Gilbert Stephens continue with Exwick Villa support

28th July 2021

Gilbert Stephens solicitors are proud to be able to support Exwick Villa by continuing with their sponsorship of a banner at the ground, providing funds and moral support for the team through next season.

In response to recent difficulties faced by all involved in football over these last 18 months, Gilbert Stephens are happy and excited that they can continue supporting Exwick Villa, a team with a long history within the local community.

Managing Partner Terry Bastyan stated: “We started this partnership in 2018 and it has been very rewarding seeing how much people have enjoyed being associated with such a long-standing club.”

Exwick Villa have existed since 1968 and play in the Devon & Exeter Football League.  Originally based at the Exwick ground and called Exeter Civil Service they were one of the most successful teams in the Exeter area whose players came from mainly a public sector service background.

After a challenging 2020/21 season thanks to the pandemic, the team looks forward to an exciting and hopefully more predictive 2021/22 season. There are some pre-season friendlies lined up which should help them get into game shape before they kick off their first match of the new season!

Terry added “We wish Exwick Villa every success for its upcoming season and look forward to following the squad to victory!”

Marketing Manager Dana Mulligan pictured with the Exwick Villa team having won their league in 2019. Hoping for a successful season in 2020/21!

Proposed rise in probate fees unjustifiable as users face long delays

21st July 2021

Plans to hike fees for probate applications are unwelcome particularly when grieving relatives are suffering because the service is still subject to significant delays, said the Law Society of England and Wales in a response to an announcement by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The current fees are £155 for professional users and £215 for non-professional users. These would change to one single probate fee of £273.

“The MoJ’s persistence of raising fees in the probate service is worrying, particularly when there are continued and significant delays to the probate service,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.

In February, HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) reported it had received 17,101 digital probate applications and 7,008 paper applications. That same month, 23,687 grants of probate were issued.

I. Stephanie Boyce added: “With so many applications now online and the expansion of Court and Tribunal Service Centres to centralise administration, it is unclear why probate service overheads have increased to justify such a significant fee hike.

“It is no secret the probate service has faced delays for people applying for probate grants or letters of administration. In 2020, people had to wait 12 to 14 weeks on average to receive their grant. This is unacceptable, the service must be timely and allow executors to settle a loved one’s estate.

“Any increase in fees must be reflected in the service provided. The online service was specifically designed to streamline the process and the UK government must get the system working efficiently before upping costs to both professional and non-professional users alike.”

The Law Society will be responding to the consultation in full in due course based on discussions with our members.

Congratulations to Nysha Forsey on completing her STEP Diploma

12th July 2021

Nysha Forsey

Huge congratulations to Nysha Forsey on completing her STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) Diploma and qualifying as a full STEP member. It’s no mean feat completing a qualification during a pandemic whilst still working and also looking after a toddlerWell done Nysha.

STEP is the leading worldwide professional body for practitioners in the fields of trusts, estates and related issues. STEP members help families secure their financial future and protect the interests of vulnerable relatives. STEP promotes the highest professional standards through education and training, leading to widely respected professional qualifications.

Specialising in the administration of trusts and estates this added qualification will allow Nysha to provide a more extensive range of services in this area.  In addition, Nysha specialises in drafting wills, with a particular focus on advising individuals and families on succession planning.  She also helps clients in setting up lasting powers of attorney and preparing court of protection applications.

Nysha, an Associate Solicitor at our Crediton office said: “I am so thrilled to have got through the four gruelling exams that make up the STEP Diploma. This has been a huge confidence boost as it has significantly increased my understanding and ability to give holistic and practical advice to my clients on the laws and procedures involved in the administration of trusts and estates.”

Terry Bastyan, Managing Partner at Gilbert Stephens said “We are all very impressed with Nysha ‘s hard work and dedication during her studies, as well as the results that she achieved. We are confident that her new qualification will enhance the services she can provide to the people of Devon”.

STEP aims to promote the highest professional standards through education and training. STEP Diplomas and Foundation Certificates are widely recognised and its members are highly valued by employers.

All STEP members are subject to an extensive Code of Professional Conduct. Members are required at all times to act with integrity and in a manner that inspires the confidence, respect and trust of both clients and the wider community – something all of us at Gilbert Stephens do.

Full members of STEP are entitled to refer to themselves as Registered Trust & Estate Practitioners(TEP). Choosing a TEP to advise you means that you can have confidence and peace of mind knowing that practitioners like Nysha have reached the exacting standards required.

For more information about STEP visit

Top 5 things you need to know about buying a house

11th July 2021

Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life. It’s more than just taking out a mortgage and signing on the dotted line. There are so many factors that go into purchasing property, such as your budget and costs, property reports, location, and financing, it can be exciting and overwhelming all at once.

