Beards, Beliefs and Best Practice

Richard FrimstonIn Act III of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell remarks to idle young gentleman Algernon, ‘never speak disrespectfully of society. Only people who can’t get into it, do that.’

At that time, it was usual for men in the western world to carry facial hair and this continued until the First World War. Thereafter, beards were increasingly seen as a sign of pomposity and the incompetence of the generation responsible for the slaughter of that war. Moustaches on the other hand were still worn until the Second World War and well into the 1950’s. In the UK armed forces they were often seen as a feature that distinguished the officer class.

Since then, the razor has generally triumphed, although with occasional forays into hippiedom. The trend does seem to have been towards an almost Roman absence of body hair, although different countries do seem to have varying attitudes to particular areas of the body.

Amongst UK male politicians, facial hair gets the spin doctors’ thumbs down, whilst in other cultures, different norms may apply.

Whilst there is no mention of facial hair in the Q’uran, the habit of the Prophet was to leave the beard uncut, but the moustache trimmed and this habit has accordingly continued in many Islamic cultures. In traditional Jewish society, too, the beard may also be seen as appropriate.

Some clients welcome advisors who reinforce and resonate with their cultural norms. Now it is quite likely that the majority of individuals on the UK FCO financial sanctions target list in Afghanistan; Al-Qaida, Belarus; Central African Republic; Congo; Egypt; Serbia; Iran; Iraq; Ivory Coast; Liberia; Libya; North Korea; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Somalia; South Sudan; Sudan; Syria; Tunisia; Ukraine; or Zimbabwe may have beards. However, in an increasingly tense, yet globalised and international world, we have to be ever more alive and sensitive to all of our cultural differences and act appropriately.beard

To coincide with Eid-al-Fitr and the end of the month of Ramadan, is it time for a Cross Cultural Hirsute Special Interest Group? All members with a particular interest please apply.

Richard Frimston TEP is Co-Chair of the STEP Public Policy Committee and Chair of the STEP EU Committee. He is a Partner and Head of the Private Client Group at Russell Cooke LLP. Richard sports his own well-maintained beard and seldom strays into ‘hippiedom’.

Please Release Me, Let Me Go

ORichard Frimstonne of the recent debates on the Trust Discussion Forum has been about the circumstances in which a lasting, enduring, continuing power of attorney can properly be handed over. To whom does such a power of representation belong? When does ownership pass from the granter to the grantee? One solution can be to agree with the granter — at the time of the creation of the power — the circumstances when the power can be given to the grantee.

We do of course have similar problems with wills and other documents. In many civil-law jurisdictions, the original will is not released by the holding notary, but he produces an inheritance certificate based on it. In jurisdictions where executors or administrators are appointed, the will may well belong to these Personal Representatives (PRs) once the testator has died. Professionally, what information is it proper to release? Once we have seen an original death certificate, the will belongs to the PRs. Before we have seen an original death certificate, we must not release the will. Can we confirm the identity of the PRs? Probably not. Can we confirm that we do hold an original will for a particular testator?

My firm has recently received an enquiry about a particular will, from a commercial will register operator that extensively markets its will searching service. After questioning, it appeared that the relevant testator had not yet died, but that the company had been instructed by a relative to locate the original will.

Does our duty of confidentiality under the STEP’s Code for Will Preparation in England and Wales extend to the existence of the will? Our conclusion was that, in general terms, we should not reveal the existence of a will to anyone other than our client until we have seen an original death certificate.

Is this too restrictive?  Can’t you see you’d be a fool to cling to me?

Richard Frimston is Co-Chair of the STEP Public Policy Committee and Chair of the STEP EU Committee. He is a Partner and Head of the Private Client Group at Russell Cooke LLP and — as the title of this blog post suggests — has an affinity for the musical styling of Engelbert Humperdinck.  

Let Me Go

Cross-border incapacity on a flood tide?

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus famously tells Cassius:

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures’.

In the May 2013 issue of the STEP Journal I described some of the background and history of the Hague Convention XXXV of 13 January 2000 on the International Protection of Adults (Convention XXXV), which has now been ratified by the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Scotland and Switzerland. Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK (excluding Scotland) have all signed but not yet ratified. On 10 July 2013 Austria also signed.

Many of us think that it is high time that England and Wales ratify Convention XXXV. We find it impossible to explain to clients why it is not fully in force and available to help, in what are usually extremely distressing and stressful circumstances.

The EU is encouraging member states to ratify and more are doing so. Ireland is now following the current and is set to overtake its backward neighbour.  On 15 July 2013, the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill (no 83) was published in Dublin, which will bring Irish capacity law into the 21st Century and enable ratification.

If more countries were to ratify Convention XXXV, the position would often be more straightforward. The UK Ministry of Justice should be ashamed and embarrassed that England and Wales has still not yet done so.

Catch the flood tide and avoid being bound in shallows and in miseries.

Richard Frimston TEP, Chair of STEP EU Committee and Co-Chair of the STEP Public Policy Committee