A good day for husbands and wives

wills and trusts

What happens to your money when you die without a Will?

For the past nine decades the answer, at least in the UK, hasn’t varied significantly. But today that changes.

Today, the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill comes into force, the first major change to British inheritance law since 1925. From now on, if a married person with no children dies without a Will, their surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit everything. When someone dies without a Will and leaves a spouse and children, their surviving partner will receive a Statutory Legacy of £250,000 and half of their estate, with the children sharing the rest in a trust until they turn eighteen.

I doubt that too many people saying “I do” in recent weeks had this thought uppermost in their minds, but any change in the law affecting how our loved ones are provided for is bound to impact on our lives.

It emphasises the importance of clear communication in legal matters, and in a multicultural Britain where 49 languages have at least 15,000 speakers each, it also emphasises the importance of accurate legal translation.

Legal translators and interpreters need to demonstrate just as much aptitude as the solicitors and barristers they support. They need competence in legal writing style and verbal communication, thorough grounding in the terminology of their specialism and a working knowledge of the legal systems of both source and target languages. This isn’t simply a question of translating words on a page. It’s a question of conveying meaning with pinpoint precision. It takes someone very talented indeed to work with a source text designed to follow one legal system and convert it into a target text suitable for another.

The right translation partner will tick all of these boxes and more, and before doing anything else they will establish exactly what the final translation will be used for and why. Tone, sentence construction, terminology and phraseology will then be balanced to your exact needs.

At Language Connect we work with professionals whose understanding of legal language is sophisticated, specialised and constantly refreshed. When the smallest mistake can have measureless consequences, you can hardly settle for less. Two summers ago a single translation phrasing error almost threw Sri Lanka into chaos. A certified English translation of the constitution of the Tamil National Alliance mistakenly called for Sri Lanka to be divided into two separate sovereign countries, one Tamil and one Muslim. Sri Lanka’s Constitution bans political parties from seeking the establishment of a separate State. Until the mistake was retracted, there was a genuine danger of conflict and bloodshed.

Whatever problems may arise between husbands and wives, we hope civil war won’t be among the consequences. But unnecessary conflict and unnecessary confusion can be sidestepped when you choose your partners wisely. It’s a good day for everyone when they put their trust in a professional translation service.

David Jones

The Voice

interpreting

Today is international translation day. On September 30th each year we celebrate the work of linguists all over the world who strive to break down communication barriers.

These celebrations aren’t confined to a single day, and last Friday the British Library hosted the International Translation Day symposium. Representatives of the British Centre for Literary Translation, the Translators’ Association, Literature Across Frontiers and Wales Literature Exchange gathered to discuss industry developments. Among the topics was continuing professional development for linguists, and that’s always something worth discussing.

There has been a lot of negative publicity around interpreting services in the UK in recent years. I’d like to assure readers that the expertise and commitment of interpreters in this country are beyond reproach. Every day Language Connect works with gifted professionals who constantly seek to improve their skills and add value for their clients. Constantly refining their understanding of technique and subject matter, because simply speaking a second language isn’t enough. Being bilingual doesn’t make you an interpreter, any more than passing your driving test makes you a Formula One driver. An interpreter will listen attentively, process language, understand its nuances, idioms and cultural quirks, then find and deliver precisely the right words in the target language, all in a fraction of a second.

They will use their expertise to communicate across any boundary. Earlier this month Language Connect was delighted to support the Tate Modern with an innovative performance featuring artists who perform as a dance partnership while in different countries.

Sister and brother Selma and Sofiane Ouissi use Skype to practice and perform “together”. Their work is a fascinating marriage of technology and human artistry.

Their performance at the Tate Modern, as part of the BMW Tate Series, concluded with a live question and answer session, accompanied by an interpreter. When artists invest so much of themselves into what they do, any explanation of it needs to be conveyed with the utmost accuracy. When the client confirmed that our interpreter had done this impeccably, keeping a cool head and paying close attention to detail, it made all the hard work worthwhile. By putting in the effort to understand the client’s needs and select the right person, we made a contribution and gave people their voice.

We’re in the business of bringing people together. Whether it’s a group of “C” level executives at an industry conference, a doctor and patient in an emergency room or artists seeking to share their vision with an audience, we believe in giving everyone a voice. When we celebrate international translation day we’re celebrating the talent and dedication of linguists all over the world who help us do that.

To all of them I say thank you and happy international translation day.

Amy Lovejoy

Do It Yourself?

social justice

 

Need a lawyer?

For an increasing number of people embroiled in legal action in the UK the answer may still be yes, but it’s the question that needs updating.

