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    Figures show that over half of UK adults do not have a Will. Many say that they plan to make a Will later in life because they feel that it will be too complex and costly. This is particularly common for those with step families. As a result, over 31 million run the risk of dying intestate and having their estate distributed solely according to Intestacy Law.Law of Intestacy Flowchart - The Law Practice

    Recent studies have shown that people aged 55 and over are 3 times more likely to have a Will than those aged 18 to 34. The 35 to 54 age bracket isn’t much better. Only a quarter of those aged 35 to 54 have a Will, despite having dependents and major financial commitments.

    To help convince those who are delaying or even having doubts about writing or updating a Will, we’ve listed 10 very good reasons why you should.

    • If you do not leave a Will, the law decides how your estate is passed on and this may not be in line with your wishes. This may lead to your spouse having to share your estate with your children whom you may not have intended to benefit straight away. This leads us onto point 2…
    • In England and Wales, if you are married with children, you might assume that all your assets would go to your spouse. However, if you die without a valid Will and your estate is worth more than £250,000, your partner will only get the first £250,000. If you do not leave a Will, your spouse will get one half of the remainder of the estate and your children, the other half between them. If your assets are worth less than £250,000, your children will get nothing.
    • If you are not married, your partner is not legally entitled to any of your estates when you die. At present, the intestacy rules do not recognise cohabitees. If you live with your partner and die without having made a Will, your partner will not automatically inherit any of your estates – there is no such thing as a “common law wife”. Your partner may have a claim on the estate, but this is expensive and a situation that should be avoided.
    • A Will permits you to appoint guardians to look after your children if they are under 18 and you can also make financial arrangements for their benefit in the event of your death.
    • Writing a Will can ensure Inheritance Tax (IHT) is kept to a minimum. A properly drafted Trust in your Will could enable someone to manage the inheritance you leave to a disabled or vulnerable person and may ensure the intended beneficiary does not lose his/her means-tested benefits.
    • A Will allows you to choose your own Executors. If you die without a Will, your closest relatives will need to apply for ‘Letters of Administration’. The Executors chosen on your behalf may not be in line with your wishes.
    • A Will allows you to leave specific sums or items to individuals. These can range from items of jewellery to sums of money.
    • A Will also makes it much easier for your family or friends to sort everything out when you die. Without a Will, the process can be more time consuming and stressful.
    • It is possible to write your own Will; however homemade Wills should only be used in the most straightforward of circumstances. i.e. leaving your entire estate to 1 person. At The Law Practice (UK) Ltd, we do not recommend that you write your own Will as without legal assistance, mistakes can be made which can be disastrous, leading to invalid Wills, or the wrong beneficiaries benefitting. Homemade Wills are unregulated and do not offer the consumer protection that a solicitor does as we are backed by Professional Indemnity Insurance and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
    • Once you have a valid Will, you should review it every 5 years and after any major change in your life such as marriage or divorce, moving home, having a baby or if the executor dies. It is important to note that your Will is automatically revoked on marriage.

    Don’t leave anything to chance – get in touch with The Law Practice (UK) Ltd today for further information regarding our Will writing service. Our team of expert solicitors can professionally draft your Will for you or aid you in reviewing your Will as it stands.

    To make an appointment, or simply to speak to a member of the team, please contact us.

    Saving to buy your first property can be daunting because first-time buyers must typically save for 8 years to afford a deposit to buy a home. According to the Nationwide Building Society the average deposit is close to £20,000 and £80,000 in London. The £80,000-plus cost in London is about £30,000 higher than a decade ago.

    Saving for a deposit can seem like a never-ending journey. Having a clear and realistic plan can make it feel much more achievable. Here are some ideas:

    • Reduce the amount you spend on rent

    Increasing numbers of people saving for their first home are choosing to move back in with their parents. Assuming this move will mean you pay below-market rent (or even none if you’re very lucky) and spend less on bills and food, you could save hundreds every month and reach your deposit goal much faster.

