Below are some questions that our clients frequently ask. If you can’t find an answer to your question then please contact us.

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How to handle a nuisance employee.

If you have a nuisance employee, the first port of call should be following through your practices and procedures. You should be aiming to help and support them, to get them where you need them to be. If that fails, then dismissal may be an option, but it's really important that you follow the correct procedure to make sure that no employment tribunal claim follows.

Is it possible for a man to claim maintenance from his wife?

Yes, women now have substantial career success, perhaps in comparison to 30, 40 years ago when the statute that determines the Matrimonial Causes Act was first drafted. But it's now quite possible for a man to claim maintenance from his wife just the same way as it is for a wife to claim maintenance from her husband. It is however unusual. Ongoing maintenance claims for either spouse are now increasingly unusual as the court is much more likely to look at a rehabilitative period after the breakdown of the marriage where either party could retrain, or if you like, get themselves back into a position where they can maximise their earning capacity themselves. And in the first instance, if there's available capital, the court will always look to a division of capital, which would mean that there would be no need for spousal maintenance. For example, one party might be rehoused mortgage free, while the other party with the higher income might have to achieve a mortgage.

When can an employer rightfully terminate an employee's contract?

As an employer, there are a number of times in which you can rightfully terminate an employees contract. It might be for reasons of capability, disciplinary reasons, or for redundancy reasons. But it's really important that a proper procedure is followed, so that you don't end up on the receiving end of an employment tribunal claim.

What if my partner tries to hide their financial assets?

The court have, in matrimonial cases, wide-ranging powers to obtain disclosure. For example, if we have evidence that the other party might have a bank account they haven't disclosed, we can get an order for third-party disclosure against that bank. We can ask them to list all the accounts registered to a client. This type of work in a matrimonial case will cost a lot of money, and it will be time consuming, and it will raise the stakes in terms of acrimony. So it's only ever worth considering taking these steps if there are substantial assets at stake.

I am getting divorced, will I lose my home?

The family home is often the main asset in most relationships to be divided up in a divorce, and the court will look at the needs of both parties, but especially in the needs of any minor children, which are the paramount concern of the court in these cases. Therefore, it is quite likely that in most cases a family home will be sold to provide for the needs of all parties, but not necessarily. Therefore, we suggest you seek legal advice from us and we can help you with your particular case as to whether or not your home would be sold.

Will our family business be included in the financial settlement?

A family business or business belonging to one of the spouses will be taken into account when coming to a divorce settlement. It will be treated as an asset of the marriage. There will be two aspects of looking at the business, one is whether it has a sale value, owned properties, for example. What is the realisable value of the business and secondly, what are the maintainable earnings going forward that the business can produce? It is very common for businesses, even small businesses, to be valued by a forensic accountant who’s a specialist at looking at business values and what a business could achieve to ascertain the value. That value will then be treated like any other matrimonial asset and be divided between the parties and in a long marriage, the starting point will be an equal division of the family business.

Is it possible to challenge the executor of a Will?

A Will will name certain individuals to act as executors and as personal representatives. It's their obligation to carry out the wishes of the deceased in administering the estate. If they don't do so, then you may wish to apply to have them removed or replaced.

Is a promise made before death enforceable?

There is a presumption of freedom of testamentary disposition, which means you can leave your assets to whoever you want. However, in certain circumstances it may be possible that promises made before death are binding, but these would be factually sensitive, and would depend on the particular circumstances of the case, and would need further investigation.

When will I be able to remarry?

To be able to remarry, your divorce needs to be finalised. You need a document called a Decree Absolute. This document is different to your Decree Nisi, which entitles you to a divorce but does not end your marriage. Once your Decree Nisi is pronounced, you need to leave six weeks and one day before you can apply for your Decree Absolute, which will dissolve your marriage. The most important thing to remember is do not make any plans to remarry until you have your Decree Absolute.

How long does contesting a Will take?

Perhaps the most difficult question to answer is how long it will take to challenge a Will, because that would depend on the nature of the challenge. You may be looking at getting medical records, if there is issue of capacity, a Will writers file taking witness statements, but once you've started court process, then you are looking between 12 to 18 months.

Who arranges a survey?

Home buyers generally arrange to have a property survey done after their offer to buy the property has been accepted by the seller.

How can I obtain information about the drafting of a Will?

Obtaining information about the drafting of the Will is key, particularly when you're trying to understand why the Will is written in the way it is. Normally the instructions given to the Will writer are confidential, but there are exceptions and you can usually get a copy of the Will writer’s file. They may charge a small fee for releasing it to you but it's the most important evidence as it confirms what was said at the time the Will was made.

Can a gift made before death be challenged?

In certain circumstances, a gift made before death can be challenged particularly if there's a suggestion of undue influence or lack of capacity and capacity is decision specific.

What happens if my partner will not disclose all of their financial assets?

The starting point for any financial settlement is what we call full disclosure which means not just information about the assets but also documents to support the existence and value of the assets. The idea is to try and get that dealt with voluntarily between the couple, and it includes 12 months’ worth of bank statements for all bank accounts, p60s payslips, business accounts, details about pensions. Once that information is available, you're perfectly entitled to ask questions on what's been disclosed and to ask for more information and more documents if you think that something's missing. If it's still not forthcoming then you need to make an application to court where it's an absolute requirement to provide the full disclosure and deadlines are set for it. You might have an idea from being married to your spouse for so long that there are things missing or sometimes just looking at the documents they've disclosed such as the bank statements might reveal other bank accounts that we can ask about. You can also make searches of outside agencies, such as the Land Registry, to find out about property ownership and Companies House, which will give details of any directorships that the spouse might have. Once the matters in court if your spouse is still not forthcoming with full disclosure there are various sanctions that the court can impose. Usually the first step is for them to make a court order for the disclosure of that information or documents and to attach something called a penal notice to the order. So the penal notice is really just a warning that if they don't comply with a court order the court can sanction them with a fine, removal of goods or a term of imprisonment. Usually, just the threat of that is enough to produce the information and documents. If the lack of disclosure has led to a waste of court time or a waste of your legal costs, you might also get an order from the court that they reimburse your costs. In more extreme cases a court can order a third party to provide disclosure of documents that your spouse hasn't disclosed. They're reluctant to do that, but if it's really necessary that might be something you can get a court to do. Even more extreme cases they can actually make what we call search and retrieve orders to actually go to a premises, search it and retrieve any relevant documents. Again, it's very much a last resort and it's very rarely an order that a court will make but it is their if it's really necessary. And one more thing a court could do when they're considering a settlement is to make what we call adverse inferences and to infer from the fact that your spouse hasn't disclosed everything, that they must be very wealthy and therefore they will make an order that is perhaps more favorable to you.

Who does Conveyancing?

Solicitors, licenced conveyancers and conveyancing executives can be instructed on conveyancing matters. Conveyancing executives would normally have several years experience dealing with property transactions. Before instructing your solicitor, it is important to check that they have the appropriate accreditations, such as the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme of which Mullis & Peake are part of.

What happens in relation to child maintenance?

Child maintenance is paid towards the costs of bringing up children. Ideally, it's something that parents should agree between them. If they can't agree, they will need to go to the Child Maintenance Service because there are only a few cases where you can actually apply for a court order. If you're trying to agree child maintenance, it’s a good idea to do an estimate of what the Child Maintenance Service would calculate because that's a good start to working out an appropriate level of payments. The child maintenance calculation is based on the paying parents’ gross income so that's before tax and National Insurance are taken off. They will take off pension contributions and then there's a reduction depending on the number of overnight stays the children have with the paying parent averaged over the year. Child maintenance payments last until the children are between 16 and 20. That very much depends on when they actually finish their education and the type of education that they're doing. I mentioned there were a few exceptions to helping to either agree child maintenance or go to the Child Maintenance Service. They are generally, if your child suffers from a disability and they are going to remain dependent on you, you might be entitled to child maintenance beyond the 16-20 year age cap that I just mentioned. If the paying parent actually lives abroad and not in this country you will need a court order for child maintenance. And finally, the Child Maintenance Service sets a cap on the maximum maintenance payments that they'll make the payer pay. If the paying parent is a particularly high earner, it is possible to go to court and apply for an order to top up the Child Maintenance Services calculation of child maintenance.

What happens on completion?

On the day of completion the buyer’s solicitor will send the purchase money to the seller’s solicitor. The seller’s solicitors will then formally confirm completion has taken place and authorise the estate agents to release the keys to the property. In order to provide a vacant possession, the seller must ensure that the property is vacant and that all contents are removed, except for the items referred to on the fittings and contents lists which was provided at the outset of the transaction. Any additional items to be left at the property have to be identified and agreed with the buyer. Once in the new property the buyer might wish to read all of the meters and check that the gas, electricity, and water are working. Notify the utility providers of the change of ownership and of the meter readings. Check the property against the fittings and contents list prepared by the seller and consider changing the locks at the new property.

Is it possible for a man to claim maintenance from his wife?

