We're pulling together your most frequently asked questions here. We want you to have as much information at your fingertips as possible so that you can make informed decisions, and when you're ready to contact us for our specialist advice we'll be with you every step of the way.
To make things easier we have categorised your questions into topics. Using the menu bar on the left, choose your topic and then navigate to the questions you need answers to.
If there are any questions you would like answering, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get an answer and post it in this section.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal and financial process involved in dealing with the estate of a person who has died. This includes organising their money, property and possessions (also called ‘assets’) and distributing them in accordance with their Will, or if they have not left a Will, under the intestacy rules.
The first step of probate is that the executor must apply for the Grant of Probate which is a legal document giving them the authority to deal with the deceased’s assets.
My seller is unable to provide a Building Regulation Certificate for an extension but are offering Building Regulation Indemnity Insurance instead. Is that ok?
Ideally you would want the seller to arrange for building control to inspect the work retrospectively and issue the certificate. This would ensure that the work had been completed satisfactorily and if there was any work outstanding it could be completed prior to exchange. However, where parties are eager to proceed indemnity insurance can offer a quick alternative way to proceed, providing the work was undertaken over 12 months ago. The policy would only provide financial protection in the event that the local authority took enforcement action. It would not provide any guarantee or warranty in respect of the work carried out. Therefore, if you did decide to proceed on the basis of indemnity insurance you should ensure you have taken advice from your surveyor regarding the quality of the work.
When should I book the removal company?
You should not book your removals or make any other firm arrangements until contracts have been exchanged. Up until exchange of contracts nobody is legally committed to complete on any proposed date! We know this can be frustrating, however some removal companies do allow you to provisionally hold a date, especially if they are quiet so it is worth enquiring. Up until the exchange of contracts there is nothing to stop you getting some removal quotes. As a guide we would suggest getting three quotes and ensuring that your contents and valuables are insured for the move.
What time will I get the keys on the day of completion?
It is not possible to give an exact time for completion. The time that you will receive the keys depends on many factors including how busy the bank systems are and how long the chain is. We request your mortgage funds to arrive in our account the day prior to completion in order to minimise any delays. You will be notified once completion has taken place but this is usually lunchtime.
Should I have searches if I'm not getting a mortgage?
Yes, absolutely. The searches reveal the information about the property such as confirming that there is necessary access, outstanding planning and building control enforcement notices and connection to the mains sewer. Any problems revealed by the searches can be resolved by the seller prior to exchange of contracts avoiding potentially costly problems in the future.
An example of the costly mistake of not having a drainage and water search can be demonstrated here
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document which states how you wish your assets and property to be distributed following your death. A Will should be drawn up by a Solicitor to ensure it is legally binding. You are able to make changes to your Will throughout your lifetime should your circumstances change.
Do I need a Will?
It is recommended that everybody has a Will as it sets out your wishes following your death. If you die without a Will in England or Wales, the Courts will decide how your possessions are divided.
A Will is an in-expensive document which details how you want your possessions to be divided after you have died.
What are Executors?
Executors are people that you name within your Will who will ensure your wishes are carried out after you have passed away. They will be responsible for notifying people that you have died, arranging your funeral, dealing with any debts you may have, paying tax bills, collating information and then distributing your possessions to your chosen beneficiaries.
Executors can also be named in your Will as beneficiaries.
What happens once my Will is prepared?
Once we have prepared your Will we will store a copy for you free of charge. We also suggest that you keep a copy and inform your Executor(s) where it is stored, or alternatively, provide your Executor(s) with a copy.
Following your death your Executor(s) will need to locate your original Will. If you fail to tell anyone where your Will is or with which Solicitor you prepared it with, it may prove difficult to locate. At Coles Solicitors we provide you with a credit card type document which says you have your Will stored with us. This is great to pop into your purse or wallet or leave it somewhere in your house where it can be easily found.
Once we have confirmed the identity of your Executor we are able to provide them with a copy of your Will so they can take responsibility for your wishes.
Can I change my Will?
It is recommended that you update your Will if circumstances in your family life or relationships change. You can make as many amendments to your Will as necessary and each version will supersede the previous.
If you have given copies to your Executor(s) please remember to give them an updated version, provided they are still named as Executor. We will store the updated version of your Will free of charge.
Can my Will be challenged?
Although your Will is a legal document, it can be challenged. For this reason we encourage you to discuss your Will with your nearest and dearest. If, for whatever reason, you have chosen to exclude a close family member or relative who would assume some benefit upon your death, we suggest that you discuss this with them prior to making your Will, or include a letter to your Executor(s) detailing why they have been excluded. This can be kept with your Will and upon your death can be discussed if your Will is being challenged.