    • Cut non-essential spending

    Trimming down on potentially large expenses related to leisure – for example, holidays and socialising – can help you to save money for a deposit.

    • Cancel subscriptions

    Having a subscription means having to make regular payments for something, even when you may not need it. Look into alternatives to regular payments you make. For example, you may find it cheaper to run in the park than pay for gym membership.

    • Saving into a Help to Buy ISA

    If you deposit your savings into an ISA, they’ll remain tax-free and, if you save into a Help to Buy ISA you could also get a government bonus of up to 25% on your savings when you buy your first property. Help to Buy is a government scheme first announced in the March 2013 Budget. It is designed to help anyone struggling to save a deposit for their first home. You must be over 18 to qualify for Help to Buy, and it must be used to buy your own home on a repayment basis (not interest only). Further information on the scheme can be found in our dedicated Help to Buy blog post.

    • Help from family

    If your parents are willing and able, borrowing some money to help with a deposit could help you buy your own home sooner than you would otherwise be able to.

    • A joint mortgage

    A joint mortgage is in the names of two or more people. You may also want to consider buying a home together with friends or family, in order to split the costs. Further information and advice when buying with a friend or partner, read our dedicated blog post.

    • Find a guarantor

    If borrowing from your parents isn’t possible, there are several mortgages on the market that allow parents (or anyone else willing) to help you buy a property without having to stump up a cash lump sum. Being a guarantor usually involves using the guarantor’s home as security for your mortgage or placing a large amount of savings in an account associated with your mortgage for a set period of time.

    • Purchase part of a property

    If finding money for a deposit is holding you back from buying a property you may find a shared ownership home is a more affordable alternative. Shared ownership and shared equity schemes involve purchasing part of a property and renting the rest, and although you would not own 100% of your home right away, you will have a foot on the property ladder. You will still need a deposit to get a mortgage for a part-buy property, but you would only need to borrow 25%, 50% or 75% of the property value.

    If you would like to discuss purchasing as a first-time buyer in further detail, please contact our specialist conveyancing departments today in Walsall, Great Barr Birmingham, London and Shoreham-by-Sea or alternatively email info@lplawfirm.com.

    In November 2017, councillors in Brighton and Hove City Council agreed unanimously to back a new scheme designed to regulate and improve property conditions in the private rental sector across Brighton and Hove. The Selective Licensing Scheme proposed that landlords pay for a licence to lawfully rent out their property. Landlords operating in Brunswick and Adelaide, Central Hove, East Brighton, Hanover and Elm Grove, Hollingdean and Stanmer, Queens Park, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, Preston Park, Regency, South Portslade, St Peters and North Laine and Westbourne, would have to pass a ‘fit and proper’ test before being granted a licence.

    City councillor Tracey Hill, who worked on the Selective Licensing Scheme, which is expected to affect about 27,000 properties, said: “It’s great that our application to introduce this scheme has been successful. This will allow us to raise standards in more privately rented homes in the city and help us make sure that tenants in the sector can live in safe, healthy and well-managed homes.”

    The council doesn’t hold much information on private rented properties. Budget cuts over several years have hit many council services hard including the council’s private sector housing service, making it almost impossible for the council to be proactive about improving property conditions in private rented homes. Many private tenants do not contact the council to raise issues regarding property conditions as they feel vulnerable, and often Brighton and Hove City Council are not informed about unacceptable conditions until after the person has moved out, which makes it very difficult to act. The new scheme was designed to combat such issues.

    If approved, landlords or their agents will need to apply to the council for a licence and adhere to the conditions, which include gas and fire safety, repairs, no overcrowding and a written tenancy agreement. A 3-year license will cost a landlord £460, while those accredited by the National Landlords Association (NLA) will be charged the reduced rate of £410.

    The Selective Licencing Scheme was due to come into force on the 4th February 2019, but the scheme faced opposition as it included rules surrounding anti-social behaviour, meaning landlords had to ‘react’ to anti-social behaviour if it affected their property, and covered such a large geographic area.