Well, the short answer is yes. There are two types of maintenance. There's child maintenance and that's payable to cover or go towards the costs of children. And then there's spousal maintenance which goes towards the costs of the husband or wife. Child maintenance is paid to the parent the child lives with or spends most time with. So if that happens to be the father, then the wife will pay the husband child maintenance. Spousal maintenance is payable if there's a divorce, and it can be paid by the highest earner to the lowest earner where there is a need to top up the lower earner’s income. So if the husband happens to be the lower earner the wife may well find that she has a maintenance claim against her or actually ends up paying him spousal maintenance. That maintenance can be paid where there are no children at all, and the husband or wife might need maintenance to top up their income or it can be paid where child maintenance is being paid just to top up the child maintenance.

When do we receive the money due to us from the sale?

We will prepare a completion statement for you as soon as possible following exchange of contracts as it is not possible for us to do this beforehand. Therefore, if you wish to know what the net proceeds of sale will be on completion, please refer to the estimate provided to you at the outset of our initial retainer letter and also take into consideration any estate agents’ fees and monies outstanding to a mortgage lender which are secured against the property. We will account to you on the day of completion with a net proceeds of sale. We can send you a check or if you prefer a CHAPS payment can be made into your bank account.

Will my spouse’s business assets be included in the financial settlement?

The simple answer is yes. They must be disclosed along with all the other assets in the marriage, and the starting point is that your spouse must give evaluation for their business assets and disclose the last two years’ accounts to give an idea of what's there. Whether you actually have a claim on the business will depend on the value and the nature of the business itself. Some businesses are purely a means of generating income so you're unlikely to get any extra capital from the settlement for your spouse's business. An example of that is subcontractors who run their income through a limited company. Some businesses, however, do have capital assets in them. They can potentially be used towards reaching a settlement. Again, it depends on the nature and value of those assets. An example of that would be a business that perhaps owns a number of properties that they operated from you might be able to sell or mortgage properties to raise capital. Business isn't always going to be sold if it's going to be detrimental to the business itself because obviously that is your spouse’s living and if their livelihood's affected it will have a negative impact on the overall settlement. In most cases where there's a business you're going to need to get an accountant's advice on the value on how best to release capital or whether it can be released at all.

Is it possible to make a claim against an estate, whether there is a Will or not?

If there is a Will or not, it is possible for certain categories of people to bring a claim against the estate if the effect of the Will does not provide for their reasonable financial provision.

Where do we get the keys from for our new house?

Under no circumstances whatsoever should the keys be handed direct to the buyer unless the solicitor has confirmed that completion has been affected. Usually a set of keys will be left with the estate agents who should be given written instruction not to pass the keys over to the buyer without consent from the seller’s solicitor on the day of completion. This consent would only be given when the balance of purchase monies is received in the solicitor’s bank account. You should always keep a copy of your letter to the agent in this respect. In the event that you are selling without using an estate agent you would need to liaise with your solicitor for alternative arrangements to be made for the keys.

What are my pensions rights in a divorce?

To start with, all the assets in the marriage have to be taken into account so that includes pensions. They often get overlooked so it's important to remember them. Pensions need to be shared along with all the other assets in the marriage. The starting point for everything is 50/50, although that's not always the final outcome. The aim is to achieve a fair settlement of everything and with pensions the aim is to meet your needs on retirement. so generally, you're looking at trying to generate similar retirement income for both of you. Sometimes we might need to ask a pension expert to look into the pensions, just to check how they're valued and to get an idea of what kind of income they're going to generate on retirement. If you have all the pensions or most of the pensions, you are going to be able to keep some of them because you need them to meet your income needs on retirement. If you're the person without the pensions or with the smaller pensions you're likely to get a share of the other party's pensions. Those shares can be dealt with in a number of different ways. They can be shared between you under what we call a pension sharing order, which means that the percentage of the bigger pension is shared into a pension fund for the person with the smaller pensions, it can only be used for pensions so you can't use that kind of order to generate cash from pensions. You want to do that. You need to look at offsetting your pensions against other assets. For example, you might want a larger share from the house and you might forego your claim on the pension or take a smaller percentage of the pension, there's one third option that can be used if appropriate. It's known as a pension attachment order. It means that the person with a smaller pension gets a share of the other person's pensions but not until they actually retire. Most people prefer to sort things out there and then rather than wait for the other person's retirement.

Lack of financial provision

Someone who is dependent on the deceased may have a claim against their estate.

The process of challenging a Will

There is a presumption that a Will in the proper form is valid, particularly where it appears to be signed by the deceased in the presence of two witnesses. But there are other reasons why it may not be valid and it's important to get a copy of the original document wherever possible and certainly I would always look to try and get the Will writer’s file. Normally dealings between a client and their legal advisors are confidential but one of the rare exceptions relates to the circumstances to giving instructions for a Will, and I would always recommend getting the Will writer's file.

What is the Probate process?

The probate process involves figuring out what the assets and debts are of the person that died. Once you have managed to work that out, then you can check to see whether there are any taxes payable. Once that's been settled, you would then make that application to the court to obtain the probate, and once that's been received, you can then deal with collecting in any money of the estate and then paying out to anyone that is due to inherit under the estate as well.

What documents do I need to bring to my Probate consultation?

we would always advise clients before their Probate consultation of what documents we are required to see. Generally, the important documents required are identification for yourself to ensure that we are liaising with the executor or administrator of the estate, an official copy of the death certificate of the deceased, the latest original Will and codicil if there is one of the deceased, and details of the deceased's assets and liabilities at the date of their death.

Undue influence

A Will could be invalid, if at the time of signing, the person was subject to undue Influence. That may arise when a carer or loved one has taken control of somebody's life and then becomes a major beneficiary under the Will.

Will I have to pay inheritance tax on foreign property?

There may be some inheritance tax payable on foreign property if the deceased person's permanent home was in the UK. However, there are some excluded assets from that.

Once the forms have been submitted how long does the grant of Probate take to be completed?

The length of time it takes the Probate Registry to issue the grant once the application has been received is dependent on numerous factors, such as how the application is made. Some applications that meet certain eligibility criteria can be made using the online portal. If they don't meet the criteria, then you must apply using the Probate paper application form. Our experience is that currently, online applications are generally quicker to issue the grant. However, the official time estimates issued by the Probate Registry are that you will usually receive the grant within 16 weeks of submitting the application unless additional information is required.

The process of challenging a Will? – Time limits

If you are alleging that the Will is a fraud then there are no time limits. If you are a disappointed beneficiary then you would need to bring your claim within 12 years.  And if it is the case that you are saying that the Will does not provide for you financially then that claim would need to be made within six months of the issue that granted probate or in the case of an intestacy, granted letters of administration.

What is an executor? How many executors can I appoint?

An executor is the person who's responsible for looking after the financial affairs of the deceased. In terms of how many executives you can appoint, you can appoint as many as you wish. However, it's important to bear in mind that only four executors can apply for the grant of probate to be taken out in their names.

Do I still have a Probate claim if the deceased has not left a Will?

Whether you have a Probate claim, i.e. whether you can apply for the grant and also inherit from the estate, is dependent on your relationship to the deceased. If the deceased has not left a valid Will, a Will, of course, outlines who the executives of this state are and who benefits from the estate, then the rules of intestacy will apply. This may mean that certain people may benefit from the estate that the deceased did not want to. This is why having a Will drafted to reflect your wishes is so important. Where there is an intestate estate, the order of entitlement determines who is entitled to apply for the grant of letters of administration and also who will inherit from the estate.

Can I appoint a professional executor?

Yes, you can appoint a professional executor, however, do bear in mind they usually charge a fee for carrying out that role and that fee would be paid out of the funds in the estate.

What is a grant of Probate?

A grant of Probate is a court order and is evidence of the executor's authority to administer the deceased’s estate.

Is there a time limit for Probate to be claimed?

There is no time limit for probate to be claimed, but you do need to be aware that there are time limits for claiming certain tax reliefs. So if you were looking to reduce your tax liability, there might be some time limits for that and also if you needed to change how the wealth is distributed and shared about, there are time limits for doing that as well.

What happens to my estate if I am married with children and I die without making a Will?

The rules of intensity would apply in this scenario, as the deceased has died intestate, which means with no valid Will. The intestacy rules only apply to property that the deceased was able to dispose of by their Will if they had held a valid Will. It does not extend to property held as joint tenants or under interest under a trust. It is important to seek legal advice on who would inherit the estate, as particularly in this scenario, it is dependent on numerous factors, including, but not limited to, the estate value and the date of death.

Does my Will become invalid if my circumstances change?

Your Will could become invalid If your circumstances change. For example, if you get married or enter into a civil partnership, any earlier Will that you might have had automatically becomes invalidated, which is known as revoked. Similarly, if you were to go through a relationship breakdown and divorce, that might affect how your Will is applied. So it's always important to check with a professional and see if your Will needs updating if there have been any important changes in your personal circumstances.

How do I find out if someone had a Will?

If you have lost a loved one, there is no easy way to find out if that person left a Will because there's no mandatory national register. So, the best thing to do is if you make a Will is to tell your loved ones about it. Generally speaking, if you use a professional, they will ensure that you have a copy and some material that you can leave with your loved one so that they know where the Will is stored and how they can retrieve it when the time is needed.

Do I have to appoint a solicitor to draw up my Will?

