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Cyber Crime and Buying a Property

By | Barnes and Partners, Solicitors in London | No Comments

How safe is your data? Newspapers are full of horror stories about scam emails and homebuyers losing thousands to online criminals.

Cyber criminals often mislead buyers to misdirect their deposits or outstanding monies into the wrong bank accounts instead of to their Conveyancing Solicitor’s account. You might be wondering how they are able to do it? This isn’t likely to be through a breach in the Conveyancers’ security.

Essentially all the criminal needs is the buyer’s email address and a rough idea of when the deposit would be needed. Criminals have technology that intercepts emails, often estate agents’ emails do not have the same security measures in place that you might expect from a legal practice and certainly a client’s email address is unlikely to be encrypted. So, an estate agent sends the memo of sale to the client by email and the client responds or forwards it on and the criminal now has access showing all parties and contact details for the chain. They now just need to estimate when the Buyer will send the deposit or balance of proceeds to their solicitor.

Legal firms are bound by so much compliance and procedures to ensure their clients’ most important details are kept safe. Conveyancers often get the blame but the reality is very different, with information being obtained by the criminals from a number of varying sources.

Social Media - Cyber Crime

Monitoring emails is one option but more often than not a leak of information occurs via social media. A status update on Facebook or Twitter, ‘ So excited, just received my mortgage offer’ is enough to tip off the fraudster. It takes only minutes to set up a spoof email address to enable them to pretend to be the Conveyancer. There are even websites in existence that enable people to create a spoof email address. They then send an email to the client advising that now they have the mortgage offer they must send the deposit to the following account immediately. Caught up in the excitement of moving, the client doesn’t question it.

And that is just it, we need to educate the public to think twice and some really simple measures make all the difference:

  • At Barnes and Partners, we tell our clients at the outset our client account bank details and advise them that they will not change
  • We advise you to have a verification process – so if you plan to send monies to anyone and you have received the details by email then telephone to double check the details are correct
  • Be aware of the perils of open WiFi – criminals spend all day sitting in coffee shops cyber spying through open networks enabling them to identity who your Conveyancer is and even obtaining keystrokes for online banking passwords
  • Be careful what you post on social media and generally be vigilant for suspicious emails or communications
  • Identify your callers – make sure before you give any information to anyone on the phone that they are who they say they are…are they really calling from the estate agents’ office or are they trying to find out the name of the person dealing with the Conveyancing?

The majority of cyber attacks are unsophisticated and so by taking these simple steps you can make a real difference in protecting your money.

We hope these pointers prove helpful. If in doubt about any of the above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Staff Spotlight – Edmonton Office Robert Dawson

By | Barnes and Partners, Uncategorized | No Comments

Our Staff Spotlight is one of the ways we celebrate the excellence of our workforce across all of our Barnes and Partners Solicitors branches. We take the opportunity to give you a glimpse into the lives of some of our fantastic legal professionals.

This month we shine the spotlight on Robert Dawson, Conveyancer, at our Edmonton Barnes and Partners Solicitors office.

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Robert is in his seventh year as a Barnes and Partners employee. In his years with us he has become a vital part of our team and his enthusiasm, work ethic and skills are illustrated in the way he carries out his daily role.

This is what Robert has to share with us:

I cut my teeth at a high street solicitors firm in my hometown of Billericay, starting off learning post-completion matters. Whilst there a solicitor took me under his wing to learn about the conveyancing process – I was fortunate to have my skills nurtured and receive this guidance, which culminated with me running my own caseload during the end of my five-years at the firm.

Fresh opportunities came calling and I joined a panel conveyancing firm called DC Law in Basildon and there I handled volume conveyancing transactions, working with Move With Us. After more experience with another high street firm, in 2007 I ventured out to seek a new position at a well-established, larger firm. I hoped to find fresh challenges and it was then I was offered a role at Barnes and Partners.

Barnes and Partners

I was asked to cultivate my own workload from local estate agents and I am now handling a full caseload from local estate agents. During my time here I qualified as a licensed conveyancer, followed by a qualification as a legal executive.

Currently a day-in the life of me constitutes daily contact with clients and estate agents. I am always doing my best to maintain contact with my clients and I care about giving them a quality service and experience. I am conscious that in the legal world processes can be complex and by their nature slow, but my aim is to progress clients’ transactions to completion as quickly as possible without compromising thoroughness.

