During the Coronavirus pandemic, Ridley and Hall Solicitors have worked hard to stay open and meet the legal needs of everyday people across Yorkshire and the rest of the country. Certain legal matters have been really important to people over lockdown and we feel it is important to make the public aware of the things that they might need to give some thought to. Below are our top 5 questions issues which you might want to consider.
1. Have you made a Will and a Lasting Power of Attorney?
Even at the best of times, it can be hard to frame your mind towards putting in place plans for when you pass or way or lose the mental capacity to manage your own affairs, but at a time of such unprecedented health crisis, it is more important now than it ever was. It ensures not only that your property is dealt with as you wish and those you wish to benefit do so, but getting specialist advice from a solicitor significantly reduces the risk that your wishes and intentions are not followed. It may also help to reduce the risk that someone challenges your will or brings a claim against your estate when you die.
2. Is it time to downsize or consider a move?
With property sales and purchases grinding to a standstill during lockdown, things are picking up. If you are thinking of downsizing or taking your next step, now couldn’t be a better time for many because of the Government’s decision to put a hold on Stamp Duty, which applies until 31 March 2021. This will save many people thousands of pounds which can go towards your furnishings instead, or add the extra money to your budget.
3. If you’re staying put, do you and your spouse own your property in the right way?
Many don’t realise that co-owners can hold their property either as Joint Tenants or as Tenants in Common. Owning as Joint Tenants is great for many people throughout much of their lives, as the untimely death of the first means that the survivor owns the whole property. However as we get older, we need to think about whether this is still suitable. What if, for example, the survivor needs to pay for long term care as they age, potentially having to sell the house and use all of the proceeds to pay for care.
Considering changing your method of ownership to Tenants in Common means that each of you owns a 50% share of the property and you can each leave your share to others in your will when you die, such as your children. This means that the survivor of the two of you doesn’t inherit the other’s share, which is helpful if the survivor ends up needing to pay for care.
4. Not married? Consider sorting out a cohabitation agreement.
Given the uncertainty of the current climate, if you are living with a partner who you are not married to, now would be a good time to discuss a cohabitation agreement with them. Cohabitation agreements give certainty to both partners about what will happen if things don’t work out. There has been a huge increase in separations over the pandemic. If there is no express agreement between you, disagreements can be very time consuming and costly to sort out. A cohabitation agreement can set out exactly what both of your expectations would be about payment of bills and division of assets if you do decide to separate.
5. Looking to get married as soon as lockdown is over? Think about getting a pre-nup!
If you are getting married, then protecting your assets once married is a big consideration. Entering into a pre-nuptial agreement can ensure that you provide security for your children, as well as yourself. Without a prenuptial agreement, it is possible for either one of you to make claims against the other’s assets, whether acquired before the marriage or not. Prenuptial agreements have in recent times become more enforceable than they were, as long as certain criteria are met – one of them being that they are entered into at least 6 months prior to the marriage. Again, in this time of uncertainty, providing for family members when there is a wedding can provide comfort to yourself, your partner and family members.