Warwick Solicitors, High Sheriffs & History

Warwick Solicitors, High Sheriffs & history, the town of Warwick is world-famous for so many reasons.  Its rich history shows the impact that it has had on so many elements of local and national events throughout the years.  One of the first things that springs to mind is, of course, Warwick Castle which attracts visitors from around the world to its impressive, restored buildings and entertainment offering.  But there is so much more to this historic town and from our point of view, the legal connections are something we are particularly interested in.

Warwick Castle’s history has seen it evolve from a wooden structure through to becoming a stronghold for William the Conqueror after the battle of Hastings.  The towers within the castle were often used as prisons and its dungeons once held King Edward IV.  In particular, Caesar’s and Guy’s Towers were used to house prisoners and the ransoms that were claimed for the prisoners were used to make improvements to the building and fortify the towers.  The 16th Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville, used the dungeons to imprison King Edward IV and then attempted to rule the country in Edward’s name.  He was however forced to release the king and was ultimately killed at the Battle of Barnet.

Bringing things back to the modern-day, Warwick University is another world-renowned feature of the area.  In particular, Warwick Law School has a reputation for excellence within the legal industry.  Alumni from the school of law have gone on to found their own practices, work in international law and even become an MP.  Much like Warwick Castle, the University of Warwick attracts students from across the globe to study and ensures that the town is on the world map.  The legal reputation isn’t just about the students and the law courses though.  The School of Law is also renowned for its research centres and studies.  From the Criminal Justice Centre to the Centre for Human Rights, the school leads the way in developing new studies and paving the way forwards for new developments in many different elements of the legal industry.

Warwick legal servicesWarwick, like many locations in the UK, has its own bye-laws.  A bye-law is a local ruling which is created by a local council using powers granted by an Act of Parliament.  They can often be specifically related to a particular area or a particular situation relative to that area and can often be quirky or unusual.  For instance, in Warwick, there’s a bye-law stating that you could face legal action if you annoy anyone while roller-skating.  You could also face legal action for lying down in a public flower bed.  Not all of the bye-laws are quite so quirky though and they are often brought in by local authorities to regulate anti-social behaviour and maintain public order.

Going back to Warwick Castle, did you know that it was once owned by a two year old girl?  When Henry de Beauchamp (the first Duke of Warwick and owner of the castle) died in 1446, he didn’t have a son to pass down his property to, so his daughter Anne legally inherited the property.  Despite just being a toddler, the ownership of the castle passed to Anne and we’re pretty sure our team of solicitors would have a lot of paperwork to complete in a situation like that!

Warwick high courtWarwick also has played host to a high sheriff for over 1000 years.  A High Sheriff was originally appointed to enforce the King’s interests in a county, particularly in relation to collecting local taxes.  One of the original duties which remains to this day is to maintain and look after the local high court judge, but one of the legal powers that has since been taken off the High Sheriff is the power to summon up a posse to round up criminals which would usually consist of the full military force of the county.

With such a rich and varied legal history, Warwick is steeped in the traditions of upholding the law not just for the local area but across the country too.  That’s why we’re proud to be part of the landscape here in the town and support the people of Warwick

Pension sharing in a divorce settlement

When couples separate and divorce, part of that process will involve dividing the assets from the marriage and creating two households out of one.

‘Dividing up cash, savings and the family home are relatively straightforward,’ says Rachel McLarney, family solicitor at Wadsworths Solicitors’ Warwick Office. ‘In contrast, pensions are the most complex asset to distribute, and can often be overlooked.’

Pensions can be shared just like any other marital asset. However, the share of the pension cannot usually be made available immediately, but will provide some pension benefit in the future. In addition, there are a variety of types of pension schemes with differing approaches to calculating the eventual pension payments.

One key difference arises depending on whether a scheme is based upon defined contributions, for example, a private pension into which a set amount per month is paid into the fund. Or a defined benefit scheme, for example, a final salary pension scheme), which is calculated by a formula based on the earnings history, years of service and age, rather than depending directly on individual investment returns.

Alternatively, experienced investors or company directors may have a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) or a Small Self-Administered Scheme (SSAS) which might include a portfolio of assets such as commercial property, woodland, shares and business investments.

It is perfectly possible for a couple to have pension funds of the same size but differing predicted monthly payments, even if they both work in the public sector.

Valuing the pension

The starting point is to contact your pension provider to request an up-to-date valuation of your pension or pensions – one is required for each pension you have. This is straightforward and a telephone call to your pension provider is usually sufficient. You will then receive a written valuation (or CEV) in respect of the pension, which says what the pension fund is currently worth and your expected pension payments. It can take some time to obtain this written valuation, which unfortunately can delay matters if parties are unaware.

For most private pensions, that valuation will usually be sufficient to provide accurate information to allow you to determine long-term arrangements. However, the picture is far from straightforward for SIPPs, SSASs and defined benefit public sector or armed forces pension schemes.

In these cases, the CEV may not be a true valuation of the pension fund. This is not because of anything untoward, it is simply to do with how the calculations are made, and the CEV provided may be lower than the actual value of the pension.

This can arise for a number of reasons, as demonstrated in the following scenarios:

• If the defined benefit is calculated based upon length of service of the serving spouse, the difference can be significant. For example, where the wife is a serving police officer who has 24 years and 364 days service, her pension provider says she has a CEV of £250,000. However, 24 hours later, when she has attained 25 years’ service, that pension may be worth £350,000.
• Where the pension fund includes property investments, values may change significantly particularly if planning permission for development is obtained. An acre of agricultural land may be worth £20,000 today, but with planning permission for a solar farm or a business park, its value could increase tenfold.

The benefit of an actuarial valuation

A pensions actuary will be able to provide an accurate valuation of the pension fund and expected payments. Unfortunately, an actuary’s report can be expensive, and often couples are put off by the cost and feel that the size of the pension does not justify the expense.

However, as can be seen in the example above, the true value of a pension can be significantly higher than you might initially be led to believe.

Can I claim against a pension that is already in payment?

Yes! Just because your spouse is already receiving their pension, it does not mean that the pension fund cannot be shared. However, it may be necessary to obtain an actuarial report to assist with calculating the appropriate percentage split.

What about state pensions?

It is possible in certain circumstances to have a pension sharing order against your spouse’s state pension – this might be particularly relevant if one party has not worked sufficiently to build up their NI contributions and so is not eligible for the full amount of the state pension.

Offsetting

In some cases, it might be preferable to keep the pension intact and provide one party with a larger capital sum.

For example, when one person earns little, they might struggle to raise a mortgage to buy a house. If the higher earner has a large pension pot, they might prefer to keep the whole of the pension and (subject to appropriate valuations) give their spouse more capital in exchange. This is known as offsetting; however, pensions and capital cannot be compared on a pound-for-pound basis.

As can be seen, pension calculations are complex, but your financial security in your old age may be at stake and so it is vitally important to seek legal advice from a solicitor who will be able to explain to you in more detail about how to share any pensions and how to obtain accurate valuations.

For further information, please contact either Rachel McLarney or Louise Dawson in the Family Team on 01926 493485 or email rachel.mclarney@wadsworthslaw.co.uk or louise.dawson@wadsworthslaw.co.uk.