John Quinn – the Strength of Team

We asked WQ’s John Quinn to reflect on his trip Kilimanjaro earlier this year in a blog.  We hope you enjoy what he’s written:

I’m writing this from my office in Glasgow where it is warm and I’m feeling reasonably relaxed and happy.  But I’m reflecting on my time in Africa earlier this year, when I was in a tent on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, feeling quite nervous, exhausted and nauseous.   Exhausted because I was trekking up an 5895m mountain, fundraising for St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie.  Nauseous because oxygen levels were falling the higher I climbed (at the summit oxygen levels are half what they are at the base).   Nervous because I was five days into a six day climb and about to attempt the final 1000m to the top and I’d been here before.

Five years ago, the altitude and exhaustion  got the better of me and I had to turn back within what felt like touching distance of the top.   This time I made it to the summit.  I was a bit worn out but exhilarated.  Since my return home  I’ve been reflecting on what was different this time to my earlier attempt.  I had trained more and was much fitter.  The group  had chosen a slightly longer route to the top, to help acclimatise to the falling oxygen levels. There was more to it than that however.

We all hope to come away from a personal challenge with some life lessons.  For me, the biggest lesson I learned on the mountain was the importance of good leadership and the strength of team.

the Strength of Team

Of the eighteen of us who started the trek, fifteen made it to the top.  That was a significantly higher success rate than on the previous trek and everyone, including those that didn’t quite make the summit, achieved great things. We all encouraged each other, we were tolerant of our moments of weakness and we all made a big deal of trying to help each other.  Simply asking each other if we were all right made a huge difference. It meant you never felt alone.   We worked as a team.  We waited, we encouraged, we slowed down, we gave each other confidence that we could achieve things together. We encouraged each other to celebrate our strengths and acknowledge our weaknesses.  It was a fantastic experience from that point of view.

Managing Expectations

Our guide Joe, was a master at managing expectations.  Working closely with our team leader and doctor, at the end of each day we were briefed on what to expect the next day.This was more than just times, distances and routes.   We were all made aware  what was expected of us individually and we all knew what was expected of each other.  We were expected to be awake on time and be organised. The importance of fuelling our bodies was emphasised and re-emphasised and everybody felt a personal responsibility to the group not to falter for failing to eat or drink enough.  If Joe called a five-minute break, it was clear you had to do everything you needed to do in that time and be ready to get going again.   His experience of climbing the mountain meant he could manage our expectations of what would happen to us. He told us we were going to feel terrible at times, that everybody would run into these difficulties and that we could overcome all of them.   He gave us a sense of perspective ahead of potential difficulties.  He told us we would probably feel so bad at times we might want to turn back, but if we did that then we’d still feel no better but would be going down rather than up.   All of that advice really helped me and , I am sure many others.

We got to the top and we got there together.  The biggest difference between this attempt and my first wasn’t me, it was with the people I was climbing with.  I was constantly nervous that I was going to fall to pieces again, but I didn’t.

A Premium On Positivity

I returned from Africa with memories of a sunrise seen from the top of the continent’s highest mountain.  But more importantly, I returned with a heightened sense of the value of good leadership, of the premium we should place on positivity, of the importance of managing expectations, that sharing knowledge is empowering and, most importantly, of the strength of team.

Meet the Staff – Irene McGraw

In our latest ‘meet the staff’ profile, we speak to solicitor Irene McGraw, who joined us earlier this year to work in our Private Client Department.

Irene McGraw

Tell us about your journey into law?

I grew up in the south side of Glasgow and when thinking about a career I narrowed it down to law or accountancy, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised I didn’t fancy looking at figures all day long.  I applied to Glasgow University and Strathclyde University and got accepted to both and then couldn’t decide which one to attend.  The advice I got was that both were equally good so I opted for Strathclyde because I could get a direct bus to the university from home!

Did that turn out to be the right decision?

