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At Pension Solutions for Lawyers, we are proud of the professional advice and unparalleled service we offer our clients. Here are just some of our case studies, giving you the opportunity to see how we have helped lawyers and their clients in the past.

Initial pension-case assessment

Papers were forwarded to me by a solicitor to prepare an initial assessment for his client Mr P on his wife's combination of personal and company pension schemes. On the surface everything seemed straightforward.

However, I was able to point out that the personal pension schemes had huge penalties as the money was invested in with profits. The CETV quoted was 85,000 but the fund value (which was not initially disclosed) used to pay benefits in three months time when Mrs P reached 60 was 145,000. These penalties would however be removed at this time and were only in place due to the weakness of the insurance company, in this case NPI.

Mr P was looking at offset and settlement was not going to be agreed for a while as the case was in its early stages. We were able to eventually agree to use the new figures at age 60 which gave a true reflection of benefits.

CETV valuation

Mrs B was reluctant to spend the 1,000 required on an actuarial report recommended by her solicitor to assess her husband's Marks & Spencer's Scheme CETV of 231,147. The solicitor called me to see if it was worth it and I explained the M&S scheme has discretionary benefits for its members that are not included in the CETV and it would definitely be worth further investigation. Mrs B wanted to offset the house against her husband's pension but the equity was greater in value so there was pressure to sell the house despite a Mesher order being proposed as Mr B wanted the capital.

Mrs B remained to be convinced on spending the 1,000 as her husband refused to pay half the cost so I suggested an initial assessment of the scheme as I was confident the CETV quoted would be incorrect. Mrs B accepted her solicitor's advice and reluctantly agreed to pay the 99 initial assessment fee to me for this work.

I looked at the benefits payable at retirement and it was obvious the CETV quoted, when projected forward, would not be able to produce the level quoted. I then spent 30 on an online CETV assessment which confirmed my suspicions. The CETV was revalued to 310,000 and I was able to agree with an actuary to do a standalone CETV valuation report which excluded pension-sharing calculations for 250 + vat.

The Actuary wrote to the scheme trustees and enquired about the discretionary benefits and revalued the CETV at 317,211. The report was instructed by both sets of solicitors, although Mr B refused to share the cost of the report. Mrs B was advised to proceed as I was able to explain to her why the CETV would come back higher and mean she may be able to keep her home.

The result of the report meant that Mrs B was able to offset all the equity in the house against Mr B's pension and did not have to sell her house or have a Mesher order.

Joint expert reports

Example 1

Mr & Mrs S had a number of pensions and were struggling to understand the best way to proceed. I assessed each scheme and was able to recommend a pension share which would equalise income in retirement. As the pensions were all personal and not company there was no need to involve an actuary, which saved the clients a substantial amount of money.

Example 2

Mr P had an Armed Forces Pension Scheme which had a relatively low CETV. I explained to the solicitors that some of the pension benefits soldiers receive are not included in the CETV but do form part of their retirement income. I advised that an actuary should be instructed who was able to illustrate the value of these benefits. The report was comprehensive but confusing in the fact that there were so many permutations. It was agreed I would work on a joint-instruction basis and attended a round-the-table meeting to explain the actuarial report and helped agree a fair settlement. What, on the surface, did not seem fair, once explained was accepted by both parties.

Pension-sharing implementation

Mrs J, aged 57, was awarded a pension-sharing order against her husband's local government scheme. An internal and external option was available, but the trustees placed a penalty for the external transfer if taken. This is not unusual as the trustees are applying, in effect, early retirement penalties.

The internal transfer, which was the default option, would provide a higher income than the external transfer but was not available until 65 and would include inflation increases and widow's benefit. The external transfer option, although lower would allow access to benefits immediately without penalty.

Mrs J was left with a mortgage which she was struggling to pay and her job was in jeopardy as her employer was under strain with the recession. She had always planned to stop work at 60 so she could spend more time with her young grandchildren but was now faced with having to work until 65.

