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Making a Will: Our Top Ten Tips – by Prue Abrahams

Single, married or co-habiting? Infant children? Own a property or have savings/investments?

Whatever your position in life everyone should consider having a will to make it clear how you want your affairs dealt with after death.

Our top 10 tips for writing a will are:

  1. Make a list of all your assets and any debts that you have so that you have a reasonable idea of what you ‘estate’ will be worth. Sometimes this can be a lot more than you think… you may even find that your assets will be worth more than the inheritance tax (IHT) limit of £325,000 which means IHT might be payable. How will this affect the amount you are able to leave?
  2. Revoke any previous wills you have made.
  3. Decide who you want as your executors. They are the people who will be responsible for sorting out your affairs and administering your estate. Make sure you ask them if they would be willing and able to act.
  4. Think about guardians for your children. Who do you want to bring your children up if you are no longer around? The guardians will assume ‘parental responsibility’ for your children. They will have to decide where they live; where they go to school; what (if any) religious upbringing they receive; what medical treatment they can have.
  5. What about trustees? If you do not want your children to inherit any money until they reach 18 or 21 but you still want your money to be used to look after them until they reach that age you will have to create a ‘trust’.
  6. Any specific legacies? You might want particular people to have particular items for sentimental or financial reasons. Make a list of what items you want to go to which people. Or you might want to leave a sum of money to an individual or to a favourite charity.
  7. It is very important to have a residue clause. The ‘residue’ is everything that is left once all your debts, funeral expenses and any specific legacies have been paid. You need to decide who you want to receive the residue. This can be one person or a number of people (or charities) it can be divided equally or unequally or calculated in percentage shares.
  8. Make sure the will has been signed. There are very particular rules to signing a will and the will is not valid until properly signed.
  9. Keep your will somewhere safe and fireproof. Make sure that your executors know where to find it.
  10. Review your will every 3 to 5 years or after a major ‘life’ event such as a marriage or divorce or a significant change in your financial circumstances.

At Lewis Nedas Law we have fully qualified solicitors who can help you with the will writing process to ensure that your will properly reflects your wishes.

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Should a Gun Ever be used in Self-Defence? – by Laura Saunsbury

The occasions on which the use of a firearm or shotgun in self-defence can be justified as necessary and reasonable must be extremely rare. However, it would be difficult to find a clearer example than the unfortunate Mr and Mrs Ferrie who were both arrested earlier this week after Mr Ferrie used a licensed shotgun to frighten away four intruders who had broken into their home in the dead of night.

Quite apart from the fact they were outnumbered by the burglars, the latest reports that have emerged indicate that at least one of the intruders was masked. Having been roused from their sleep by the sound of breaking glass, the couple awoke to be faced by one or more of the gang in their bedroom. Furthermore, they had been the victims of several burglaries in the past. This and the prospect of what was yet to come must all have been operating on Mr Ferrie’s mind at the point when he decided to fire the shotgun. Had he retaliated with anything less than a gun, it is highly questionable whether the burglars would have left them unharmed or exited the property so soon.

In the circumstances, it is difficult to imagine why it took so long for a senior lawyer at the Crown Prosecution Service to reach the decision that their actions amounted to no more than lawful and reasonable self-defence, and that consequently neither of them should be prosecuted. The couple spent almost three whole days in police custody before being released on police bail. No doubt, they must have been greatly relieved when their ordeal ended some 24 hours later and they were informed a decision had been reached to take no further action.

But is it really over yet for Mr and Mrs Ferrie? The fact remains they suffered the ignominy of being arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm, a serious criminal offence, and were deprived of their liberty for 3 days. The couple would have been detained separately from each other at a time when the very thing each of them craved was almost certainly the comforting presence of their spouse. This must have added significantly to the trauma of the burglary and will no doubt stay with them for a very long time to come.

The further aspect of this case, which probably won’t have occurred to the wider public, is that Mr and Mrs Ferrie may now face scrutiny from their police firearms department as to whether the shotgun certificates held by them should be revoked. It is to be hoped that the licensing department will take a sensible view in the circumstances of this case. But as our firearms law specialist Laura Saunsbury knows only too well from her experience in advising on firearms licensing appeals, the mere fact that an individual has been cleared of a criminal offence they were suspected of committing does not by any means guarantee their firearm or shotgun certificate is safe. If there is any indication their certificates may be in jeopardy, Mr and Mrs Ferrie would be well advised to avail themselves of specialist representation.

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Are the FSA at Risk of Throwing the Baby Out With the Bathwater? – By Siobhain Egan

The FSA have outlined details of another new offensive against Unregulated Collective Investment schemes (UCIS) and have many alternative investments firmly within their sights.

New rules are due to come into force in early 2013, which will effectively preclude the majority of private investors from UCIS unless the investors fall within strictly prescribed definitions, e.g. the investors should have an income of £100,000, have an investment fund of at least £250,000, and be considered to be experienced/sophisticated investors.

The new rules will also cover Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs).

This is very admirable as far as unscrupulous financial advisors are concerned, i.e. those who ‘hard sell’ to vulnerable investors, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a problem with the products themselves e.g. wine, carbon credits or property, and in effect it will exclude all but the most wealthy private investors.

The rules concerning UCIS/SPVs will affect legitimate well-performing Hedge Funds as well, so we can expect some reaction to these proposals from some influential figures in the City.

Currently, the FSA have determined that there are some 85,000 people with ‘alternative investments’ worth over £3.5 billion and controlled by over 3,000 companies.

We are advising a number of clients who run alternative investment companies, and investors who are worried about the legitimacy of these investments.

Contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan if you have any concerns.

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A Defence Lawyer’s Perspective on Cyber Crime – by Miles Herman

It has long been the case that businesses, particularly within the banking sector, and the public at large have been under the attack from cyber criminals. Recent cases have shown the level of sophistication employed by those intent on profiting through criminal activity over the internet and online services have resulted in the Government rethinking its strategy to combat criminal activity of this nature.

As recently as November of last year, the Prime Minister stated that cyber security is a top priority for this government and within the global approach to tackling this ever increasing problem, the Government is committed to expanding the use of ‘cyber specialists’ to help police tackle cyber crime and create a Cyber Crime Unit within the National Crime Agency by 2013.

Many of those involved in the Criminal Justice System would have read with interest the comments by Richard Clarke, the Home Office Security and Counter-Terrorism Department Director, who has warned that cyber crime is now as great a threat as terrorism to the UK’s national security.

But what are the levels of success in tackling cyber criminal organizations thus far? Well, the answer to this will not be known for some time. There can be little doubt that to date the individuals operating towards the high end of cyber criminal activity have been on top. So far, there have been very few prosecutions concerning the activities of individuals that police believe are instrumental in how sustained criminal attacks are taking place online and over the internet.

One such prosecution was ‘Operation Crossbill’, which resulted in a number of defendants pleading guilty and receiving sentences ranging from two to five years. It is apparent from the nature of this investigation in which Lewis Nedas Law received instructions from two defendants (one of whom was acquitted following trial and was the only defendant to avoid custody), that prosecutions of this nature will become more frequent, more focused and will require a particular level of specialised knowledge in affording those accused of criminal activity expert representation.

Arising from this prosecution, one of the first of its type, a team of officers were tasked with investigating a group of individuals who were concerned with the control of a complex network of domains, command and control servers and associated malicious programmes directed at the promotion of fraud through the internet.

The investigation involved a complex picture of international computer-based criminality and it was claimed during the case that the individuals concerned were close to those capable of writing malicious codes.

It was apparent throughout my representation of two defendants in this matter that police believed conduct of this nature is now becoming the preferred method for international organized criminal networks. It is anticipated that cyber criminal activity of this and of a similar nature will readily be preferred by those deterred by the high risks that criminal involvement such as the importation of drugs or people trafficking pose.

The sentences handed down in this case (subject to appeal) and, it is anticipated, in future cases, tend to demonstrate that the Court propose to crack down on this type of activity and therefore those who are engaged or suspected of being engaged in criminal conduct of this nature require specialist advice from an early stage.

Lewis Nedas Law is an organization that can help those being investigated and/or charged with any criminal offences relating to the internet and online services. We have specialist knowledge of how these cases are prosecuted and are able to give concise, expert, and direct advice on all matters relating to cases of this nature.

Given the high-level stakes that are involved in cases being prosecuted to date and certainly, from now on, those under suspicion or facing charges, cannot afford to receive anything other than specialist advice.

The level of investigation and detection will only increase significantly over the coming months and years and Lewis Nedas Law, with specialist computer-based fraud experts and expert witnesses on hand to provide specialist reports and guidance, can assist any of those facing an enquiry by the police, any other investigative agency and/or prosecution through the courts.

Our organization is able to provide the required assistance from investigations until trial in addition to a strong and able team of solicitors. We employ specialist counsel on cases of this nature. Jeremy Ornstin, Senior Advocate of this practice was instructed in Operation Crossbill and was instrumental in the settling of a favourable basis plea for one of the defendants.

Please contact Miles Herman, Jeffrey Lewis.

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Can Cash Still Be King? – by Siobhain Egan

Individuals and businesses alike are feeling the aftershocks of recent banking and money laundering scandals. Their banks are suddenly becoming hyper-vigilant and are choosing to close their accounts with limited notice periods because they believe that their customers are now operating at unacceptable risk levels.

Mr and Mrs Shah (Shah v HSBC) found, to their enormous financial cost, the consequences of having a SAR made against them by their bank.

New money laundering regulations are due to be enforced; the National Crime Agency has pledged to make money laundering offences their priority when they launch in 2013. Increasingly, aggressive regulators and prosecuting authorities are working together with the major financial institutions.

Suppose you found yourself in the position of making a SAR concerning a client or customer. Would you also be open to civil action for any loss that they sustained because of your decision to report them?

So, how do you protect yourself and your business?

You will need to be fully compliant with ALL financial crime regulation including fraud, market abuse, tax offences, bribery and corruption. It is imperative that you have specific systems and procedures in place that are tailored to your business; systems which are detailed, transparent and show a clear audit trial supporting your decision to make a SAR (or not), for example.

It certainly will not be enough to download an “off the peg” AML compliance programme or to seek advice from your company lawyer or audit accountant.

It is not sufficient to assure yourself that you recognise the following abbreviations: PEP, SAR, AML, MLRO or KYC.

If you deal with other jurisdictions, are you aware of their individual money laundering regulations?

You will need independent advice and help from specialist solicitors and forensic accountants who are up to date with all policy changes in this area, who can assist you if you suspect a financial crime has been committed and who is au fait with the rapid changes in fraudulent/criminal behaviour.

We have been defending serious financial crime allegations for over thirty years and, working alongside the very best forensic accountants, can advise on all the necessary regulatory systems to protect you and your business: compliance advice from a firm that has thirty years experience of dealing with regulators and prosecutors alike.

As for cash... it has relinquished its throne some time ago!

If you require any advice please contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan.

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