If I am taking instructions for a Will and the clients own a property jointly I always ask whether they know if they hold the property as joint tenants or tenants in common? More often than not the client does not know or will ask “what does that mean?”
It is important to establish how a jointly owned property is held as this may affect and alter the advice I give clients when they are thinking of making Wills.
What is a Joint Tenancy?
This type of tenancy means that the parties don’t have distinct shares in the property, they instead own equal shares of the property. If either party died, then the rule of “survivorship” applies. This means that the property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant. This is regardless of whether or not the parties have Wills.
Tenants in Common
This type of tenancy differs from a joint tenancy in that each party has a distinct share in the property. For example, if two people owned a property, they may hold a 50% share. If either party died the rules of survivorship do not apply in these circumstances and the property will not automatically pass to the surviving owner. Instead, the deceased’s share in the property will fall into their estate and either pass under the terms of their Will or under the rules of intestacy.
Severing a Joint Tenancy
Owing a property under a joint tenancy may not be the right arrangement for some people, especially those who may be remarried couples and have respective children from previous marriages or relationships. It is possible to sever a joint tenancy so that owners can hold their property as tenants in common and then deal with their share of the property under the terms of their Will. This option is becoming increasingly common as a way of estate planning with a view of potentially limiting an inheritance tax liability, limiting care home fees or as a means of providing for children from previous relationships.
If this is something that you would like to discuss further, I would be happy to assist. Please call on 01429 235616 or email email@example.com
TMJ Legal Services has joined in with the local community to create a Live Advent Calendar on Gilesgate Bank in Durham. With the help of local illustrator and surface pattern designer Rhianne Sian, our Durham office has decorated an advent window which will now be lit until Christmas Day. Each day another building in Gilesgate will reveal their window until the doors of St Giles Church open on Christmas Eve to reveal the last decorated window.
Visit our Facebook page for images of our decorated window or visit our Durham office to see it in person.
St Giles Church is arranging for carbon offsetting for the extra electricity used.
In this modern era where relationships are so diverse, it would probably be accurate to say that everyone knows at least one individual on a personal level who is a professional. Whether it is friend who is an accountant, a cousin who is a lawyer, or a neighbour who is an architect, most people have at least one contact who may be persuaded to offer them “mates’ rates” - a discounted price for professional services. This can often lead to two significantly different perspectives; the individual looking for the deal tends to expect the work to be carried out just as well as it would have been should they have entered into a formal contract with the supplier, whereas the acquaintance who is drafted in on "mates' rates" to save money may not share the same expectations.
This area of law was clarified in the recent case of Burgess & Anor v Lejonvarn  EWCA Civ 254. In this case Mrs Lejonvarn, a former neighbour and friend of Mr and Mrs Burgess for several years, was asked to carry out their garden landscaping after an initial quote from a professional of £150,000 was considered to be too expensive. Mrs Lejonvarn agreed to carry out the work for her friends and agreed not to charge until the latter stages of the project., as a favour to them as personal aquaintances. Unfortunately, the budget overran and the relationship between parties started to break down until Mr and Mrs Burgess replaced Mrs Lejonvarnin with the contractor who had originally provided the quote. The Burgesses claimed against Mrs Lejonvarn in contract and tort for the increased cost of completing the works (£265,000).
The court held that, despite there not being a contract in place, Mrs Lejonvarn was liable for the defects in the work completed through tort, due to the duty of care which she held towards the Burgesses to exercise her work with reasonable care and skill so long as she was working in the course of her profession as an architect and project manager.
A view has been put forward that there was a possible turning point in this case which was that Mrs Lejonvarn had done previous work for Mr Burgess and had commented in an email that she was “providing professional services” and that the Burgesses would be relying on those services to “prevent cost increases and unacceptable results.” This may have engrained her duty of care to the Burgesses for any work she carried out for them in the future unless she confirmed that her position had changed regarding the quality of work.