The internal pension credit transfer did not offer an early retirement option but if it was to match that of her husband, she could take benefits early with a penalty. It was assessed that this penalty would reduce the CETV down to the level of the external transfer.

The external transfer option was exercised and a sum of 245,232 was transferred into a Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP). A tax-free lump sum of 61,308 was paid to Mrs J which allowed her to clear her mortgage and buy a much-needed new car. This significantly improved her disposable income and quality of life. The remaining money was invested with the option to draw an income at any time, although the plan was to leave the money growing until age 60.

Eight months later Mrs J lost her job and was able to temporarily draw an income from her pension for a few months until she found new employment. When she did, the temporary pension payments were stopped.

Mrs J will now work until 60 and she can draw down her full state pension at 61. Although she did not have a full National Insurance contribution record, her husband's record was claimed against (without penalty to him). At any time in the future she can decide whether to draw on her SIPP or carry on working part time, or a combination of both.

By having her own future personal circumstances assessed as well as her divorce, Mrs J's life, post divorce, was significantly improved.

Split pensions

Mr and Mrs V had substantial pension benefits which consisted of a variety of Public Sector final salary schemes and personal pensions. Although the CETVs were similar, the benefits in the Public Sector schemes paid out more income. An actuarial report was instructed and it was agreed that the schemes would be equalised so that each party had the same income in retirement. This resulted in Mr V sharing some of his pensions with Mrs V and vice versa.

Mr V received a share of 230,302 into a private pension and he decided to take a punt on the money as he had a guaranteed pension from his employer. His fund grew to 365,232 in two years due to a bounceback in world markets after the recession and repaired his pension provision. His financial position was assessed and the opportunity available to him was explored and taken advantage of.

Court involvement

Mr C had a British Airways pension which he had just decided to take the benefits from. Before the valuation he had offered Mrs C 160,000 on a take-it-or-leave-it offer and despite Mrs C's solicitor suggesting an actuarial report, Mr C's solicitor refused, stating it was not necessary in this case and tried to negotiate a settlement.

I provided information to the solicitor on the black hole within the BA pension and insisted it would be worth asking the DJ to order a report if Mr C's solicitor would not concede. At the first hearing the judge agreed that a report was necessary and an actuary was instructed.

At the final hearing I was able to speak to the barrister before and during the case and advise him of the reasons why a share should take place. Mr C's barrister argued that as BA as a company were on the verge of going bust, Mr C's pension benefit was not safe and therefore should not be split as per the actuarial report. I explained to Mrs C's barrister that as the pension was in payment, the Government's Pension Protection Fund would guarantee 100% of Mr C's income should BA go into receivership.

Mrs C was aged 58 and received 520,000 as an external transfer. She received capital to buy a house but no spousal maintenance order was awarded as part of the settlement. No tax-free cash was available from her new pension as the BA scheme was already in payment. Mrs C was facing a substantial drop in her living standards and the option was explored to start taking pension benefits immediately. Income of 1,200 per month was paid to Mrs C which helped her to maintain her standard of living.

When not to use an actuary

Mr H had a variety of private pensions and had always worked as a self-employed carpenter. Mrs H's solicitor was insisting that Mr H should pay for an actuarial report, as the pensions were worth 315,143 and he suspected Mr H had a large SERPs additional state pension.

I was able to look at the pensions and confirm that as they were all Stakeholder pensions, the transfer and fund value would be the same. I was also able to advise the solicitors that as Mr H had always been self employed, the CETV for his additional state pension benefits would be negligible. Once this information was formally confirmed to Mrs H's solicitors by the Pensions Office and insurance companies, it was agreed that a full actuarial report was not required. Mrs H wanted capital so the pensions were offset against the property after a discount of 35% was applied to the pension value for cash.

I was able to produce a report for 250 on joint instruction, which provided the information required to help settle the case.

As you can see from our services, there are many different ways in which we can help you. From reading some our case studies, we hope that they give you some insight into the dedication and commitment we have to each and every client. We always work to the very best of our abilities and our thorough approach is focussed on producing a positive result for you.

Pension Solutions for Lawyers

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