Of course!  I loved my time at Strathclyde and would always recommend it.  I do remember when I was applying for jobs after graduating that there were some firms totally perplexed that I’d not opted for Glasgow and I’m sure that cost me an interview or two.  But it also helped me realise the sort of firm I wanted to work for were the ones more interested in people than places.

How did you end up in Private Client?

I’ve been a general practitioner for most of my career, although in the last decade I’ve worked primarily in conveyancing – buying houses –  and Private Client – wills, powers of attorney and executory – work. I really like dealing with people and I used to get a big kick out of phoning clients to tell them they’ve been successful with an offer they’ve made on a property.   Now I concentrate on Private Client work, which allows me to get to know more about my clients and it can be very fulfilling helping families sort out estates at a really difficult time in their lives.

What does a typical day involve in the Private Client Department?

There is a typical day but never a typical client.  When I’m writing a Will, every client has different wishes and different needs, so I must work out how to present that in a document that will give them a voice after they have passed away.  Executry work, which is the process of carrying out the instructions in a will and winding up an individual’s estate can be a time consuming and emotional experience for people, so that needs careful consideration.

We imagine there must be some detective work in finding all the people named in a will – you must have some interesting stories?

Sadly, I have never been up the Amazon in a canoe looking for a beneficiary!  The real detective work comes when somebody hasn’t prepared a Will or doesn’t have immediate family and we must track down the people entitled to a share of an estate.  That occasionally can involve Private Investigators, but thankfully if a Will has been prepared properly and updated regularly, we don’t have to go to extreme measures.

What are the challenges facing the profession today?

With Private Client, the biggest challenge has always been the same – getting people to engage with the concept of their eventual death and prepare for it.  Not having a Will in place can further compound a spouse or a child’s grief and it is so straightforward to prevent it.  Whether you are 16 or 116, the best time to prepare a Will is right now.

What do you do to switch off away from the office?

Like many women, I took a career break to have a family and now I have three beautiful granddaughters aged three, seventeen months and four months, so I get a great deal of pleasure out of spending time with them.  I like walking, which these days usually involves pushing a pram around a park!  I also like reading.

What are you reading right now?

Adam Kay’s “This is Going to Hurt – Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor”.  It is very funny, very dark and very well written.

Any final thoughts for us?

Just to repeat the most important message of our conversation – whether you are 16 or 116, the best time to prepare a Will is right now and I’m here ready to help!

Charity Golf Day raises £3969 for St Andrew’s Hospice

Wallace Quinn’s annual Golf Day has raised £3969 for St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie.  The event took place at Cumbernauld’s Dullatur Golf Club, with Wallace Quinn suppliers, referral partners, clients and associates entering teams of four for the ‘Stableford’ format competition.

Teams from Aspen Solutions, Bellway (West), Bellway (East), Campbell Dallas, David Baxter, Dawn Homes, First Scottish, Lexus UK, Penworth Properties, Professional Office Supplies, Smart Group, St Andrew’s Hospice, Wallace MS and Wallace Quinn.

2019 Golf Day Winning Team from St Andrew's Hospice
2019 winning team from St Andrew’s Hospice

This year’s winning team was St Andrew’s Hospice, with team members Gerry Burns, Andy Clark, Cameron Hood and Roddy Porter posting a final score of 88 to take the overall title.

Second place went to Jim Harkins, Andrew Martin, Sandy Birnie and John Donnelly playing in team ‘Smart Group’ with a score of 83.

Third place went to Martin Egan, Graeme Matheson, Ian Mahon and Tom Lawrie from team ‘Dawn Homes’ with a score of 80.

The ‘nearest the pin’ competitions on holes 1, 5, 12 and 15 were won by Cameron Hood (St Andrew’s Hospice), Douglas Allan (Campbell Dallas), Gerry McGrath (David Baxter) and Gus Gilmurray (Professional Office Supplies) respectively.

The ‘longest drive’ competition was won by Gordon Lowrie of Team David Baxter.

'Longest Drive' winner Gordon Lowrie receives his hamper from Bellway Homes' Iain Allison.
‘Longest Drive’ winner Gordon Lowrie receives his hamper from Bellway Homes’ Iain Allison.

