Unmarried couples who have lived together for a long period of time often mistakenly believe that they are “common law” spouses and that on the death of one, the other will inherit. This is not the case, and especially where the partner who has died did not leave a Will.
In such circumstances, the estate of the deceased would pass under the intestacy rules not to the surviving partner but the deceased’s children or other members of their family, which may not be what was intended.
Whilst there might be means of redress for the surviving partner under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 by the Court, re-distributing the estate of the deceased to make adequate provision for the surviving partner, this is a complex and often lengthy and expensive procedure at a time when the partner is still grieving and possibly without the resources they had come to rely on from the deceased.
Also, the provision that the Court might make under the Act is likely to be significantly less than might have been made under a Will (and also if the parties had been married).
Therefore, if you care for your partner and are concerned for their welfare in the event of your death, you should make sure that you have made a Will and that it makes proper provision for them.
Consult a solicitor!
We are ready to help – contact us by email at email@example.com or by telephone on 020 8669 5145.Read More
The Government has announced major changes to probate fees, which means applications for a Grant of Probate may cost some families £6,000 or more – unless the estate is worth less than £50,000, in which case no fee will be payable on application.
Currently, probate fees – paid when administering someone’s estate after they die – are fixed at £0 for estates worth £5,000 or less and £215 (or £155 when applying through a solicitor) for estates valued over £5,000.
The good news is that the £0 fee threshold is set to extend to estates worth up to £50,000 from April 2019, which means that approximately 25,000 estates per year will be exempt from paying probate fees to the Probate Registry.
The bad news, however, is that if the estate’s value is higher than £50,000, applicants will see a sharp increase in probate fees. Estates that are worth between £50,000 and £300,000 will be charged £250, while estates with a value of £300,000 or more will be charged on a sliding scale up to a maximum charge of £6,000 for estates worth £2 million or more.
These changes could also prove challenging for executors if the deceased was ‘capital rich but cash poor’ meaning they had little money in their bank account but significant wealth tied up in property or investments which cannot be accessed until the Grant of Probate has been obtained. On a practical note this means that unless funds are freed to cover the probate costs the executors will have to pay the fees personally.
See also:Read More
We recommend that everyone should check their Wills to avoid missing out on a significant exemption to inheritance tax liability which could be worth up to £175,000 on an individual’s estate (or more for married couples or those in civil partnerships).
In April 2017 there was introduced the Residence Nil Rate Band exemption to inheritance tax payable and this means that many older Wills are out of date and will lose the benefit of this tax break.
Under this RNRB exemption, the estate of each individual can claim an additional allowance against inheritance tax of £100,000 in 2017 increasing by £25,000 each year to a maximum of £175,000 by April 2020 if their principal residence passes to their surviving spouse or other members of their immediate family (children and grandchildren).
This exemption is additional to the existing allowance of £325,000 exemption to which all estates are eligible.
The consequence for a couple is that their estates could be potentially tax free for £1 million once the individual exemptions and the RNRB exemptions are taken into account. However, there is a limit of £2 million to the full exemption so where the estate is worth more than £2 million individuals begin to lose the tax relief at the rate of £1 for every £2 over that limit.
For those who “downsize” or sell their home to fund care fees the benefit of this exemption is not lost. They may be entitled to an “inheritance tax credit” so that their estate gets a tax break equivalent to the value of their original home provided that the lower value property and the remaining proceeds of sale go to their immediate family members.
Where more than one property is owned the individual can select which is to be treated as their principal residence for this purpose (usually the most valuable) and state this in their Will. It does not have to be the property in which most time is spent but Buy-to-Let properties do not qualify.
The rules surrounding this tax can be quite complicated, in particular relating to “downsizing”, but the benefit for immediate members of the family significantly outweigh the potential losses for the estate.
Please contact the team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 020 8669 5145 for further information.Read More
Putting children first – written by Family Solicitor Patricia George
As a member of Resolution, I specialise in encouraging parents when thinking about separation or divorce to think about their children and put them first. This can be a life changing event not just for the parent but also for the children and must be handled with care. I believe children’s feelings must be taken into consideration when deciding to divorce or separate and letting the children know what is happening can be very difficult. It is important the reason why you are separating should not be discussed with the children i.e. he is having an affair. Children go through bereavement if discussions are not handled carefully, especially if one parent denigrates the other parent.