Will writing isn't a regulated activity and that basically means that anybody can make a Will. You can even make one yourself. But if you use a law firm, not only will you get expert advice, so it's not just a secretary or service that will type up what you ask them, but you'll get expert advice and importantly, you will also get tax planning advice, so it could save you tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds. Plus you have the added benefit of protection, because law firms will be regulated, they'll be insured and so your loved ones won't lose out in the event something does go wrong.

Can a child inherit?

A child can inherit in the same way anybody else can, whether that is with or without a Will. However, if the child is under 18, because they haven't reached the age of maturity yet under law, somebody else needs to be appointed to receive and look after their share of the Inheritance until they turn 18. Now. This does come with some important obligations because the person who is entrusted to look after the money for them might need to take advice or invest it in a sensible way to make sure that their money is protected and grows.


What is inheritance tax?

Inheritance tax is a tax that applies on death, but not everyone needs to pay inheritance tax. There is a threshold of £325,000, below which nobody needs to pay tax. It will also depend on your circumstances and what tax planning you have undertaken.

How can I avoid paying inheritance tax?

There are things that you can do to reduce or possibly even completely eliminate the amount of inheritance tax that you pay. The best thing to do is to get expert advice during your lifetime. Now, an estate planner can help you plan your affairs and your money in a tax efficient way to make sure that when eventually the time comes and you pass on, your loved ones pay as little or hopefully no tax whatsoever. Now, if you haven't done the tax planning in your lifetime it can still be possible to manage your affairs and apply certain reliefs after you have passed away to again help reduce or eliminate the tax completely. But again, we would say because it is a complex area if the best thing to do is always seek expert advice from someone who knows all about inheritance tax.

Where should I store my Will documents?

Keep your Will somewhere safe, waterproof, and fireproof. If you prepare your Will with solicitors, like Mullis & Peake for example, we can store them in our safe, free of charge.

What are the top three documents to bring to my Will consultation?

The top three documents you should bring to your Will consultation are photographic ID by way of passport, driving license, bus pass, or blue badge. A list of names and addresses who you'd like to benefit from your Will and a breakdown of your assets.

What does a Will beneficiary mean?

A beneficiary is someone who will benefit from your estate once you have passed away. This could include property or cash, or both.

Why do I need a Will?

It’s a good idea for you to have a Will, so you can include people that you wish to benefit. If you do not make a Will upon your death, your estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules. This means that you may benefit members of your family that you did not intend to benefit. Your estate may also end up paying more tax than you need to.

What does Power of Attorney mean?

Lasting power of attorney is a document where you can choose someone you trust, known as an attorney, to legally help you deal with third parties on your behalf when you have capacity and also when you have lacked the capacity.

What things are your attorneys responsible for under property and financial affairs?

In relation to property and financial affairs lasting powers of attorney, your attorneys can act for you on your behalf to make decisions about your money and your property. Whilst the donor has capacity, all decisions are made by them, but they tell you what they need from you and how you can help them. Your attorneys will have access to your financial information, and also have the authority to take money out of your bank for the purposes of the donor. They can talk to third parties on the donor's behalf, and the attorneys can sell or purchase a property for the donor.

What things are your attorneys responsible for under health and welfare?

Under health and welfare lasting powers of attorney the attorneys can only act for the donor when they have lost the full mental capacity to make decisions about their healthcare, medical treatment, and life-sustaining treatment. The attorneys can make decisions as if the donor was able to make the decisions themselves. The attorneys can make decisions about where the donor shall live.

Will I be liable for legal costs?

It is generally the case that each party will be responsible for his/her own costs during the course of any litigation. At the end of the case a Judge will decide which party should pay the cost of the litigation. The usual rule is that the losing party will pay the costs of both parties (subject to some exceptions) although on many occasions costs will be paid from the estate.

The potential liability for costs and various funding options is something that is discussed with Claimants or personal representative at the outset so that they can decide how they wish to proceed in pursuing or defending a claim.

What are the different types of lasting powers of attorney (LPA)?

Two types of lasting powers of attorney. One is property and financial affairs and the other is health and welfare. In relation to property and financial affairs your attorneys can act for you when you have capacity and also when you lack capacity in relation to your property and your money. In relation to health and welfare, your attorneys can only act for you when you have lost the full mental capacity to make decisions about your Health and Welfare whilst you're in hospital and or a care home. The health and welfare also includes life-sustaining treatment which can mean anything from operations, cancer treatment, resuscitation nourishment anything that could potentially save your life. You can specify who you would like to make those decisions for you which would be either your attorneys, or the doctors.



What are the grounds for contesting a Will?

Some look to contest the Will because they are concerned that the person making the Will doesn't have capacity, that the Will might not reflect their true wishes, or they maybe, have been influenced into making decisions that were not their own.

What are the grounds for contesting a Will? Part 2 – Testamentary capacity

Common grounds for investigating a Will is whether the person making it had capacity. They need to understand the effect of the Will, who may benefit from it and give their instructions of their own free will. Quite often, they are incapable of doing that by reason of illness, age, frailty or someone affecting undue influence on them.

Who decides on the completion date?

Well, people get very confused about completion dates and they think that the normal time in between exchange and completion is four weeks, but there's no set time. The parties to the contract and the parties, the seller and the buyer, agree between themselves what is a convenient date.

What are the grounds for contesting a Will? Part 3 – red flags

There are a number of red flags that might indicate that there is a problem with the Will. Change of provision, gifts to people you would not expect, Will made after a period of illness or absence or possibly hospitalisation, provisions that just don't reflect what the person making the Will had said during their lifetime.

What is exchange of contracts?

An exchange of contracts is when the contract that you've signed on each transaction becomes binding. So each solicitor, the seller and buyer’s solicitor will have a contract that's been signed that is identical, and it is literally an exchange of contracts in the post. So from the moment that the exchange of contracts is effective, the seller’s solicitor and the buyer’s solicitor undertake with each other that they will put the signed contract in the post to the other.

What are the grounds for making a claim under the Inheritance Act?

Certain categories of eligible people may be entitled to bring a claim if the Will does not make reasonable financial provision for them. This claim has to be brought within six months of date of grant of probate or letters of administration if it's an intestacy and there are prescribed categories of people who can claim.

The mortgage company is sending its valuer to assess the property, is that the same as a survey?

It's always advisable to have your own survey carried out on the property because that will give information about the condition of the property. And you have to remember, when you're buying a house that you buy it in the condition it's in and the seller is not under any obligation to put anything right in connection with that. That's slightly different from a mortgage valuation where the lender will go in, will send a valuer, and basically decide on the value of the property based on the condition but will not give you any detailed information about the property. The valuation is merely to ensure that that property is worth what the lender is going to let you borrow.

What does reasonable financial provision mean?

A claim for reasonable financial provision brought by somebody other than the spouse or the civil partner and it is a claim for reasonable financial provision for their maintenance.

You have asked us to sign the sale contract, will that mean everyone is committed to the sale?

Contracts in conveyancing are slightly different in that, in most cases when you sign a contract, you are committed immediately. When you sign a contract in relation to a conveyancing transaction, you will have been given an explanation as to what you're signing, and you will sign in readiness. So, we hold the contract on our file ready, but that contract will not become binding until exchange of contracts.

What if a Will has been lost, damaged or destroyed?

it is not always possible to find the Will and if it is lost, is presumed destroyed by the testator and therefore revoked. Sometimes there will be a copy of the Will and it is possible in limited circumstances to apply to the court to prove that copy Will, but everything will depend on the factual circumstances surrounding the Will’s preparation.

What searches can I expect to pay for?

So, when you start a purchase transaction, we will be asking you for some money on account to pay for searches. And there are various searches that need to be carried out and some of them are essential and your lender will insist on them if you're getting a mortgage. So a local authority search is very important because that will tell you about any plans that the council has for the property. For example, any road widening or there may be flyovers or planning in the vicinity. An enviro-search is also important because that will tell you about any factors affecting the environment, like contaminated land, that may affect your property. Also, you'll be asked to carry out the water and drainage search, which tells you whether the property is on mains drainage and water, and will give you information about where the sewers and drains are. And there's also a very unusual search which is called a Chancel repair liability search, which, generally, we offer an insurance for because it's an extremely antiquated and difficult thing to ascertain. This is to do with the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1500s. And then depending on your location of property you're buying, you may also need a mining search or even China clay or tin mining search if you're buying in Cornwall. So it does also depend where you're buying.

What if there is a mistake in a Will?

The court has a power to rectify a mistake in a Will where there's been a failure to understand the testator’s wishes or a clerical error by the person preparing the Will.

Where can you find a Will?

Once a Will has been made, it's normally stored in a safe place. The first location you’d check is in the deceased personal belongings, sometimes their bank are solicitors, and there are commercial providers who offer a search service.

Who can challenge a Will?

In theory, anyone can challenge a Will, but it's usually close family members of a deceased or people who have been connected with them during their life. Often we see family members who are concerned that they've not been provided for in the Will and there are certain categories of people who are eligible to bring a claim outside of the Will, saying that they have not been provided for by that Will. And they are spouses, former spouses, children of the deceased, people who are financially dependent on them.

I'm being made redundant, what do I do?

If you're being made redundant and you're not happy with your settlement package, tell you solicitor what's happened. If they agree that there are grounds to increase your settlement, they will be able to negotiate on your behalf. Your solicitor will be able to tell you what's realistic and appropriate in your case.

