Terms of Business
There are three very important things we do NOT do which is of tremendous financial benefit to our clients:
- 1) We do NOT charge in units of 6 minutes. To do so would mean that 6 brief phone calls lasting one minute each would be charged as a whole hour!
- 2) We do NOT charge an additional commission on estates, often referred to as a “responsibility allowance” as it does not cost us 100 times as much to process a bank account with £100,000 as one with £1,000.
- 3) We in probate cases e.t.c, do not charge extra for letters, stamps, phone calls, simple Land Registry and Bankruptcy searches e.t.c. – just the time involved. It would cost you more in our time to document such things than they cost!
How to keep our charges as low as possible:
- Give us full information at the earliest possible moment and confirm how confident you are of its accuracy, especially when it comes to full names and addresses or (for example) date of death balances in probate matters.
- Try to batch information together, so it can be handled in one go: we have had people sending us four emails a day and wondering why the bill kept going up – our charges are time based, so please use our time wisely – you are paying for it!
- In probate cases, we prefer that only one person is the point of contact and we ask that person to pass on updates and contact us.
Our professional rules make it an obligation on us to bring certain important issues to your attention and this is the aim of these Terms of Business. You should take time to read and understand these as they contain valuable information such as for example, how fees are calculated and billed, how files are managed e.t.c.
Please note that these also contain a limitation of our liability. When you sign the client care letter, form of authority or other documents in order to instruct Eastbourne Law you do so agreeing to these terms of business.
Hours of Business
Our normal hours of business are Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm.
If you need to contact us in an emergency please try us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we shall endeavour to help.
Basis of Charging
Please refer to the engagement letter for details of fees quoted, or our estimate of fees, or the hourly rates of the fee earner(s) concerned.
Otherwise, our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf. This will include:
– Time spent reading emails and letters sent by you and third parties pertaining to your matter
– Advising you in meetings, by letter or emails and on the telephone.
– Negotiating with others on your behalf in meetings, by letter and by telephone.
– Considering, drafting and completing documents, deeds e.t.c.
– Preparing for and attending court or tribunal hearings, including travelling and waiting time.
– Instructing third parties on your behalf.
– Legal and factual research.
– Preparation of any detailed costs calculations.
Hourly rates are reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. We will notify you of any variation to the hourly rate.
Unlike many, our time is charged by the minute as this is cheaper for you and fairer. Please note that we may uplift the rates if we have to work outside the normal working hours of the business, for complex issues, the speed at which actions need to be taken and the importance and value of the work. All time spent on a file (including telephone calls, emails and travelling) is charged. We can agree at your request a limit on our fees which will not be exceeded without your authority but in those cases we cannot guarantee the work will have reached any particular stage when we reach this limit. If we cannot agree a further fee arrangement we will be entitled to terminate our instructions.
Where fixed fee estimates are provided, this is based on the information available to us now. We reserve the right to revise the charge if we are required to do work which is additional to that which can be anticipated at this stage. You will be notified if this situation arises.
In complex situations requiring specialist expertise, a higher hourly rate may be charged but you will be advised of this in advance.
You are entitled to request an estimate of our charges at any stage of your case. We shall update you with a costs estimate every six months or whenever any estimate we have provided is likely to be exceeded, whichever is the sooner.
All fees (including fixed fees) will be varied if there are changes in the work or unforeseen or exceptional circumstances arise or the work becomes more time consuming than originally expected. The most common cause in the profession of increased costs is clients not appreciating that delays in providing information or repeated requests for information or updates will add to our time spent. We do promise that we will keep you informed as the work progresses, but it sometimes take a fair while to obtain information or replies. We will discuss this with you when this arises and if you do not wish us to act then we will send you a bill for the works and disbursements to that date.
Disbursements (- expenses we have to pay out on your behalf.)
We have to pay out various expenses on behalf of clients including court fees, expert’s fees, Land Registry fees, search fees, stamp duty and so on. We have no obligation to make such payments unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose. We refer to such expenses as ‘disbursements’. Where these form an insignificant part of the costs, we will not pass them on to you, as it would take longer to account for them thus further increasing your costs.
We reserve the right to carry out a bankruptcy search on any person whom funds are to be transferred to, which will be carried out prior to the transfer. If that person is bankrupt we may transfer those funds to their Trustee in Bankruptcy or refuse to make the transfer, if appropriate.
Value Added Tax
VAT will also be payable by you at the current rate of 20% (or the prevailing rate which may vary from time to time) upon all this firm’s charges and upon some of the disbursements that are incurred on your behalf.
