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A year in review: Divorce milestones of 2020

It’s difficult to believe that 2020 is almost over. It’s been a tumultuous one for us all, across every aspect of society and business. But we’ve seen some pivotal events at Ampla – both internally and in the family law sector – that have made this year a precedent-setter in more ways than one.

No fault divorce becomes a reality in the UK

The big divorce news of the year was undoubtedly the passing of the ‘no fault divorce bill’. The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act passed Parliament in June and was signed into law to reduce the acrimony that can surround a divorce process.

Taking effect from late 2021, this monumental new legislation – the largest change to UK divorce law in 50 years – was watched closely by the whole sector. Next year, after over 30 years of campaigning, we’ll see its effect fully.

Villiers Supreme Court verdict sets intra-UK precedent

In July, the UK Supreme Court issued a precedent-setting verdict in the case of Villiers v. Villiers, allowing for the possibility of divorce and financial matters to run in parallel in two separate jurisdictions.

While concerns exist around the potential for ‘forum shopping’ when it comes to filing a maintenance suit, Lord Sales set out in the leading judgement that divorce proceedings and claims for maintenance are not related actions when it comes to determining jurisdiction. (Article 13 of the EU Maintenance Regulation).

What this means in practice will have to wait until we see proceedings issued in 2021, after the Brexit transition, but it will certainly make waves in the sector next year.

Britain’s biggest divorce case makes headlines

Currently ongoing, the Akhmedova v. Akhmedova divorce case this year pulled Temur Akhmedova, son to Farkhad and Tatiana, into the courts alongside his parents.

With proceedings delayed from their scheduled start at the beginning of December, the biggest divorce case ever heard in Britain has ended the year with a question mark rather than a finale.   

Virtually indepensible

We’ve also seen some amazing Family Law events this year, from the Bloomsbury Family Law Conference to the regular events held remotely by the fantastic Resolution, and even a virtual Family Law Awards. We have been proud to sponsor may of these events, and it is amazing to see the family law community remain so dedicated to achieving the best for clients and always seeking to improve, in such a difficult year.

New year, same passion

Not to mention, we’ve had some milestones here at Ampla too – this year we officially turned a year old. It’s been an exciting first birthday and we’re always pushing to see if we can do more to bring fair financing to those that need it.


As part of this passion, we launched Ampla Legacy this year, a legal financing product that helps consumers access an inheritance without facing the lengthy delays surrounding probate – which have only worsened in 2020. Able to benefit both professional executors and consumers, we hope Ampla Legacy will prove to be another great channel in 2021 to share our brand of trusted, responsive and, above all, fair financing.

Top 5 most expensive divorces in history

High-profile celebrity divorces have often made the headlines over the years – from the weird and wonderful items couples wrangle over, to the significant costs behind the proceedings. But, when it comes to the world’s richest, just how much money is tied up in joint assets, and how is this reflected in the ensuing legal costs?

With the recent announcement of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce, who share an estimated combined fortune of $124bn, we have been reflecting on some of the biggest and weirdest divorce cases that have hit the headlines.

Jeff Bezos v MacKenzie Scott – $68bn

It’ll likely come as little surprise that the 2019 divorce of Jeff Bezos, globally renowned ecommerce billionaire, steals the top spot for the most expensive settlement ever recorded, totaling an estimated mind-boggling $68 billion.

The pair’s “communal property” divorce – whereby property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage is treated as said spouse’s separate property – left the now Mrs Scott one quarter of the couple’s total Amazon fortune, making her the 3rd wealthiest woman on the planet.

Alec v Jocelyn Wildenstein – $3.8bn 

In second place is the divorce of Alec Wildenstein, French-American businessman and art dealer, who split from his wife of 21 years, Jocelyn Wildenstein, back in 1999.

The bitter dispute played out in court over 2 long years, during which time Mr Wildenstein famously cut off Joscelyn’s credit cards and pared her monthly allowance back by a third. The high-profile saga concluded with Mrs Wildenstein being awarded a $2.5bn settlement, in addition to annual installments of $100 million over a 13-year period, but on one unusual condition: that the money not be used to fund further cosmetic surgery.