Who can make a claim regarding financial provision?

If you are contesting a Will because it does not make reasonable financial provision for you, then the following people can make a claim, spouse or civil partner, former spouse or civil partner who’s not remarried, children or grandchildren of the deceased and people who may be financially dependent upon them and in certain circumstances, cohabitees who were living with them immediately prior to their death.

What are the benefits of a settlement agreement?

A settlement agreement ties up all of the issues between an employer and an employee around their employment and the termination of their employment. For an employer, it gives confidence that there will be no further claims. And, for an employee, the benefit will usually be some form of compensation for the termination of their employment.

What are the key clauses in settlement agreements?

For an employee, the key clause in a settlement agreement will usually be the one around compensation for loss of employment. For an employer, the key clauses will be that which prevents any future employment tribunal claims. And perhaps, if appropriate, some clauses restricting the employee from going to work for a competitor in the future.

What do I do when an employee leaves without notice?

If an employee leaves without notice, this is technically a breach of contract. If you have suffered a loss as a result of them leaving without notice then you may have a claim for damages. You should speak to a solicitor to find out if you do have a claim and, if so, what the next steps are.

Why do I need an employment solicitor?

For an employer, using an employment law solicitor could prevent any employment tribunal claims from being brought against you. For an employee, although you can represent yourself in the tribunal, it can be quite complicated and really daunting. If you use a solicitor, you give your claim the best chance of success.

As a parent, do I have the right to time off if my child's school is closed?

Parents don't have any legal right to paid time off if their child's school is closed, for instance, for an election. However, all parents have the right to various types of unpaid leave. And it may be that you could explore with the parent whether they ant to use unpaid leave in these circumstances.

What happens if I have an accident on holiday?

If you have an accident on holiday, you may still be able to bring a claim. It will very much depend on where you had the accident and how your holiday was booked. If you booked your holiday as a package holiday, there is a very good chance that you will be able to bring your claim in the English Courts.

How do I Contest a will?

Most commonly claims begin with correspondence between competing parties and their lawyers. This first stage is often key to success. Setting out a claim carefully and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the other party’s claim and early disclosure can often help resolve disputes.

In all cases we would advocate early mediation as an alternative to going to Court.  If the dispute can be ​resolved by agreement the claim will be settled more quickly, more cheaply and often in circumstances that enable the parties to obtain closure and possibly reconciliation. The vast majority of the cases are settled before trial, usually within 12-18 months.

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing is essentially the transfer of real estate between individuals or between different parties, essentially, can be between companies or other organisations. In residential terms, we're obviously talking about the transfer of houses and apartments, flats. In commercial conveyancing, obviously, that would be the transfer of industrial units, shops, offices, warehouses, and that sort of thing. In the usual sense of the word, market value is agreed for the property between a seller and a buyer, but conveyancing can also happen in other occasions where no money changes hands, for example, parents might decide to gift some property to an adult child, or they may decide to put property in trust.

And, on the death of a legal owner, property will be transferred to a beneficiary by an assent, and all of these are forms of conveyancing where there's no money changing hands. So essentially, it's the transfer of property, transfer of real property.

What do we mean by real property? Well, real property essentially is what we would say is a major interest in land. Now, a major interest in land is essentially either a freehold interest or a leasehold interest. There is a third alternative, which is called commonhold, but unlike its name implies, isn't common at all, so the two major interests that we come across all the time is freehold and leasehold. You will find freehold properties are generally houses and bungalows, that sort of thing. Leasehold transactions will usually involve flats and apartments. That's not strictly always the case. You can get instances of freehold flats, you can get instances of leasehold houses, but they're not that common.

What is the timescale for moving house?

There's no simple answer to this because simply each case is different, each transaction is different, the circumstances of each matter is different. So by and large, it does depend upon the number of parties that are involved in the process. In a simple case of a sale and purchase of property where there's a seller and a buyer and no other transactions related to it, we would expect that to go through reasonably quickly, and a lot quicker than a transaction that involves what we call chains where there are several buyers and several sellers all interdependent on the other. As a rule of thumb, if there's just a standalone sale and purchase transaction, we would expect that to be completed within about eight to ten weeks. If it's a sale and purchase in a chain, we are more expectant for that to take about 12 weeks. But as I say, it is only a rough estimate.

When should I put my building’s insurance cover in place?

Logic would probably say that you should start your insurance cover when you get the keys to the property. After all, that's when you buy the property. That's when you hand over most of the purchase price. That's where you get the keys to the property and that's when you get control of the property. But in actual fact, most solicitors and conveyancers will advise you to ensure the property from exchange to contracts. And the reason for that is that virtual solicitors will use what's called the standard conditions of sale to buy and sell the property. Those standard conditions of sell provide that the risk of the property passes from the seller to the buyer on exchange of contracts. And because of that, the buyer is advised, therefore, to take out insurance as soon as the risk passes to them. Again, there is an exception to that, which is a common exception, and that's where a buyer is buying a property, which is in the course of construction, or is newly built from a developer. In those situations, it's quite common for the developer to maintain business insurance cover on the property until legal completion.

Is land classed as property?

The short answer to that is yes, it is. When land changes hands between parties, and again, we talk about a major interest in land, if freehold or long leasehold, that would have to be registered at the land registry and depending upon the nature of the land, there may well be large sums of money involved. Now, it may be a small parcel of land, it could be a strip of land, it could be a part of somebody's garden where there isn't a great deal of value. But of course, it could be a large area, acres of property development land, which is subject to planning permission, which would be very valuable indeed. So, the short answer is yes, land is property.

What does exchange of contracts mean?

Exchange of contracts is one of the most important stages of the conveyancing process. This is when the seller and the buyer become legally committed to sell and purchase a property. So leading up to exchange of contracts, the seller’s solicitor will supply copies of the title deeds and replies to inquiries and information to the buyers solicitors. The buyer’s solicitor will carry out searches, will raise inquiries of the seller’s solicitors relating to the property, and of course we'll make sure that the finance is in place. Once they are satisfied with all of that, the contract, the final form of the contract is agreed, the seller will sign one part and the buyer will sign a separate but identical part. Exchange of contracts then happens between the solicitors having taken their client’s instructions first, but they then agree to exchange contracts over the telephone, at which point the contract is then dated. The completion date is put into the contract, and it's at that point in that telephone conversation, that the seller and the buyer are legally committed to the transaction. There's no going back from then. Exchange of contracts is then completed by each solicitor sending to his counterpart the contract signed by his client and in the case of the buyer's solicitor, either sending the deposit to the seller's solicitor, which is usually 10% of the purchase price or what's called holding it to order until completion.

Can I make a claim against an estate?

Only certain categories of person are eligible to make a claim for financial provision against an estate and this is a matter that is discussed at the outset of the first enquiry. Any claim is subject to strict time limits and must be made within six months of the issue of the Grant of Probate.

What family law services do you provide?

We provide advice and representation across the spectrum of family law.
The services which we cover in our family department are:

  • Divorce
  • Property and financial disputes including businesses, pensions and maintenance
  • Children Law; Parental Responsibility, Child Arrangements Orders (which parent the children live with and when they will see the other parent), Change of Name
  • Domestic Abuse cases
  • Property disputes between unmarried couples or cohabitees
  • Cohabitation Agreements
  • Separation Agreements
  • Pre-nuptial Agreements
How much will the initial consultation cost?

If your case is suitable we offer a fixed fee initial consultation of up to one hour providing outline advice to new clients. At the initial family consultation, you will be given costs and these vary depending on the seniority of the solicitor and complexity of your case.

Top tips when starting out

My top tips when starting out are to make sure you understand your role as a Director. When you incorporate a company at Company's House you will be sent information from Companies House reminding you of your role and responsibilities. One thing you need to remember is that ignorance of the law is no defense, so make sure you look properly into what it is and what it means to be a director. Also, I would advise, make sure you have a good accountant and a good lawyer. It's certainly worth the expense and you benefit from it in the long run.

What is a shareholder's agreement?

A shareholder’s agreement is an agreement between the shareholders of the company. It's an agreement that can be used to determine what happens if one of you wants to leave, if one of you wants to retire and if one of you were to die, and also for mechanisms for dealing with disputes. In a shareholder’s agreement, you can ensure that any decisions are taken by the company are subject to agreement by all shareholders and also, you can set out specific provisions, like the price you're going to pay for somebody's shares, or the mechanism by which you resolve your disputes.

What is the difference between a share sale and a business and asset sale?

The difference between a share sale and a business and asset sale is really who is the seller. In a share sale, the sellers are the individual owners of the shares. They sell their interest in the company, and the company continues to run as it always has. In a business and asset sale, the seller is in fact the company, and it's selling its business and assets to a third party, and therefore the consideration payable for those business assets actually belong to the company. It then has to distribute those proceeds to the shareholders once it's paid out all its expenses.

Steps to selling or buying – part 1: Heads of Terms

Heads of terms are the agreed principles between a buyer and a seller. The idea of heads of terms is to set up the main principal agreed terms before you incur costs of undertaking due diligence or instructing lawyers. Heads of terms are useful as they set out the purchase price and any conditions attached to their purchase price, so if there are targets to be met for deferred consideration or for earn out clauses. You could also include provisions in there for whether the seller is going to stay on in the business or whether they're going to be a consultant. In general terms, heads of terms are not legally binding. They are intended to be a guiding principle so that you can look back at them throughout the terms of the transaction and find out what it was you had agreed at the outset.

