27th July 2020
27th July 2020
PERSONAL tragedy remains a driving force for a solicitor who is striving to help families sort their affairs around the taboo subject of death.
Michelle Coulson has joined the wills, trust and probate team at regional legal practice BHP Law. But 12 years ago, when she was expecting her first child, her partner died without making a will.
“Everything was intestate and as we weren’t married it was very complicated,” recalled Michelle, who is now working from the firm’s Darlington office.
“We are not a culture that talks about death very much and people seem happy to seek advice from the ‘man down the pub’. This often means they take action which is not in their best interests. It’s a very complex area which needs professional legal advice.”
Michelle said the range of complex family situations today also made things more difficult.
In addition, as people become more informed about inheritance tax and the possibility of having to pay fees for social care, they may be tempted to take action to try and avoid both, but this could have severe consequences, she added.
“One elderly lady transferred her house into the name of her son thinking that would help,” Michelle said. “But sadly the son died before she did and he hadn’t made a will.”
Due to people living longer and also the prevalence of conditions such as dementia, BHP Law is handling a growing number of cases of power of attorney and deputyships.
Michelle said the coronavirus lockdown had also seen a proliferation of cases of financial abuse as safeguarding had become more difficult to scrutinise behind closed doors.
“We can assess mental capacity and by speaking to people directly look for signs of undue influence,” she said.
“There are also so many organisations out there making claims about complex issues, ranging from trusts to equity release, that it has become more important than ever to seek the right advice.”
As well as being a solicitor, Michelle, who trained in the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand, also sits on the Parole Board assessing whether prisoners are eligible for release, and is under going training to chair parole panels.
When she isn’t working, she has been involved in the spectacular live action show Kynren, staged at Bishop Auckland, and enjoys walking in the Yorkshire Dales with her family.
“I’m really enjoying joining BHP as everyone is so friendly and helpful,” she said. “It is very people-orientated and empowering if we can put measures in place to protect clients’ interests.”
Written by French & Lamming Media.