We shall deliver bills to you at regular intervals for the work carried out during the conduct of the case. This assists our cash flow and enables you to budget for costs. Accounts should be settled within 7 days, unless otherwise agreed.
Where client account money is held we will deduct our invoice from monies held within 7 days
Payment may be made to us by cash (with a maximum of £500), cheque or card.
In the Administration of Estate cases, as soon as sufficient funds are available and we have sent you a bill, we will deduct our charges and expenses from the funds.
If we accept instructions from a Limited Company, we may require the directors and/or major shareholders to sign a form of personal guarantee in respect of the charges and expenses of this Firm. If this is refused then we will refrain from acting and require immediate payment of our charges up to that point and expenses.
If any account is overdue for payment we shall be entitled to refrain from continuing work for you. We shall also be entitled to retain any documents and papers belonging to you, together with our file of papers, until such time as all sums outstanding are paid.
Payment of your Legal Fees by others
If another person is ordered to pay your legal fees, you will not necessarily recover from that person the full amount of costs incurred on your behalf or that person may not be capable of paying what they have been ordered to pay. The fees payable by another party depends on a number of factors applied by the court in determining the level of costs recoverable. They are usually in the range of 60-75% of your total
bill. If the other party is in receipt of public funding (legal aid), you may not be able to recover your own legal fees in any event.
Legal Aid – we do not offer Legal Aid.
Unfortunately we can not take on clients on the basis of legal aid. We do not have a legal aid franchise, but if you wish to obtain further guidance on eligibility for legal aid and Solicitors that offer this then please refer to the Legal Services Commission website.
Your Liability to pay other parties Legal Fees
You must always bear in mind that if the court so directs, you may have to pay the other parties legal fees as well as your own.
Your Liability to pay tax, interest or penalties
The liability for all taxes, interest or penalties payable to HMRC or other taxing authority always remain your personal liability. Where we have agreed to this, we shall endeavour to complete correctly and submit promptly any appropriate returns to HMRC or other taxing authority, but in the event of any error, omission or late submission you will be liable to pay all such taxes, interest or penalties. In accordance with HMRC guidelines you are responsible for ensuring that the values submitted on any return are correct.
There are a number of insurance companies that offer cover for litigation for your legal fees and those of the other side. The premiums vary in amount. If you require any further information in this respect, please contact us.
Any interest received on your behalf will be held in our Client Account. Subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time interest will be calculated and paid to you at the rate from time to time payable on Barclays Bank’s designated Client Accounts.
The period for which interest will be paid will normally run from the date on which funds are received by us until the date of issue of any cheque from our Client Account.
We may retain the first £50 of each amount of interest as and when calculated to help us cover the administrative expenses of arranging these calculations and payments to you.
If you are obtaining borrowing from a lender in a property transaction, we will ask the lender to arrange that the loan cheque is received by us a minimum of 4 working days prior to the completion date. If the money can be telegraphed, we will request that we receive it the one working day before the completion. This will enable us to ensure that the necessary funds are available in time for completion. Please be aware that the lender may charge you interest from the date of issue of their loan cheque or the telegraphing of the payment.
Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. Tax advice is normally outside of the scope of work we do for you, unless we specifically agree to advise you. We may not be qualified to advise you on the tax implications of a transaction that you instruct us to carry out, or the likelihood of them arising. If you have any concerns in this respect, please raise them with us immediately. If we can undertake the research necessary to resolve
the issue, we will do so and advise you accordingly. If we cannot, we may be able to identify a source of assistance for you.
Investment Advice and the FSA
If during this transaction you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised by the Financial Services Authority, as we are not.
Where we use third party organisations to provide ancillary services, such organisations will charge their standard fees for their routine services, which may vary from time to time. We use Charles Stanley Stockbrokers, a national firm with a local office, to provide us with probate valuations of shareholdings, and shall let you know their fees if such services are required.
This Firm is not authorised by the Financial Services Authority and cannot give any advice on investments or insurances, nor can we advise on credit transactions.
Code of Conduct
We comply with the relevant Codes of Conduct, which are clear sets of professional principles.
Confidentiality & Disclosure Requirements
All information regarding your business and affairs will be kept confidential at all times, unless you instruct us to disclose information.
In a conveyancing transaction where you are buying a property with the aid of a mortgage, we normally receive instructions from your lender to act on their behalf. Where this is the case we are required to pass them information that you give us that might be relevant to their decision whether to finance the purchase. If you tell us things that you do not want your lender to know and they are relevant to the lender we may have to stop acting for the lender and possibly also for you. If you do not wish us to disclose this information and wish the lender to be separately represented please advise us in writing at the outset of the transaction.