In this post we will take an overview of the top 5 things you need to know about buying a house.

  1. Costs

These are just some of the initial expenses you will have to make upon purchase of a property, you need to ensure you can pay these and budget accordingly:

  • Stamp Duty Land Tax – This is a tax imposed on the purchase of residential property, and it can make up a big chunk of your total budget. How much it is depends on the purchase price of your property. You can calculate the amount you will need to pay by using HMRC Website. There is currently no SDLT payable on a first time purchase up to a value of £300,000. The amount of SDLT payable otherwise will depend on the value of the property, whether or not it is a second property and, if a new leasehold property, the ground rent.
  • Legal Fees – You will instruct a Solicitor, Legal Executive or Licensed Conveyancer to do the legal work on your behalf. You should ask for an estimate before they start work on your purchase, which will include their fees and all the other expenses you need to budget for in relation to the legal process. How much the fees are will depend on how straightforward the transaction is, whether the property is leasehold, freehold or a Help to Buy Scheme purchase, etc.
  • Deposit – This will be the amount of money you pay towards the price of your home, normally it has to be at least 10% of the purchase price, it is often higher but it will depend on what mortgage product you are using. The Government have recently launched a new mortgage guarantee scheme to encourage mortgage lenders to offer 95% mortgages and this is due to run until December 2022.
  • Valuation fee – any mortgage lender will require you to have a valuation done of the property you are purchasing.
  • Surveyors fee – It’s important to have the property surveyed before you purchase it. This is an inspection of what work needs to be carried out on the house, and will include checking for structural damage or anything that may affect its value such as damp problems which could lead to mould etc.  There are different levels of surveys that can be done.
  • Mortgage costs – if you are purchasing a property you may need to apply for a mortgage, the lender will work with you to establish how much you can afford to borrow. There are often fees such as mortgage valuation and arrangement fees. Check what these are with the mortgage company.
  • Moving Costs – there may be a lot of costs associated with moving your belongings into the property and it’s important to budget for this beforehand so you know how much you need and when payments will have to be made.
  1. Shop around for your mortgage

It’s important to shop around for a mortgage as different companies offer different rates and terms. It pays to compare mortgages rather than relying on just one company, some will give you an online quote whilst others require that you visit a branch in person first. A mortgage broker may also be worth considering to assist you with this, but do check what their fees are.

  1. Don’t rush into any big decisions

Take your time and view lots of different properties, buying a home is likely to be the biggest investment you will ever make and so you want to get it right! Ask the estate agent as many questions as you want and don’t be shy. Ask for second or third viewing if you need them. Look at the property and grounds thoroughly. It’s worth taking a good look around before you make any offers. Buyers are often so busy looking for faults in potential properties that they can miss noticing what’s really important, like how light it is or how much garden space there is. If the owners allow consider taking some photos when you view so you can look over them later, it’s easy to forget details in the moment. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend on doing up a property if a project seems appealing to you!

  1. Check out the neighbourhood

Do you like the area? Are the facilities what you need? What schools are there? How good are the transport links?  What’s the crime rate? Can you see yourself settling down and living there?

Spend some time walking around the neighbourhood, do some shopping if there are shops – try as much of it out as you can, and do it at different times of the day and/or night. Do some research on the area, you may even be able to chat to some neighbours!

A new home is likely to be somewhere you will live for a long time. It should be somewhere you feel safe and happy in the long term. If it’s not the right place to live then don’t buy.

  1. Make a list

Making lists of what you need to do and how far down the line you are will help keep your mind on track. Remember, even though it is exciting there’s still work to be done!

I hope you found this blog post informative and helpful. It’s important to remember that there are many factors when purchasing a property, so it can be difficult to make the right decision with limited information. If you need help or have any questions about what we mentioned here today, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information or a quote, we have offices across Mid and East Devon and can make appointments that are convenient to you.

Telephone:  01392 424242


95% mortgage scheme launched

9th July 2021

A government-backed mortgage scheme launched in April will help first time buyers or current homeowners secure a mortgage with just a 5% deposit.

First announced at the Budget, the scheme will help first time buyers or current homeowners secure a mortgage with just a 5% deposit to buy a house of up to £600,000 – providing an affordable route to home ownership for aspiring home-owners.

The government will offer lenders the guarantee they need to provide mortgages that cover the other 95%, subject to the usual affordability checks.

The scheme is now available from lenders on high streets across the country, with Lloyds, Santander, Barclays, HSBC and NatWest launching mortgages under the scheme and Virgin Money following.

Since 2010, more than 687,000 households have been helped into home ownership through government schemes, but when asked, 69% of private renters and 63% of those living at home who had looked into a mortgage said they cannot find many mortgages with a low deposit. The new 95% mortgage scheme will now make it even more accessible to own a home.