Rupert Murdoch v Anna Murdoch Mann – $1.7bn

Finalising his divorce with the now Mrs Mann just a few weeks before his wedding to 3rd wife Wendi Deng, in 1999 Mr Murdoch was ordered to pay out an estimated $1.7bn in divorce settlements to his former wife – split as stipulated in their prenup. 

The divorce is known for its complexity, with Mrs Mann’s former executive board role at News Corp complicating the division of assets. Yet, despite intense media interest, the ex-couple managed to keep many of the details of their reportedly “amicable” settlement away from the eager eyes of the media.

Bernie v Slavica Ecclestone – $1.2bn

Not far behind in value is the 2009 separation of former F1 CEO, Bernie Ecclestone, and his ex-wife, Slavica. Since proceedings were finalised, it is thought that Mr Ecclestone has gone on to enjoy a maintenance payment of $100 million per month from Mrs Ecclestone’s trust fund.

With the settlement never reaching the public domain, there has been some speculation over its actual value – with initial reports placing it at $4 billion, rather than what some consider to be the more realistic figure of $1.2 billion.

Harold Hamm v Sue Ann Arnall – $975m

The final and most recent divorce in our list concerns that of Harold Hamm, American oil and gas tycoon, and ex-spouse Sue Ann Arnall, who parted ways in 2012 after 24 years of marriage.

Sue Ann did not cash in the eventual $975m settlement – which accounted for only a meagre 5% slice of Mr Hamm’s gross net worth – until 3 years after the initial Supreme Court order, after her legal team’s appeal to secure a more favorable financial outcome was rejected.

Wills and financial planning – it’s time to talk

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our inheritance whitepaper, ‘Wills and financial planning – it’s time to talk’, which analyses responses to a national YouGov survey of 2,165 GB adults. Amongst many findings, our survey revealed that almost half (44%) of British adults haven’t tackled the difficult conversation with parents or guardians or partners around financial arrangements following their death.

Our survey highlights a widespread lack of awareness around family finances and the probate process that stands worryingly at odds with the level of detail required to apply for probate. The research also highlighted that for 57% of Brits, an inheritance was a key financial pillar rather than a windfall.

The survey examined respondents’ understanding of probate, their experiences – or lack of – in discussing the financial aspects involved with parents and guardians, and the use to which they would put an inheritance. Key findings included:

  • Dependants know little about the status of their parents’ or partners finances: Almost half of Brits who have a parent/guardian or partner (44%) had not discussed financial arrangements in depth following a death with parents or partners, and only 11% with a parent/guardian knew all the details of their parents ‘wider finances’ such as loans
  • Brits are hoping it will all just work out: Only 11% of Brits who have a parent/guardian admit they ‘have enough understanding’ about the probate process to complete it, but only 14% planned to appoint a solicitor to undertake the process
  • Inheritance used to balance the books and invest for the future: Consumers intend to save, not splurge, inheritance earnings, with 57% of those asked what they would use an inheritance received in the next two years for, likely to use it to bolster essential savings, pay bills, clear personal debt or help fund a house deposit
  • The pandemic hasn’t changed attitudes towards wills and financial planning: Perhaps surprisingly, only 12% of respondents were encouraged to review their will or funeral arrangements as a result of the Covid-19 crisis

Read the full report below

Litigation funding in family cases: A practitioners guide

Guide developed to provide helpful overview of regulations underpinning financial conversations with clients.

Ampla Finance has launched the first-ever guide to discussing legal funding options, designed to help guide solicitors’ financial conversations with clients.

The guide provides a digest of the regulatory framework underpinning the necessary, but sometimes delicate conversation with clients around how they intend to fund legal proceedings.

Produced by Nigel Shepherd, family law veteran and adviser to Ampla Finance, and based on advice from Simon Popplewell, barrister at Gough Square Chambers and specialist in consumer and financial services law, the guide highlights key practical considerations for lawyers, giving examples of the main issues that can arise and suggesting approaches as to how they might be addressed.