Steps for selling or buying – part 2: Agreements

Whether you're having a share sale or business and asset sale, there will be a sale and purchase agreement. The sale and purchase agreement is the binding contract between you and your buyer or seller. This will set out the purchase price, it will set out things like restricted covenants, and it will also set out in quite a lot of detail the warranties you're expected to give. Warranties are promises you make about the business, which your buyer relies on when entering into the contract.

What is the difference between shareholders and directors?

The difference between a shareholder and a director is a shareholder is one of the owners of the company. Sometimes there's one shareholder, sometimes there’s multiple. They're responsible for making the major decisions within a company, such as appointing a director, calling AGMs and amending the articles of association. The director is responsible to the shareholders. They're responsible for making the day-to-day decisions in the company, such as changing the registered office. They have statutory duties set out by the Companies Act, and they also have duties to the shareholders, and they're governed by the articles of association which are written and prepared by the shareholders.

What if my ex-partner does not respond?

Your ex-partner will receive exactly the same information pack as you. If they do not respond immediately, we will try to contact them again by telephone or text or e-mail following the MIAM with you. It is often possible for us to engage people in mediation once we have had an opportunity to speak to them and ​can explain how mediation may assist in your particular circumstances.

What happens to my business when I die?

What happens to your business when you die, will very much depend on whether or not you've got anything in place already. Things that you could have in place are things like the Articles of Association containing things like pre-emption rights, giving other shareholders rights to buy your shares on your death. Alternatively, you could have a shareholder agreement in place, which deals with this whole process, and you may have other succession planning, you may have appointed someone in your company to take over when you die, or when you leave. If you don't have any of the succession planning in place, and you have model articles, and no shareholder agreement, then your shares in the business will pass on your death in accordance with your Will, or if you've not got a Will, in accordance with the intestacy rules.

Do I have a good claim?

We are unable to answer this until we know more about the claim.  In all cases we are willing to speak to a client free of charge to assess their claim on a Conditional Fee Agreement basis. These initial enquiries are undertaken by experienced case workers who have day to day dealings with the victims of accidents. They are experienced legal practitioners and not merely administrators.

We would generally expect to spend anything between half an hour and an hour with the client which is unlike many firms who proceed on the basis of a questionnaire. This personal engagement provides a mechanism to address the client’s concern whilst at the same time giving us all the information to move the claim forward as swiftly as possible.

Steps to selling or buying – part 3: Due Diligence

Due diligence is a crucial stage in the transaction, and it's the buyer's chance to effectively audit your company and make sure they know what they're getting. From a legal perspective, it's a good chance for your advisors to find out if there's any risks or any issues with the company that they can protect you from in the final sale agreement. From a seller's perspective, it can be quite extensive. You'll receive a long legal due diligence questionnaire, which asks a long list of tailored questions to find out as much information about the company. It will assist later on in the transaction when it comes to the disclosure part of the deal, which is your main protection against warranty claims post-completion.

How do I go about getting a lease extension?

The start point when you're looking to embark on a lease extension would be to, first of all, think about the premium you're going to pay and in order to do that you would need to instruct a surveyor. A surveyor would carry out a report and give you a range as best case scenario, the cheapest you would pay for a lease extension and worst case scenario, the highest you would pay for a lease extension. Once that's done, Mullis & Peake can discuss the process to extend your lease from that point.

Who will deal with my claim?

 Each client is given a designated case worker who will be involved at all stages in a case from start to finish. This level of personal engagement generally provides a better outcome and better experience for you, our client. We do not adopt a factory approach with multiple people working on matters.

What is best – a partnership or a limited company?

Deciding what is best between a partnership and a company will be dependent on a range of different circumstances. A company has to be registered on Companies House and will have to publish annual accounts, whereas a partnership only has to register itself with HMRC. A company has limited liability. This means that if they are sued or owe any debts, the only thing that can be recovered is the company assets and not the shareholders personal assets. With a partnership, your personal assets are on the line as you're personally liable. In addition, they're also tax benefits to both. For example, a company will only pay corporation tax, whereas partners don't always pay National Insurance on their earnings. It's best to take advice from an accountant on what's the most tax efficient way of running your business. Finally partners are entitled to take their pay out of the profits of the company, whereas shareholders take their earnings by way of dividends.

What does Collective Enfranchisement mean?

Collective Enfranchisement is the legal term used for when leaseholders jointly come together to buy the freehold of a building. In order to do that, you would need to qualify as a leaseholder and also meet the qualifying criteria under the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act.

What is the Court of Protection?

The Court of Protection appoints a Deputy or Deputies to act for someone who cannot manage their affairs due to mental incapacity and who has not previously made an Enduring Power of Attorney or Lasting Power of Attorney. The Court of Protection also resolves disputes about whether a person should act as an Attorney or Deputy. The Court has the power to remove Attorneys and Deputies and appoint a new Deputy as a replacement. The Court can also authorise gifts and the creation of a will if the person does not have a will, or if an existing will needs to be altered. There are also powers of the Court to make orders about an incapacitated person’s health & welfare.

I'm employing my first member of staff. Can you help me write an employment contract?

Employees have the right to be given written notice of their terms and conditions of employment by law. If you fail to do that, then you are breaking the law. So it's really important that you get terms and conditions of employment in place at the earliest stage possible. A specialist employment lawyer will be able to help you with drafting a contract of employment. There are some terms which have to be in a contract and some which can be tailored to your particular requirements. For instance, if you have a particular requirement with regard to overtime, or if you want to try and place restrictions on what your employees can do after their employment come to an end, then we'll be able to assist you with those and make sure that the contract contains all the terms that you need in order to successfully run your business.

I own a leasehold house. How do I buy the freehold?

When you own a leasehold house, there are two ways in which you can look to buy the freehold of the house, and that is through the statutory route and the informal route. Under the informal route, you can contact your current freeholder and see if they would be willing to sell you the freehold, or if they are not, then if you qualify under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, you can serve notice on the freeholder, which will force them to sell you the freehold.

What are the likely costs and timescales involved for Court of Protection?

In order to obtain a Deputyship Order, there are fixed legal fees of £1,140 (£950 + VAT) to prepare the application. These fees can increase where there is complexity, for example:

  • Additional orders (e.g. appointment of trustee for sale of co-owned property)
  • Additional deputies
  • Need to investigate and report on assets where unknown at time of application
  • Objections raised by others (where there is an objection there will be delays to the appointment, statements to be drafted and preparation for hearings, so costs can quickly escalate in these circumstances)


  • Court application fee of £371
    N.B. If capital is less than £16,000 for over 60s, or £3,000 for under 60s  - there may be an exemption (means-tested benefits) or remission (100% for income under £12k, then sliding scale to where no remission) available for those on low incomes. 
  • There may be further expenses such as for a doctor’s report (normally £150 - £500).

The time scale is around 9-12 months for a simple application.

The Court of Protection team has considerable experience with this kind of work and we currently look after the affairs of more than 150 clients on a continuing basis.

How long will my claim take to settle?

An undisputed straight forward injury claim may be resolved in as little as a few months. More complicated claims may take longer as time has to pass for the injuries to stabilise. The factors which can affect the timescale are:

  •  A dispute as to what has happened. The question of blame or whether the amount of your claim is reasonable may be argued by the other party.
  • Insurance Companies may be slow in dealing with claims and particularly with answering correspondence.
  • Medical evidence is generally required before an assessment of compensation can be made. Medical experts are very busy and from time to time there may be delays in receiving appointments or written reports.
  • A small majority of cases go to Court and the Court process can be slow.

Whilst speed is good, it is better to ensure the right outcome. A thorough consideration of your claim may result in higher compensation. It is important to ensure that you receive the appropriate level of damages.

How can I extend my lease?

There are two ways that you can extend your lease and they are known as the informal route, whereby you contact your landlord and see if they would be willing to sell you a longer lease for a premium or the statutory route. The statutory route is under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development act 1993. There's quite strict guidelines on the statutory route and it would start with once you have instructed a surveyor who's carried out valuation report, we would then prepare and serve what's known as a section 42 notice on your landlord. This will inform them that you want to extend your lease and also put forward the premium, which has come from your surveyors report. On a section 42 notice, if that's served, it means that you are entitled to an additional 90 years, plus your unexpired term at a peppercorn, which is effectively zero ground rent. Once the section 42 notice has been served, your landlord will have two months in order to serve a reply. They will come back and either admit the claim or refuse the claim. Normally, they admit the claim and they will put forward a premium that they think you should pay. There's then a period of six months where you'll negotiate on the premium and hopefully come to an agreement.

How much will I have to pay?

In all cases we are happy to offer a free consultation about claiming accident compensation. During this process we assess the claim on a Conditional Fee Agreement basis so that we can tell you how successful your claim is likely to be. This service is free and confidential.

A Conditional Fee Agreement is an arrangement between the client and their solicitors which means that if the compensation claim is not successful the solicitor is not paid for the work they have done. If the client wins their claim then the solicitor is paid part of the fees by the other party, typically an insurance company. If the claim loses, provided the client has not misled us, they ​should not pay anything.