It therefore makes sense to try and reach a compromise if possible. This is where I come in to assist the parent to communicate and reach a sensible solution through negotiation. Most times this will result in the parties reaching an agreement which can be set out in writing or for an order to formalise an agreement (consent order). If the latter the completed consent order and application will be lodged with the court as an agreement reached between the parties for approval by a judge.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to resolve the issue through solicitor’s correspondence or mediation (mediation allows the parties to reach an agreement as to where the children should reside and the amount of contact with the other parent). There is sometimes too much acrimony between the parties which results in proceedings being started. The application to the court will seek a Child Arrangements Order (CAO). This order regulates with whom a child is to live, spend time or have contact.
The benefits of having a CAO is that if it is agreed that the children should reside with one parent then they will be entitled to take the children out of the country for up to month without consent of the other parent.
I can direct parents to other services for help and support in resolving a dispute concerning the children.Read More
In the Budget released on the 22nd November 2017 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a relief from stamp duty for first time buyers!
First time buyers purchasing their first home for under £300,000 will pay no stamp duty (SDLT). If the purchase price is over the £300,000 threshold but not exceeding £500,000 they will pay 5% on the amount above £300,000.
Prior to the relief being announced first time buyers would have paid the full stamp duty. For example on a property worth £270,000 would have had a £3,500 stamp duty fee payable. On a property worth £350,000 before the relief came into effect would have cost the first time buyer £7,500, whereas now it only costs £2,500!
Conditions for the relief
- The purchase is a single dwelling
- Property price is not more than £500,000
- The purchaser or purchasers are first time buyers intending to occupy the dwelling as a main residence
- Linked Transactions – other than the linked transaction being the purchase of a garden, grounds on interest or rights in the land that benefit the dwelling, such as rights of way.
Who qualifies for the relief?
As a first time buyer you will qualify for the relief if you meet the following criteria: –
- The property must be of a single dwelling, for example a house or a flat.
- The purchase price must be under £500,000.
- The purchaser(s) must be individuals – if there is more than one purchaser, each individual must be a first time buyer.
- The property will be the buyer’s main residence.
- The effective date of the purchase (the completion date) must be on or after 22nd November 2017. You can have exchanged before this date.
- Not to be linked to any other transaction.
How does the purchaser claim the relief?
On completion your appointed solicitor will complete the Stamp Duty Land Tax return. The relief will be applied for within this form.
If you have any questions regarding the above, or if you wish to purchase your first property please contact us on 0208 669 5145 and ask for Gavin Cooper.Read More
We understand it is a daunting prospect finding out what your rights are in relation to divorce or other family matters.
We at Carpenter & Co are here to listen, and offer a free 20 minute consultation to discuss general topics that may relate to your case. If however you require longer than 20 minutes there will be a charge of £100 plus VAT up to an hour of initial advice.Read More
Carpenter & Co secures Law Society’s conveyancing quality mark
Carpenter & Co in Wallington has once again secured membership to the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme – the mark of excellence for the home buying process. This is the 5th year in a row that Carpenter & Co has achieved CQS accreditation.
Carpenter & Co underwent rigorous assessment by the Law Society in order to continue to hold CQS status, which marks the firm out as continuing to meet high standards in the residential conveyancing process.
Law Society President Andrew Caplen said that the CQS accreditation is the hallmark of high standards and establishes a level of credibility for regulators, lenders, insurers and consumers.
CQS is the quality mark of the home-buying sector and enables consumers to identify practices that provide a quality residential conveyancing service. With so many different conveyancing service providers out there CQS helps home-buyers and sellers seek out those that can provide a safe and efficient level of service.
Paul Verlander, Senior Partner says:
Carpenter & Co is delighted to have secured CQS status. Buying and selling a home can be a stressful time. By looking for a CQS firm like Carpenter & Co the public can seek out a firm that has proved its commitment to quality.
The overall beneficiaries will be clients who use Carpenter & Co when buying a home. They will receive a reliable, efficient service as recognised by the CQS standard.
The scheme requires practices to undergo a strict assessment, compulsory training, self reporting, random audits and annual reviews in order to maintain CQS status. It is open only to members of the Law Society who meet the demanding standards set by the scheme and has the support of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the Building Societies Association, Legal Ombudsman and the Association of British Insurers.
For more information on the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme visit www.lawsociety.org.uk/cqs
Or contact the CQS Unit on 020 7316 5550 or CQS@lawsociety.org.uk.Read More
Thinking about a Lease Extension?