Download the guide below. To find out more or become a Solicitor partner, please contact scott.willis@amplafinance.com.

Worried you might not be able to afford the best divorce lawyer? Why your solicitor should ask you about funding options.

Nigel Shepherd, family lawyer with 40 years’ experience and twice national chair of family justice organisation Resolution, talks about an important discussion to have with your family lawyer. This article first appeared in The Guardian’s Modern Family supplement on the 6th February.

Dealing with the financial consequences of a divorce can be complex and daunting. The family home, pensions, a business and other assets might all be involved.

Getting expert legal advice can make all the difference to a fair outcome and the financial security that means you can plan for the future with confidence, but in some cases just one of the divorcing couple holds all the financial cards.

Unless both in the marriage have the means to pay for fair legal representation, there’s no level playing field and a real risk of injustice.

In these circumstances a loan from a provider like Ampla Finance is one of the options that you can discuss with your family law solicitor. You can flexibly borrow only what you need to meet your legal fees and it’s repayable from the eventual divorce settlement.

This allows your solicitor to focus on providing the help required, and means that not only can you afford the solicitor you deserve, you won’t have the stress that comes with worrying about how you’re going to pay for it all.

There are a number of different regulatory, financial and practical factors to take into account when considering whether a litigation loan is appropriate and choosing which provider might be best. Ampla Finance will soon publish a comprehensive guide to help family lawyers have this far from straightforward, but important, conversation with clients.

The sooner funding is in place the sooner your solicitor can get on with what matters most – helping you to get a fair settlement as cost-effectively as possible.

Nigel Shepherd is Adviser to Ampla Finance. For more information on how a legal costs loan could help you, visit www.amplafinance.comor call us on 0800 009 6590

Introducing Ampla Finance Legacy

As many eagle-eyed readers may have already spotted, Ampla Finance has recently released a new financing product to sit alongside our existing Matrimonial divorce funding.

Ampla Legacy has been designed to help resolve the long delays individuals endure in clearing probate after the death of a loved one.

The probate process is notoriously lengthy, with complex estates including assets such as property and shares taking upwards of twelve months to administer before funds are released. With one in three UK adults relying on their inheritance to clear current debt, this wait can cause significant stress and financial uncertainty. 

Moreover, with inheritance tax liabilities becoming payable six months after the date of death, many people find themselves incurring costs and facing difficulties paying until funds can be released from the estate.

Ampla Legacy has been designed to overcome these issues.

So how does it work?

Ampla Legacy offers two products, to suit two pressing needs in the industry. Our Beneficiary Loans help consumers avoid lengthy probate delays, while our Executor Loans aid solicitors facing a weighty inheritance tax cost before being able to resolve the will of the deceased.

Beneficiary loans

One in three UK adults relies on an inheritance to clear UK debt, and many more are unable to buy a first home, move up the housing ladder or fund important life events without the help of inheritance.

More importantly, a long struggle to clear the process can add undue stress at what an already difficult time.

Ampla Finance’s beneficiary loans have been developed to shorten this waiting period, allowing individuals to borrow the amount of inheritance and then pay off the loan once probate is granted. Competitive rates and a straightforward repayment in one installation make for a simple process and allow individuals to access their inheritance when they need it.

Executor loans

Inheritance tax liabilities become payable six months after the date of death, often before the funds in a complex estate have been released. This presents a problem when beneficiaries are relying on their inheritance to pay off the tax, and often leaves executors in the hot seat.

Faced with this catch-22, Ampla Finance provides security through lending executors the funds to pay off inheritance tax. The loan is then paid off from the value of the estate, meaning that executors aren’t weighed down with long-term debts simply for doing their job.

For professional executors and solicitors, we offer a fair, responsive and transparent service aimed at facilitating your business with simple financing.

Why now?

We have been developing Ampla Finance Legacy over the course of the past year, before the Covid-19 pandemic arose. In the current situation, we simply hope that our products can offer some reassurance and financial stability for those facing a difficult time.

If you are interested in hearing more about Ampla Finance Legacy, please do give us a ring on 0800 009 6590 or visit our Legacy homepage.

