Separating? Consider your options…

When separating with your partner or spouse, it is not always possible to resolve matters between yourselves, without assistance – don’t worry and don’t be too hard on yourselves. There’s no need to be nervous either, the alternative is not always Court proceedings. There are numerous options available to separating couples; the trick is to find the one that is best for you.

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You could always start by trying mediation. A mediator is independent, will give you all of the information you need, support each of you in discussing whatever you need to sort out and help you to find solutions. You, your former partner and the mediator will have several meetings and when you reach an agreement, the mediator will recommend that you ask your lawyer to advise you further and draw up a document recording that agreement.

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Mediation on a “shuttle” basis

If you don’t like the idea of meeting with your former partner face to face, but mediation sounds appealing, it might be worth considering whether you can try mediation on a “shuttle” basis, where the mediator meets with each of you in separate rooms, moving between the two of you throughout your appointment.


If this isn’t working, but you would still like a solution without having to go to court, you could agree to seek advice from a collaboratively trained lawyer or attend arbitration. Arbitration is like a private court hearing at which the arbitrator will make a decision which will usually then become a court order, or legally binding decision. Further information can be found here:

Court proceedings

If these fail and negotiations through lawyers have not worked either, court proceedings may be issued. Although proceedings are in process, your lawyer may continue to negotiate on your behalf. Most of the time, an agreement will be reached at some point during the process. If not, there will eventually be a final court hearing and a judge will make a final decision, providing the parties with a court order.


Will Aid At Ascroft Whiteside 2014

Firstly, let me ask you a couple of questions:

1) Do you need to make a Will/update your Will?
2) Do you want to benefit a charity but leave all your assets to your loved ones?
3) Have you got a couple of hours to spare in November?

If you have answered yes to the above, then it’s time for you to make an appointment with us during Will Aid!

Will Aid at Ascroft Whiteside 2014

During the month of November, you can make a Will with a solicitor partaking in the scheme and rather than pay your solicitors fee you make a donation to Will Aid which in turns benefits 9 UK and global based charities. The charities range from NSPCC to British Red Cross, with the full list at

On average you will have 2 appointments to make your Will. The initial appointment at which your instructions are taken and the second at which the Will is signed and witnessed and therefore becomes effective. The suggested donations for this year’s scheme are £95 for a basic single will and £150 for a pair of basic ‘mirror’ wills.

Appointments for Will Aid get taken very quickly so if you wish to take advantage of the scheme, please contact myself or one of my colleagues on 01253 76686.

Last Year Will Aid at Ascroft Whiteside 2014Last year Ascroft Whiteside raised £2426.25 and together I would love for us to beat that!

Scarlett Stephens - Ascroft Whiteside Solicitors

A blog post by Scarlett Stephens
Trainee solicitor


The Myth of the Common Law Marriage

Statistics show that property prices have leapt 11.7% this year across the country, with rental prices following close behind.

As a result, more couples are making the decision to pool their resources and move in together to increase their buying power. This is great! But what many cohabiting couples don’t realise is that they have very little legal or financial protection relating to their property if the relationship breaks down.

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Cohabiting couples do not have the same legal protection as married couples, no matter how long they have been together. The terms “common-law” and “de-facto partner” don’t exist in the eyes of English law, no matter how long the relationship. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the rights of unmarried couples that live together – people think they have rights that in fact don’t exist in current law.

The Myth of the Common Law MarriageIf an unmarried couple living together split up and the property is in one person’s name, the first step is to work out whether the other person has an interest in the property – for example, by paying towards the mortgage, helping with repairs or even having contributed to the deposit. However, if these contributions are not reflected within a written agreement setting out the respective shares of the property, the partner who is not named on the title deed may find themselves struggling to establish the extent of their share if they separate and, in extreme cases, without any rights to the home they have shared with their former partner.

There are ways to avoid this and so, ultimately, unmarried couples need to take extra care and obtain legal advice when purchasing a property to ensure that their arrangements are fair, and legally recognisable.

Ice Bucket Solicitor

The life of a solicitor is one of hard work, dedication and lots of reading. Being a firm that delivers family, employment and business law to name a few we are quite used to getting involved. However, when we accepted a recent ice bucket challenge we did not expect our director, Fiona Read, to be involved with a challenge of such an epic scale.


What Is The Ice Bucket Challenge?

If you do not use Facebook you may have missed this recent trend that took billions of Facebook users by storm. In fact this challenge was one of the largest viral campaigns on social media during July/August of this year.

“The challenge encourages nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and then nominating others to do the same. A common stipulation is that nominated participants have 24 hours to comply or forfeit by way of a charitable financial donation” Ice Bucket Challenge on Wikipedia.

Originally the challenge was developed to increase understanding of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclorosis (ALS) more commonly known in the UK as Motor Neurone Disease. However the challenge later became a public endorsement of charitable donations.

Why Was Our Ice Bucket Challenge Epic?

Firstly we must give a huge thank you to Coral Horn from Pink Link who invited Fiona to take part in the challenge. It was Coral who organised the event and it’s her JustGiving page we recommend you donate upon.

Firstly this challenge was epic because instead of the usual bucket of ice cold water this involved 600 gallons of water. In fact the challenge took place at Sandcastle Waterpark Blackpool. To see what happened next please watch the video below.

How Can I Join In/Help Out?

We ask that if you enjoyed this blog and the video above please donate to Coral’s JustGiving page. Simple click the image below:


Alternatively you can donate via text message from your mobile phone. Text “CORA98” followed by the amount you would like to donate to 70070

Outdated & DIY Wills

Scarlett Stephens - Ascroft Whiteside Solicitors

Scarlett Stephens – Trainee Solicitor, Probate department, at Ascroft Whiteside solicitors.