Your continuing instructions will amount to acceptance of these terms and conditions of business and you then hereby authorise us to disclose to the other parties in the transaction and if applicable, to all other parties in the chain of transactions and their agents and advisers, all information which we have in relation to your involvement in the transaction including any related sale or mortgage and other financial arrangements and wishes as to dates for exchange and completion.
You may withdraw this authority at any time but if you do so you should appreciate that we will inform the other party or parties and their agents or advisers that this authority has been withdrawn.
Data Protection Act
We process your personal information and sensitive personal information as defined in the Data Protection Act 1998 in accordance with the applicable data protection law. By submitting your information to us you consent to your information being processed and used by us as follows:
– To supply goods and services and requested by you including such transfer of information to employees, agents and third parties as required for this purpose.
– For our internal administration purposes.
– To market our goods and services to you.
We reserve the right to:
– Transfer our business assets (which include information) on sale or merger of the whole or any part of the business.
– Transfer our information as required to obtain legal advice, comply with legal requirements, protect our rights and property and the safety of our employees, clients, suppliers and others.
We may also process or use the data collected for, amongst other things, the legitimate needs of our business and to comply with the legal and regulatory issues.
Further any use of the e mail will carry risks and confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. Any information sent via e mail will be at your risk.
Please note that you have certain rights under the data protection legislation. Should you have any queries or require any further information in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact Mr Peter Wallace (Director).
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“the Act”)
The proceeds of crime are any money, property or asset which has arisen has a result of crime e.g. monies (no matter how low in value) that are the result of tax evasion or benefit fraud whether the money has been saved or spent.
If we become aware or suspect the existence of proceeds of crime in your case (whether from you or any other person), in order to enable us, or any solicitor, to continue with your case without an offence being committed by us, we must in certain circumstances report the irregularity to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) without telling you that we have done so. SOCA will then give or withhold
permission for us to continue with the case. SOCA involvement will cause delays to your case. Even if SOCA gives permission for the case to continue, it can pass the information received to any relevant body such as the Inland Revenue and an investigation and/or criminal proceedings may take place at any time in the future.
The obligations that we have under the Act can in certain circumstances override the duty of solicitor/client confidentiality.
Any time spent addressing issues arising from the Act will be charged to you in the same manner as any other work undertaken in relation to your case.
Money Laundering Regulations 2007
This Firm operates a comprehensive anti Money Laundering Policy as required by the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. As a consequence of these regulations, we are legally required to ask for proof of your identification. We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply us with appropriate proof of identity for yourself or for any principal whom you may represent. We may if required carry out electronic identity checks and the cost of the
said search will be noted as a disbursement and paid by you. For all clients we do not see face–to–face we will undertake an on–line ID check at the commencement of your matter, which will be in addition to the usual ID checks. Due to the regulations we will not be able to accept any cash payments of more than £500.00. You must not in any circumstances transfer any cash over this limit to our account without prior authority of a Partner of the Firm. If you do we reserve the right to charge you for the time we need to spend to investigate the source of funds, in order to cover our administrative expenses. We will also not be able to send monies to any third parties.
We are obliged to report any suspicion of money laundering to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency without informing you no matter how small a sum is involved. If I fail to do so we could be prosecuted. The members of Eastbourne Law Ltd will not be liable for any loss you suffer resulting from any disclosure under these provisions (this being an exception to the general rule that your affairs will remain confidential).
In Conveyancing matters in accordance with the Money Laundering Regulations and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, we as a Firm, are required by law to satisfy ourselves as to the source of any funds used in connection with the purchase. We will therefore require evidence of your deposit money and any balance money you will be providing and how it has been accumulated and let us have any documentary evidence you may have in respect thereof. Please note that we will not be able to proceed if satisfactory evidence is not given as to the source of funds.
Distance Selling Regulations
You have the right to cancel your instructions by delivering a note of cancellation to this office or by sending it by post, fax or email, within fourteen working days of your written instructions being received by us. You may not however cancel the agreement without paying for work carried out to the time of cancellation once we have, with your permission, started to do work on your behalf.
Ending This Agreement
You may terminate your instructions to us any time. If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and/or incurring charges and expenses on your behalf, you must tell us this clearly in writing. We may decide to stop acting for you but only with good reason, for example:
– If you do not provide clear or proper instructions;
– If you have not provided satisfactory identification.