Everything you ever wanted to know about litigation funding (but never got around to asking)

In the first of a series of Podcasts, Scott Willis interviews Family Law experts Nigel Shepherd and Peter Burgess, posing some of the most important questions when it comes to understanding litigation funding and how best to approach financial conversations with Family Law Clients.

Listen to the podcast below and start the conversation in comments!

Divorce in the UK – can we improve the process?

In our first #DivorceTrends report, we explore common client perceptions of divorce law in 2020, and touch on a range of topics including clients’ communication preferences, #divorce financing trends and an assessment of the understanding and perception of the court system versus ADR.

We’d like to thank everyone involved for their help in pulling this insightful piece together, which we hope will both offer a snapshot of present day divorce trends and help inform those lawyers keeping a continuous eye on the future of client-lawyer relationships. Our particular thanks go to Nigel Shepherd, whose informative insights have provided valuable context to the consumer responses.

You’re a coach, but do you know it?

Hello, I’m Dina. I’m a life and career coach to creatives and career changers.

I coach individuals wanting to find a fulfilling and meaningful job, and I help creatives level up. 

It sounds like my job is a million miles away from what you do, but I’m here to argue for the other side. Your job and mine, have a lot more in common than you may think, but there are 3 coaching guide lines I live by that have saved me that you may not be aware of. But first, let me present my case for our similarities:

  • Do you get paid by the hour? 
  • Do all clients you take on sign a contract?
  • Do your clients also find you through personal referrals?
  • Do your clients come in with a problem and your work is to get to a solution?
  • Are your clients often going through an emotional time and cry in your sessions? 
  • Do you end up sometimes knowing more about them than their family or friends do?

It looks like coaches and Family Lawyers aren’t too dissimilar after all. Who knew?

That training has been incredibly useful. Unfortunately it’s reserved for therapists and coaching psychologists, but 121 sessions happen in so many other industries. Think about how much gossip and drama gets offloaded from clients onto hairstylists? Poor guys. The hairdresser chair may as well be Freud’s couch. 

Without proper training, the provider in the 121 may be feeling emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. There may also be guilt and doubt about whether they did enough or not enough for when their clients got emotional, unknowingly taking on clients’ anxiety or even feeling frustrated with the client for making the ‘wrong’ decision. 

However I’ve had considerable psychology and coach training to prepare me to be able to show empathy, provide psychological safety whilst at the same time being professional and ensuring we stick to the case at hand and don’t go off on tangents. Which long-term saves me from taking client’s troubles home or suffering from emotional burning out. 

Why does this happen? 

Having an hour of someone’s undivided attention is rare nowadays, so when it happens, it feels great…for the client. The client feels heard and valued when they have your attention.  Multiple sessions across time builds trust and puts the client even more at ease. You become someone that’s reliable, consistent and dependable over time. 

What happens when a client trusts you and is at ease? They bring more of themselves into the session. 

This is when the boundaries start getting blurred. You’re friendly now, but you’re not their friend, but do they know that? Their expectations of your relationship and you may have changed, but these aren’t ever made explicit. So you’re navigating invisible rules. At times this closer relationship speeds up work, at other times you’re not sure what role you’re playing in their lives – friend, therapist, coach or lawyer? Either way it’s confusing what to do and can be emotionally draining. 

Let me help. Here are 3 caching tips that you can use today and will hopefully make your professional lives easier and lighter. 

1) Remember: For the alliance to work, the strongest relationship should be you as the professional, not as a friend. 

You are far more useful to them as a lawyer than you are a friend. They have plenty of friends, but you are probably their only lawyer. 

It can be tough because you’ve seen someone over a period of time, through maybe the worst times of their lives, and they’ve confided in you – you build a trust, rapport and a friendship.

But what happens in friendships and relationships over time? A lot is not talked about. As soon as there’s a friendship, there is a relationship they may not want to lose.  They will therefore hold back on telling you critical things in order to keep the friendship. 

They value your opinion as a friend and will start treating you as a friend first, lawyer second. Communication may get easier but your job will get harder.  

How do you keep your roles clearly defined? With my next two points: by teaching them how to best use you and by contracting at each session. 