The new mortgage guarantee scheme will give providers the confidence to lend and help families and young people get on the property ladder without the prohibitive burden of a large deposit.

The scheme is one of a range of flexible home ownership options available. These include Help to Buy, Shared Ownership and the First Homes Scheme. Figures show that the number of mortgage approvals for house purchases in January 2021 was 99,000 – a 40% increase on January 2020.

The intervention comes as new figures published by the government show a greatly increased desire for home ownership and a sharp reduction in 95% mortgage availability over the past year.

The figures show that more than two-thirds of private renters (68%) and those living at home (72%) want to buy, with the majority saying the pandemic has made them more aware of the importance and benefits of home ownership.

The survey also found that 76% of private renters and 70% of those living at home have started saving for a deposit or put more money into their savings during the pandemic.

You can read more about the scheme here


Rebecca Cox joins our property team in Crediton

7th July 2021

We are delighted to welcome solicitor Rebecca Cox to our property team in Crediton.

Rebecca specialises in agricultural property work, including the sale and purchase of farms and farmland and rural and agricultural property, charging of rural land and property, rights and easements, and the transfer of sporting rights. Rebecca has a good working knowledge of rural payment schemes and grant schemes.

Rebecca has worked in rural property practice in Devon for the past eighteen years and is a Fellow of the Agricultural Law Association.

Outside of work Rebecca enjoys walking and running and spending time with her family.

We asked Rebecca a few questions:

Why did you choose to work at Gilbert Stephens Solicitors?

I was keen to work for a Devon based, forward thinking, firm.

 Are there aspects of your work that are particularly satisfying or challenging?

I love dealing with unregistered land, and although it can be tricky, find it rather like dealing with a large jigsaw puzzle.

Do you have any ambitions, professional or personal, that you would like to pursue in the future?

I would love to run a marathon, just once!

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in law?

The advice that I was given was to try to remember that it is a profession as well as a business.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

I love running…albeit slowly!

Trust Administrator Nikolas Barnes starts at our Exeter office

3rd July 2021

Nikolas Barnes is a Trust Administrator who has recently started within our Private Client Department based at our Exeter office.

Nik graduated from the University of Bradford in 1999 with a degree in Technology and Management.  He went on to work on the Pensions and FSAVC review for pensions miss-sold sold between 1988 and 1999.  Prior to joining us in April 2021 he worked in an Investment Department at a law firm and qualified as an IFA, Mortgage Adviser, Pension Transfer Specialist, and Investment Manager.

We asked Nik a few questions to get to know more about his day-to-day work and what brought him to a career in law:

Why did you choose to work at Gilbert Stephens Solicitors? Having spent two decades working in financial services, the opportunity to change my career came out of the blue. Although I had been looking to move on from financial services, I had not considered legal work. However, the trust administer role has enough overlapping skills with my previous role for me to be effective while providing the excitement of requiring me to learn and develop. It also presented the opportunity of taking professional qualifications.

 Are there aspects of your work that are particularly satisfying or challenging? I enjoy learning new skills and understanding how systems work. My previous employment used to allow me to interact with clients, but due to changes in how we worked that had slowly dwindled.  With the new position there will be more client contact that will hopefully develop further over time.

Do you have any ambitions, professional or personal, that you would like to pursue in the future? I would like to continue with evening classes. Having completed the more practical courses on offer I am looking into pottery or possibly a cooking class. I would like to travel and there are several places in southern Europe I wish to visit, so when I have the time and money I will look into a pan European railway ticket.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in law? The best piece of advice I was ever given, that would apply to both a legal and financial services career was “if it is not written down, it doesn’t exist. Document. Document. Document”.

What are you passionate about outside of work? Outside of work, I enjoy learning new skills and have been taking evening classes in practical subjects such as DIY and carpentry. I am also a film buff, especially classical and foreign language films. I tend to watch films by director or actor rather than genre, with Akira Kurosawa and Gregory Peck being the main examples. Having said this, I do love a good zombie movie.

Tel:  01392 424242

Gilbert Stephens pass accreditation with flying colours

1st July 2021

We are delighted to announce that Gilbert Stephens have passed the Law Society’s Lexcel assessment process with flying colours! The accreditation is a testament to our hard work over the past 16 months, proving that even through a pandemic we can provide an excellent legal service to our clients.

Issued by the Law Society, the Lexcel accreditation is a quality mark that law firms earn through rigorous regular assessments of their cases and working systems.  The accreditation shows it is clear Gilbert Stephens are committed to hard work and dedication in order to make sure our clients are taken care of in the right way. Lexcel also ensures all aspects of running a firm are in line with their high standards, including people management, risk management, information management and careful management of finances all whilst providing a high-quality service for every client.

Our whole team has shown incredible strength and determination in the face of these hard times. They have done what is needed and more for our clients, and each other.  We are very grateful and proud of them all!