I enjoy the face-to-face client contact that I have, which helps build a strong relationship that I don’t feel can be achieved as well merely by e-mail or telephone. I gain a huge amount of job satisfaction through helping clients get a successful outcome and the fact that I have the opportunity to cultivate my own clients and build my own little business under the B&P umbrella, makes it even better from a personal achievement point of view.

I am constantly learning from different transactions and from dealing with various types of people and their needs. This helps me to continue to develop and improve the way I work and the customer service I can offer.

Barnes and Partners genuinely does feel more like family than work colleagues and this is not something I have experienced during my working life before. It really makes all the difference. The management are progressive and encourage the staff to have an input, this makes everyone feel part of the team and there is no distance between employees and partners. I believe this makes everyone feel valued and not afraid to communicate with the partners.

I honestly live and breathe my job as I love it! That said I do of course love to spend my spare time with my partner and children. I also really enjoy eating out and trying new restaurants as well as improving my handicap on the golf course.

 

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Many thanks to Robert for sharing this with us. Robert’s colleagues say of him “he always displays maturity and commitment. He is very organised and gives an outstanding service” and “he is knowledgeable, helpful and an all around nice guy.”

We are proud to have Robert as a dedicated member of the Barnes and Partners’ team.

If you have a question for Robert at our Barnes and Partners Solicitors Edmonton branch then please don’t hesitate to get in touch – 0208 884 2277

New Year Resolutions – Your Will?

By | Barnes and Partners, Solicitors in London | No Comments

New Year Resolution - WillJanuary is that time of year again when we make New Year resolutions and consider what we should be doing – reviewing last year and planning for the future. Yet on the list of spending more time with the family, going on a diet, giving up smoking and joining the gym, why do many of us not include making a Will when considering our New Year priorities? Most of us appreciate we don’t know what is around the corner, yet it seems that such an important document does not feature high on our list of things to do in our lives.

A Will is the most important documents that many people will ever sign. It ensures that your wishes are carried out when you are no longer around. A Will has the power to appoint guardians for our children under the age of 18, can express your funeral wishes, including any specific music or other personal preferences, it can also make provision for the security of our pets, perhaps most importantly though, it adds certainty to our wishes of who should benefit from our estate. That said, even if you don’t have many assets, a Will is still important as it can outline how your personal effects (including intellectual property and social media accounts) should be handled and by whom. You can also ensure that people you trust are appointed as Executor to your estate; these are the people that will deal with our affairs after our death and take control of administering our estates.

Signing a Barnes and Partners WillThis is a hugely powerful document and incorporates many benefits, such as Inheritance Tax planning, planning for the future needs of our children and ensuring peace of mind that all gifts, big and small, go to those people who we would want them to.

You may have seen in the media recently that there have been recent changes in the way that our estates are taxed upon death. The government has recently introduced a ‘Main Residence Nil Rate Band’, that provides an additional tax-free allowance to persons leaving their property to a direct descendant.

Here at Barnes and Partners, we recognise how important it is that your home and life savings pass to the people you choose. Wills can be complex and unfortunately, too often, online and DIY Wills cut-corners or do not cover all the legal ground they should. We welcome you to telephone our offices and fix a time to meet with a dedicated member of our Wills and Probate Team, to discuss your wishes for your Will. Alternatively, please feel free to visit one of our ten offices and we will be happy to assist you.

We appreciate how difficult it is to keep to those New Year’s resolutions, but protecting your future is actually cheaper than the gym, easier than going on that diet and has a tangible long-term benefit that won’t be undone with over indulgence or slipping off the band-wagon.

We wish all clients old and new a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Happy 2017!

Kim Boylett, B&P Solicitors Enfield

Staff Spotlight – Ware Office Andrea Greenwood

By | Barnes and Partners, Solicitors in London | No Comments

 

 

 

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Barnes and Partners Solicitors are Solicitors for life. We can take care of your legal needs wherever you are in life – from buying your first home, to managing employment law for business deals, or looking after wills and probate requirements.

We have clients who have been with us for decades who use us for a variety of services; they often refer us to their friends and even their children too.