If your Lease is subject to a long lease but has 90 years or less left you should consider getting a lease extension. It is important to have a long lease and once a lease term goes below 80 years, it may become difficult to sell or re-mortgage. Therefore, trying to sell a property with a lease of 80 years or less limits you to cash buyers only.
Why do I need to extend my Lease?
When a Lease starts to run out the property loses value. Most buyers will only look at Leasehold Property with more than 90 years left on the Lease. If a Lease runs out the property is reverted to the Landlord.
Bear in mind, if a Lease drops below 80 years a Lease Extension becomes more costly as there is an element called the “marriage value” which has to be taken into account.
What can I do about this?
You may be able to extend your lease on a voluntary basis with your landlord, however bear in mind that the terms may not be favorable and he/she may offer you a shorter term in return for a higher premium and an increased ground rent. You should seek advice from an expert surveyor to ensure you are getting the best possible deal.
If you landlord is unwilling to grant a lease extension or his/her terms are unfavorable, you can force the lease extension under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993. You will need to meet the criteria of having owned the property for 2 or more years to do this.
Although the process can take anything up to 12 months to complete, you will end up with a lease extension of 90 years on top of your remaining term and the ground rent will be reduced to a “peppercorn” (essentially, zero). The long lease coupled with the zero ground rent is a very attractive prospect for any potential buyer.
If you need any advice regarding the above please contact Karen at KarenM@carpenterssolicitors.co.ukRead More
Unmarried couples’ living together has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. The Office of National Statistics have recently published that between 1996 and 2016 the amount of unmarried couples living together has more than doubled, from 1.5 million to 3.3 million couples.
Merely living together and having children does not give you the same rights as a married couple. Cohabiting gives you little or no legal protection.
When does it become a problem?
Cohabiting and own the house together?
It is not always clear who owns what when a relationship ends. If you buy a property as an unmarried couple, it is advisable to buy the property in joint names. If the parties decide to split and the property is in one party’s name, the other party may have no legal right to a share of the property.
Do you have a Will?
If you do not have a Will a cohabiting partner has no right to inheritance from your Estate under the existing intestacy rules.
Do you have children?
According to the Office for National Statistics unmarried couples bringing up children had grown by 132% from 1996-2015 to almost 1.3 million. You need to be aware that you are not entitled to the same rights as a married couple if you separate. You can claim child maintenance but it is advisable to put in place more extensive financial provisions for children, in case of a relationship breakdown.
What can you do now?
- Consider making a Cohabitation Agreement (a living together agreement)
- If you are acquiring a property jointly, ensure both names are on the property deeds. Consider entering into a Declaration of Trust if you intend to own unequal shares.
- Consider making a Will
- Most importantly seek Legal Advice
If you need advice regarding the above please feel free to Contact us at Carpenter & Co on 0208 669 5145 or by email at email@example.com and we can put you through to someone who can help!Read More
Japanese knotweed – what you need to know
Japanese knotweed is a common invasive plant. It forms canes that can sprout up to 3 metres in height, but these are just ‘the tip of the iceberg’. There are also networks of rhizomes that spread sideways underground, causing structural damage and threatening a building’s foundations. In fact, Japanese knotweed is ranked number one on the Environment Agency’s list of the UK’s most invasive plants.
To make matters worse, knotweed is found all over the country. Locally, there have been confirmed reports of it in Carshalton and South Croydon.
Statistics from a YouGov survey show that 78% of those aware of the weed would be put off buying a property if they discovered the weed was present. Of the reasons why, 69% of people are concerned that it is not easily removed, 56% believe it would be too costly and 57% are concerned it would be too time consuming.
Implications when buying a property with Japanese knotweed
The presence of knotweed on a property does not need to be a deal breaker but you do need to know what you are taking on.
The first thing to understand is that removing knotweed is a difficult task best left to professionals – a DIY approach will typically be ineffective and can even make matters worse.
When it comes to buying a property with Japanese knotweed some lenders may become cautious as it may affect the security of their loan. As soon as you know the property you are selling/buying is affected by Japanese Knotweed you should seek expert advice. They will be able to advise you on the scale of the problem and advise you of the best course of action.
There is no quick fix to managing knotweed. You need to take into consideration the costs and timescales involved. Whether you plan to deal with it yourself or are relying on the seller to do so, the work should be carried out by a reputable firm, and you should insist on guarantees against regrowth.
If you need advice regarding the above please contact us on 02086695145.