Welcome to Conveyancing Executive Adam Tompkins

30th June 2021

We are delighted that Conveyancing Executive  Adam Tompkins has recently joined the Property Department at our Sidmouth branch.  Adam brings a wealth of expertise and knowledge, having worked in the profession for over 10 years.  He has worked extensively in residential conveyancing in not only sales and purchases of both freehold and leasehold property but also complex Transfers of Equity, Assents and re-mortgages.  With experience in acting for companies and a number of buy-to-let investors alongside private clients he offers our clients a wide range of services.

He has previously worked in small practices as well as larger nationwide law firms and his experience includes acting on significant private residential transactions involving high-value properties, unregistered land, complicated matters of title rectification and listed buildings.

Outside of work you will normally find Adam tinkering with old motor vehicles which are quite the passion of his.

“I am really looking forward to getting started helping our clients with their property transactions in Sidmouth and beyond” Adam commented.

Why did you choose to work at Gilbert Stephens Solicitors?

I have lived in the town of Sidmouth for a number of years and grew up in the neighbouring village of Newton Poppleford.  Having studied in Bristol I was keen to return to my roots and have practised locally since 2011.  It is a joy now to be a part of the team at Gilbert Stephens.

Are there aspects of your work that are particularly satisfying or challenging?

Too many to mention!  The most satisfying is exchanging contracts for young families or people going through stressful times in their lives and being able to make “that” happy telephone call.  The joy that my clients feel in knowing that their deal has been done is a very precious thing to be a part of.

A challenge I enjoy is rectifying defects with title deeds and boundaries.  I particularly enjoy helping clients whose boundaries are not quite accurately reflected in the plans and have them changed at the Land Registry, if certain conditions are met.  I was some time ago able to help a client increase the size of their garden at the Land Registry by about a third which gave them the confidence, once registration was completed, to build some lovely new decking.

Do you have any ambitions, professional or personal, that you would like to pursue in the future?

Professionally I strive to continue to be the “go to” Conveyancer for so many returning clients in Sidmouth and further afield.  Personally, I would love to get my favourite motorcar (which is now 25 years old) back on the road and take a trip around the British Isles in it!

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in law?

Question everything; always ask “why”.  Is there another solution?  Learn from your peers.  Never do anything unless you are completely sure; indeed knowing what you do not know is the greatest skill of all.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your Will

25th June 2021

The death of a loved one is difficult to handle. It can be even more difficult when you are left without the necessary paperwork and information that will help you move on with your life after their passing. This blog post discusses 5 mistakes to avoid when writing your will in order to ensure that this does not happen to you or someone you love.

Mistake Number 1 – Not getting around to updating your will

It’s important to keep a will up-to-date.  If you don’t have a will, or it’s been some time since your existing one was signed, it is wise to make a new will as soon as possible. The cost of updating a will may be much less than putting right the consequences of an outdated document which does not reflect current circumstances or how you would like your estate distributed. For example: if someone has had children since their last will then they should update it immediately so that children are taken properly into consideration.

Mistake Number 2:  Unmarried partners believing they will automatically inherit

“Common law partners” do not inherit, except under a will. So, it is vital that you make a will if you are unmarried and wish your partner to inherit.

Mistake Number 3:  The will is not correctly witnessed

When you plan to sign your will, and have it witnessed, then make sure that the witnesses are over 18 years old and not related to you or anyone who benefits under the will. A witness is someone who sees the document being signed and adds their signature to the will to confirm that they have. It is very easy to get the signing or witnessing of a will wrong and any mistake makes the will completely invalid.

Mistake Number 4:  The executor has been named but no one knows how to contact them

The executors are the people appointed by a will to administer an estate. It’s their responsibility to pay off debts, distribute any cash or property you leave in your will and oversee the sale of anything that isn’t given specifically to someone. It is vitally important that any executor will be contactable and is able to do the job, for that reason we often recommend having replacement executors lined up under your will.

Mistake Number 5:   Not instructing a solicitor to prepare and finalise your will

When you write your own will it’s important that its meaning is clear and any legal terms used are properly used. Ambiguity or not stating exactly what you mean in legal terms might result in your estate being divided differently than you envisaged. The wrong people may benefit or, at best, a slow and expensive court process needed to put things right. By instructing a solicitor you can have peace of mind that upon your death your wishes will be met and that the will is fully compliant with the law. It is money well spent.

Remember, making a will is not something to be taken lightly and should involve legal advice from qualified professionals.  If you’re wondering about how to make a will or need advice about wills then we can help.

Our expert team is here to answer any questions and provide the legal counsel you need.  We offer affordable wills that won’t leave your loved ones in financial limbo after your passing. Contact us today!


Telephone:  01392 424242