Cohabitation – Know your rights!

This week, Family Lawyers Association Resolution launched its cohabitation awareness week.

The number of unmarried couples living together has more than doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017. Many cohabiting couples are unaware of their rights, or lack of rights as a cohabitee. As a cohabiting couple you may think that you have financial rights as a ‘Common Law Spouse’ but this is a myth. Couples who cohabit simply do not have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to them by Law as married couples. This is a common misconception. Cohabitation affords little or no legal protection following the breakdown of a relationship.

Whilst cohabiting couples may have exactly the same financial commitments as married couples, such as owning a house, having a joint account and savings, however if the relationship breaks down then division of the assets is dealt differently to a married couple, often leaving the weaker partner with very little protection. As a result, some cohabiting families can find themselves facing real difficulties should they split up, particularly where children are involved.

The only way couples can protect their assets in the event they split up is to put something in writing. A formal document such as cohabitation agreement or a declaration of trust can provide such protection.

Such an agreement can set out who owns what and in what proportion. You can also record and document how you will split any property that you own, its contents, personal belongings, savings and other assets should the relationship breakdown. The agreement can also cover more day to day matters such as the way the household is run or other such circumstances specific to the relationship. Such agreements allow for transparency and certainty and avoid a situation where you leave the relationship with nothing, or where expensive court proceedings have to be started.

Not knowing your rights – or lack thereof – can be costly. Solicitors are often only instructed when things go wrong and the legal costs to rectify an issue exceed the cost of pre-empting action.

In the absence of clear statutory rights, a cohabitation agreement and or a declaration of trust can provide a framework for the division of assets and protect the rights of both parties at the end of their relationship.

If you are considering a cohabitation agreement or simply want more information, contact our Family Law Department today for a confidential free initial consultation.

‘No Fault Divorce’

There is no such thing as a ‘no fault’ divorce, where both parties can agree to end their marriage without the need to assign blame.

At present the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to prove this a petitioner must satisfy to the court one or more of the five facts, three of which are fault based (adultery, behaviour and desertion), two of the facts relate to periods of separation – namely two years if both parties consent, and five years without consent.

For many couples that wish to separate amicably without waiting two years to apply on the grounds of living separately, unreasonable behaviour is often the only option. This unfortunately involves assigning blame in order to obtain a divorce and resolve the arrangements arising from their separation. A balancing act often has to be performed between finding examples which are sufficient enough not to be rejected by the court and not so contentious or inflammatory to lead the other spouse to not cooperate.

Divorce law has been the subject of much criticism over the years with the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby condemning that the current law is out of date, unjust and based on ‘hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty’.

Senior members of the judiciary and Resolution (national association of family lawyers) among others have called for the introduction of no-fault divorce, maintaining that the current law ‘fuel acrimony, hostility and pain – and make good long-term relationships between two parents caring for children impossible’ former high court judge Sir Paul Coleridge. The process can often lead to an unpleasant start for the rest of the process, compounding acrimony and making it difficult to resolve arrangements that need to be made in an amicable manner.

The Government has indicated that any legislative change to remove fault from divorce would be considered as part of its general consideration of what further reform may be needed to the family justice system.

The reality of the modern world is that couples do separate and sorting out the division of assets and arranging the care of the children is often the hardest aspect of ending any marriage. Divorce should not be difficult or place unnecessary and unjust hurdles. Eliminating blame would allow those involved to focus on the main issues. However, opponents of no-fault divorce worry that it might make ending marriage too easy.

Muna SaleemTo keep things as amicable as possible, it is usually best to for couples to work together with the support of mediators and or solicitors, to try and agree on what type of unreasonable behaviour they are willing to agree to. This will allow the divorce process to proceed swiftly.

At Prince Evans we can advise you on every aspect of your divorce. To find out more, call us today for a free initial consultation.

PHOTOS FROM: Safe as Houses

Prince Evans Solicitors welcomed first time buyers and those looking to move up the property ladder to attend our ‘Safe As Houses’ seminar; designed to discuss the protection of your legal and personal interests.

The event was a success with a very attentive audience listening carefully to our advice and information and bringing out some great discussion and questions amongst the group.

PHOTOS FROM: Subletting with leases and access – a seminar for Letting Agents

Last week on November 7th our fantastic team hosted a seminar for Letting agents :- Subletting with leases and access

Jeremy Teall, Partner of Prince Evans Solicitors LLP, was concentrating on issues pertaining to Subletting and Access, both of which have been particularly relevant in recent weeks.

The Future of Residential letting

With the Government discussing the establishment of a Specialist Housing Court, the Labour Party proposing rent controls, Councils wanting to extend licensing, out team invited delegates to partake in a general discussion on impending developments.

