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The Right Age To Make A Will?

If you are reading this based on the heading, the chances are you will have thought to yourself – “Do I need a Will?”

The answer to the question is very subjective as there is no specific time that you should make a Will and it will vary from each individual but in general, if you answer yes to ANY of the following questions, regardless of your age, then you should make a Will.

  1. Do you own, or part own a property?
  2. Do you have young children?
  3. Do you have savings over £1,000?
  4. Do you have specific items you would like to leave to people?

For most adults, one or more of the above will apply, certainly by mid to late twenties, which would mean that it would be sensible to start thinking about a Will.

Clearly thinking about and actually doing are two very different things and the attitude of “I’m too young to need a Will – they are for the elderly” often means that although you should have a Will, people do not get around to writing one.

If you are reading this and have a mortgage, chances are that you have life insurance to pay off the mortgage if you die during the mortgage term. This is planning for an accidental death, but people view this very differently to writing a Will, which is protecting your family and loved ones from exactly the same thing.

A Will is the only way to specify how you would like your estate to be distributed on your death, accidental or otherwise, and also allows you to tailor instructions to your requirements, from appointing guardians for your children, building in some protection from care home fees, protect inheritance for children of previous marriages through to looking at business or farm succession.

Whilst hopefully you will pass away peacefully after a long and successful life, the world does not always turn out like that. That is why, if you answered Yes to any of those 4 questions above, now is the right time to make a Will. It is better to be prepared and hope for the best but plan for the worst.

Whilst the world has slowed down for many during the pandemic, now is the perfect time to reflect on your wishes and to put a Will in place so that once restrictions are lifted and the world speeds up to its normal pace, its one more job done during lockdown.

Our specialist Wills team are still able to assist you to prepare a Will during the current pandemic. Advice and instructions can be provided over the phone, via videocalls or through email or postal instruction packs and special arrangements for signing have been put in place. With prices stating at only £150 plus VAT and NHS discounts available, contact Darlington on 01325 281111 or Catterick Garrison 01748 830000, email wills@clarkwillis.co.uk or visit our website for more information.

Equity Release During Covid 19

When undertaking Equity Release work it has always been important to discuss the product in detail with our clients given the need to ensure they fully understand the implications of the borrowing and to rule out any financial pressures from others.

During the lockdown is has become much harder to undertake meetings in person, especially for vulnerable clients. Some of our clients have been self isolating due to their health or their age whilst others have simply been worried about how they stay safe whilst still moving forward with something which is really important and necessary for financial reasons.

At Clark Willis we have continued to support our equity release clients however we can. From face to face appointments in the garden (weather permitting!) to video conference appointments under the Equity Release Council’s ‘Stay at Home’ protocol. In all cases we have still been able to go from offer to completion in around 2 weeks.

Following the change in the government guidance for England from ‘Stay at Home’ to ‘Stay Alert’, we have now obtained up to date clarification from the Equity Release Council as to whether their Stay at Home Protocol should still be followed in all cases when solicitors provide legal advice to their clients.

The ERC have confirmed that if clients are happy to meet face to face, whilst still strictly following social distancing measures of course, the ERC have no objections.

If clients are not comfortable to have their solicitor visit them at home, then it may still be possible to complete the legal advice section of the equity release process by video conference, using the Stay at Home Protocol which can be viewed at https://www.equityreleasecouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Stay-at-Home-Solicitor-Appointment-flowchart.pdf

It is not clear how long the protocol will be available as an option when giving legal advice. Whilst we have always protected vulnerable clients who want to enter into equity release, it seems to me that having another option available whilst there is a chance that clients could place themselves in danger by being forced to meet their solicitors face to face, is the right thing for all concerned.

If clients or professional advisors require any help with equity release, don’t hesitate to contact the Residential Property team at your local Clark Willis office Alister, email property@clarkwillis.co.uk. or visit our website www.clarkwillis.com

The Housing Market returns?

It is great news for conveyancers, estate agents and removal firms that the government have now updated their guidance in relation to buying and selling houses in England.

The changes to the regulations now allow people to leave their home to:

  • visit estate agents or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes;
  • view a residential property to buy or rent;
  • prepare a residential property to move into;
  • move house;
  • visit a residential property to carry out tasks needed to rent or sell that property

 

I have been in touch with a number of local estate agents today and they have all indicated they are aiming to open their doors again in the coming days, to help get the property market back up and running.

It will remain to be seen whether the housing market resumes to post lockdown levels and a straw poll by us would suggest that there is still some hesitation on the part of house hunters to return to their pre Covid-19 search. 58% indicated that they would wait and see how the pandemic progresses against 25% who said they would actively start looking again, whilst 17% remained unsure.

There is expected to be an immediate flurry of activity on those transactions on hold during the lockdown, which are now able to complete.

Throughout the lockdown period Clark Willis have continued to help our clients to buy and sell their properties, within the boundaries of the Corona Virus guidance given by the government. We have remained available and open by phone and video for all of our property clients and this continues to be the case as we make our way, hopefully, out of lockdown.