Each claim is assessed on its merits to determine its likely success rate. This success rate informs us whether we can take on an individual case on a ​Conditional Fee Agreement basis. Sometimes our clients have legal expenses insurance but may not know it, that is an insurance policy that provides cover for the cost of legal advice should they need it.

Where can I get a copy of my lease?

If you need to obtain a copy of your lease, then you can do this by contacting HM Land Registry, which you can do online. Or alternatively, Mullis & Peake can obtain a copy of your lease for you.

My mum/dad needs a Power of Attorney as they have severe dementia. What do I need to do?

A Lasting Power of Attorney can only be made if a person has capacity.  The mother or father’s capacity will need to be assessed. If they lack the capacity to make a Lasting Power of Attorney an application will need to be made to the Court of Protection for a Deputy to be appointed.

How much will it cost?

Costs vary depending on where the property is, how much it is being brought or sold for and whether it is a flat or a house. We will provide an estimate in writing which will include all of the third party payments. We believe in transparency and do not believe in hidden extras.

We regularly check that our prices are competitive, locally and further afield and we are proud of our prices and the services which we have to offer.

Will my lease extension change my ground rent?

If you extend your lease, it will change your ground rent. It doesn't really matter now what route you extend your lease by. Previously, with an informal lease extension, you could still have a ground rent contained, but the law has now been updated and all lease extensions are granted at peppercorn, which means zero ground rent, and that's the same for a statutory lease extension. It is one way of getting out of doubling ground rents, which are a huge problem with people that own leases.

Can I contest a Will?

A will can be contested on the basis that it is invalid for one of a number of formal reasons or where an individual may feel they have not been sufficiently provided for (if at all) and are therefore thinking about making a claim for financial provision.

Do we offer ‘no sale no fee’?

We are not able to offer this to our clients and our charges reflect this; we do not charge on a percentage basis and therefore must a charge a fee if the case does not proceed.

How long does it take?

As a general rule, the more parties involved and the larger the chain, the more time it will take. Generally, an average case takes around 6-8 weeks from the contract papers being sent out or received to exchange of contracts. The case will normally complete 2 – 4 weeks later. This means that the norm is around three months. Some cases proceed much more quickly although there are others which take much longer too. We try to adhere to the timescales our clients want, though we can only proceed as quickly as the slowest party in the chain.

What are the likely timescales and costs involved?

Most wills can be drafted for you at a fixed cost, which can be confirmed when we know more about your personal situation.   The cost of a will would be higher if you wanted to incorporate a trust to provide for a vulnerable beneficiary or where there are other complexities to be addressed.

We will see you initially to take instructions, before drafting the will and sending it to you for approval.  You will then be seen at a second meeting when you will sign the will in the presence of two witnesses from Mullis & Peake LLP.  This ensures that the legal requirements for the signing of wills are met and that the will is validly completed. The will can usually be completed within two weeks, depending on your availability.

What are Mirror Wills?

Mirror Wills are Wills made by two people which have the same content. However, these Wills can be changed at any time, as long as a person writing the Will has capacity. Although the Wills are very similar, they are not a ‘joint Will’.

How do I make a personal injury claim?

In order to make a personal injury claim, you need to contact a member of our team to discuss the accident and the circumstances under which you suffered your injury. From that conversation, we would be able to determine whether you had a claim and the terms under which we would be bale to take that claim forward for you.

What do I need to know about my buyer?

What you need to know about your buyer is, firstly, you need to know about how they're financing the deal. They could be financing it through cash that they hold on account, or they could be getting a lender support or they could be investor backed. Each different way of funding the deal is going to have an impact on how the transaction runs. Secondly, it's good to know whether they're advised by solicitors and accountants because this will make the whole process a lot more streamlined especially if they've got good accountants and solicitors doing due diligence. Thirdly, it's good to know why your buyer is buying. How does your company fit into their business plan and how does it fit into the company's future? And finally, it's good to know whether or not they want you to stay on, whether or not what involvement you're going to need to have after the company is sold. If there's no involvement, then that could be good. You might be able to just get a clean break but they may want you to stay on for a year to two years to help facilitate a move for the new director, the new manager of the company.

Is there such a thing as a common law wife or husband?

It's a bit of a myth when people say she or he is my common law wife or husband, there is no such thing. Unfortunately, the laws in this country don't protect unmarried couples as they do married couples. For example, if you own a property together, and one of you have made a huge contribution to that but you own it jointly, the court is likely to follow the legal title of the property. Additionally, if you have been living together for a very long time, you won't be entitled to any maintenance. You won't be entitled to any pension rights. So, you're quite unprotected in a way and people often sadly think that they have the same rights. You'd have to rely on trust law which can be very complicated and costly unfortunately.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a document that allows you to appoint an Attorney to assist you either with Financial and Property matters or Health and Welfare issues.  This can be important if you are unable to manage these matters when you get older, become ill, or even if you are abroad for an extended period of time.

Do you store Wills and Deeds?

Yes, we can store wills, powers of attorney and deeds free of charge.

Does it make a difference who starts divorce proceedings?

It generally doesn't matter who begins divorce proceedings anymore, particularly because you can do a joint application or a solo application. Before, it did matter because there was the cost element. But, actually, if you're both in agreement, either one of you can apply. It might be more associated with emotions and agreements between the couple as to who will start.

What is Equity Release?

There are two types of equity release, firstly, lifetime mortgage. With a lifetime mortgage, you can borrow against the value of your home releasing a loan which can be used to provide an income, a lump sum, or both. The loan doesn't have to be repaid until you die or move to alternative accommodation. Interest is usually a fixed rate. It's compounded monthly and rolled up and added to the outstanding loan and unless you've chosen to make the interest payments. Also though, you can take out a home reversion plan in its basic form. All or part of your home is sold to a private company known as a reversion company or group of individual investors. And in return, you receive a cash lump sum, an income, or both. You can remain in the house for a nominal monthly rent for the rest of your life when the property is sold, usually after your death or move into alternative accommodation. Your reversionary receives the proceeds of sale depending on what share of the property you’ve sold.

What is the likely cost and timescale involved?

We can offer two options.  The first is to assist you with obtaining the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration only, which means that you will collect the information about the value of assets, confirm debts and provide the information to us.  Once the Grant is received you will then collect in the assets of the estate, pay the liabilities and distribute the funds to the beneficiaries.  The second option is for us to assist with the full estate administration from start to finish. This option may appeal to you if you do not have the time to deal with it personally, or because you do not want to deal with the paperwork when you are recently bereaved.

We can usually offer fixed costs or a cost limit so that the fees can be ascertained at the outset.

Am I liable for my staff's behaviour at the Christmas party?

So employers often ask are they liable for the behaviour of their staff at the Christmas party and this is a question which has been dealt with in a couple of tribunal cases over the past year, and the answer is possibly, but it's unlikely. What you need to be thinking about is what kind of a culture are you promoting at the Christmas party? We want to be sensible whilst allowing our employees to let their hair down at the end of the year, and it's a really good chance for an employer to say thank you to the staff for all their hard work during the year, but you want to make sure that the focus of the event is not on alcohol. It's fine to have wine and beer available and to put money behind the bar. What we're looking for though is not senior members of staff forcing their employees to do shots or encouraging people to get overly drunk. If an employee is unfortunately the victim of unwanted behaviour at the Christmas party and that an employee can prove that the atmosphere of drunkenness and rowdy behaviour was condoned or fostered by the employer, then that might lead to a situation where the employer is found liable along with the employee who carried out the unwanted behaviour. So really my message would be allow your employees to have fun at the Christmas party but don't foster an atmosphere in which drinking to excess and rowdy behaviour is encouraged, and then I would imagine that you will have no issues.

What can I do if my ex-partner is being difficult about me seeing our child?

If your ex-partner is being difficult about you seeing your child, there are a couple of options available. We do recommend things like mediation, going through a non-contentious way, but ultimately you could apply for a child arrangements order, or a contact order whichever you would prefer to call it, and the court will get involved to try and agree a timetable of who will spend time with the child, when and who the child live with.

What is Stamp Duty?

You must pay Stamp Duty Land Tax if you buy property or land over a certain price in England. The tax is different if the property or land is in Scotland, you pay Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. In Wales, you pay Land Transaction Tax. You pay the tax when you buy a freehold property or buy a new or existing leasehold, by a property through a shared ownership scheme or if you've transferred land or property in exchange for payment. If you're buying a residential property there are different rates of SDLT, which is Stamp Duty. If you are a first-time buyer, if you already own a property and you’re buying an additional property, or you are not a UK resident.

What next steps do I take if I have been unfairly dismissed?

If you've been dismissed and you feel that your selection for dismissal was unfair, then the first thing that you need to do is to lodge an appeal. Every employee who is dismissed has a legal right to appeal against their dismissal, and to have that appeal dealt with by somebody independent from the person who made the original decision. If the decision to dismiss you is upheld on appeal, then at that stage you should take advice from a specialist employment solicitor. Your solicitor will be able to consider the reasons for your dismissal, and determine whether it was in fact an unfair dismissal. If it's felt that your dismissal was unfair, then the first stage is to approach ACAS and initiate an early conciliation process. this is a process by which ACAS will mediate between you and your employer to see if any resolution can be reached. If the conciliation fails, then the next stage will be to issue a claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal. We would always recommend that you seek the advice and assistance of a specialist employment solicitor before embarking on a claim in the Employment Tribunal, because the proceedings can be lengthy and complicated. Ultimately, if the tribunal agrees that your dismissal was unfair, then you will be entitled to compensation.