    A South-East landlord association called iHowz have been in dispute with Brighton and Hove City Council.  Since iHowz has disputed the scheme, the Secretary of State for Housing has withdrawn support. This leaves Brighton and Hove City Council in the position to either abandon Selective Licensing altogether, appeal the reversal or to start the process again, possibly with a smaller geographical area not requiring the Secretary of State for Housing’s permission.

    A statement released by iHowz said: –

    ‘We took this action because we felt the decision to license some 27,000 rental properties was unlawful, unnecessary and not justified by the evidence provided, and would almost certainly lead to rent increases for many private sector tenants in Brighton. Licensing was brought in 2006 to allow local Councils to control a small area of rental properties being poorly managed bringing that area into disrepute. We support licensing when used for that purpose. We cannot and have never supported the carte blanche licensing of large areas. We have previously offered to work with the Council to help improve rental conditions for private sector tenants in the City; improve property conditions in a cost-effective manner where required; and most importantly identify the possibility of criminal landlords, and we repeat that offer. Furthermore, we urge the Council to work with us to extend our existing programme of landlord training in the City to improve landlord knowledge so they can give the best and most efficient service to their tenants.’

    The future of the Selective Licencing Scheme proposed by the council is uncertain. Brighton and Hove City Council is seeking clarification from the government regarding the removal of permission.

    Are you a landlord in the Sussex area? Or perhaps a lettings agent? We would love to hear your point of view on this. Comment on our Facebook and have your say.

    If you are a landlord needing advise or are looking to purchase a property to rent out, please contact our team at our Shoreham office.

    As a new year begins and we approach the country’s exit from the European Union, where does Brighton & Hove sit in the big scheme of things?  Are we doing well, or is there room for improvement?  What’s to come in the next twelve months, and importantly, what’s to lose?

    Kicking off with the basics, you’d be forgiven for thinking that after a decade of austerity and public sector cuts that this particular sector is a crumpled empty shell of its former self – gasping for air and gleefully picking up any crumbs from the table that it can.  Well, notwithstanding the significant concessions it has made and, in some cases, the herculean effort to continue to deliver services in the face of such swingeing cuts, the Public sector (Council, police, hospitals etc) is still the biggest part of the city’s £7.1bn economy.  Employing over 46,000 people and making up 33% of all employment, it still accounts for the lion’s share of the overall working base.

    Second in line, comes the financial services sector. With over 28,000 employees and 20% of the city’s employment base, it’s clear that there is some risk to the city with our imminent withdrawal from the EU.  Any contraction felt in the City of London and we’ll almost certainly feel the seismic tremors here by the coast.  The cost is jobs, but greater than that, it’s the loss of reasonably well-paid jobs – the knock-on effect on families ability to pay their mortgages, or worse, may not be an unreasonable pipedream (or should that be pipemare).

    But it’s not all about money; on a positive note, according to Nesta’s state of small business report, Brighton & Hove is one of the most entrepreneurial cities in the country. In fact, 90.5% of our businesses are micro with only 0.2% large or international businesses.  There is a can-do spirit here and one which is ready to disrupt the status quo, try new products and launch new and exciting ways to deliver services to the world.  And that’s not just warm words, the city has one of the highest ‘service exporters’ after Edinburgh and London, according to the Centre for Cities.

    But what’s all behind this activity?  It can’t be all peaches and cream?  Well… it’s not.  Our great city has some issues, let’s call them growing pains because they aren’t insurmountable by any means. But for us to truly succeed, to truly become a ‘place’ that is sustainable and able to sustain our 380,000+ residents, we need to pull together and join up the myriad corners of our economy so that it works for everyone. It’s no good having a booming economy if our most vulnerable and disadvantaged can’t get anywhere near it.