There was also a charity auction, with lots including a four night trip to Spain (donated by Wallace Quinn), a 4-ball golfing experience at Mar Hall (donated by First Scottish), a 4-ball golfing experience at the Carrick (donated by Linear UK) and the weekend hire of a sports car (donated by Lexus UK).    Raffle prizes included vouchers for Glasgow’s ‘the Ivy’ restaurant (donated by Denovo).   Our thanks also to Bellway Homes Scotland (East) for sponsorship of the 15th hole and to Millbank Decorators for making a donation after being unable to enter a team.

Wallace Quinn Managing Director John Quinn says,

“It is always great to be able to enjoy the company of clients and colleagues away from the office and our annual golf day is a highlight of the Wallace Quinn calendar. Wallace Quinn has been supporting St Andrew’s Hospice with fundraising activities since we first opened for business and it an association I know will continue for many years.   The Hospice does a remarkable job of helping individuals and families when they need help the most and it is a real privilege for us to be able to assist in any way we can.”

The money raised will go towards the ‘Capital Appeal’, a nine million pound fundraising drive to reconfigure and refurbish the hospice in Airdrie.

2nd place team from Smart Group

Karen McFadyen, Capital Appeal Director for St Andrew’s Hospice says,

“Significant changes in how hospice care is delivered is a key factor in our major refurbishment programme and will ensure we can continue to provide safe and quality care for the next thirty years.  The equipment and facilities needed to deliver modern hospice care have considerable changed since we opened in 1986 and take up much more space.  Refurbishing the Hospice will allow us to stay in our current home and continue to care for the patients of North and South Lanarkshire and make our Hospice fit for the future. The upgraded building will enable us to increase the number of single bedded rooms than we have at present, which will allow us to ensure privacy for patients and their loved ones.”

Well done to everybody for taking part and, as always, our deepest respect and admiration to all the staff and volunteers at St Andrew’s Hospice for their remarkable work.

3rd Place team from Dawn Homes
3rd Place team from Dawn Homes

Free September Spanish Property Event

Have you ever dreamed of a Spanish Holiday Home by the sea?  Or a retirement villa in the Spanish mountains? 

Wallace Quinn have been helping people purchase property in Spain for over 20 years.

Come and meet our Spanish Property team at a FREE drop in event in Edinburgh on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th September 2019.

On hand to advise you on every aspect of Spanish property will be:

Margaret McMillan – Spanish Property Manager

Ignacio Chanza – Solicitor, qualified in both Scotland and Spain (and the honorary Spanish Consul for the North of Scotland)

Neil Spinney – Spanish property sourcing expert

Where:  ESPC, 107 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3ES

When:  Saturday 28th September – 10am-4pm / Sunday 29th September 11am-3pm

You can drop in at any time, or book an appointment via margaret@wallacequinn.co.uk or by calling 01506 353400.  Or you can contact the Spanish Property Desk at our Livingston office for free advice at any time.

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Potential Council Tax increase for extended or altered property

Did you know that Regional Assessors monitor the Building Control Register? The reason they do this is to check what alterations are being carried out to property and which require a Building Warrant. Once they identify properties that fall into that category, they’ll then consider whether the alterations carried out give rise to an increase in the value of the property.

If you’re the owner who carries out this work, you’ll be naturally delighted if you knew the Regional Assessor considered your extension or improvement works caused the value of your property to increase. After all, that was your expectation too, wasn’t it?

However, one of the repercussions of this arrangement is that when you come to sell your house, the new owner might be faced with a higher Council Tax Band than the Band you are currently in.

This isn’t some “big brother” spying tactic by the Regional Assessors. They have the responsibility to set and manage Council Tax banding on behalf of Scotland’s local authorities. This includes a statutory duty to maintain The Council Tax Valuation List.

