Why do I need a solicitor to sign a settlement agreement?

For the settlement agreement to be legally binding the employee must take independent legal advice so that they understand the terms of the agreement and the implications of signing it.  Once it is signed by both parties it is open (that is, no longer "off the record" as part of a without prejudice negotiation) and binding.

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Do I have to meet my employer during negotiations?

If you're still employed, then, unless you're unfit for work or on leave, you should follow all reasonable instructions including to attend a meeting. If you are unwell, then the negotiations may be undertaken by email or other correspondence. If you don’t feel you can face the negotiations, or would prefer someone to deal with the key issues and legal jargon on your behalf, your solicitor can contact your employer, or their solicitors, if they have legal representation too. That is often a good way to ease the pressure on you and allows your adviser to cut to the key issues for you. 

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Will my past record be taken into account in a settlement agreement?

Your employer will take into account your length of service when calculating redundancy pay and notice. An employee’s past record may be relevant if the employer is considering particularly good service or loyalty, or misconduct issues, when choosing what it wants to offer.

The employer is under no obligation to offer a minimum or maximum additional compensation on a settlement, so each employer is likely to take into account various different factors which sometimes includes prior record. It may also be relevant to the reference given, though most employers will take care to give a factual reference only. 

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What should be included in a settlement agreement?

There are certain formalities to be met, regulated by law under the Employment Rights Act. In summary, there will be some essential terms relating to the employee signing away their rights. In addition, the agreement will commonly include terms around any compensation payment to be made, agreed reference and any post-termination restrictions. Terms around confidentiality are also common but subject to limitations, for instance that employees cannot be prevented from making a “whistleblowing” protected disclosure. 

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Can I ask for a settlement agreement?

Usually it is the employer who takes the first step in offering a settlement agreement to an employee, however it is possible to request the same from your employer.  Any discussions with the employer would need to be on a without prejudice basis and would usually be termed a “protected conversation”. 

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What happens when a Will is contested?

A Will can only be contested on specific legal grounds.  If the party who intends to contest the Will is unable to reach a resolution with the executors and beneficiaries of the Will, then an application will need to be made to court, setting out the basis of the challenge to the Will.

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Can you contest a Will?

A Will can be contested on a number of grounds:

  • lack of capacity
  • undue influence
  • lack of knowledge and approval
  • invalid execution
  • the Will is a forgery or a result of fraud
  • mistake or drafting errors.
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Who can contest a Will?

Anyone with a claim against an estate that relates to the content, drafting or execution of the Will can potentially challenge a Will.  The most common claimants are spouses, children, family members or dependants of the deceased and beneficiaries of the Will, or creditors.  Claims can also be made against an estate if a claimant was promised to be remembered in the Will by the deceased, which they relied on, but did not receive.  Close family members, dependants and cohabitees can also make an claim against an estate on the basis that the Will failed to make reasonable provision for them.

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When can I contest a Will?

Usually, it is important to take advice quickly following a death, for a number of reasons, if you think you may have a claim.  A claim for reasonable provision must be issued within 6 months of the grant of probate  (which can be extended in certain circumstances). Therefore, it is necessary to contact the executors of the estate as soon as possible, to try and reach an agreement, without having to issue court proceedings.  The same time limit does not apply if you are challenging the Will, but it is sensible to proceed as soon as possible, as so as to avoid unnecessary evidential difficulties and to avoid adverse tax or cost implications for the estate. 

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How do you contest a Will?

It is sensible to engage the services of a specialist solicitor.  They will contact the executors of the Will on your behalf to notify them of your potential claim.  Depending on the type of claim you have, your solicitor may recommend that a caveat is entered to prevent a grant of probate being obtained in respect of the Will.  If resolution of your claim cannot be agreed between you and the executors and beneficiaries of the Will, an application to the court may be necessary.

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