– If we cannot continue to act without being in breach of rules of professional conduct;
– If there has been an irretrievable breakdown in trust and confidence; or
– If you do not pay an interim bill or comply with a request for payment on account.
We will however be able to keep all your papers and documents while there is still outstanding money owed to us even though instructions are terminated.
Storage & Copying of papers & documents
After the matter has been completed, we will store your file for up to six years, at the conclusion of which we will destroy the file, unless it is a Will file, in which case your file shall be held indefinitely. We will place your file into storage fourteen days after your matter has been completed, and should you require return of any papers we hold on your behalf you will need to inform us of this before your file is placed
into storage. Should you require significant papers to be returned to you, we reserve the right to make a charge to cover the time we need to spend to sort through the papers, to cover our reasonable administrative expenses and reasonable photocopying costs to maintain a full record on our file. The firm will not destroy documents such as Wills, Deeds and other securities that you ask us to keep in safe custody. We do, however, reserve the right to scan and shred all other paper files, for the ease of our storage systems. You should request return of any papers you require within 14 days of your matter being completed if you require return of any such papers before they are scanned and then shredded. Files relating to claims for children or for persons who are unable to manage their own financial affairs will be kept for longer.
We are entitled to keep your papers and documents if there is any money owing to us for our charges and expenses for any reason.
If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to additional or new instructions to act in connection with your affairs, we will charge you £35 plus vat for such retrieval, to cover our administrative expenses of such retrieval. If we are required to retrieve, schedule and despatch title deeds to you or a third party we shall do so by recorded delivery and make a charge of £50 plus vat for doing this. However, we may make a charge based on time spent producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with the instructions given by you or on your behalf.
On certain occasions it may be necessary for us to photocopy partially or entirely your file of papers for our own records. In such an event we reserve the right to make a charge for the reasonable time spent photocopying costs, before the file can be forwarded.
Our complaints policy: We are committed to providing a high quality legal service to all our clients. When something goes wrong we need you to tell us about it. This will help us to improve our standards.
Our complaints procedure: If you have a complaint, contact us with the details in writing.
What will happen next?
– We will send you a letter acknowledging your complaint and asking you to confirm or explain the details set out. We will also let you know the name of the person who will be dealing with your written complaint.
– We will record your complaint in our central register and open a separate file for you complaint. We will do this within a day of receiving your complaint.
– We will then start to investigate your complaint. This will normally involve the following steps.
– We will pass your complaint to Peter Wallace, our client care Director, within three working days (please bear with us if he is on leave – we would advise you if this were the case but we would still attempt to resolve the issues pending his return).
– He will ask the member of staff who acted for you to reply to your complaint within five days.
– He will then examine their reply and the information in your complaint file. And if necessary, he may also speak to them. This will take up to three days from receiving their reply and file.
– Peter Wallace will then invite you to a meeting, or telephone you to discuss and hopefully resolve your complaint. He will do this within three working days.
– Within two days of the meeting Peter Wallace will write to you to confirm what took place and any solutions he has agreed with you.
If you do not want a meeting or it is not possible, Peter Wallace will send you a detailed reply to your complaint. This will include his suggestions for resolving the matter. He will do this within five days of completing the investigation.
– At this stage, if you are still not satisfied you contact us again. We will then arrange to review our decision this will happen in one of the following ways;
– Another director of the firm will review Peter Wallace’s decision within 10 days.
– We will ask another firm to review your complaint within five days. We will let you know how long this process will take.
– We will let you know the result of the review within five days of the end of the review.
At this time we will write to you confirming our final position on your complaint and explaining our reasons.
– If you are still not satisfied, you can then contact the Legal Ombudsman at Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ about your complaint. Any complaint to the Legal Ombudsman must be made within six months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint. For further information, you
should contact the Legal Ombudsman (0300 555 0333 or refer to www.legalombudsman.org.uk). If we have to change any of the timescales above, we will let you know and explain why.
Limitation of Liability
The Firm’s liability from one claim (“a Claim”) which arises from our work is £2 million. For the purpose of this clause a Claim includes any number of claims from you or any other clients arising from either one transaction or matter, or from the same or similar acts or omissions in a serious of related transactions or matters. We will not be liable for any consequential, special, indirect or exemplary damages, costs or losses or any damages, costs or losses attributable to lost profits or opportunities. We can only limit our liability to the extent the law allows.
In particular, we cannot limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence. Please ask if you would like us to explain any of the terms above.
Copies of the Firms professional indemnity insurance policy are available on request.
