What if I think the Will has been fraudulently obtained?
It is not unheard of for potential beneficiaries to produce a fraudulent or forged document which they say was prepared and signed by the testator. In these circumstances, detailed investigations need to be undertaken in order to establish the authenticity of the document which is produced, particularly if there was apparently no other parties involved in its preparation apart from the testator and the person who would benefit under the Will.
- Yes, if contributions to a defined contribution (“DC”) scheme exceed statutory minimum for auto-enrolment purposes, it may be possible to reduce employer contributions to the statutory minimum, but not further.
- However, the processes required for reduction of DC employer contributions will necessitate obtaining legal advice:
- Reducing employer contributions may require changes to the employment contracts of affected staff (as does the furlough process).
- Reducing employer contributions may also require negotiation with trade unions or other staff representative forums.
- Where group personal pensions are used, the contractual format may not permit changes of employer contributions, and hence it may also be necessary to enter into a new contractual arrangement. Choosing a new group personal pension plan is a not insignificant task in itself.
- Employers with at least 50 employees are required to conduct a 60-day consultation process with affected employees if they propose to reduce employer contributions (but please see below).
- Finally, it may require a change to the scheme rules and engagement with the scheme trustees if the scheme is operated under trust.
- For DB schemes, specific considerations apply (see the last section, below).
With the exception of the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (see below), there was initially little dedicated financial assistance for medium-sized and larger businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak (the so-called “stranded middle”); however, from 20 April 2020 such businesses (with a turnover above £45 million) have been able to access finance via the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (“CLBILS“).
CLBILS operates in a similar manner to CBILS except that a lender can provide:
- up to £25 million to businesses with turnover from £45 million up to £250 million; and
- up to £50 million to businesses for those with a turnover of over £250 million.
Finance is available in the form of:
- term loans
- revolving credit facilities (including overdrafts)
- invoice finance and
- asset finance,
in each case available on repayment terms of up to three years.
Several changes to CLBILS took effect from 26 May 2020. The maximum amount available through CLBILS to a borrower and its group increased from £50m to £200m. Term loans and revolving credit facilities over £50m will be offered by CLBILS lenders which have secured additional accreditation. The maximum size for invoice finance and asset finance facilities remains at £50m. Companies borrowing more than £50m through CLBILS will be subject to further restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period of the loan. Further information on the most recent changes, including new provisions on seniority of CLBILS facilities, can be found on the CLBILS page on the British Business Bank website. There is also an in-depth FAQs section for businesses, which has the full details of the changes to the scheme.
Unlike CBILS, the UK government will not make payments to cover the interest and any lender-levied fees in the first 12 months of any facility so these larger businesses will not benefit from the no upfront costs and lower initial repayments that smaller businesses eligible for CBILS benefit from. The other key provisions of CLBILS, such as the eligibility criteria, the 80% government-backed guarantee and security, are similar to those of CBILS.
Eligibility is similar to CBILS and businesses must:
- Be UK-based in its business activity
- Have an annual turnover of more than £45 million
- Have a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, were it not for the current pandemic, and for which the lender believes the provision of finance will enable the business to trade out of any short-term to medium-term difficulty
- Self-certify that it has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Not have received a facility under the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
Businesses from any sector can apply, except the following:
- Credit institutions (falling within the remit of the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive), insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
- Building Societies
- Public-sector bodies
- Further-education establishments, if they are grant-funded
- State-funded primary and secondary schools
All lending decisions remain fully delegated to the accredited lenders.
We deal with serious road traffic accidents, injuries that occur in a public/private place, spinal injuries, brain injuries, fatal injuries, accidents at work and injuries in airports and on planes.
Maintenance Orders are capable of variation so if your income has reduced as a result of the pandemic, you may be entitled to reduce your payments. You should ensure that any reduction is reflected in a Court Order to ensure your ex-spouse cannot claim arrears from you.
It is not generally possible to vary capital and pension settlements included in Court Orders unless there has been a significant event, sometimes known as a “barder event”. The following four conditions must be satisfied:
- New events have occurred since the Order which invalidate the basis or fundamental assumption on which the Court Order was made and which were unforeseen and unforeseeable. This can include a change in the value of assets, employment status, inheritance and death.
- The new events occurred within a relatively short time of the Order being made.
- The Application to change the Order is made reasonably promptly.
- If the Application succeeded, this would not prejudice any third parties who have acquired assets in good faith e.g. if the family home has already been sold to a third party.
The applications relying on Covid as a significant event have had limited success. The circumstances in which the Barder principle may apply are few and far between. It is of note that the global financial crisis of 2007/2008 was not considered to be a Barder event.
Care should, therefore, be taken when deciding whether to pursue a change to the Divorce settlement and it is recommended that you speak to a specialist Family Law team like ours.
- Before any agreed reduction in wages, actual changes to earning patterns (loss of overtime, for example) may impact the pensionable salary as defined under the scheme rules, with knock-on effects to a number of benefit calculations, such as death in service benefits.
- Contractual changes to member salaries may adversely impact accrued benefits as the final salary figure may be reduced to a greater or lesser extent depending on the duration of furlough and the severity of any reductions in wage, and hence reductions may be difficult to agree with staff.
- Reducing employer contributions will be subject to a number of the same considerations applicable to a DC scheme listed above. There will also be a need to change the rules and interact with the trustees, although it may be possible to override the rules with a direct contractual agreement with members.
- Reducing employee contributions will also depend on the scheme rules, particularly as to whether there are any discretionary powers to suspend contributions, or pensionable service.
- The rules will need to be considered for any unexpected consequences of furlough: depending on the wording of the rules, furlough may or may not be considered a leave of absence and may or may not have the effect of terminating pensionable service. This could have far-reaching consequences.
- In particular, if the workforce’s pensionable service is inadvertently terminated as opposed to suspended in accordance with any relevant rule, this could trigger a statutory employer debt on an employer participating in a multi-employer scheme, if pensionable service continues for employees of other employers. This sort of issue is unlikely to be spotted until after the event, and therefore difficult to untangle. However, an employer should be able to take advantage of the “period of grace” provisions by notifying the trustees of its intention to re-admit employees to pensionable service within the next 12 months.
- Clearly the impact of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on DB schemes is complex and legal advice should be sought before any changes are considered.