    A useful tool in understanding how our city works is to look at whether our young people have the skills they need to get on in life.  Well, on the face of it they do.  100% of Secondary Schools are currently judged as good (against 75% nationally) and 92% of primary schools are either good or outstanding (against 87% nationally).  For those taking A-levels, we’re punching above the national average too, with 24% of all students hitting an AAB grade versus 17% nationally.  For the younger ones, the story is equally positive, with 67% of primary school children reaching expected attainment levels in Numeracy and Literacy against 64% nationally.

    Our further and higher education options in the city are also delivering a workforce for the future, but although we are seeing a graduate cohort of in excess of 40,000 a year with HNDs, Degrees and more, employers are (anecdotally) still complaining that these self-same individuals are not ‘work ready’ and are lacking many of the soft skills necessary to hold down a job.  This isn’t the only problem. Because we have a disproportionately high number of very well educated people in the city (49% of the population have a degree or above, compared to 38% of the South East) it means that we have a much publicised and debated ‘Skills Gap’ – with people with PhDs working in entry-level jobs such as baristas or shop assistant, thereby pushing out school leavers who may not have been so academically successful but who nevertheless may excel in the world of work.  It’s not good, and all it achieves is to widen the gap between the haves and the have nots.  I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that in the UK, in 2018, that this is an unacceptable place to find ourselves.

    What’s equally unacceptable are the 20% of children living in poverty in the city.  That’s a shocking statistic in itself, but its roughly the national average, which is possibly even more alarming.  And just to add the cherry on the cake, the average salary in the city is currently £26,759.20.  If you happen to be male, it’s not so bad, your average salary is £27,934.40 – but the gender pay gap leaves females over £2000 a year out of pocket. Addressing these issues is as key to delivering a successful economy as regeneration, transport infrastructure or affordable housing.

    But what’s the answer.  Well, it’s no surprise-it’s complex. We need to increase the number of higher paid jobs in the city, attract industries that can deliver those jobs and work with our education sector to provide the training and skills so that our entire community can benefit and find work that they not only enjoy but will supply them with the means to afford accommodation locally and build a good life, in whatever form ‘good’ looks like for them.

    There is a sticking point here, however – how on earth can we possibly provide accommodation that local people can afford to buy when the average price of a home is 14.6 times the average salary (according to Zoopla’s latest stats).  Well, that’s not an easy fix either.  The City Plan highlights the need for 13,200 homes to be built in order for us to home the additional residents we’ll have by 2030.  Even if there was enough brownfield to build on to do this, the planning system, local resistance and development viability all conspire against it happening.  The concept of affordable housing has become a bad joke and we all know only too well that a generation has now, possibly irrevocably, been priced out of the housing market.  In my opinion, there needs to be a step change in how housing is delivered.  Thankfully the city has a proactive Strategic Housing Partnership which is focused on untangling some of these issues, unlocking sites and undoing some of the good-faith decision that has delivered us to this current destination.

    If housing is a problem, then its wayward sibling is office space.  There’s no lack of businesses that want to locate in the city but finding them somewhere to go can be a struggle.  Only two per cent of the total office stock is Grade A, add to that supply issues in terms of scale-up space, which can be a big headache for some of that 90.5 % of microbusinesses that may want to expand, creates a burgeoning crisis for the city.  That’s why we need to work collaboratively with our neighbours in the Greater Brighton City Region.  Quite simply, the solution to dealing with some of Brighton & Hove’s problems is to spread some of our success across a wider area; creating jobs and security for more people by helping to create a prosperous region.

    This is why the BHEP and City Council along with our City Region Partners have published an Inward Investment and Export Strategy.  In it, you’ll find details on how we plan to make the city region more receptive to inward investment and what needs to be put in place to keep us competitive both nationally and internationally.


    About the Author:

    Gavin Stewart is the Executive Director of Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership. The Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership is a group of over 50 individuals from the private, public and voluntary sectors who come together to support the economic prosperity of the city and wider city region. For more information about The Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership, visit their website www.bhep.co.uk.

     

    For many people, buying a property with a friend, group of friends or partner is the only option because of property prices, tight lending restrictions and the need for a large deposit. If you are going into a mortgage jointly, make sure you are both aware of your rights and obligations.