The power to conduct these reassessments is contained in The Council Tax (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (Scotland) Regulations 1993. 1993. Regulation, 4(1)(a)(i) states: “no alteration of a band shall be made unless there has been a material increase in the value of the dwelling and it has subsequently been sold”.

So, if you’ve carried out alterations to your property, don’t worry, as this won’t affect you. However, you might get caught out with an increase in Council Tax if you buy a property that’s been improved, altered or extended.

Disinheriting your children in Scotland

In Scotland, there’s been a long-held legal principle that you can’t disinherit your children. What this means in very simple terms is that whether or not you’ve made a Will, your children have Legal Rights to your estate. Legal Rights in Scotland are an automatic entitlement are enjoyed by the surviving spouse, civil partner and any children. The term “children” includes any adopted and illegitimate children. This usually comes as a surprise to those making a Will!

Children don’t have to take any action or to apply to the courts to have Legal Rights bestowed on them. Legal Rights are automatic and they involve a share in the moveable estate of their parent (cash, shares, cars, jewellery etc.) but not in any heritable (land and buildings) estate.

Setting down what Legal Rights are and who is entitled to what is quite a complicated affair and we need to look at the position for those who make a Will and those who don’t. You also need to be aware that any spouse or civil partner has Legal Rights too, so we have to consider these when looking at the Legal Rights of children

 Where there’s a Will

Let’s look, first of all, at the position when someone with children makes a Will.

When you’re making your Will, you should always remember that:

  • if you have no children –

your spouse or civil partner is entitled to one half of your moveable estate, or,

  • if you have children but your spouse or civil partner has predeceased you –

your children are entitled to one half of your moveable estate, or

  • if you do have children and also leave a spouse or civil partner –

your spouse or civil partner is entitled to one third of your moveable estate and your child or children is or are entitled to one third of your moveable estate.

Remember that this relates to the automatic rights to your moveable estateand not your heritable estate.

It is very important to note that when one of the above categories of beneficiary makes a claim for Legal Rights, they forego any provision made for them in the Will – they cannot seek to have both benefits.

 Where there is no Will

This does become quite complicated. The reason for this is that when someone dies intestate – that means without a Will – that person’s spouse or civil partner is entitled to something called Prior Rights. As the name suggests, Prior Rights take precedence over Legal Rights. Prior Rights mean the surviving spouse or civil partner receives:

  • the family home up to a certain value (currently £473,000)
  • the furniture in that home up to a certain value (currently £29,000), and
  • a cash sum of money, again, up to a certain value (currently £50,000 if there are children, £89,000 of there are no children).

If the value of the estate is within the current limits for Prior Rights, then the entire estate will be exhausted by these and there will be nothing left for Legal Rights.

After the Prior Rights have been satisfied, if there is any moveable estate left, the following Legal Rights will apply:

  • The spouse or civil partner is entitled to receive one third of the remaining estate,
  • Any child is or children are entitled to receive one third of the remaining estate divided equally amongst them

That still leaves the remainder of the estate to be paid over to someone and, in this example, where there is a surviving spouse or civil partner, the child or children are entitled to receive the remainder of the estate – and it doesn’t matter if it’s made up of heritable or moveable property!

If any child has died before their parent and that child had children, those children are entitled to their parent’s share in their grandparent’s estate equally between or amongst them.

Finally, If there is no spouse or civil partner, the entire estate goes to any child or if there’s more than one child, equally amongst the children.

Want to find out more?

We hope this article has given you some understanding about the complex nature of this area of law. Solicitors need to take Prior and Legal Rights into account when advising clients on preparing their Wills or in winding up an Estate in an Executry Case. This is only a very brief overview of the law as it currently stands. For specific guidance on your own situation, please get in touch using the details at the bottom of this page.

Spanish Property Seminar – Wed 14 August

Have you ever dreamed of a Spanish Holiday Home by the sea?  Or a retirement villa in the Spanish mountains? 

Wallace Quinn have been helping people purchase property in Spain for over 20 years.

Our latest Spanish property show will be a short seminar presentation from Alastair Shields, a lifetime mortgage planner specialising in helping those over 55 years old fund their Spanish property retirement dream.