2) Importance of contracting at each session. 

By contracting, I don’t mean getting your client to sign a contact. Instead this is a verbal introduction to the session, like outlining an agenda for a meeting. 

Starting the meeting with “Before we start, I wanted to outline how this session will flow and remind you, as always, that everything said here is confidential. I will be time-keeping and give you a 10 minute warning before the end to make sure we cover everything we need” 

This gives them transparency and an element of control from knowing what’s ahead, which contributes to psychological safety. 

Don’t hold back on repeating and reminding key things like confidentiality and session structure. People forget and sometimes that reminder is timely and unlocks something. This formality and set up reminds them that this isn’t a free flowing chat. It has a beginning and an end bookmarked by you. It makes them feel reassured that you’re on their side, you’re working collaboratively, but ultimately you will be steering the process. Setting yourself as the time keeper who will make sure you keep on track, gives you the permission to keep conversation to the goal at hand to ensure a timely end. Clients may be leaving something until the end, so the 10 minute prompt will make sure if gets covered within the hour. 

Whilst you both know the ultimate goal of your work together, it’s good to outline the goal for the session. Coaching is client-led so we get the client to establish the goal “I wanted to ask you what main goal was for this session?” or “What is the best use of our time here?” . However, you can lead with setting the goal, but make sure to check in with the client to see if they’re happy with it and if there’s anything else they’d like to add. This reconnects them to the goal and gets their buy-in so they too will work from their end to make sure you get there.

3) Teach them how to use you

Never assume a client knows how to best use your services. This goes for most service providers. No one knows instinctively how to use a coach or a lawyer. I therefore scope out their experience when we first meet by asking if they’ve had coaching before and if so what their experience was. This conversation will save a lot of misunderstandings in the future – you don’t know what the lawyer was like before you. If they haven’t experienced coaching, I ask them about their expectations of coaching. This will get any myths and false assumptions out in the air. Once that’s done, give an outline of what your role is and what it isn’t, then follow up with an email so they have it to hand. 

As your sessions unfold they may start using you as a friend or a therapist. As soon as you feel it venture into that territory, establish boundaries with phrases like “This sounds interesting but I wanted to check in to see if this relates to our goal for this session. If it does, we will give it the air time it needs. If it doesn’t, may I suggest we focus back on what’s important for us to cover in this session”. The first times you do this may feel like you’re cutting them off and being cold, but you’re actually showing yourself to be even more trustworthy and reliable. They’ll know they can’t push your boundaries, and therefore, other people can’t. Your consistent firmness in role and time boundaries will give them psychological safety and emotional calm. They know where they stand with you. 

These 3 simple guidelines have been a professional lifesaver to me. Sticking to them has ensured clients trust me, come back to me and send me referrals, and most importantly, I don’t feel emotionally drained at the end of the day. I hope they will do the same for you too!

Dina Grishin – your straight-talking coach

LIFE & BUSINESS COACH TO CREATIVE MINDS | CO-FOUNDER OF CREATIVE COACHING COLLECTIVE

CO-FOUNDER OF CREATIVE COACHING COLLECTIVE | READ ME: WWW.DINAGRISHIN.COM

SEE ME: INSTAGRAM | SEE ME SOME MORE: LINKEDIN

TALK TO ME:  +44 (0) 7930483660

Is ‘loan’ still a dirty word for HNWI finances?

Marcus Holburn, Finance Director @ Ampla Finance

Historically, the word ‘loan’ would send shivers up the spine of many steady, solvent people, conjuring images of red-letters and bailiffs at the door.  But whilst the steady-eddies of the world were living within their means, others were leveraging their assets, using available finance to take advantage of investment opportunities and accumulating wealth as a result.

Increasingly, niche lenders are making it possible to use capital assets as security, to unlock new opportunities or de-risk investment decisions, a prime example being funding for legal expenses, particularly in divorce and litigation.

You might say, if you’re a private investor or High Net Worth Individual, why would you need funding for something like legal fees, surely there’s plenty of available capital to pay the costs outright? But this may not be the most financially savvy option and there is an increasing realisation that a low-interest loan from a specialist lender could prove a better investment decision in the long run than drawing down on other asset pots.