Since drastic Legal Aid cutbacks were implemented in April 2013, more and more people have to ask themselves whether or not they can afford a lawyer. For those who can’t the options and the consequences can be ugly. The impact in England and Wales has been telling. Year on year, the number of people representing themselves in Welsh courtrooms almost doubled between 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Crispin Masterman, a former family judge in South East Wales has recently drawn attention to the damage this can do to the family unit. Mr Masterman and many others in the profession are convinced that removing lawyers from the legal process directly causes delays, and where proceedings concern family law he fears that children often suffer most,

“The damage that’s done is both emotional and probably, in some cases, psychological as well, and the difficulty is that parents don’t see this, they’re so tied up in their own issues that they forget that the child’s welfare is the paramount issue.”

Anticipating this increase in “per se” representation, the Bar Council of England and Wales published a detailed guide for anyone considering this route when the funding cuts were first announced. Well-intentioned as this was, can untrained, unqualified private citizens really be expected to represent themselves adequately in a highly-charged courtroom setting?

The National Justice Committee certainly doesn’t think so. Comprising the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, the Justice Alliance and the Criminal Bar Association, this group has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the cutbacks. Its members believe a fundamental principle – and the concept of social justice in this country – has been compromised.  

The legal profession hasn’t always been portrayed flatteringly in the media or in popular culture. For every Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird there are many more John Miltons, portrayed by Al Pacino in The Devils’ Advocate as not only a venal attorney but the devil incarnate. Many people question the motives and even the necessity of lawyers. Professionals on both sides of the Atlantic would no doubt prefer to identify with the slogan of the 1996 American Bar Association’s national convention:

“Freedom, Justice, Liberty — without lawyers they’re just words.”

Language service providers can easily identify with the lawyers they support. Where Google offers a cheap substitute for professional translation, self-representation is the budget alternative to skilled professional advocacy. In both examples, important details will be lost along the way. We sympathise with those who have no alternative to self-representation and we applaud the lawyers who continue to stand up for their rights, but the message is clear. Professionals get the job done. Just as language issues need to be resolved by a professional translator, the courtroom is an arena for the lawyer.

 

See the sights. Catch a show. Get a divorce…

divorce

 

Paris – the city of love. 

Rome – the eternal city. 

New York – the city that never sleeps. 

London – divorce capital of the world. 

 

While the UK’s capital might have hoped for a more romantic association, its lawyers could hardly have asked for a more lucrative one. For a range of reasons, the UK in general and London in particular has become a magnet for the super-rich who are falling out of love.

International visitors value the even-handed approach and discretionary elements of English divorce law. And they will be aware of the eye-catching financial settlements of recent years:

  • In 2006 insurance broker John Charman was ordered to pay his wife Beverly £48m.
  • In 2008 Heather Mills was awarded £24.3m in her highly publicized split from Sir Paul McCartney.
  • In 2011 Russian oligarch Boris Berezowsky is believed to have agreed a payment of £220m to his wife of 20 years, Galina Berashova.

More international and commercial arbitrations take place in London under English law than in any other city in the world. Added to this, the Times has reported that one case in every six that come before courts in England and Wales include an international element. With so much at stake, financially and personally, there’s no room for error in the presentation of evidence. Every word and every nuance matters. When a client’s native language isn’t English, translation and interpreting from a proven legal specialist will convey information precisely, in sense and spirit, giving other professionals the platform to do their jobs equally well. 

Those seeking to end a marriage in the UK will find few jurisdictional barriers in their way. It’s not necessary for either spouse to be British born or British domiciled to file divorce proceedings under English law. Jurisdiction can be established through residence of either party, or sometimes simply by the proof of a commercial connection to the country. And for both parties, there are firm arguments in favour of a London settlement.

English Courts recognise that there should be no discrimination between the contributions of a homemaker and breadwinner in a marriage, so the starting assumption in all cases is an equal division of matrimonial assets. While this has been refined to allow exceptions, it remains a compelling point.

Crucially, Pre-Nuptial and Pre-Marital Agreements have no statutory force in England and Wales. They may be looked at on a case by case basis as part of the tapestry of a marriage, but won’t be given the weight they receive in other territories.

It’s also fair to say that overseas citizens seeking legal representation may be attracted to the UK by the quality of the professionals who practice there. Long standing leaders such as Farrer & Co continue to balance their clients’ emotional and economic interests with consummate skill, while Stowe Family Law have proved for decades that London has no monopoly on quality. The firm has a London presence along with five offices in the north of England, and is home to some of the country’s most respected practitioners. 

Divorce capital of the world may not be the most romantic title, but when it signifies fairness and professional competence it’s nothing to shy away from.

 

David Jones