Also on hand to advise you on every aspect of Spanish property will be:

Margaret McMillan – Spanish Property Manager

Alastair Shields – Lifetime Mortgage Planner

Neil Spinney – Spanish property sourcing expert

Where:  ESPC, 107 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3ES

When:  Wednesday 14th August, 1730-1930hrs

Booking is advisable via margaret@wallacequinn.co.uk 

Or you can contact the Spanish Property Desk at our Livingston office for free advice at any time on 01506 353400.

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Meet the Team – Director Mark McBride

In our latest ‘meet the team’ series, we caught up with Wallace Quinn Director Mark McBride for a chat.  Mark started as a trainee solicitor at Wallace Quinn nearly fifteen years ago, becoming a Director last year.  Away from the office, Mark became a dad last year, with young Connal keeping him on his toes!

Did you always want to be a lawyer?

No, I wanted to be a professional golfer, but couldn’t get my handicap below four, so decided to try something else.  When I was at school I was much better at Maths than English, but the jobs that maths skills were best suited to didn’t appeal to me.  With the amount of legal dramas on television, the law was always at the back of my mind, but I thought I would end up as a court lawyer. All these years after leaving university and I’ve not been in a courtroom yet and I’m not sure Netflix will ever commission a drama about conveyancing solicitors.  It was golf though that introduced me to Wallace Quinn. A friend that both John Quinn and I know through golf circles knew I was looking for a traineeship and introduced us both on a train from Croy to Glasgow and here I am fifteen years later.

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?

I really enjoy dealing with clients.  Buying a new house is both stressful and exciting and I suppose it also gets my adrenaline going when I’m involved.  It’s great to see people really happy when they get the keys and I get lots of satisfaction knowing I’ve helped.

What is your philosophy when dealing with clients?

Good and regular communication is key. Always try to keep the client updated as often as possible and try to get in touch with them before they feel the need to get in touch with you.  Keep the legal jargon to a minimum and use plain English as often as possible.  Embrace new technology when it helps but remember good old fashioned face to face communication still has an important role to play.

What’s the biggest challenge in your job?

In conveyancing, you are dealing with people who are going through quite a big life event and it is quite stressful, so we need to make sure things are organised and they are kept updated.  Managing expectations is important.  Buying a new house is exciting and understandably everybody wants to move in ASAP. They don’t really care about mineral reports and the not-very-exciting but really important elements of conveyancing. Conveyancing also has lots of time sensitive points in the process, so for example if somebody is moving house on a particular day then they’ll have booked a removal van and arranged to hand back the keys, so any last minute issues literally have to be resolved at the last minute because the removal van isn’t going to wait.  I’m tempting fate when I say this, but there isn’t much we’ve not seen before, so our preparation, procedures and experience ensure 99.99% of cases are completed without a hitch.

What do you do to switch off?

I don’t like sitting around, so I try to do something that keeps my mind ticking over without having to think about work.  I like going to the gym and I enjoy swimming.    At least that’s what I would have told you if you’d asked me a year ago, because now I’ve got a one year old toddler at home who takes up most of my time away from the office and I couldn’t be happier. Connal also gets me up early in the morning, so I come into work early, which in turn helps keep my day organised so I can get home at a decent time and enjoy family time before bed.

Mark getting ready for a Pool tournament with his WQ branded shirt!

We’ve heard you’re quite good at Pool?

It something I’ve always played since I was a kid.  We had a small pool table in the loft when I was growing up and I have great memories of playing with my dad and my brother and it is always something I have an interest in.  I play whenever I can and I like to take part in competitions rather than just knock balls around at the pub.

What does the future hold for you and Wallace Quinn?

Last year we opened a new office in Livingston and the business is growing, which is great.  Conveyancing is moving more and more towards a digital delivery model, but I think that there will always be a emphasis on great service, fast turnaround times, face to face contact and professional expertise, all of which we are already good at here at Wallace Quinn.  The human touch isn’t going anywhere in conveyancing and I’m happy about that.

