Monthly Archives: April 2020

Our home

When the joint owner of a property dies, does the property pass to the survivor?

If you own a property jointly with someone else, you may automatically become the sole owner when they die, depending upon the way in which the property is held.

If you live in a home which you own jointly with someone else, it is important to understand the type of ownership you have. This is because it will determine what happens to the property after the death of one owner.

The two types of property ownership

If a property is owned as tenants in common, then each owner has a specified share of the property. For example, a couple may choose to have 50 per cent each, or if one has contributed more to the purchase price they can agree on different shares.

When a tenant in common dies, their share of the property passes in accordance with the terms of their Will or, if they did not have a Will, then under the Rules of Intestacy to specified close family members. This means that the person living in the property will not necessarily inherit it and they may have to leave so that it can be sold.

The second type of property ownership is a joint tenancy. No share is specified and the property is deemed to belong to the owners jointly. When one of them dies, the remaining owner automatically owns the whole of the property.

This is the case, even if the deceased left a Will leaving all of their assets to someone else, because a joint tenancy interest in a property passes by the Right of Survivorship and not via a Will.

The Land Registry will need to see a certified copy of the Death Certificate to amend the Register after the death of a joint tenant, however they will not ask for a Grant of Probate, although this may still be needed for other assets that the deceased may have held. If the property is solely owned or owned by tenants in common, the Land Registry will require a Grant of Probate before they amend the Land Register.

How is my property owned?

To find out how a jointly owned property is held, you need to check the Land Registry title. The property is owned as tenants in common if the section marked ‘B: Proprietorship Register’ contains this or similar wording: ‘No disposition by a sole proprietor of the registered estate (except a trust corporation) under which capital money arises is to be registered unless authorised by an order of the court.’ If there is no restriction then ownership is as joint tenants.

Estate planning

In some cases it is advantageous to your estate for your property to be owned by way of a tenancy in common. It is still possible for someone to stay in the property after the death of the other owner by leaving them a life interest in it. Planning for the future can be a complex area and it is advisable to seek legal advice to ensure that your loved ones are provided for as you would wish.

If you would like to speak to a Wills and estate planning expert, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at

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When an Executor fails to deal with the administration of a Will

If the administration of an estate is delayed because an Executor stops responding, it can be frustrating for everyone.

A Will may name one or more Executors whose job it is to deal with the winding-up of the deceased’s affairs and the distribution of assets.

Before the administration begins, each Executor must decide whether they are willing and able to act. It is important to think this through carefully as it is difficult to withdraw partway through the administration.

Deciding not to act

If a joint Executor does not wish to take on the task, then they can renounce the role or alternatively request that power to be reserved to them, which means they can ask to act later if they choose. These decisions must be made before any action is taken in administering the estate.

Stepping down partway through administration

If an Executor wishes to cease acting during the administration it can be difficult to have themselves removed. There is a rule that once someone has ‘intermeddled’ in an estate, they cannot retire from the position of Executor.

For this reason, it is important to understand exactly what is required of an Executor before taking on the role. They are required to collect in and value all of the deceased’s assets, arrange for payment of any debts, calculate and pay any tax liabilities, prepare estate accounts and distribute the net estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will. There can be personal liability for failure to act correctly in the administration.

When writing a Will and choosing Executors it is important to ensure they know what the role entails and that they believe they will have the time and capacity to take on the job.

If you do not have anyone who is willing to act as your Executor, you can appoint a professional to act on behalf of your estate.

Dealing with an unresponsive Executor

When an Executor stops responding to communications partway through an administration, it can be very problematic. There is a time limit for completion of estate administration and any other Executors will be mindful of facing accusations of failing to carry out their duties, as well as the potential for penalties arising from late payment of tax and other debts. Beneficiaries will also be keen for the administration to be finalised.

It is important to try everything to attempt to re-establish contact with an unresponsive Executor and see if an agreement can be reached with them to conclude the process. Failing that, it may be necessary to apply to the court to have the Executor removed. The court will take into account the best interests of the estate and any beneficiaries when reaching a decision.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert Wills and Probate solicitors, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at

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Mental Capacity

How to show mental capacity to make a Lasting Power of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can be an incredibly helpful way of allowing a person you trust to manage your affairs once you are no longer capable.

Ideally, an LPA should be executed well in advance of any incapacity. But so long as the person signing the document still understands its full meaning and effect, it is still possible for them to sign a valid LPA.

The benefits of an LPA

There are two different types of LPA, one in respect of health and welfare and one which relates to financial matters. By putting them in place while you are able to, your Attorney will be able to act on your behalf in the future, should you become unable to manage your own affairs.

A health and welfare LPA will only be activated once capacity has been lost. A financial LPA can be used before that time so that an Attorney can help someone manage their affairs, for example, by going to the bank on their behalf.

Proving mental capacity when making an LPA

With the onset of a degenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease, many people realise that they will need an LPA to enable someone they trust to act on their behalf.

There will come a point when they lack the mental capacity to put an LPA in place, but at the onset of a degenerative disease there is often still time to arrange their affairs, provided they can demonstrate that they have sufficient mental capacity to understand the effect of the documents they are signing.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 states that to have capacity to execute an LPA, an individual must have all of the relevant information about LPAs, be able to retain the information and be able to consider the information and make the decision to make an LPA.

No-one may influence them in their decision and they must be able to communicate it, even if it is only by movement or signs.

Once someone has been diagnosed with a degenerative disease, it is always advisable to have an assessment of their capacity carried out before the LPA is executed. This can be done by a GP or social worker, who can also witness the document.

If someone lacks the mental capacity to make an LPA, then their relatives can make an application to the court for a Deputyship Order. This can be a lengthy and expensive process with more ongoing costs than those associated with an LPA.

The best option is usually to sign an LPA well in advance of when it is needed. It does not need to be put into force until such time as capacity is lost.

If you would like to speak to an expert in LPAs and Wills, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at

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empty office

Where there’s a [need for a] Will, there’s a way [to get it signed]!

As we all get to grips with home working, home schooling and staying up until midnight to get a supermarket delivery slot, we are all becoming a more au fait with the ‘new normal’.

Like many other companies, we are seeing a surge in the number of clients who want to make Wills and those who are finally ready to provide those last few instructions that they have put on the back burner. We understand that there’s always something nicer to think about, something else that sits higher up the priority list – but, really, what’s more important than protecting our loved ones and making sure our wishes are followed in the event of a crisis?

Solicitors who make Wills and who need to therefore ensure the valid signing of those Wills are now classed as ‘key workers’. Good news. But, how do we cope with the draconian rules around signing? Well, where there’s a Will, there’s a way!

We are having to be creative here and our ability to engage with our clients over video conferencing helps us a great deal. We can fully address issues around mental capacity assessments and ensure clear taking of instructions so that we can be sure our clients’ Wills are valid and less likely to be challenged.

As our regulators grapple with potential changes in the law, we can provide advice relevant to your circumstances as to how best to sign your Will in the ‘presence’ of two (socially distanced) witnesses!

So, challenging times for us all – but here at legalmatters we are keeping our (latex gloved) finger on the pulse and are here to help.

If you would like to speak to an expert in LPAs and Wills, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at

We hope you all remain safe and well.

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