    Types of Ownership

    You can own property as either ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’. The type of ownership affects what you can do with the property if your relationship with a joint owner breaks down, or if one owner dies.

    As joint tenants, you have equal rights to the whole property and the property is automatically passed to the other owners if you die. This means individual owners can’t pass what they consider ‘their share’ of the property to a beneficiary in their will. Joint tenants must act as one in the eyes of the law. For example, individual tenants would not have the option of only mortgaging their share of the property. All of the tenants have to take out a joint mortgage.

    As tenants in common, you can own different shares of the property and the property does not automatically go to the other owners if you die. Owners can pass ‘their share’ of the property to a beneficiary in their will or the rule of intestacy can apply.  Up to 4 people can jointly be registered as tenants in common for an individual property. This is a popular choice for friends or relatives who are buying together.

    Joint owners have a legal right to stay in their home unless a court order rules otherwise. If one of the owners wants to sell the property or take a loan out against its value all of the owners have to give their consent, unless a court order rules otherwise.

    How can I protect the money I put in?

    You may wish to have a Declaration of Trust drawn up when purchasing a property to reflect that one of you holds a greater interest in the property over the other, such as where one party has put a greater deposit down or intends to contribute more towards the mortgage. Creating this declaration of trust when purchasing is important when the property is sold as it ensures that each homeowner gets a fair portion of what they put into the property.

    What happens if I’m a joint tenant or a tenant in common and the other tenants stop meeting the mortgage payments?

    A mortgage lender will always insist that borrowers are ‘jointly and severally’ liable. This means that if one of you stops paying his or her part of the mortgage the other (or others) will have to pay the full amount.

    Who must pay off the mortgage if you decide to go your separate ways?

    A cohabitation agreement can specify who should contribute what, including what proportion should be paid towards the mortgage. This can provide certainty to the individuals about where they stand in the event of a relationship breakdown. There is a common misconception that a cohabitation agreement, much like a prenuptial agreement, is legally binding. This is not the case, at least not in the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Whilst they are lawful, they are governed by the ordinary rule of a contract which means the individual terms or agreement can be challenged in court.

    If you jointly own your home, you have several options about what to do with it when you separate. You might decide to:

    • Sell the home and both of you move out. You could use the money you’ve raised to put towards buying another home for each of you if you can afford to do this.
    • Arrange for one of you to buy the other out.
    • Keep the home and not change who owns it. One partner could continue to live in it, perhaps until your children are 18 or leave school.
    • Transfer part of the value of the property from one partner to the other so that your children have somewhere to live. The partner who gave up a share of their ownership rights would keep a stake or ‘interest’ in the home. This means that when it is sold he or she will receive a percentage of its value.

    If you would like to discuss jointly purchasing a property in further detail, please contact the team via our main switchboard number 0121 778 2371 or alternatively email info@lplawfirm.com.

    Countless homeowners may be completely unaware that their area is affected by Radon gas. The first time that many people hear about Radon is if they are planning to buy or sell a home and it is located in a designated radon affected area.

    This guide is intended to help you understand Radon gas and the potential risks it might have if you end up living in a designated radon affected area, sometimes known as a Radon gas postcode.

    What is Radon Gas?

    Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which is colourless and odourless, therefore it cannot be detected without specialist Radon testing equipment. Radon gas is formed by the radioactive decay of the small amounts of uranium that occur naturally in all rocks and soils. As this element decays, Radon gas is formed, which then rises to the surface. It is always at safe levels outdoors, however, it can be at dangerously high levels in buildings, depending on the part of the country, and the type of ground the building is on. For instance, levels may be higher in parts of the country rich in granite, such as Dartmoor in Devon and Cornwall. Many parts of Sussex, such as Shoreham-by-Sea, Hove and Brighton, also have higher levels of Radon gas as properties are built into hillsides. These properties are automatically at higher risk of radon as there are extra surfaces in contact with the ground through which the gas can permeate into the building.