We pride ourselves on our friendly and skilled staff, who are hand selected for matching our exacting standards for excellence. It is our people who make us the first choice for many clients who are seeking legal advice.

This is why we have launched our Staff Spotlight – celebrating our dedicated team across all 12 of our Barnes and Partners Solicitors branches. We would like to give you a glimpse into the lives of our wonderful staff so you can see what makes them all individually fantastic legal professionals.

This month we would like to introduce you to Andrea Greenwood, Senior Conveyancer, at our Ware Barnes and Partners Solicitors office.

Andrea looks after conveyancing. She has been with us since the summer of 1992 and despite her long years of service she isn’t complacent and still goes above and beyond in her daily work. She is knowledgeable, helpful and supportive to her team and an encouragement to others in the Barnes and Partners family.

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Andrea Greenwood – Senior Conveyancer

Here’s Andrea’s story in her own words:

My career originally began in London where I started work as a receptionist for a small family firm of solicitors in 1985 – I am proud to say that within just 6 weeks I was promoted to Partners’ Secretary. I was there five years and I enjoyed my time with them but I left London in 1990 to set-up a letting agency for an estate agent friend.

The letting agency is still a successful business retaining some of the same clients I dealt with back then! It was a great experience to help set this agency up and it provided me with an insight into how estate agents operate; this has been valuable to my role as a conveyancer. However, after helping establish the letting agency so it was up and running and doing well, I realised I missed working in the legal realm and that is when I left to work with Barnes and Partners Solicitors. 

I started at Barnes and Partners Solicitors in June 1992 at the Cheshunt Branch. Viv Jennings (Poutney) employed me as a secretary to Joe Baily (now retired). I loved my work and in 1993 I was given an amazing opportunity – Joe and I opened a new branch of Barnes and Partners in Ware. The team obviously saw something in me because with training and personal development, I progressed from legal secretary to a fee earner. 

Currently at Barnes and Partners Ware office there is a team of three of us, so it’s always all hands on deck. We have new high street offices now so our clients love to pop in to visit us for updates. They know our door is always open. 

At our Ware branch we are all hard working but there isn’t a day that goes by without a giggle or two. Our team is close-knit and fun to be around. 

I have a great relationship with Founder and Senior Partner Nigel Barnes and Managing Partner Nancy and in fact the other partners too. The partner in charge of our Pinner office, Martin, was really supportive when I lost my mother and Nigel and Nancy are always on the end of the phone if I need a chat. 

Coming to work and getting people moved to their school catchment areas or because they are planning a wedding and a new life, is so satisfying. I think our clients know we take pride in this work and enjoy it – they are usually very grateful and come back when they move again!  

I live in Hertford (north) as I moved there from Ware nine years ago when I married as my husband works in London and the train lines are more frequent from there. We are proud parents to a 6-year-old daughter. Our home is close to some lovely countryside, Broxbourne woods and the Lea Valley path/canal, which is great for bike rides. Hertford and Ware both have some great restaurants and pubs so our weekends are mostly me working for a couple of hours, then a bike ride or walk and then a treat in the pub for a late lunch. 

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As for many in our line of business, this time of year I am busy working but I hope to get back on the running machine in January! We are lucky to have family in Southwold so any free weekends we have will be spent there playing on the beach and walking along the pier. We are there for Christmas this year and are all really looking forward to the break. 

After the holidays I will be back to work with my team ready to hit the ground running in 2017.

Merry Christmas everyone and thank you for reading!

Christmas Baubles

Thanks to Andrea for sharing this with us. Her journey from receptionist to Senior Conveyancer is certainly inspiring, but we feel it demonstrates that with hard work and encouragement you can get to where you want to be. Andrea is an asset to our team and to you, her clients! We feel her experiences make her a valuable and insightful conveyancer to have on board and we hope you agree.

She is the first staff member celebrated in our staff spotlight and we hope to share many more with you in 2017.

If you have a question for Andrea or any of our conveyancing team at our Barnes and Partners Solicitors Ware branch then please don’t hesitate to get in touch – 01920 460823

CMA to assess quality of UK legal services

By | Solicitors in London | No Comments

For a long time the legal services industry has seemed confusing and often expensive for customers, but it has been revealed that many firms themselves find the complex and overly stringent regulations system a nightmare to navigate.

