Frequently Asked Questions
Wills & Probate
Do my assets automatically pass to my spouse?
Unfortunately your estate does not always automatically pass to a partner or spouse. Unmarried partners without a will may not be recognised as a beneficiary. In cases where you are married or in a civil partnership, your spouse does not a necessarily receive the whole of your estate. Your children, children from previous relationships or other family members may be entitled to a share of your estate upon your death. At times this can result in the family home being sold – highlighting the importance of preparing a will to ensure that everything is dealt with amicably and with no problems.
What age can I make a will?
Any person who is 18 years of age or older can have a will. Armed forces who are on active duty can make a will once they turn 17 years of age.
Who can witness my will?
It is recommended that an independent person is present as a witness when you sign your will – someone who is not a family member or beneficiary of your will. This is to ensure that the witnesses are impartial.
What happens if a beneficiary dies before me?
In cases where a beneficiary dies before you, we can review your will to determine if any alterations need to be made.
What are the executors?
Executors are the people who are responsible for administering your estate in accordance with the terms in your will. The role of executor can be time consuming and stressful, particularly during this difficult time, so you have the option of naming a professional executor.
What are the main stages of probate?
Probate involves three main stages.
Investigating the extent of the estate
completing tax returns and applying to the court for the grant from the probate registry, collecting the assets, paying any debts of the deceased and distributing the remaining estate.
Why do people use a professional firm for probate?
As the probate process can be complex and takes some time, people are often allocated a firm of their choice to help ease the pressure. An executor or next of kin who applies for a grant is personally liable for any mistakes or incorrect distributions of estate. The process involves extensive legal and tax knowledge as there are numerous complications that may arise including will disputes.
At Legal Practice we can give you peace of mind when dealing with any probate matters by ensuring that the estate is being dealt with efficiently and as required.
Family & Divorce
How long does a divorce take?
If there are no complications, the divorce process generally takes between 4-6 months depending on how busy the Courts are.
What is a Decree Nisi?
A Decree Nisi is a Court Order that says the petitioner (person who filed for divorce) can get a divorce providing that a good reason to divorce is given. It will also give the earliest date that the divorce can end.
What is a Decree Absolute?
The Decree Absolute is a Court Order that ends the marriage and can’t be issues for a minimum of 6 weeks from the date of the Decree Nisi. This allows time to deal with financial issues before your divorce.
What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is one where both parties agree to the divorce and do not try to defend it. This is also known as undefended divorce.
What can I do if my ex partner wont agree to an uncontested divorce?
If your ex partner will not agree to an uncontested divorce your only option is to wait for 5 years of separation at which time you can start divorce proceedings without your ex agreeing.
Divorce Financial Orders
A Decree Absolute ends your marriage from a legal perspective but will not end financial commitments that exist between you and your ex spouse. In order to cut financial ties you need to apply to the Court for a Financial Order, even if you do not have any assets – as it will act to protect your interests in the future.
How long does conveyancing take?
Unfortunately we are unable to give you an answer to the above until contracts have been exchanged. Until contracts have been exchanged any party is entitled to withdraw from the transaction. Factors that affect the length of time the process may take include the length of chain of buyers and sellers and whether a buyer is using cash or a mortgage.
Do I need a survey when I purchase my property?
With property purchase you must satisfy yourself by inspection and survey that the property is in suitable condition. It is the responsibility of the buyer to be satisfied that the property is in good condition and worth the asking price. Prior to the exchange of contracts the survey must be done as once contracts are exchanged the transaction becomes legally binding and you must complete. You will become liable to a penalty for example forfeiting a deposit and damages for breach of contract if you do not complete.
Does The Legal Practice need to see the mortgage offer before we can exchange?
Prior to exchanging, we will require written confirmation that your lender will provide the funds you require and upon what terms.
What happens at the exchange of contracts?
The exchange of contracts is the point at which the agreement to buy and sell becomes binding on the parties. Both parties sign a separate copy of the contracts which are then exchanged usually by solicitors who are acting on their behalf. At this point the completion date will be set. Failure to complete on the agreed date once you have exchanged means you will be in breach of contract and can be sued.
When will contracts be exchanged?
Once all enquiries have been answered and all conditions have been met, correspondence will be sent with the contract explaining clearly as to what the title consists of. The contract and any associated documents will then need to be signed and returned to us. Once the signed contracts have been given to us, we can go onto the next stage of exchanging contracts.
Do I need to pay a deposit on exchange of contracts?
At the point where contracts are exchanged, a deposit is paid over to the seller’s as a down payment on the property. If you do not complete the purchase on time, the seller can keep this deposit as partial compensation. 5% is the usual minimum deposit that the sellers conveyancer will ask for.
When do I stop my mortgage payments on the property I am selling and begin payment on my new purchased property?
Your mortgage must be paid up until the agreed completion date and your existing lender will provide us with the figure required to redeem your mortgage up to the time of completion. Do not cancel your mortgage payments. In terms of your new mortgage offer, details should be provided of when to start paying your new mortgage.
What happens after you have completed?
Once you have completed, any outstanding monies will be forwarded to you via cheque or bank transfer on a sale ensuring that all payments are made to estate agents and mortgage lender to redeem any loans (if applicable).
When do all the fees have to be paid?
For sales, all fees will be paid on completion including our fees, estate agent fees and the redemption of any mortgages. This will be displayed in our completion statement which we will provide for you prior to completion. For purchases, we will prepare and send to you a final completion statement for approval. Once agreed, we will then ask you to send us the outstanding balance (if required) to complete the transaction including legal fees, any out of pocket expenses and the lender fees before completion. The deposit will be needed in cleared funds before exchange of contracts.
Power of Attorney
What is a Power of Attorney ?
What are the different types of Power of Attorney ?
Litigation & Disputes
What is Litigation ?
Litigation is a process primarily used for the resolution of disputes by taking legal action through court proceedings.
What is Arbitration and Mediation and how do they differ from Litigation ?
What is the “without prejudice” rule and what does it mean?
When is the best time to seek legal help in respect of a dispute?
The short answer is the earlier the better. This ensures that all dispute resolution options are explored. A delay in matters could inadvertently prejudice your position. The earlier the advice is sought, the sooner you can be advised of your legal rights and potential commercial impact of your dispute.
What is a Settlement Agreement ?
A Settlement Agreement (formerly known as a Compromise Agreement) is a written agreement offered by your employer that offers further financial compensation or an incentive beyond your contractual entitlement to enter into a settlement and leave your employment. By signing the agreement, the right to bring an employment claim against an employer is withdrawn.
If I am offered a Settlement Agreement, do I have to accept it ?
Do I have to seek legal advice before I sign a settlement agreement?
Yes. The employee must receive independent legal advice about the terms and effect of the settlement agreement (and the adviser must sign a certificate) for it to be binding. This is because Settlement agreements involve employees giving away important legal rights that are written into statute.
Can the terms of a Settlement Agreement be negotiated and changed ?
Yes, an employee can seek to negotiate an increase in the amount they are being offered or extend the period of employee benefits, perhaps because they believe they would be giving up a valuable employment claim. A solicitor can help to negotiate the terms on your behalf. Providing both parties (employer and employee) agree, changes can be made to a Settlement Agreement.
What claims will a Settlement Agreement bring to an end ?
Settlement agreement usually bring to an end all employment, contractual and common law claims against your employer.
Who pays for a Settlement Agreement ?
In most instances, the cost of the legal advice associated with a Settlement Agreement is borne by your employer, not yourself individually. If additional advice is required, this can usually be negotiated with your employer to ensure all legal costs are covered.