    Radon Gas House - The Law Practice UK

    How can Radon gas affect your health?

    If high levels of Radon gas are breathed in over a long period of time, this exposure can lead to damage to the sensitive cells of our lungs which increases the risk of lung cancer. Radon causes about 1,000 lung cancer deaths in the UK every year.

    Property Searches Flagging Radon Gas

    Property searches are one of the key parts of the conveyancing process. When buying a property, your solicitor will carry out property searches to find out more information about the property and, crucially, what the area around it also looks like.  The main searches when purchasing a property are:

    • Local authority search (LAS): This search is requested by your mortgage lender and applied for by a solicitor once you have made an offer on a property. It consists of several smaller search and requests information on any nearby contaminations, road schemes or planning works along with a number of other searches.
    • Drainage and water search: This search will reveal exactly where all drainage systems are around a property and show if these are at risk of affecting the property in the future. The search will reveal if any planning restrictions are in place relating to drains.
    • Environmental search: This search will cover you for any environmental issues within 500 metres of the property. An environmental search looks at everything from flood risk, Radon gas, to subsidence and is carried out by a company that maintains detailed information about previous land uses within the vicinity of a property.

    Buying a House in a High-Risk Radon Area?

    If the property search reports show that the property you looking to purchase is in a radon affected area, don’t panic! A large part of Great Britain is considered to be in a Radon gas-affected area but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t be buying your house there. Just like you would be cautious if a structural report came back with some warning signs, if a Radon gas risk report comes back high it simply means that you have been made aware of any potential risks and which you should try to resolve before continuing any further.

    It is recommended that you ask the vendor whether any Radon testing has been carried out within the property and if so, request to see a copy of the results report. If testing has not been carried out, it would be a sensible precaution to arrange for the property to be tested. Testing for radon is simple and inexpensive. It involves placing small Radon testing devices in the home for at least ten days. This will ensure that an accurate reading is gathered. Radon is measured in units called becquerels, and these are calculated per cubic metre. A level below 100 Bq/m³ is considered low risk, and the UK average is far below this at 20 Bq/m³.

    If the results show that there are dangerous levels of radon in the property, there are actions you can take to lower them to within the safe limits. High levels of radon can be reduced by carrying out remedial works to the property. The two most common methods are either the installation of a positive pressure fan inside the property or the excavation of a small hole beneath the property (called a radon sump) that is connected to an exhaust pipe and fan on the outside of the building. Every property is individual and so the remediation system needs to be designed for that particular property and then cost by a specialist.

    If you are thinking of selling, re-mortgaging or buying a property, contact our specialist conveyancing departments today in Walsall, Great Barr Birmingham, London and Shoreham-by-Sea.

    The homebuying process currently takes on average 19 weeks but can vary depending on many circumstances. During conveyancing transactions, the buyer’s conveyancing solicitor will require documents/information about the property, such as copies of planning consents, electrical safety certificates, warranties or guarantees. If the seller does not hold certain documentation, delays are likely whilst the relevant documents and information are sourced.

    In an effort to make the home buying process quicker, cheaper and less stressful The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has pledged to fix what is considered to be a broken housing market.

    The government are likely to push sellers to provide more up-front information in the form of a Property Logbook before the property goes on the market. The Conveyancing Association (CA) and Law Society believes digital Property Logbooks could be an efficient way to speed up and ease home buying and the Ministry’s Matt Prior believes it is not unreasonable to expect a seller to provide upfront information to a prospective buyer especially in the case of purchasing a leasehold property.

    By providing information upfront in the form of an information pack that describes the property at that moment, people can make more informed decisions, hopefully reducing the number of failed transactions which add up to more than £270 million a year. The plan is to authenticate the data in the Property Logbook and store it digitally so that the information is readily available for the next time the property is on the market.