For information on future events please contact Louise Heasman on 07950 248 038 or email her at [email protected]

Basics of Land Registration

The old system of retrieving manuscript Official Copies and other deeds and documents such as transfers, conveyance, agreement and deed of grant, legal charge etc. at HM Land Registry have now become redundant. As time has evolved and with the advancement of technology, like the rest of us, HM Land Registry has also adopted the new online system for accessing deeds and documents through their online portal.  For a small fee, the Land Registry will supply an Official  Copy of the title register for any registered property.  Anybody, including a prospective buyer or lender, can request an official copy of the register which allows them to check the ownership of any registered land. The documents are easily made available online and the turnaround for a request is prompt, with the PDF version title documents usually being downloadable instantly.

This updated practice is less time consuming than it used to be (the first incarnation of this required a postal application or telephone call to the Land Registry and them posting out the documents) and a more efficient and effective way to a more concise guide which can assist buyers  and lenders in making important decisions on purchasing/lending on a good and marketable property. 

The Land Registry keeps a register of all registered land, which is in turn indexed on a map. This register contains information on approximately 24 million properties.

Each registered property is allocated a unique title number.  In turn, each individual Title is contained within a register which includes three sections:

  • the ‘proprietorship register’, which contains ownership information; 

  • the ‘property register’, which contains a description of the property, linked to a map; and

  • the ‘charges register’, which contains details of any mortgages or charges affecting the property.

A property’s individual register may also show other information, such as whether there are any rights of way or restrictive covenants which affect the property.

In other words, the title register has details about the property or land in a PDF format which includes the following:

1) the title number

2) who owns it

3) what they paid for it (if available)

4) any rights of way

5) whether the property is ‘charged’ by a mortgage or other lending

You can also view or download a PDF format of the Title plan of the Property which is a map showing the property’s location and the general boundaries.  

Official Copy Entries, title plan and other Deeds and documents cost no more than £3 each which is a reasonable amount and also an effective way of getting information about registered properties and land in England and Wales. 

All of the above only applies to registered land in England and Wales and not unregistered land and properties.  You can establish whether a property is registered via a search of the Land Registry’s index map or via their ‘Map Search’ facility online. This will reveal whether land and properties are registered or unregistered. 

If land and properties are unregistered, in the absence of personal knowledge, it can be hard to find out who owns it.  There are no central records of ownership to search and no documents are recorded at HM Land Registry for unregistered land. In the event of Deeds being lost or destroyed, the information cannot be retrieved.  In contrast, for registered land there is a central, permanent, record which anyone can access online or by making a postal application where the forms are easily accessible online as well.

Compulsory Registration was gradually introduced in England and Wales with all of that area becoming compulsory by 1990.  The registration process is relatively straightforward and the Land Registry’s fees are based on the value of your property. 

If you believe your property not to be registered, it is worth considering registering it now. Not only is there a 25 per cent reduction for voluntary first registrations, but registering your property now could save you time and expense when you come to sell it and pre-empt issues in the future. Registration is also by far the best way possible of protecting your interest and ownership as well, as you would have the reassurance that all documents are securely stored and saved by HM Land Registry and also easily accessible online. Further, if property is registered you can take advantage of the Land Registry’s fraud alerts scheme which we discussed in our article.

If you own unregistered land, you should consider applying for voluntarily registration.  Prince Evans would be delighted to assist you with this, so if you have a query regarding Land Registration please do contact our Residential Conveyancing Team.

Divorce – The Facts

Divorce can be an emotionally challenging and stressful time for everyone involved and the amount of information flying around can feel overwhelming and confusing. Making sure you understand exactly what to expect and what you need to do is vital.

At Prince Evans we like to keep things simple and straightforward and specialise in minimising the emotional distress of divorce on clients and their families by providing expert help and advice.

When a marriage breaks down there are bound to be questions you need the answers to. Here are some facts about Divorce:

1. No-fault divorce

Unfortunately like many other countries such as USA, Canada and Australia there is no such thing as a ‘no fault’ divorce in England and Wales. This has been the subject of much criticism in recent years, however, as the current law stands, there must be an element of blame and one of five reasons must be cited when requesting a divorce:

  • Unreasonable behaviour

  • Adultery

  • Desertion

  • 2 years separation (with consent from your partner)

  • 5 years separation (without consent from your partner)

2. One year rule

You must have been married for at least one year to obtain a divorce, so if you’ve only been married for a short time, unfortunately it will not be possible to get a divorce straight away and there are no exceptions to this rule.

3. Quickie Divorce

Regardless of your individual circumstances and background a ‘Quickie Divorce’ is in deed a myth.

Generally the process can take up to 8 months, however, the length of time will depend on your particular circumstances, these can include; court delays, how amicable your separation is and how your family assets will be split.

4. Pre-nups

A pre-nup is essentially a guide to what happens in the event of a marriage breakdown but it isn’t legally binding in England and Wales. Whilst a Judge will consider a prenuptial agreement – it is possible that it may not be upheld, in particular if certain safeguards have not been met.

5. Court

Most often, divorce is a matter of paperwork. Although a divorce is obtained by making an application to a court, most divorces don’t actually end up going to court.