How can I get out of the lease now that I no longer want these business premises?

The options available to you will depend upon the contents of your lease but there are four main methods. The first method would be to exercise your break clause if you have one. The second method would be to try to reach an agreement with your landlord to allow you to surrender your lease early. However, they are under no obligation to do this, and you may be required to pay a premium in exchange for early surrender. The third method would be to assign or transfer your lease to a third party usually this requires the priority and consent of your landlord. The fourth method would be to sublet your property to your own tenant. Again, usually this requires prior consent. There are pros and cons to each method and the best thing you can do is seek advice from a solicitor to confirm which methods are available to you.

What is a Trust?

A Trust is a legal concept where Trustees hold assets for Beneficiaries.  This may be because the Beneficiary is vulnerable and the funds need to be protected from financial abuse, or the Beneficiary is unable to manage the funds personally. Other uses include ensuring that funds remain in the family in the event that a widow or widower remarries, or to hold funds from life insurance policies. A trust can be considered to be a legal person, so they can own assets in the same way a person can, for example, a house. So, if you wanted to set up a trust, you could give the house to the trust, which is like a person, and set rules for the trust as to how they deal with the house, so they can make sure that it goes to a particular group of people that you wish.

What is a financial consent order?

A financial order is a legally-binding document, and either the parties can agree it or the court may order it, but it sets out what is going to happen financially between the couple when they separate.

What is a Help to Buy ISA?

The government has created the Help to Buy ISA scheme to help hardworking people save towards their first home. First time buyers can save up to £200 a month towards their first home with a Help to Buy ISA and the government will boost their savings by 25%. That's £50 government bonus for every £200 saved up to a maximum government bonus of £3,000. The bonus is available for home purchases up to £450,000 in London, and up to £250,000 outside London.

Can you be made redundant if you're pregnant or on maternity leave?

It's a common misconception that an employee who is pregnant or a maternity leave cannot be made redundant, and that's actually not the case. What you cannot do is make an employee redundant because they are pregnant or on maternity leave because that would be unlawful. Things to consider when an employee who is pregnant or on maternity leave is being considered for redundancy is that you must make sure that you consult with that employee in the same way as you would do were they present in the office. Often times an employee who's on maternity leave gets overlooked and they're not consulted with, which could lead to their redundancy being unfair or unlawful. You also need to consider when you're looking at the criteria for selection for redundancy, whether your criteria are indirectly discriminating against a pregnant employee or an employee on maternity leave. For instance, if one of your criteria for selection is productivity, say for instance you operate a factory and your criteria is how many widgets has my employee made in total in the last year, an employee who is on maternity leave would be discriminated against by that criteria by virtue of the fact that they may not have been present in the factory for the whole year. So you need to make sure that your criteria are fair when it comes to pregnant or maternity leave employees. Now, if a pregnant employee or one who's on maternity leave is selected for redundancy, then the position regarding alternative employment does change for that employee. If you have an alternative role available, you have to offer it to that employee by virtue of the fact that they are pregnant or on maternity leave. You don't need to get them to apply for the role. You must offer it to them in the first instance. Obviously, these issues can be tricky, and so if you are in a situation where you need to make redundancies and you have employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave, then the best idea would be to seek independent legal advice at an early stage to make sure that nothing you are doing is going to lead you into trouble.

How do I use the break clause in my lease to end my business premises lease early?

The first thing to check is what are the dates in your break clause, when is your break date and how much notice do you need to give in advance. The second thing to check is the method of service, how do you need to serve that notice on your landlord. The third thing to check is, are there any conditions attached to the break, do you need to make any payments to the landlord, do you need to give vacant possession on the break date. There are likely to be a number of conditions which need to be satisfied so it's important to seek legal advice well in advance before seeking to exercise your break.

How much is it going to cost?

At the outset of the matter you will be provided with a fee estimate based upon our experience in dealing with similar matters in the past. If something unexpected happens and it appears that fees are going to increase we will contact you and agree a new estimate prior to carrying out further work. Likewise, if we spend less time on the matter than expected we will not charge you the original fee estimate.

Will I have to go to court if I'm getting divorced?

If you're getting a divorce, you don't have to go to court. Matters can be resolved with you and your partner outside of court and can be resolved amicably.

Do I need a survey?

You should have either a home buyer’s report or structural survey carried out. The seller is not obliged to disclose defects in the property and that is what your surveyor will look for. It’s the responsibility of the buyer to ensure that the property is adequately inspected. The rule is buyer beware, and as such, the buyer you are deemed to accept the property in the state of repair and condition it's in at exchange of contracts.

Where and how do I report abuse and discrimination in the workplace?

The first step would always be to approach your line manager and tell them what has happened and ask them for advice as to what the organisation can do to assist you. If you feel that the response of your employer has not been sufficient, then you can raise a formal grievance. If you ask your HR officers for a copy of the grievance policy, they will be able to tell you how you lodge your grievance and once you have lodged a formal grievance, then the employer is obliged to deal with it in accordance with their grievance policy and to give you an outcome. Hopefully as a result of your grievance, your employer will take the necessary steps to deal with the abuse or discrimination that you've suffered. But unfortunately, that might not always be the case, particularly if the perpetrator is somebody higher up in the organisation. If your grievance doesn't get the result that you need, then at that point I would recommend that you seek advice from a specialist employment solicitor. A solicitor will be able to explore what has happened and explain to you the options that are open to you, which may include bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal for damages as a result of the injury to feelings that you may have suffered as a result of abuse and/or discrimination. And it's important to say that if you feel at all unsafe in your workplace, or if you feel that what's happened to you has actually been criminal behaviour, then of course you must go to the police and report it to them also.

What is Stamp Duty Land Tax?

A tax payable on transactions involving land. Available on both freehold and leasehold transactions. On freehold transactions it's payable by reference to the actual amount you pay. Whereas with leasehold transactions, if you're paying a premium for the lease and you're also paying rent then it will be payable on both. SDLT is calculated by reference to a formula which is quite complicated to use. In this case, will help people arrive at what's called the net present value and that's the value upon which the duty is chargeable.


How long is it going to take?

The amount of time it takes to conclude a matter will differ from case to case, however we will use our best endeavours to finalise the matter as quickly as possible. We will ensure that we respond to your telephone calls and correspondence promptly in order that we can progress your matter further.

What does no-fault divorce mean?

No-fault divorce is a recent development in family law. It allows for couples to separate amicably without attributing fault to either party.

I don't agree with the terms of my new employment contract - can you help?

Well, the first step is to look through the contract and make sure that you understand fully everything that's in there. Now, some of the terms in there might be unfamiliar to you, in which case your first port of call would be to go to your new employer and say, “I've seen the contract that you want me to sign, and I don't understand some of it. Can you explain it to me?” Once you've had an explanation of what the terms are, if you're not happy with the contract, then you need to approach the new job with caution, because if you start the new job, even if you haven't signed the contract, you may be deemed to have accepted the terms purely by virtue of starting the job and agreeing to be paid a salary. Ultimately, if you cannot reach agreement with your new employer about the terms of the contract, then unfortunately you may have to decline the job all together if you feel that the terms that they're proposing are ones that you simply cannot accept. Now, before reaching that stage, I would recommend that you seek advice from a specialist employment solicitor who can advise you as to whether the terms that they want you to sign up to are ones which they are permitted to by law, or if they are terms which we would consider to be unreasonable and/or unenforceable.

Is VAT charged on property rental payments?

Land is generally exempt, but a landowner or landlord can opt to tax the property in which case VAT will become payable. VAT is automatically payable on new build commercial property of less than three years and this needs to be factored in because it has an impact on stamp duty land tax payable in respect of the land as well.

Do we need to have a meeting?

It is not always necessary to attend our offices and have a meeting. We understand that time constraints affect businesses and that a telephone conversation is sometimes more convenient for clients. Alternatively, we are happy to meet with clients even if they only have a few queries. We will always be flexible in order to meet your business needs.

What type of court orders can be made regarding children?

There are a few types of orders in which the court can make in relation to children. The first is a child arrangements order, where the court will make a decision on who the children live with and how much contact they spend with a parent. The second is a prohibited steps order. The court will prohibit a parent or stop them from doing a certain thing or action. The third is a specifics issue order and the court will make a determination on a specific issue that has been brought to their attention by either parent.

Are Pre-Nuptial Agreements Legally Binding in the UK?

The question of whether or not a pre-nuptial agreement is binding in the UK is an interesting one. As a position of common law is that pre-nuptial agreements would be an important indicator to the court of the intention of the parties at the time they entered into their relationship. In particular, in relation to assets which were pre-acquired before the marriage. They do not however oust the jurisdiction of the court, and the court still has the ability to meet the needs of the parties. If the pre-nuptial agreement is carefully drafted, and makes prevision for review of change of circumstances. The most obvious one being if the parties have a child. Then there is every likelihood that in fact, the court will hold both parties to the agreement. Providing they've both had legal advice at the time the agreement was entered into, and given proper disclosure of their financial position at that time.