    Earlier on this year, the government discussed whether it should be supporting plans to develop digitalising aspects of conveyancing to speed up the process. Although consultation respondents said ‘yes’, many were concerned about fraud. There are large sums of money changing hands in the conveyancing sector making this an area of law heavily attacked by fraudsters. Any new procedures introduced would, of course, have to be analysed to ensure they pose no threat to the security of a transaction.

    The information to be included in the proposed Property Logbooks is yet to be confirmed but it has been reported that information such as search data, title, rights, reservations, restrictions, basic survey information, the seller’s data and leasehold details will be included.

    If you are thinking of selling, re-mortgaging or buying a property, contact our specialist conveyancing departments today in Walsall, Great Barr Birmingham, London and Shoreham-by-Sea.

     

    Last month, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced plans to correct an anomaly from his previous Budget by cutting Stamp Duty for first-time buyers of shared ownership properties worth up to £500,000. It was also announced by the Chancellor that the relief will be applied retrospectively from his previous Budget (November 2017) to shared ownership properties bought in England and Northern Ireland.

    Shared ownership schemes are a cross between buying and renting; aimed mainly at first-time buyers. Shared ownership schemes are aimed at people who don’t earn enough to buy a home outright, allowing a buyer to purchase between a quarter and three-quarters of a property.

    In the 2017 budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond raised the 0% Stamp Duty threshold to £300,000 from £125,000 in order to help first-time buyers. To qualify for the Stamp Duty exemption given in the 2017 budget to first-time buyers of homes priced up to £300,000, buyers of a shared ownership property had to elect to be taxed on the full market value of the home (up to £500,000) rather than just on the share they were buying. If the full market value of the shared-ownership property was more than £500,000, the buyer would not have been eligible for any Stamp Duty relief at all. Alternatively, buyers could elect to use their first-time buyer exemption on the first share of the property they bought but would have had to pay full rate Stamp Duty on all further shares bought, regardless if the sum of all payments was less than £300,000.

    The update to the 2018 budget for first-time buyers purchasing shared ownership homes is a welcomed move and is even better news that this change has been backdated to November 2017.

    For further information and advice, please contact us to speak to a member of our property team.

    A Will is a legal declaration of your wishes on death and is only valid if it complies with certain requirements set by law. A Will is the only way you can help ensure your wishes are carried out after your death.

    Over 60% of adults in England and Wales are currently living without a Will. Two-thirds of adults in England and Wales pass away each year without having made a valid Will. Some people simply don’t get around to making one, others don’t realise that significant events in life, for example, marriage, can revoke a previously made Will.

    Most people are not familiar with what happens upon death when there is no active Will. If you are a resident of England and Wales and die without having made a legally valid Will or a Will that has partially failed in some way, your estate becomes subject to the Governments Rules of Intestacy. The Rules of Intestacy determine how your estate is to be distributed after the payment of all your debts and liabilities, testamentary expenses and funeral costs.

    This diagram shows how your estate would be distributed in this instance.

    Law of Intestacy Flowchart - The Law PracticePlease note:

    • The issue (any child/children) of a pre-deceased member of a class (relation group) will inherit that share.
    • Step relations have no entitlement unless legally adopted by the deceased.
    • These rules are effective for deaths on or after 1 October 2014
    • Property held as joint tenants passes to the other joint tenant, irrespective of the Rules of Intestacy.
    • The Rules of Intestacy do not recognise ‘unmarried partners’ and therefore no provision is made for them.

    The death of a family member can be a stressful and upsetting time so it’s important that you have a law firm in your corner who can look after both your estate and the interests of your family. Our experts at The Law Practice (UK) Ltd will ensure that both are handled in a professional, caring and cost­ effective manner. We offer a flexible pricing plan, and fixed fee options for Will writing and are happy to provide quotes for the handling and administration of an estate in the event of a death.

    For further information about the importance of writing a Will, visit our dedicated Wills and Probate page

    To speak to one of our experts in our Wills and Probate team, contact us here

    Buying a property is an exciting time however it can be stressful too, especially when you are a first-time buyer. The number of factors involved in purchasing your first home can feel overwhelming. This blog post takes you through the process of buying your first home, including saving your deposit and applying for a mortgage.

