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Welcome to the Thomas Dunton Newsletter 2018. We are here to help; whether you are looking to buy a house, make a Will or are thinking about changing your family circumstances. We have been in Orpington for 40 years and are proud to have served generations of local families.

We hope this Newsletter helps informs you, in a general way, on some aspects of the law which may be relevant you and your family.

However, if you find that you still have some unanswered questions then we also offer different ways of helping you. Our new website: includes detailed information on all the aspects of law that we cover – using articles, videos and podcasts. We also have a range of leaflets, available from our office; and informed adverts in the local press.

If you are considering a Will, Lasting Power of Attorney, or have questions on Inheritance Tax, why not come along to one of our regular free talks at Orpington library. These have been running for 7 years and provide a general overview on what you should know about planning for your future.

Please call us for dates and times or look for details in local magazines, on our website or Facebook and Twitter pages.

We’re also proud to be a member of the Bromley Dementia Action Alliance and all our staff have participated in information sessions to become Dementia Friends.

We hope you find this useful

The Thomas Dunton Team

4 things to know about inheritance tax

Inheritance tax is a tax on the estate of someone who has died.

  1. You will not pay inheritance tax if your estate is below the £325,000 threshold or you leave everything to your spouse or civil partner.
  2. If you’re married and your estate is worth less than £325,000 you can transfer any unused threshold to your partner when you die. Potentially making their threshold £650,000.
  3. There may be additional tax-free amounts available if you leave a property to children or grandchildren.
  4. Inheritance Tax will be charged at 40% on the assets which exceed the available tax-free amounts.
    This is a general overview. For more detailed information, please seek legal advice.

The Rights of Cohabitating Couples

The fastest growing type of family in the UK is the cohabitating couple: around 3.3 million of us live with our partner but are not married. We may have moved with the times, but the law has not. The legal rights of cohabitating couples are still not the same as those of a married couple.

Over a third of us believe that unmarried couples who live together for more than two years are ‘common-law’ husband and wife. This is a myth: there is no such thing as a ‘common-law’ marriage. So, if you separate, you may find yourself with very few legal rights.

Unmarried couples can, however, protect themselves through these three legal steps:

  1. Consider a cohabitation/living together agreement: a bespoke legal document that formally outlines both parties’ wishes and details how financial matters will be divided in the event of separation, as you may find that you are not entitled to any of your partner’s assets without one.
  2. Declaration of Trust – is recommended if you both jointly own the property, but one person has paid more at the outset, or if you live in your partner’s house.  This will give clear instruction on how to proceed on separation.
  3. Both of you should have a Will. This crucial legal document outlines your wishes once you’re gone. As a cohabiting partner you may not be automatically entitled to a share of your partner’s estate if the worst were to happen.

Divorce, Separation and Mediation

At Thomas Dunton, we know that it’s never easy when you decide the time has come to end a relationship. However, we can help you with the process and ensure that you make the right legal decisions for you and your family. We speak in plain English and only use qualified solicitors to handle your case. You’ll know their name and they’ll know yours. You will be able to speak to them directly.

Know your legal rights.

The legal rights of married and unmarried couples vary considerably. For example, there is no such thing as a ‘common law’ husband or wife and so unmarried couples, regardless of the length of their relationship, have very limited rights upon separation. These centre around their children and/or their family home. Couples who are married or in a civil partnership have a wider range of rights available to them upon separation, divorce or dissolution. Therefore, the nature of your relationship will dictate what your legal rights are when it comes to separating.

Who gets what?

Dividing your matrimonial assets is an important part of the divorce settlement. These assets can include property, pensions, savings and possessions. It can sometimes include inheritance. It is often a complex and emotive situation and professional advice is always recommended.

Should You get a divorce online or through a solicitor?

We are regulated by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) and adhere to a code of conduct and best practice which ensures that all our staff work in your interests and are accountable. In fact, the SRA advises that using an online divorce website or representing yourself can end up costing more and can add extra stress.

Should I go to Mediation First?

Mediation is a neutral process that can assist you in reaching an agreement with your spouse or partner about the terms of your financial settlement as well as the future arrangements for your children. The law now requires most people to attend mediation before they apply to court. In some circumstances, such as where there has been domestic abuse, or if the case is urgent, you might be exempt from having to attend. Otherwise, you would have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting (called a MIAM) to see if it might work. At all stages of the process, we can provide expert advice and if an agreement is reached, we will help you to draw it up in a format acceptable to the Court for approval.

10 things to consider when choosing a conveyancing firm

Buying your home is one of the most exciting times of your life and it will probably be your biggest expense too. It’s important that you choose the right conveyancing firm so that it all goes to plan. Here’s the top 10 things to look for in a firm: (We, of course, have all of these!)

