27 October 2020
Private client - October 2020 – 4 of 4 Insights
The Treasury has rejected calls from the Public Accounts Committee for a formal review of pension tax relief.
The Treasury responded in the official minutes to the Committee where it answers a range of policy proposals put to it by the committee.
One Committee proposal was that HM Revenue and Customs should assess who benefits from all significant reliefs and publicly report the results in 2021. This proposal has its background in a report from the Public Accounts Committee published over the summer which commented that the Government “knows too little” about the tax reliefs it provides.
However the Treasury has said whilst it “will continue to engage with stakeholders... now is not the right time for a formal evaluation”.
In the recent case of Fantini v Scrutton  EWCH 1552 (Ch) the High Court discussed when severance of joint tenancy can be classed as having occurred. In this case a mother and daughter had jointly owned a family home. The daughter's notice of severance of the joint tenancy had been sent by her solicitors to her mother, using registered post.
The daughter's solicitors then applied to register a Form A restriction regarding the severance at the Land Registry. The Land Registry duly registered the restriction on 11 December 2013 and wrote to the mother confirming the registration. Unfortunately, the daughter (who was terminally ill) died on 15 December 2013. The notice of severance to the mother was returned undelivered on 3rd January 2014. Sadly, the mother then died in 2017.
The High Court held that as the notice of severance had been sent by registered post and was returned undelivered, there had been no service under s36(2) of the Law of Property Act 1925. In addition, the Land Registry letter confirming the registration of the Form A restriction was not a notice of severance nor was it an act of operating on the daughter's share – it was just a notice that a restriction had been entered. Th judge commented that although courts will often prefer a tenancy in common over a joint tenancy, she was satisfied that the application to the Land Registry in isolation could not constitute an act operating on the daughter's own share.
As there had been no severance of the joint tenancy by notice or by an act of the daughter on her own share, the property passed by survivorship to the mother's estate. A cautionary tale reminding us of the importance of complying with such requirements.
On 30 September 2020, the Non Contentious Probate (Amendment) Rules 2020 (SI2020/1059) were laid before Parliament, requiring probate practitioners to make most grant applications online, via the HMCTS online service, with effect from 2 November 2020.
Under the new rules, the majority of grant applications must be made through the HMCTS online service, with only certain, more complex cases being exempt from the requirement, including:
For the full list of exceptions, see rule 3(4) of the NCPAR 2020.
The Law Commission has announced that it has commenced work analysing English law in the context of digital assets.
This project follows on from the LawTech Delivery Panel's legal statement on the status of crypto-assets.
The Law Commission states that it has been asked by the government to make recommendations for reform to ensure that English law is capable of accommodating transactions involving digital assets (like crypto-assets).
It will focus on the concept of "possession" of these assets. The Law Commission has noted that current legislation prevents the shift to a complete digitisation of trade and transactions, particularly in international trade finance.
The time frame for publication of a consultation paper to address this issue Is expected to be early 2021.
by Multiple authors