We can, then, distinguish a scenario of a coffee date between an accountant and business man discussing options, to one where a business director has instructed an accountant who happen to be related to one another. With one pair, there is a relationship between relatives but with the other there is the addition of a contractual and fiduciary duty created by the signed engagement letter, the effect created by Mrs Lejonvarn's email to Mr Burgess.
Similar to the latter point is the case between the Burgesses and Mrs Lejonvarn. Mrs Lejonvarn had a relationship of friendship with the Burgesses from previously living as neighbours to each other and keeping in touch, and a professional relationship derived from Mr Burgess providing business to Mrs Lejonvarn in her professional role.
Unfortunately, both avenues of the relationship could not be sustained whist proceedings were ongoing and, as Judge Nissen commented, mediation may have been a more appropriate way of resolving such a dispute.
It is inevitable that this will not be the last case of its kind and the issue for friends and relatives who share these informal yet professional relationships is where to draw the line.
For almost every individual, a house is going to be the most expensive thing you ever buy. You’re not just buying your house, you’re buying your home and you want to know exactly what you get with it, and if it is worth what you pay.
The sellers will provide us with a list of documents known as the deeds to the property. Details on here include the current owners, the property address and any restrictions the property has. This last point is important because should you go ahead with the purchase, these are the rules and restrictions that you will need to abide by. These can include points such as to only use the property as a private residential property, not to disturb neighbours, or not to erect an extension or structure without obtaining a prior owner’s consent.
This may seem over the top and irrelevant however, a number of these clauses may have been in place since the property was built in order to preserve the developer’s contract with the previous land owner. Our role as conveyancers is to explain these to you in plain English which enables you to decide whether you want to go ahead to the next stage.
Additionally, we receive several documents that the seller provides to explain what condition the property is in, what works have been done and if the standard of these works comply with the appropriate rules and regulations. If the seller did not provide these, and you bought the property, there could be costly consequences for you in the future. To protect you, we challenge the seller to provide documentary evidence and if they are unable to do so, request that they take out an insurance to protect you in the future.
We always suggest to our clients that we can instruct a local organisation to conduct local searches of the property and surrounding area on your behalf. This often unveils whether there is a flood risk to the property, if and how long ago the land was mined, what drains and sewers the property has the benefit of and many more. Should the seller not have told us about something, we may refer to the searches to clear this up and, again, get an all-round picture of what you are buying.
Overall, our aim throughout this process is to unearth as many details as we can so you can decide to buy a property with your eyes wide open to the facts. If you don’t use a conveyancer who has your best interests in their work, you may buy a property that you were not expecting and be responsible for many financial consequences.
Such a consequence could be enforced by the major contributor to your purchase of the property: the mortgage lender. As conveyancers we are also acting for the lender, to ensure that the money they provide is for the right purpose and that they also have security in the property in exchange for the money they have lent you.
The process usually takes 6-8 weeks and the more you understand about what we do and why we do it, the easier (and hopefully less stressful!) it will be. We always hope to get you into your new home as soon as possible for you to enjoy the next chapter in your life.
Partnering with Durham Cathedral for a second successive year, TMJ Legal Services are offering to waive their usual fees for the preparation of a basic Will and instead invite donations in support of Durham Cathedral.
It costs £15 a minute to keep Durham Cathedral, a World Heritage site, running.
This promotion is available to everyone, whether you are buying your first home, getting married, starting a family, you simply want to put your affairs in order or you wish to replace an out-of-date Will.
The suggested minimum voluntary donation is £120 for a basic single Will or £210 for a basic joint Will.
Please be aware that if your Will is more complex there may be a supplementary balance to pay – we will discuss any fees when taking your instructions.
Contact our office on 0191 383 0111 to make a free, no obligation initial appointment with one of our experienced solicitors.
We are happy to let you know that on 1st September 2018 our Legal Aid Agency family contract was renewed for the next three years.
Legal Aid is available for clients who are involved in child care proceedings.
Subject to means and merit testing, Legal Aid is available to those who are the victims of domestic violence for non-molestation (injunction) proceedings and for associated proceedings for divorce and involving children of the relationship.
Our solicitors Martin Croft, Imogen Ford and Lisa Channon with our very experienced team of support staff are here to help.