For those who have actively started hunting for their next home, you can call your nearest Clark Willis office to speak to us or  alternatively, you can obtain an instant, online quote for our legal fees HERE

 

Love Thy Neighbour? Not During Covid-19 Necessarily

Neighbours. Everybody needs, or would like, good neighbours.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, we have seen a noticeable increase in enquiries from clients in dispute with their neighbours.

It stands to reason that a large of amount spent at home coupled with feelings of unease or anxiety about the pandemic could magnify an otherwise minor issue or irritation.

Neighbour disputes can encompass a wide range of issues from overhanging bushes, parking wars, boundary disputes or access issues, through to anti-social behaviour and harassment.

How to Resolve Disputes

First and foremost, we would recommend that you speak to your neighbours informally in an effort to resolve any potential issues at an early stage. You may achieve more with a cup of tea and a biscuit than you can with a legal letter!

It should be remembered that you still have to live next door to each other whilst disputes are ongoing. This can be incredibly stressful for both parties. Selling your home or moving may be an option, however you would have to declare any neighbour dispute, access or boundary dispute to a potential buyer as this is a standard enquiry in conveyancing transaction.

Mediation can also be a very effective method of short circuiting a dispute, particularly if the right mediator is selected, one who is able to think outside of the box and focus the minds of the parties on achieving a mutually acceptable solution.

Unfortunately, there are situations in which the parties are either unwilling or unable to agree a solution and the input of lawyers becomes necessary. It should be said that the potential cost of pursuing a neighbour dispute through the courts can be eyewatering and the potential financial risk to the parties could be significant, particularly if you are the unsuccessful party!

If you are intent on pursuing legal action against your neighbours, it is crucial that evidence gathering is carried out an early stage. The type of evidence required will vary according to the nature of the dispute. A firm of solicitors with strong experience in such cases, together with expert counsel, can advise fully to what evidence will be required and also in respect of the strengths and weaknesses of the respective cases.

Costs and Funding

In terms of funding, unfortunately the vast majority of neighbour disputes are excluded from legal aid funding and would therefore have to be funded privately. It is certainly worth checking any policy of home insurance to see whether there is Legal Expense Insurance (LEI) within the home insurance policy, which may provide cover to you for you depending on the disputes. Charges are normally on a  time spent dealing with your dispute, although a fixed fee may be agreed at the outset or for initial stages to seek a resolution swiftly.

It is essential to understand the possible costs of any dispute and factor this into any decision to pursue or defend a dispute as it is easy for costs to mount up over points of principle when a compromise could solve the dispute sooner.

An Englishmen’s (and Englishwomen) home is his castle and should be a place of sanctuary, but where neighbours actions or inactions are a cause of action, we would recommend that you contact a solicitor an early stage to discuss the merits of the case, strategies for early resolution and the potential cost to enable you to make an informed decision.

Contact our trusted Dispute Resolution team at your local office today (Darlington 01325 281111 | Catterick 01748 830000) email enquiries@clarkwillis.co.uk or visit www.clarkwillis.com for more information.

No8 – Dispute Resolution

No8 – Dispute Resolution

 

Some disputes cannot be resolved just like which came first – the chicken or the egg? but for the majority of people or business there can be a resolution.

We understand that disputes can arise over all matter of personal issues, ranging from neighbourly boundary disagreements through to contractual business disputes and debt recovery. There are always two sides to a dispute and what may appear a clear issue to one party may be viewed differently by the other leaving most disputes not always as clear as black and white.

Unfortunately, it is easy for minor problems to escalate into major disputes as opposing sides become entrenched in their views, dialogue turns to silence, action becomes impasse. Often disputes can have a personal element as well as a financial or performance issue and this can add an extra layer of complexity.

The right approach is essential and instructing a lawyer early can often be more effective than waiting until things get worse and can help to resolve disputes through a variety of means. This may simply be writing to the other side of the dispute, through alternative dispute resolution and we regularly assist our clients to take part in mediation meetings and explore alternative ways of resolving disputes to minimize costs, and in those matters that simply cannot be resolved in any other way, through the Courts.

As a firm we have been assisting the people of County Durham, the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire with their legal disputes for nearly 50 years. Our longest serving solicitor and Partner, Peter Furness, has over 30 years specialising in Dispute Resolution and together with his team, are available to provide you with advice on your dispute, the options available to you and the likely costs so that you can make an informed decision.

We are also happy to assist in matters that the Court system define as small claims as we appreciate that the claim itself can have a greater value above their financial worth and for members of the public who are intimidated by going to Court, we are willing to assist on a fixed fee basis to ensure we can support all our clients, regardless of their dispute.

‘Dispute Resolution’ is a series of monthly monochrome images to be featured over a 12 month period across our social media channels to highlight some of the key elements of our service so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to see the series as they are released.

For more information on our firm please see www.clarkwillis.com