    Saving a Deposit

    Generally, you will require a 10% deposit plus a mortgage. The amount you will need to save as a deposit for your first home will depend on several factors, such as:

    • Typical property prices in your area.
    • You and/or your partner’s income. This will determine the amount you can borrow from the bank for your mortgage.
    • Debt and committed outgoings. It is advised that you pay off outstanding debts and reduce committed outgoings. This will not only assist you moving forward with your savings but will also increase the amount available to you on the mortgage.

    First-time buyers can benefit from the government Help to Buy schemes which offers a bonus of up to £3000 which will be claimed by your conveyancing solicitor during the property transaction. The Help to Buy schemes have been running since 2013 and have supported close to 117,000 first-time buyer purchasers. For more information on the Help to Buy schemes and how to apply, read our Help to Buy ISA blog post.

    Saving for a deposit for your first home can be a lengthy and somewhat daunting process which has resulted in an increase of gifted deposits.  A gifted deposit is any amount that somebody (usually the bank of mum or dad) gives a home buyer towards their deposit or gifts them the entire deposit. More and more people are relying on gifted deposits to get a mortgage. Find out more about the gifted deposit and how a gifted deposit is dealt with during your property transaction by reading our gifted deposits blog post.

    You will also need to budget for costs associated with purchasing your property such as legal fees, survey costs, removal costs and the cost for any works required in your new home. First-time buyers will pay no Stamp Duty on the first £300,000 for properties worth up to £500,000 which will save you a considerable amount of money.

    Finding a Mortgage

    The mortgage market is incredibly competitive, and it can be hard to understand what exactly is on offer. Most first-time buyers will benefit from taking independent advice from a mortgage adviser before buying their first home. The mortgage adviser will analyse your finances and assess the level of mortgage repayments you can afford to work out roughly how much you can borrow. This will identify what you can afford which is recommended before you go house-hunting. The broker can get an AIP (agreement in principle) issued from the proposed lender, which will give the agent and seller of a property you would like to offer on piece of mind.

    Whichever mortgage you apply for, your lender will want to know you can continue to make your repayments. The lender will request proof of income and information about your outgoings such as debt, bills and other costs such as travel or childcare.

    Property Search

    You’ll no doubt have plenty of requirements from your prospective new home. A good start would be to look at properties that have sold in the areas you’re most interested in. This will inform you of what property types, sizes and styles you can afford in the different areas you may be looking in.

    If you want to buy a house, it’s likely you’ll buy the freehold, meaning you own the property and land it sits on. If you’re buying a flat, you’ll be buying leasehold, or buying into a share of the freehold. Leasehold ownership of a flat is simply a long tenancy, the right to occupation and use of the flat for a long period. It is possible to extend the lease to the property which is advised as the shorter the lease becomes it depreciates in value. Lenders also have lease length requirements when considering lending money on a property. You can find out more about lease extensions here.

    Naturally, new build homes are an attractive option for first-time buyers because of the government Help to Buy schemes available and the convenience of moving into a brand-new property which requires no renovation – something which can be very costly. For further information about new build homes, read our new build home blog post.

    Conveyancing Process

    The legal process of buying and selling is known as conveyancing. Due to the complexities of conveyancing, it’s important that you choose a solicitor who has considerable experience in this field. Our team of expert conveyancing solicitors have decades of collective experience in this specialist area and are committed to delivering a smooth and stress-free service.

    Use our easy flow chart to track the progress of your property purchase.

    Preparing to Move

    Moving home is statistically one of the most stressful things you can do in life. Making sure you’ve packed everything and like most people having to move it in one day and unpack is hard enough without having to think about all the other things you should be doing. That’s, why we’ve created a handy moving home checklist to make sure moving is that little less stressful.

    If you would like to discuss purchasing as a first-time buyer in further detail, please contact the team via our main switchboard number 0121 778 2371 or alternatively email info@lplawfirm.com.