Can I do anything about Care Home fees?
A Will can be used to protect your estate against the impact of care charges. If you own a property jointly with your spouse or partner then a Will can set up a trust which ring-fences half of your home.
How do I ensure my young children are provided for?
In the unfortunate event that you leave young children upon your death then your Will will set out how your estate and finances will be managed. Your estate will be managed by your Executors and Trustees and they can ensure that your assets are used to provide suitable care for your children. Your Will will also state the Guardians you wish to be appointed to care for your children, providing there is no other surviving parent with parental responsibility. The Guardians can approach the Trustees for help in providing financial support for your children.
Can my daughter be an Executor and Beneficiary at the same time?
You need to choose one or more executors to manage your affairs after your death. You can choose a wife, husband, or partner, and you can also choose your children or a friend. Your executor can also be a beneficiary of your Will. Sometimes it may be a good idea to choose a professional; such as a solicitor or accountant. Occasionally there are estates which are complex, or families with issues, and you may wish for an expert to handle these types of inheritance. Some people appoint their solicitor along with a family member.
Can I use a trust to protect my wealth?
You've worked your whole life to build up your assets and to enjoy a comfortable way of life. You want to be sure this is protected upon your death and rightly so. The use of a trust in your Will, or during your lifetime, can be very helpful for placing assets out of your estate. This can ease the burden of inheritance tax, and may also be appropriate for protecting vulnerable family members.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney, often referred to as an LPA, is a document which states that you have chosen someone to act on your behalf and make decisions for you if you lose mental capacity. This is increasingly popular for people who are in later life. There are two types of LPA:
- Property and Financial
- Health and Welfare
A Property and Financial LPA covers decisions regarding money and property and a Health and Welfare LPA covers decisions regarding your health and personal welfare.
What is Decree Nisi?
Decree Nisi is the first divorce order made by the Court if the District Judge is satisfied that you have proved the contents of your Divorce Petition.
What is Decree Absolute?
Decree Absolute is the final Order which brings your marriage to an end. If you and your partner have not reached a financial settlement by the time six weeks have elapsed from pronouncement of Decree Nisi, then you should normally wait before applying to the court for Decree Absolute because you may be financially better placed remaining married until a financial settlement is reached.
How long does a divorce usually take?
Depending on the complexity of your divorce, we normally advise that it takes between eight and twelve months to conclude. If financial or family issues are not resolved within this time it is advised to delay applying for a Decree Absolute. We will always try and give you an indication of timescales upon discussion of your case but we must appreciate that several influencing factors could delay proceedings. We endeavour to keep you up to date on proceedings as and when they happen.
How much will is cost to get a divorce?
We understand that separating from your partner can be a hugely stressful time and one of your many concerns is likely to be the cost of a divorce. We always aim to be as upfront and transparent about the likely costs involved and offer a free 30 minute no obligation, appointment so that we can hear about your particular situation and give you advice about the likely costs involved. This also gives you the opportunity to meet one the family law specialists who will be handing your case if you decide to proceed.
Recent news in April 2019 suggests that the new reforms in divorce law, likely to be passed in the next few months, will make some divorces less costly and more amicable.
What is a clean break consent order?
A clean break consent order is a legal document that ends/severs all financial commitments in relation to income, capital, pensions, property and claims against each other’s estates on death following divorce.
Although a ‘Decree Absolute’ is the legal document that ends your marriage, it does not prevent a party to the divorce making a future claim against the other’s income or assets e.g. if one party were to embark upon a new business venture or win the lottery in the future.
Even if there are no matrimonial finances, savings or shared assets, a clean break order is still necessary.
How do I know what I am entitled to?
This is tricky to ascertain until we have met with you. We would suggest that you gather as much financial information as you can such as the value of your property, any outstanding mortgage, assets, investments and pension agreements. This will give us a good basis and as always, we will be as upfront and transparent in our findings as we can.
How can I make sure I will still see my children?
Your children are so important to you and you want to make sure you are still able to see them and spend time with them. The Court doesn't normally get involved with the arrangements for your children unless they are asked to do so. Divorce doesn't affect your legal rights with your children and the starting point is that the children have a right to a relationship with both of their parents. If you are unable to agree arrangements for the children between yourselves, we can help with a range of options such as mediation advice, collaborative law or if required, Court proceedings.
Who will be assigned to my case?
All of our family law team are experienced, specialist family law solicitors. Above all, they are friendly and approachable whilst at the same time, able to give you straight talking sound advice. In addition, all of our Family Law specialists are members of the Law Society and members of Resolution which promotes an amicable view of family law issues. Both Christine and Elizabeth are also fully trained Collaborative Lawyers.