  1. Always check that a solicitor or a Chartered legal executive  will be handling your case and not a paralegal or someone junior.
  2. Check that the same person will look after your case throughout the process.
  3. Always ask for their direct line and email. No one wants to call a premium number each time they want an update.
  4. Does the quote include ALL foreseeable charges?
  5. On a sale, will they charge separately for repaying your mortgage or is it included in their fee as part of the job (the latter should be the norm)
  6. When you’re buying, do they charge extra for filling out the stamp duty form, or acting for your lender and insurances? Our fees include these.
  7. Do they close for lunch? We don’t.
  8. Do they force you to look on their website for updates? Or do they encourage you to call and discuss any concerns or developments.
  9. Are they too cheap? There may be some charges that they’re not telling you about.
  10. Do they list their email, fax number and DX numbers on all correspondence with third parties. No one wants to wait for snail mail if time is of the essence.

At Thomas Dunton we pride ourselves on the fact that you will always have the same expert Solicitor handling your case. We are transparent in our fees and you can always call and speak to us directly: in fact, we encourage it if you need an update.

Buying a property that is leasehold. What you need to know.

If you buy a property that is leasehold, then you will only own that property for a fixed period of time. You will have a legal agreement (a lease) with the landlord (also known as the freeholder) which outlines how long this period is. Ownership of the property will return to the freeholder when this lease expires. Most flats are leasehold, and some houses, if bought through a shared ownership scheme, can be too. You have the legal rights to know your freeholder’s name, the details of service charges and insurance.

Before you make an offer

When you buy a leasehold property, you will be taking over the lease from the previous owner. So, you need to budget for ground rents, service charges and other potential costs. This is because shared services are maintained by the freeholder, or in some cases a resident’s management company, and the costs including your share are collected from the leaseholders. The length of the lease may also affect your mortgage options. Most lenders requite the lease to run for 25/30 years beyond the end of your mortgage. So, if the lease is less than 70 years you may struggle to find a lender.

Extending a lease

You can ask for your lease to be extended at any time. Generally, the shorter the lease, the more expensive it is to extend. If you are looking to buy a property with a short lease, you can ask the seller to extend the lease before you buy. Under statutory procedure, the person making the application to extend the lease must have owned the property for two years and is entitled to an extended term of 90 years with no ground rent. There are different legal steps and rules depending on whether your home is a flat or a house. If you own a flat you may be able to buy a share of the freehold and if it’s a house, you may have the right to buy the freehold.

A landlord who wants to sell the freehold of a building containing flats must offer this to you first. It is called the right of first refusal.

What every new parent should know

There is a lot to think about when you have a new child and often the last thing on your mind is having a Will to ensure that your children’s future is protected. But it is one of the most important things that you can do.

Younger parents can be forgiven for thinking that Wills are for older people and have no bearing on them. A Will, however, is an important legal document that expresses your wishes on how your children will be raised if you are not around to do it yourself. In your Will you can designate a Guardian to care for your children and also Trustees to manage your Children’s inheritance, until they are old enough to do so themselves.

If you are not married to your partner, you both have very few rights compared to those who are. ‘Common-law’ marriage does not exist and without a Will, you or your parent may not have a legal right to a share of each other’s estate if either of you die.

A Will, therefore, gives clear, legal protection for your children and family and peace of mind to you.

Once you’ve done it, it won’t keep you up at night, even if your baby does.

Dementia, Lasting Powers of Attorney & Wills.

It is a sad fact that dementia is becoming more prevalent, causing a long-term and gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that will affect a person’s ability to carry out their normal daily functions. There are laws, however, that can help protect people with dementia and to give peace of mind to them and their families.

The most essential legal processes are Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPAs) and Wills. For both, it is important to start the process as soon as symptoms of dementia start to appear. This is because the law requires that individuals must have ‘mental capacity’ to enter into an LPA or a Will. It is, therefore, important to speak to a solicitor at the outset so that the person involved is aware of the legal issues.

Providing Protection

There are  two types of LPAs. These cover Health and Welfare and/or Property and Finance. You can either have one, or both types, depending on your needs. They allow people with Dementia to give a trusted person the authority to deal with their care and finances on their behalf. A Will is also a wise choice as it enables the estate to be left in accordance with the person’s wishes.

At Thomas Dunton, all are staff have participated in information sessions to become Dementia Friends. This helps us to understand this illness better and to provide exceptional customer care. We are a member of the Bromley Dementia Action Alliance and we will hopefully be accredited a Dementia Friendly business shortly.

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