on the idea of food banks, but supplying toys, clothes and equipment to children within a 20-mile radius of Chester. To date they have supported more than 2,500 local children.

It is the third year that KidsBank has run its Christmas donation appeal and last year the charity gave out 420 festive gifts to parents and children. This year, they expect to donate to more than 750 children.

Cathy Pettingale, Director of Operations for KidsBank, said: “We’re delighted that Cullimore Dutton is supporting our Christmas campaign. With the current economic climate, we’re expecting even more people in Cheshire to need our help this year.

“We try to give as many children as we can a bundle of gifts and sometimes this is all they have.”

Andrew Wright, Managing Director of Cullimore Dutton, said: “KidsBank is a fantastic organisation providing a vital service in the Chester community and we are delighted to support them.

“We’re inviting our colleagues, friends, partners and clients to support the campaign by buying one extra gift for a child of any age. We’ll also be gifting staff time during their working hours to support the appeal so they can help to process and distribute all the gifts. Together, we can make a difference and help to change lives.”

We will be accepting donations of gifts at our office Monday-Friday 9am-5pm until November 30. We will then be helping the charity to distribute the gifts during the first week of December. When dropping off gifts at our office (27 Newgate Street, Chester CH1 1DE ) please mark them for the attention of ‘KidsBank Appeal’.

On the ball with Cheshire football club

We are delighted to have kicked off a new season supporting Frodsham Junior Football Club.

The club, which recently celebrated its 43rd anniversary, is one of the largest junior football clubs in the Cheshire FA with 30 teams from under 7s to under 18s and one of the largest girls’ sections in Cheshire with over 120 girls playing for the club.

Cullimore Dutton Managing Director Andrew Wright and Marketing Manager Phil Wood have both been coaches at the club and we have provided the under 8 girls and boys teams with branded kit for a number of years.

Jeff Abbott, Chairman of Frodsham Junior Football Club, said: “Cullimore Dutton is a long-standing and generous sponsor of our Club and it is a relationship which we value highly. Our Club could not function without the fantastic support and contributions given by such generous sponsors.

“We would like to sincerely thank Cullimore Dutton for their continued support, we achieve so much more as a Club because of it.”