The top 8 UK Legal New Year resolutions for 2008!
1. Make a will so that you leave your property to those you choose, rather than a list of relatives that inherit. If you die with a spouse and there is no will, the spouse does not receive all the estate in many cases unless you make a will saying so.
2. If you live with a partner, draw up a written agreement about property and money. A popular myth is that a common law spouse has legal rights as if the couple were married but that is not so under existing law. However, plans to change the law to give new rights to cohabitants may cause some to reconsider moving in with a partner. Consult us on the impact of the proposed changes.
3. Consider whether properties you own with others should be held in joint names (which means if you die they receive your share) or as “tenants in common” which means you can leave your share to whomsoever you choose.
4. If you work with a partner, whether in a partnership or through a limited company, draw up a partnership agreement or shareholders agreement dealing with matters such as how much effort both parties put into the business, what profit shares are taken, what happens if one of you is ill or dies or wants to leave and what will happen if an offer for the company is made.
5. If you trade in business, draw up some standard conditions of sale and purchase and formalise any informal distribution, agency and licensing agreements so that everything is clear. This reduces legal costs if a dispute arises later, as the written terms protect you. If you have existing standard terms, have them checked to ensure they reflect the latest legal position.
6. Check your business’ compliance with recent changes in areas such as data protection and employment law, competition law and intellectual property. An annual legal compliance health check is well worth undertaking.
7. Check that all staff are properly putting into force legal instructions e.g. some Purchasing Department staff do not reject suppliers’ standard terms of trading and fail to send back the buyer’s terms. Regular training for this kind of staff can be provided by lawyers and others.
8. Deal with legal disputes quickly and early to ensure they are resolved without the need to go to court, which is risky and expensive. Consider mediation of disputes rather than formal arbitration or court action and always balance risks and possible legal costs against potential rewards.
I sincerely hope that you have a happy and prosperous New Year and that you are able to take the time to implement at least some of the top 8 UK Legal New Year resolutions outlined above. It’s an old adage but it still rings true that we fail to plan rather than plan to fail.
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