It is perfectly possible for an agreement to be reached with your partner regarding how family assets will be split. If however, you and your partner can’t agree on the terms or if matters are more complex, there are other forms of dispute resolution available, such as mediation as opposed to going to court.

If you feel that your marriage is in trouble or you are thinking about getting a divorce and would like advice please contact our Family Law Department. We offer an in depth one hour free no obligation consultation with an experienced family lawyer.

Things first time buyers need to know about buying their home

Buying your first property is a daunting proposition. There are many steps in the process and at Prince Evans we will do all we can to guide you along the way. With that in mind, here are 5 things you need to know about buying your first property:

  1. If you are buying with a mortgage then it is advisable to get approval from a lender before you start your search. Pick the right mortgage for you and make sure you shop around before settling for one. Once you are pre-approved, then you are ready to home-hunt. When you find your ideal home, you will need to make a detailed application to your lender so keep your mortgage advisors details close to hand.
  1. Choose your ideal location before searching for your home. Even if you do not have children, living near a school will enhance the value of your property.
  1. When deciding on your budget remember to factor in the costs of purchase, so as well as your deposit, you will need to cover legal fees and disbursements (such as search fees and registration fees) and Stamp Duty Land Tax.
  2. Although the budget may be tight on your first property purchase, it is really important not to scrimp on the cost of a good survey. Try to have at least a ‘Homebuyer’s Report’ carried out and not just the mortgage company’s basic valuation. A property survey will ensure you are not only aware of any hidden flaws the property may have but also that you are paying what the property is worth taking in to account any major works it might need.
  3. Pick the right conveyancer! There are many ‘cheap’ options on the internet, but a mix of unqualified staff carrying out the legal work and potentially missing important points and also not being able to return your enquiries quickly can actually end up costing you much more in the long run. A good conveyancer will be your main point of contact and be only a phone call away to answer any questions you may have and guide you through the process.

We wish you happy home hunting and the best of luck for this adventure. If you would like to instruct Prince Evans please contact the Residential Conveyancing Team CLICK HERE

What happens to your digital legacies upon death

When an individual dies their assets are often left to family members, friends or charities in their Wills. Where there is no valid Will, the deceased’s assets are shared out according to the rules of intestacy. Someone that dies without having a Will is an intestate person. Married or civil partners and other close relatives can inherit under such rules. Therefore making a legally valid Will allows a person to protect their estate and determine in it who inherits what.

A digital legacy includes email accounts, music libraries, games, photos, videos, music and films legally obtained from iTunes and content in social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Often people are confused about how to deal with these upon their death, however there are provisions that one can make so that these are left in accordance with ones wishes.
This information can be dealt with a clause within your Will.

Further, it is worth looking into the specific procedures that may already be in place that the social media, email accounts and other websites have to cover the death of a user. Some social networking sites have policies on what will happen to deceased’s customers accounts e.g. Facebook allows a user to nominate a friend or family member to access the account upon death. It is important to ascertain what happens upon your death to each account in which you have an interest so that provisions can be made.

In a world where precious memories are now stored online, not leaving specific directions can run the risk of such photos, videos, music libraries being lost forever. Personal Representatives further run the risk of not being able to close accounts that are held in the deceased’s name.

A helpful tool for Personal Representatives dealing with a deceased’s digital legacies is having a list of all accounts and social networking sites together with wishes of what should happen in the event of their death.

The Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme Protocol, recommends “completion and maintenance of a Personal Assets Log, including digital assets and consideration of how to ensure that those dealing with the estate will be able to access those assets. This is preferable to leaving a list of passwords or PINs as an executor accessing your account with these details could be committing a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. It is enough to leave a list of online accounts and ensure this is kept current.”

Any documents that contain such important information must be carefully stored.

Each account has varying procedures as to what happens to an account upon death. In the event that provisions are not put in place upon death it may be that the accounts remain open for a period of time. This can cause some distress to family members. Other individuals may like for their accounts to remain open e.g. Facebook so that family and friends can leave tributes. It is important to leave clear directions and authority on how you would like such accounts to be managed.

Please contact Prince Evans Solicitors LLP for guidance on leaving your digital legacies.

Written by Huma Khan

[email protected]

Photos from: Social Housing Lease Extensions Seminar

Photos from: Social Housing Lease Extensions Seminar

Jeremy Teall, Partner and Alasdair Muir, Senior Solicitor of Prince Evans Solicitors will be joined by guest speaker, Adrian Spellman of TH3 Surveyors to discussed the following topics:

• Why does a Leaseholder need to extend his or her Lease?
• How does a Lease qualify for an extension as of right?
• Should the parties use the statutory route or use an informal
arrangement without notices having to be served?
• What costs is the Leaseholder liable to pay towards the Landlord’s
legal and surveyors costs?
• How is the premium calculated ?
• What happens if terms cannot be agreed ?
• How does the Tribunal procedure work ?
• What deadlines apply ?