Wallace Quinn employee Karter Kane off on an Africa volunteering adventure

Wallace Quinn employee Karter Kane has left us to undertake an exciting volunteering opportunity in Malawi.  Twenty one year old Karter and her boyfriend are off to volunteer at a school on the shores of Lake Malawi for eight weeks before beginning an African and Asian backpacking adventure.

Karter says,

“I’ve loved my time here at Wallace Quinn since finishing my law degree but I’m only twenty-one and still a bit restless to see some of the world before considering training to become a solicitor.   I’ve always been drawn to volunteering and found an organisation called ‘Naturally Africa Volunteers’ who are looking for people to help in schools.  Malawi is a stable country that has a lot of poverty and needs a lot of help.  It’s not uncommon for teachers to have classes with up to 150 pupils, so they rely on volunteers to help deliver a better quality of education.  I’m currently doing an online teaching course to help me teach English as a foreign language, but I’ll also helpfully be helping out with some maths and sciences and some history as well.”

Karter also hopes to help teach the kids a hobby she particularly enjoys herself.  Karter says,

“The two main sports in Malawi seem to be football and netball.  I’ve played netball for years and have even done some coaching in the sport here in Scotland, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to either help with an after school netball club or start one at the school I’ll be volunteering with.   There are also popular ‘library clubs’ after school that try and instil a lifelong love of reading and I’ll definitely be up for helping with that”.

“I’ve been in touch with the charity coordinators to see what books I can take with me and I’ll also take some netball equipment.  Basically, whatever we can fit in an extra suitcase for the flight over.  We’ll also take some stationary because even basic things like pencils and notebooks are in short supply’.

After Karter’s two months in Malawi, she’s off to tour South Africa before continuing her backpacking adventure in Hong Kong and then seeing wherever the wanderlust takes her.  The rest of us at Wallace Quinn are more than a little jealous of what sounds like an exciting and worthwhile adventure.

Good luck Karter – we can’t wait to see the pictures when you get back.

Kilimanjaro climb raises £8525 for St Andrew’s Hospice

Wallace Quinn Managing Director John Quinn visited St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie this week to present a cheque following his recent fundraising trip to Africa.  In March John was part of a team that climbed Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

John set himself a target of £8000, but smashed through this, raising a total of £8525.  The money raised will go towards the hospice’s Capital Appeal, and ambitious £9 million pound fundraising drive to help the hospice deliver modern hospice care for the next thirty years.

John met with hospice fundraiser Bobby Mason to hand over the cheque.

John Quinn presents cheque to St Andrew's Hospice Fundraiser Bobby Mason
John Quinn presents cheque to St Andrew’s Hospice Fundraiser Bobby Mason

Bobby said,

“St Andrew Hospice needs to raise nearly £4.6 million each year to provide care and support for patients, families and carers across Lanarkshire and we couldn’t do it without the remarkable work of each and every one of our fundraisers.  Wallace Quinn’s support for the hospice is longstanding and greatly appreciated, with John’s latest donation simply superb.” 

John says,

“I was blown away by the generosity of family, friends and colleagues who sponsored me on a personal challenge to both climb Kilimanjaro and raise a significant sum for St Andrew’s Hospice.   Wallace Quinn has been supporting St Andrew’s Hospice with fundraising activities since we first opened for business and it an association I know will continue for many years.   The Hospice does a remarkable job of helping individuals and families when they need help the most and it is a real privilege for us to be able to assist in any way we can.”

St Andrew’s Hospice opened in 1986 to provide palliative care and support for patients, families and carers. Although it receives funding from NHS Lanarkshire, the hospice requires to raise significant funds every year. The £9 million capital appeal reflects the considerable changes to equipment and facilities needed to deliver modern hospice care since St Andrew’s first opened.

Wallace Quinn’s next fundraising event for St Andrew’s Hospice will be the firm’s annual Golf Day at Dullatur Golf Club on Thursday 26 September.