One of the most common things I hear as a Private Client Solicitor when discussing a client’s affairs is “Why should I use a Solicitor to make a Will?” Many people try to avoid instructing a solicitor to prepare a Will to save on costs and attempt to make a homemade Will. This may be by either writing one or picking up a “DIY” pack at their local shop or from the internet. These cheaper options may seem more attractive but can be a very risky option.
People often think that Wills are simple and straightforward but there are strict and complex rules that apply to the validity of Wills. Solicitors are trained to understand these rules and know how they apply. More often than not errors are made in homemade Wills and mistakes can lead to a Will being invalid. If a Will is deemed invalid the estate could be distributed under the terms of a previously made Will or under the rules of intestacy (whereby the person is deemed to have died without a Will). This could ultimately mean your estate does not pass to those you intended it to. Errors in homemade Wills often lead to emotional stress and a financial mess for your family. The costs for your family in trying to rectify matters certainly outweigh the costs you thought you were saving by making a Will yourself!
The case of Tracey Leaning deceased is one of the many ongoing cases highlighting the risks of homemade Wills. In this case the deceased had made a Will in 2007 leaving her entire estate to a number of charities. After meeting her partner, Richard Guest, Tracey Leaning prepared a new, hand-written, homemade Will in 2014 leaving her estate to Richard. The charities named as beneficiaries in the deceased’s 2007 Will are currently challenging the validity of the 2014 Will. As this case is still ongoing, it remains to be seen whether the charities will be successful. According to reports, Richard Guest has already spent over £10,000 in legal fees, just demonstrating the stress and financial hardship these matters can put a family through.
Why run the risk of a Will being invalid? A Will is one of the most important arrangements a person will make during their lifetime. A Will ensures that your estate passes to the person/persons you want it to go to. By instructing a solicitor to prepare your Will, you can be rest assured that your Will is correctly prepared and executed.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss preparing a Will further, either me or another member of our Private Client team would be happy to assist. Please call us on 01429 235616 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The board of Directors welcome Chris Parker to the management team and are pleased to announce his appointment as Director. Chris has been a dynamic and practical solicitor since qualifying in 2014 and enjoys a good reputation in the field of residential & commercial conveyancing.
We are delighted to welcome Martin Croft to TMJ as an Assistant Solicitor in our family law department.
Martin is an experienced family solicitor and will be primarily based at our Peterlee office. We welcome him as a valued addition to our family law team.
If you made an application to register a Lasting Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney between 1st April 2013 and 31st March 2017 you may be eligible for a partial refund of the fee paid to the Office of the Public Guardian.
During that period, the operating costs of the Office of the Public Guardian came down, but the application fee did not change. The Ministry of Justice have launched a refund scheme. If you think you might be eligible for a refund either contact the helpline on 0300 456 0300 or visit the website https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund . Alternatively if you have any queries about the refund scheme call our office 01429 235616.
It is always nice to get a thank you and a good review from a satisfied customer. If you are moving house and need a solicitor, we offer a great conveyancing service. Don't just take our word from it, see below our most recent review;
“We used TMJ legal services when selling and purchasing our new house and we received fantastic service from everybody involved with the purchase. We could always get to speak to somebody if we had any questions. Everything was explained in detail to us about what needed doing and when regarding paperwork. We would definitely recommend and use TMJ legal services again.”
Job title: Paralegal – Property Department – Hartlepool
Salary: £15,000 to £19,000 per annum
Working hours: Full time
Job description: Paralegal required to join the commercial / residential property department at our Hartlepool office. The role would potentially lead to a training contract for the right person.
Person requirements: Experience in commercial drafting and residential property essential. Some litigation experience would be advantageous. This is a great opportunity for the right person who wants to progress their career. There is a genuine opportunity for a training contract and to become a member of a growing team.
Closing date: 11 May 2018
Application information: Email CV and covering letter to email@example.com or by post to Helen Edwardes, TMJ Legal Services, Foster House, 99 Raby Road, Hartlepool, TS24 8DT.