My employment contract has a non-compete clause in it - can you help me overturn it?

If you are leaving employment, you may find that your employer is seeking to enforce a non-compete clause or a restricted covenant in your contracted employment. These clauses might operate to restrict what you can do once you've left. For instance, you may be prevented from going to work for a competitor or from having contact with clients or customers of your previous employer. Is there anything that can be done about these clauses? Well, the answer is, unfortunately, it depends. There is currently no hard and fast rule about the length of time that a restriction can be put in place on your activities after you leave an employment. These are very much decided on a case-by-case basis, looking at what is reasonable in all the circumstances and what legitimate interests your previous employer is trying to protect. An employment law specialist solicitor can review your restrictive covenants and advise whether or not they would be enforced by a court, and you can then make a decision as to what you want to do. It's worth bearing in mind that there is a change on the horizon. The government has indicated that it wants to bring in legislation to say that non-compete clauses will only be able to operate for a maximum of three months post-employment. At present, that law has yet to come into force, but it does signal a change in the way that the courts may look upon these clauses going forward. As I said, taking specialist legal advice before you do anything is vital to make sure that you don't breach any restrictions upon you as that can lead to injunction proceedings and a claim for damages against you.

What are the main costs involved in buying or leasing commercial property?

If you're buying property, the main costs will be the premium or the purchase price of the property itself, you may also pay a premium for acquiring a lease. With a lease the main cost will be the rent and of course whether VAT is payable upon the rent. You also must consider service charge payments and surveyors fees in addition to legal fees and land registry fees.

What makes your business employment service different from other firms?

Mullis & Peake offer an insurance backed Employment Protection Scheme for business clients. This means you pay a fixed fee for a years’ worth of ad hoc advice alongside an insurance policy premium. If you are ever faced with an Employment Tribunal claim the insurance policy would pay your legal fees and any sum awarded by the Tribunal.*

Another aspect which makes us stand out is that, unlike a lot of other firms, we have a dedicated Employment Law function which sits in our commercial department solely for businesses. Our lawyers are both commercial and employment experts so we know how businesses work and are able to appreciate the time and cost restraints involve. This enables us to provide a better service to our commercial clients.

*subject to you not breaching the terms and conditions of the insurance policy

What happens if we cannot agree with whom the children should live?

We would always recommend that you and your partner try and come to an agreement outside of court. However, if you cannot agree on who the child should live with, an application can be made to the court for a child arrangements order, in which the court will make a decision on where the child lives and who he has contact with.

What is Commercial Property?

Essentially, any property that is not residential property. It includes offices, retail premises, and warehouses. However, it also includes pubs, universities, and care homes.  Whether your property is residential, commercial, or mixed use is an important distinction because this will impact upon your tax liability, including stamp duty land tax. If you're in any doubt seek advice from your accountant.

Can you advise on disciplinary and grievance procedures?

Yes, we can.  It is always important to adopt a sensible procedure for resolving any grievance or disciplinary matters.  Early direct communications between an employer and employee can help resolve a problem before it goes too far.  We can advise you on the procedures you might need to follow.

The ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) website is also a good portal for obtaining information on disciplinary and grievance procedures.  ACAS provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law.

What to remember when looking to rent a commercial property?

When entering a new lease there are certain things that you need to consider when agreeing the lease terms. The first thing is the length of the lease, is the term of the lease suitable for you. You also need to consider the rent that's payable, whether VAT is payable on the rent and any rent reviews. You may also be asked to pay a rent deposit to the landlord as security throughout the lease term. You need to consider the permitted use of the lease, are you able to use the premises for your business. You need to consider service charge payments, are they affordable, are they reasonable, and repair. What are your repair obligations under the lease, quite often commercial premises are fully repairing and that's quite an onerous obligation on a tenant. Sometimes you may also wish to consider whether you can get out of the lease early, is there a break provision. If not, can you sell the lease or can you under let it to somebody else.

As an employer, what are my rights?

As an employer, you have the right to expect you employees to comply with the terms of their contract of employment. Outside of that, employees have quite a lot of protection under the law, and you'd be well advised to make sure you're aware of what their rights are before taking any action against an employee.

Do I need to pay stamp duty land tax on commercial properties?

Whether or not SDLT is payable on a commercial property is a matter of fact in each case. If the property is above a certain threshold, then SDLT will be payable. With leasehold properties care needs to be taken as it can also be payable on rent and the consideration. Whereas in the case of freehold properties on consideration only.

What are the time limits for bringing a claim?

There are different time limits depending on the type of claim that is being pursued, but as a very general rule, the majority of claims need to be brought within 3 months of the date of the act complained of.  For example, if you believe you have been unfairly dismissed, the time limit would normally be 3 calendar months from the date of dismissal.  If in doubt, always start from the earliest incident or trigger for a claim.

You should also be aware that an Employment Tribunal claim cannot be brought until you have attempted early conciliation through ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).  ACAS act as an impartial intermediary to help resolve a dispute.   If conciliation is not successful and you still need to bring an Employment Tribunal claim, where both parties have actively engaged in the process, you can usually obtain a lawful extension of time for lodging the claim by the same period of time spent engaged in conciliation.

Can I get my costs paid by the other side?

As a general rule of thumb, costs are not usually awarded in family proceedings. This is because family proceedings are not of the litigious norm, where the loser pays the winners costs. In divorce proceedings, you can ask for the other side to pay your costs, and for the cost to be shared equally. In financial remedy proceedings, the court can make an order for costs but this is very rare and only in certain circumstances. In child proceedings, it is at the court's discretion as to whether they make an order for the other party to pay your costs. As I've just explained, it is not usually the norm in family proceedings for the other party to pay your costs, however, we'll be able to advise you when it may be necessary to make that application for the other side to pay your costs.

What is a rent review?

A mechanism in the lease by which the rent as the name suggests is reviewed. Rent is usually reviewed on an upwards only basis which means that if no increase is agreed on review, then the rent will remain the same. Rent can be reviewed by reference to market rent, turnover rent, index link, or sometimes a combination of all of them. There is a trend towards trying to get downward rent reviews although most landlords are resistant to that because it could have an adverse effect on the property value.

How much is my claim worth?

We always work with you to calculate a range of awards a Tribunal might make as early as possible in a case as we understand it influences your decision whether to pursue a claim.

Generally speaking, for successful unfair dismissal claims you may be able to recover a basic award equivalent to your statutory redundancy entitlement (which is based on your age, salary and length of service).  The employee may also be entitled to a compensatory award for reimbursement of actual financial losses (e.g. loss of salary and benefits), subject to a cap.

From a statistical point of view, the median unfair dismissal award made by an Employment Tribunal (as published by the Ministry of Justice) for the financial year 2017/18, was £8,015, with the average award £15,007.  For successful claims of discrimination, the compensation will be determined by a Tribunal based on the severity of the individual case.  The average award made Employment Tribunals for the financial year 2017/18 ranged from £5,074 for religious discrimination, up to £30,698 for disability discrimination.

Do I need a solicitor to get divorced?

A solicitor will help guide you through the process to ensure that you don't miss anything important along the way, such as making your claims for financial relief. You can deal with your divorce online yourself, but we do find that people come into difficulties and then it does cost more to rectify. If you come in and see us, then we will be able to help you.

What is the Landlord Tenant Act, 1954?

Sections 24 to 28 of the landlord and tenant act, 1954, provide business tenants occupying premises for the purpose of their business with security of tenure rights. This essentially means that such tenants can simply hold over or remain in the premises at the end of their lease term, or they can seek a new lease from their landlord on substantially the same terms as the existing lease. There are exceptions, a landlord can refuse to grant a new lease to a tenant on one or more of the seven statutory grounds for a refusal and they include the tenant's persistent non-payment of rent, or breach of other terms of the lease, or most commonly the landlord wanting to occupy the premises themselves or wishing to demolish the premises.

How much is it going to cost me?

Costs are an important consideration in Employment Tribunal proceedings as it can still be difficult to obtain a significant contribution towards costs from your opponent, even if you are successful with the claim at a final hearing.

At the outset of the matter you will be provided with a fee estimate based upon our experience in dealing with similar matters in the past.  If we cannot give an estimate for the whole case, we will tell you the likely cost for the next stage.

We can also act under a legal expenses insurance policy (often included in many home insurance policies) where the insurer meets our fees.  This means there is usually nothing for you to pay, subject to any excess or particular terms under the policy.

We always look to tailor costs to suit a client’s particular needs and will explore the funding options available, whether that means acting for free under an insurance policy, agreeing fixed-fees or a setting cap on costs so that they remain within your budget.

Do I need to get divorced in the country I was married?

The short answer to the question is no. You can get divorced in a jurisdiction of England and Wales if your marriage in a foreign country was properly registered and noted at the time, and either you or your spouse are now, what we call, habitually resident in the United Kingdom. In fact, the jurisdiction of England and Wales is a favourite forum for divorce from people from all around the world. So it's actually quite common to get divorced in England and Wales even though you were married abroad.

How can we assist you?

Contact us to arrange an initial consultation

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