When dealing with a Probate, I often heave a sigh of relief when I see that the person created a Will. Usually, the Will clearly sets out who the deceased wanted to have as their Executors (people responsible for dealing with their estate) and who they wanted as their beneficiaries

However, I’m coming across more estates where there is either an outdated will or a ‘Do It Yourself’ Will and I have issues with both.

Outdated wills

When you create a Will, you tend to do so based on your current circumstances which is good- I advise my clients to tell me what they would want to happen to their estate should they pass away the next day! But, it’s also important to consider the future. You might choose to leave everything to one person, but if that person predeceased you and your will doesn’t specify a substitute beneficiary then your estate will pass via the intestacy rules. This may mean it’s distributed to people you wouldn’t have chose or it is given to the Government if you have no surviving relatives. It can be morbid to consider the ‘what if?’ dilemmas, but it will provide you with peace of mind knowing you have included a back up.

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Another way a Will can be outdated is if you name a spouse who you then go onto divorce. Once a Decree Absolute is granted your spouse is treated as having pre-deceased you, so any reference to them in your Will is invalid. Similarly, if you create a Will and then enter marriage or a civil partnership this revokes any Wills previously made. As a rule of thumb, you should consider reviewing your Will after a life event and every 5 years.

DIY wills

I have also encountered a number of homemade Wills during my time dealing with probates. Sometimes these estates are dealt with easily and without issue. However, I have encountered Wills where the wording has caused confusion and ambiguous interpretations. I’ve also dealt with Wills where the layout has not been accepted by the Probate Registry meaning additional documents have then had to be produced to prove the validity of the will.

This has only been a brief introduction into the some of the problems encountered when dealing with Wills and estates. Hopefully, you will agree that it is important to create a will and seek legal advice from an experienced solicitor when doing so.

If you would like to create a Will or review your existing one, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Trainee Solicitor’s Blog By Jenny McPhee

I joined Ascroft Whiteside in January 2014 to practise Family Law, working under Lauren Riley the family solicitor at the firm.

I have always been interested in Family Law due to its relevance in many aspects of daily life such as children, marriage and separation. I was a little apprehensive that working in this field would be upsetting or emotionally testing. However, I was looking forward to learning new skills and developing my legal knowledge as well as with working closely with clients on a daily basis.

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I was keen to see how court hearings were conducted and how financial settlements, especially in Divorce, were reached. I quickly adapted to Lauren’s style of working and sat in on meetings that she conducted with clients’ including initial interviews. Eventually I was given the opportunity to conduct interviews unassisted and found this very rewarding. I attended court and got to see the workings of a financial hearing in relation to Divorce; on this occasion an FDA was converted to an FDR and a settlement was reached.

I had the opportunity to develop my drafting skills as I drafted instructions to counsel on a few matters; including a somewhat complex cohabitation matter. It was also interesting to see how counsel and solicitors worked together in practice.

Quote From BlogI advanced my interviewing skills and learnt how to gather all the relevant information from a client at the initial interview. On many occasions clients would get emotional and it was essential to support them but also give clear advice and information at the outset. I learnt early on that you had to be somewhat firm but remain empathetic.

As a new trainee based at a desk in the “healthy” office I soon adapted to herbal tea and high protein lunches. I was informed that bread had no nutritional value and that “clean eating” was the way forward. I embraced this concept whole heartedly even joining a local Gym in an attempt to achieve a healthier lifestyle (and to keep up with the talk in our room of bootcamps and squats).

This however has seemed to have an adverse effect turning me into a secret eater (a programme Graeme Booth and myself discuss occasionally with amusement). Vikki buying me chips on “fat Fridays” and donating the occasional chocolate bar has been a welcome relief from the “clean eating.” It seems food has been crucial to this stage of my training!

In conclusion being a family lawyer in training has been satisfyingly, challenging and interesting. As a family lawyer you have the opportunity to help an individual and support them through a difficult and emotional time in their lives. Hopefully resulting in them achieving the outcome they desire.

All in all my time in the family department has been ………… TASTY!!!!

Proud Sponsors of the Eva Vision Awards

EVA Awards, Sponsor Signature 2014Let’s face it, running a business is never easy. From long hours to seemingly impossible tasks a single day can feel like a lot of hard work. This is especially true if you are a young female business owner.

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Add all the usual business issues to a busy personal life and you have, at times, an almost seemingly impossible mountain to climb. Not only do many young female business owners choose to take on this challenge but many succeed.

That is why we are proud sponsors of the Young Entrepreneur at the Eva Vision Awards.

Ascroft Whiteside in Blackpool Sponser Young Entrepreneur of the Year

“Eva, The Enterprise Vision Awards have been created to specifically recognise those ladies in The North West who are inspiring others by successfully running their own businesses or are at the forefront of their profession.” Enterprise Vision Awards

Many of us aspire for improved equality within the UK but there is still a journey to achieving this. Recent statistics show the median hourly earnings of full-time men in 2013 were £13.60 compared with £12.24 for women.

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Even though women make up 51% of the population in the UK there are only 17% of women directors in FTSE 100 companies (March 2013). Within FTSE 250 companies this figure falls to 13%.

EVA programme 2014
It is for these reasons that we believe it is extremely important to celebrate the achievements of young entrepreneurial women within the North West. It is important to recognise their success, their determination to pull their business through economic hardship and to showcase their example to future business leaders.

“Taking the leap into Enterprise can be a daunting prospect for many ladies and we would like to recognise those bright young sparks that have successfully established a business from an early age. This category is open to ladies from 20 to 35 years of age. So if you started your business between this age bracket we want to hear from you.” Enterprise Vision Awards – Young Entrepreneur

EVA Awards, Sponsor Signature 2014The nomination process has now opened so please nominate yourself or anyone you know that qualifies for this award.