The framework is seemingly just as complicated for solicitors and barristers as it is for the customer. But there is some hope for all parties in the form of a new CMA (Competitions and Market Authority) investigation.

The hope is that the investigation from an official body can help to tidy up a lot of the things which make the industry so complicated. One huge worry for The Law Society (representing over 130,000 solicitors for England and Wales) has been the overregulation of its members. It claims that regulations are too heavy compared to newer entrants in the law industry, who appear to go unregulated.

There is an added incentive for the legal sector to ensure everything is in order and that there is plenty of competition. Currently, there is around £30bn (estimated) in turnover for the economy tied up in the industry. In fact, a lot of the country’s foreign earnings come from the legal work done, with financial traders and oil traders among some of the top spenders.

A whole host of legal services are available across the country, with everything from family law to employment law involving multiple parties. The CMA investigation is set to study how the market currently works, with a possible referral for a more focused investigation to go deeper if it feels one is required.

The investigation comes on the back of survey results which saw customers claiming that the advice and service given to them was poor. Additionally, many small businesses claimed they only used legal services as their very last resort, with few finding them very useful for the money they have to spend.

Regulations currently work to protect the public when taking on board legal services, but with many operators feeling they are unduly scrutinised in comparison to others; there is a huge call for the regulation to be applied in a fairer manner across all organisations.

The Legal Services Act 2007 sets out some very specific rules on what customers can expect and how professionals within the industry should act. It’s hoped that these are upheld and strengthened by the CMA’s involvement, promoting access to justice for all and for professionals to work in the best interests of their clients.

At Barnes and Partners we know how important it is for customers to get value for money when obtaining legal services from solicitors. That’s why we welcome the CMA investigation and hope that the industry as a whole can be improved. We believe we already provide the best service, with experienced and compassionate solicitors. Simply contact us today for more information on any of our services.

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Families to pay highest inheritance tax in 35 years

By | Solicitors in London | No Comments

The last thing you want to be worrying about, either as someone leaving wealth behind to loved ones or as a loved one facing the loss of a family member, is the amount of tax placed on inheritance. With this is mind, the news that we are at a 35-year peak for the highest levels of inheritance tax will be unwelcome news.

The news comes only two years after Prime Minister David Cameron told the public that inheritance tax should only be paid by the rich. 1979-80 was the last time tax levels on inheritance were so high, with Margaret Thatcher at the helm. Back then the percentage stood at 75% on assets over £25,000.

It’s thought that over 40,000 families will face tax on inheritance, with the figure climbing over the next few years. The reason so many families could be taxed is thought to be down to the housing market. Where many people leave property in their wills, the fact that house prices have continued to rise over several decades means many people now slip into the taxable bracket.

The figure of 2.6% deaths in 2009-10 being liable for inheritance tax has risen dramatically, standing at roughly 7.1% right now and estimated to rise further to 8%.

Why the high rates?

Some have claimed that the rise in tax on assets left behind after a person’s death has been a cash grab for the tories, particularly after the economic crash in 2007. However, Chancellor George Osborne has outlined plans for a new relief programme to take effect from 2017. This relief shapes up to put the family home in a tax-free, transferable position, with the amount estimated to be £1m when a couple jointly passes on a home to those assigned as their heir in their will.

Back in 2014 it was reported that the UK had the second highest inheritance tax rate in the world, behind only Ireland. This news could be a driving force behind the Conservative government’s plans to introduce tax-relief, but still looks somewhat harsh when numerous other countries have scrapped their inheritance tax altogether – Australia and New Zealand being the two notable examples.

What should I do with my will?

One trend which has emerged, as people try to shield their children from the heavy inheritance tax, is to “gift” property years before death. This has led to the suggestion that the high tax rate in the UK – because of the value of property which is inherited – is too high, with families who aren’t supremely well off fearing that their heirs will not see the benefit of their accumulated wealth.

With the turmoil surrounding inheritance tax, it’s always best to seek professional advice when organising your own affairs.

At Barnes and Partners we are always on hand to assist you with will writing, helping you to provide the best arrangements for your assets – we even cover will disputes. So don’t let your will weigh on your mind, contact us today for professional, compassionate assistance.