By completing the questions which form part of the will questionnaire and answering any additional telephone questions, you confirm that you are not subject to coercion or undue influence and have sufficient mental capacity to make and execute a will and have not been influenced by anyone in answering the questions. We accept no responsibility for verifying the identity, age or testamentary capacity of you or your witnesses. We will prepare your Will strictly in accordance with your instructions and the details you have provided, and so you are required to ensure you have provided complete and accurate information, as we shall not be liable for any errors or omissions in details provided by you. Once we have prepared a draft will for you our
full fee becomes immediately payable. Leaving your residuary estate between exempt and non-exempt beneficiaries (i.e. charities) may result in the negative tax implications if your estate is subject to inheritance tax; if you have any concerns you should contact us to discuss your circumstances. Tax advice/work is outside of
the engagement with you, and we shall not be liable for any adverse tax implications. Changes in inheritance tax legislation may affect the tax efficiency of your will. Please note that we will not be obliged to contact you if there are any changes to the tax legislation, but may choose to do so at our option. We cannot be liable to you for any losses, damages or costs (whether arising in contract, tort, negligence, breach of statutory duty or otherwise) arising as a result of our failure to contact you in these circumstances.
It is essential wills are signed in accordance with the signing instructions we send out with them. If your wills are not signed and witnessed correctly they may be invalid. If you do not follow our instructions in relation to the signature of your will then we accept no responsibility for the effective execution of your will. You have a choice whether to appoint an executor who is a professional (perhaps us), lay (family member or beneficiary), or both, and should take into account the size and complexity of the estate when deciding. If only a lay, the lay may engage the services of a professional on the death of the client. Where we are appointed as executors, our fees for carrying out the administration of the estate could be charged for on an hourly rate basis or a percentage of the estate or both, determined on a case by case basis, taking into account the size and complexity of the estate.
Typically, our charges would be in the region of 1% to 2% of the gross estate value plus vat. With some executorships there may be a continuing role for us as executor to act as a trustee. In these circumstances any trustee fees will be charged for on an hourly rate basis.
Where we are appointed as executor (and trustee) and asked to renounce (and retire) by the beneficiaries, following the death of our client, we would not normally do so, in accordance guidelines, so as to ensure that the wishes of our client are carried out.
Where we do consider such a request, we would look at all of the relevant reasons, and make a charge for our time spent in such consideration and for the preparation and signing of any relevant papers. Our advice is confidential to you and this firm shall not be responsible if you make it available to third parties. No person who is not a party to this agreement embodied in these standard terms and conditions and the relative covering letter(s) or your beneficiaries under your will shall, in the absence of express provision to the contrary, have any right under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 to enforce any of its terms, but this does not affect any right or remedy of a third party which exists or is available under that Act.
If you are contemplating marriage or contemplating entering into a civil partnership, this will not be accommodated in your will, unless expression provision to the contrary has been agreed, and so you will need to have a new will drawn up should you marry or enter into a civil partnership. If you divorce then inheritances under your Will may be affected and you should seek further legal advice. If for whatever reason you fail to sign your will, we accept no liability to you for the completion of your will, nor any loss arising for its non-completion.
We store Wills here free of charge.
If you store your own Will it is your responsibility to inform your Executors of its location. If you decide that you do not wish for Eastbourne Law Ltd to securely store your Will we shall return it to you. In order to release any documents securely we would require one original form of photo ID (passport or photocard driving licence) and 2 original and recent (i.e. less than 3 month’s old) proof of address documents (for example, a bank statement, council tax or utility bill), and a written request for release of such documents.
There would also be an administrative fee of £35 plus vat plus special delivery costs (c.£6). We accept no liability for any loss should your Will be lost or delayed in the post.
Lasting Powers of Attorney and Deputyships
Where Eastbourne Law Ltd or its staff are appointed as an attorney or a deputy we
will charge for all such services, including any time spent in dealing with routine matters which a lay attorney or deputy could undertake, in accordance with our scales of fees that are applicable at the time, and which will be within guidelines.
Eastbourne Law does not discriminate against clients or third parties irrespective of:
– race or racial group (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins);
– sex (including marital status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity);
– sexual orientation (including civil partnership status);
– religion or belief
We are committed to equality and diversity and, as such, if you have any specific requirements or individual needs, please let us know.
Any dispute or legal issue arising from our terms of business will be determined by the law of England & Wales, and considered exclusively by the English and Welsh courts.
Eastbourne Law is a trading name of The Probate Department Ltd a company registred in England number 07682081. Registered office at 2 The Triangle Eastbourne BN20 9PJ.