How do I begin divorce proceedings?

As long as you have been married for at least one year, a divorce petition can be prepared. This is submitted to the court and the other party would receive a form of acknowledgement. Following the interim divorce order you would apply for the Decree Absolute. Our family law solicitors are on hand to ensure your divorce is dealt with in the correct manner.

When you want to begin divorce proceedings ensuring you have the eligibility is one thing to consider, but it is best practice to seek legal advice to go through the legal implications before you start, another is the grounds for Divorce. This should be specific to your situation and if possible speak to your spouse before proceeding.

If the court is satisfied with the documents and both parties' agreement to the divorce, it may issue a Decree Nisi. This is a provisional decree that states there is no reason why the marriage cannot be dissolved

How long does a divorce normally take?

If uncontested, a divorce could typically be completed in under six months. This could extend to twelve months if there are financial complications or issues relating to children.

Other potential complications can include:
Grounds for Divorce: In the UK, you need to establish grounds for divorce, such as adultery, unreasonable behavior, desertion, or living apart for a specified period. If both parties agree on the grounds, this can expedite the process.

Financial Complications: While an uncontested divorce is usually faster, financial matters can still cause delays. This includes issues such as dividing assets, property, debts, and determining spousal maintenance. If there are complex financial situations or disagreements on these matters, it may extend the process.

Children's Arrangements: If there are children involved, arrangements for custody, visitation, and financial support need to be agreed upon. Disputes over these matters can slow down the process.

Documentation: Gathering all necessary documentation, including financial records and information about children, is crucial. Delays can occur if there are difficulties obtaining this information.

Many factors can affect the length of a divorce. From the level of agreement between the parties, the presence of financial and child-related complications, and whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Consulting with a family lawyer from Bannister Preston can provide personalised advice based on the specific details of your situation.

How long does a typical House Sale/Purchase take?

Purchasing or selling a House with no major problems should take approximately 8 - 12 weeks. The Purchase/Sale of an Apartment should take approximately 12 - 16 weeks.

One of the main factors will be how many people there are in the chain, the longer the chain, the greater the possibility there is for delay.

Other factors which may be apparent include:
If there are issues with mortgage approval, such as the need for additional documentation, credit checks, or property valuations. It's advisable to start the mortgage application process early.

The conveyancing process involves legal work to transfer ownership of the property. Delays can occur if there are legal complexities, disputes over property boundaries, or issues with the title. Choosing an efficient and proactive conveyancer is crucial to maintaining a reasonable timeline.

We are unmarried what happens to my partner?

Unmarried partners and co-habitees have no automatic entitlement to any of the estate of the other partner. The only way to protect this situation is to make a Will.

Making a will becomes particularly crucial in such situations, as it allows you to explicitly state your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the care of your partner in the event of your death. Here's why making a will is important for unmarried couples:

One of the main reasons to make a will that includes your unmarried partner is because of Intestacy Rules: which means If you pass away without a will (intestate), the distribution of your estate is governed by intestacy rules. In many jurisdictions, these rules prioritise blood relatives, such as children, parents, and siblings. Unmarried partners are generally not recognised under intestacy laws.

What happens to my children/grandchildren?

It is particularly important to make a Will if you have young children or grandchildren.

Through your Will, you can ensure that you protect their financial future and appoint your chosen guardians to look after them.

Some things to consider when it comes to your grandchildren in your will:
- Clearly outline what you wish to leave to each grandchild, whether it's a specific sum of money, property, investments, or other assets. You can allocate specific percentages or fixed amounts.

- Include provisions for contingencies, such as what happens if a grandchild predeceases you. You may decide whether their share goes to their descendants or is redistributed among the surviving grandchildren.

- Specify the age at which your grandchildren will inherit their share. Some people choose to set a certain age, such as 21 or 25, to ensure that the inheritance is managed responsibly.

What happens to my estate if I don’t make a will?

If you die without having made a Will, your estate is distributed according to the laws of Intestacy. These laws include a set list of people who it regards should benefit from your estate, however, the list might not contain the people you had envisaged.

It is a common misconception that in the event of your death, everything will pass automatically to your spouse.

Only if you have no other close living relatives will this happen. Similarly, if you do not make a Will, complicated legal disputes can arise over the question of “who gets what”.

Making a Will is the only way to ensure that you decide how your property and possessions are distributed after your death. Our Wills and Probate solicitors are here to ensure you receive professional advice and support.

What if I have a large estate?

If your estate or the joint estates of a husband and wife exceed £325,000 it would be wise to consider making a specialist tax planning Will that is designed to save your benefactors having to pay large sums of Inheritance Tax.