For those seeking to claim a share of wealth owed to them but, as a result of their circumstances,  don’t have access to ready cash,  this sort of lending is proving a vital lifeline.  

When facing unforeseen costs, such as legal fees, there are a few considerations to make, particularly regarding maximising profit and minimising loss from investments.

Firstly, beware the hidden costs – you may need more than you think. Divorce is notorious for cutting into the finances of High Net Worth Individuals and the more complex the case, the more the costs are likely to mount.  Try to avoid adding complexity or unnecessary acrimony to the proceedings, as this will only serve to increase the fees incurred.

It’s also critical to make sure the balance sheet adds up.  Remember that “hard” debts (bank loans, mortgages and litigation loans) are considered as joint liabilities during the division of assets and divided between the parties accordingly.

In comparison, liquidated investments used to pay for legal fees generally aren’t considered on the balance sheet as the costs are already incurred.  Likewise, “soft” loans from family and friends are generally considered non-repayable, so may not be accounted for in the overall calculation. Also be aware that liquidated investments may be easier to value than invested assets, so think smart about how the assets and liabilities stack up when listed out side-by-side.

Understanding the costs of cashing in investments

Property

Bricks and mortar are often considered the stalwart of prudent investment.  An Englishman’s home is his castle after all; but those who have invested in property, especially over the last few, politically tumultuous, years know all-too-well that there are few short-term gains to be made.  If property makes up a large part of your asset base, then you understand the losses possible if forced to sell when the market is weak, just to cover immediate legal costs.

And that’s not to mention the tax implications.  If you’re a higher or additional rate taxpayer, you’ll pay 28% on gains from residential property that is not your home, including buy-to-let (investment properties), business premises and land.

Assuming your property portfolio is generating income through being rented for either residential or commercial purposes, you may also need to consider potential financial and legal penalties for breaking contracts with tenants, not to mention the time and hassle of doing so.

Stocks, shares & ISAs

Depending on the structure of your investment portfolio, the asset classes and risk appetite applied, cashing in your investments may come with a range of penalties, complexities and implications for achieving a return on investment. Two main costs to consider are:

  • Tax

In the UK, you may have to pay Capital Gains Tax if you make a profit when you sell shares or other investments.  This excludes shares in an ISA or PEP, but can include equity shares, units in a unit trust and certain bonds.  As with property, as a higher rate taxpayer, the 28% rate applies in this case.

  • Opportunity cost

If your investment portfolio was set up for the long-term, then cashing in early can certainly hurt.  Common belief dictates that you only want to play the stock market when investing for a time horizon of 10 years or longer.  In that horizon, you can weather the market ups and downs and still make a profit.  Suddenly cashing in your shares to fund an unexpected cost may end up costing you dearly in unrealised opportunity cost.

It’s also not uncommon in managed funds to have investment minimums or withdrawal restrictions and penalties.  All these factors will have a significant impact on the ultimate return on your investment, so simply selling up may not be the most effective way of releasing capital when you need it.

Pensions

It may be tempting to cash in a pension to release funds for unforeseen costs now, however this Is not only risky for your future, but may also incur significant cost, levied by HMRC.  If you were to release the whole of your pension pot in one go, you would pay income tax on 75% of the whole amount.  If you’re a higher rate taxpayer, this could mean paying 40% or even 45% on your pension, which is certainly something that requires careful consideration.  Not only that, releasing your pension early could also affect your entitlement to benefits later in life.

Specialist lending could be the answer.

It may not seem obvious but staying in the market, using your investments to leverage your position and borrow for unforeseen costs, could well be the way to answer your immediate cash requirement, whilst seeing through the long-term investment opportunities. 

In fact, in the case of a divorce, the balance of a loan used to pay legal costs can be wrapped into joint liabilities with your partner, splitting the debt after separation of finances.

There are many niche lenders who offer bespoke loans, tailored to specific needs and situation, so considering the right option for you in the circumstances may be the best investment decision you ever make.