Inheritance tax is charged at 40% on assets held over and above £325,000. Used to maximum effect, tax planning Wills can save £114,000 in Inheritance Tax.

Your families estate can pay Inheritance Tax at a reduced rate of 36% on some assets if you leave 10% or more of the ‘net value’ to charity in your will. (The net value is the estate’s total value minus any debts.)

In addition to the standard threshold, there is a Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB) that may apply if you pass on your main residence to direct descendants, such as children or grandchildren. The RNRB is designed to reduce the Inheritance Tax liability.

What if I wish to challenge a will after death?

A Will can be challenged after death if it is believed that the person who made the Will was either mentally incapable of understanding the terms of the Will at the time it was signed, or if it is believed that the Will was signed under the influence of a third party.

Also, if you believe that you ought to have benefited from someone’s Will or Estate, but this has not happened, you may have a right to make a claim against that person’s assets.

What is Conveyancing?

Essentially, Conveyancing is the term used for the transferring of ownership of property from one person to another. A number of matters will need to be examined to ensure that the property being purchased is good and marketable with no legal defects. This will involve investigating the legal title to check, amongst other things, that adequate rights are in place for gaining access to the property; checking what restrictions a property is subject to and carrying out all necessary searches to ensure that no adverse planning or environmental matters affect the property. Our conveyancing solicitors are on hand to ensure you receive the correct advice in a timely manner.

What type of Survey should I carry out?

There are three types of Survey, the Valuation or Condition Survey, the HomeBuyer Survey or a Building Survey.

The Valuation or Condition Survey is the most basic and cheapest of all Surveys and is required by your lender and entails a Surveyor visiting the property to confirm the market value, reinstatement value and report on matters which could affect a lender’s decision to lend. The Valuation Survey is purely for your Mortgage Lender's benefit and will not provide you with the necessary detail which you will need should there be any adverse issues.

What is the homebuyers survey?
The HomeBuyer’s Survey is the mid-tier Survey and will highlight any causes for concern with recommendations for any further action which might be required.

A Full Structural Survey would be recommended if the property being purchased has been extended and there are concerns as to the stability of the extension or if the property is old (typically more than 100 years).

Further Guidance can be found on the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Website - www.rics.org

What would I be entitled to?

A court is guided by many factors when considering the financial issues, these include assets, income, financial obligations, the duration of the marriage. There are many things for the court to consider and no two cases are ever the same.

Figuring out what you're entitled to is easier when you work with solicitors and a conveyancing team like ourselves. Bannister Preston makes it easy for you to find out what you can get.

If you have any questions please get in touch with our team.

When should I change my will?

The most obvious time to change your Will is when you experience a change in your family circumstances. This could be marriage, separation, divorce, remarriage or the birth of a child or grandchild for example.

If you are separated but not divorced, your former spouse will have a claim against your estate after your death unless you make a new Will. If you are divorced, but wish to continue to benefit your former spouse after your death, then you will need to remake your Will.

If you already have a Will, marriage will automatically revoke it and you would need to make a new one.

It is also advisable to remake your Will if your financial situation changes or you would like to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax payable.

Who looks after my estate after I die?

If you die without a Will, the Law decides who will look after your estate.

If you make a Will you can appoint an Executor or Executors who are entrusted with your property and possessions after your death, and who will ensure that your wishes are carried out. It is important to make a Will so that you decide now who this is. If you are married, you may wish to appoint your wife or husband, and many people consider grown up sons or daughters as another obvious choice. Alternatively you may wish to appoint a professional person such as a Solicitor to act as your Executor or to act jointly with your husband or wife or son or daughter.

It is advisable to appoint two Executors as this safeguards your interests should one of the Executors be unable to act.

Will the house have to be sold?

Again, no two cases are completely alike. Typically, one of the principle concerns of the court is how the children, and everyone else, are to be accommodated. This could mean that the family home may be sold, with the proceeds being divided such that everyone can find a new home.

Complications from this may include:

Ownership and Mortgage
If the house is jointly owned by both spouses, decisions about its future may need to be made. This includes whether one spouse will keep the house or if it will be sold.

Financial Needs of Each Spouse:
The court will consider the financial needs and obligations of each spouse, especially if there are dependent children. The primary caregiver may be given priority in staying in the family home.

Spousal Maintenance
If one spouse is financially dependent on the other, the court may consider spousal maintenance as an alternative to selling the house immediately. This allows the dependent spouse to remain in the home for a specified period.