News

Prioritise Your Will with Gilbert Stephens

12th January 2018

Photo courtesy of Nora Parminter, Crediton Courier

It is understandable that for many, making a Will is not a priority. For obvious reasons, it is easy to delay making an official Will. However, without a Will your estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules which divide your estate along your family line.

Having a Will is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family, and can reduce the amount of stress placed on your family members once you are gone. Writing a Will is especially important if you have children or other family who depend on you financially, or if you wish to leave something to people outside your immediate family. Not only can a Will legally protect your spouse, children and assets, it can also spell out exactly how you would like things handled after you have passed on.

Many people believe that under the intestacy rules their entire estate will pass to their spouse or civil partner, but this isn’t necessarily the case.If you have an estate worth more than £250,000 then part of your estate will pass to your children or possibly even further down the family line. This may make things more difficult for those you leave behind and may not reflect your wishes.

It is also important to note that co-habitees have no automatic right to receive anything from their partner’s estate – even if they have children. Without a valid Will, any wishes that you have expressed before your death will not be taken into consideration. As the intestacy rules focus on your family, no provisions will be made for friends, charities or even a long-term partner. A Will is the best way to protect your loved ones and ensure that your wishes are carried out after you have gone.

When you visit Gilbert Stephens to discuss your Will they will also be able to provide you with estate planning and tax advice. If you want to ensure that any instructions are carried out in accordance with your wishes once you are gone, please ensure making a Will is a priority for you.

Gilbert Stephens Solicitors celebrate Christmas

3rd January 2018

We had a fabulous Christmas party at The Mill on the Exe last month, all our branches came along to celebrate in style. It was good to taste the superbly carved Turkey as featured on BBC News the day before (The Mill on the Exe were filmed carving and serving up a turkey for a feature about 500 year old turkey bones being found in Exeter & identified as among some of the first turkeys to be brought to England from the Americas).

Thank you Mill on the Exe for hosting us and thanks to all at Gilbert Stephens for coming along and having fun!!

Farming Community Network Christmas Auction

18th December 2017

The Farming Community Network (FCN), held their Farmer’s Christmas Celebration and fundraiser at the Exeter Livestock Market on the evening of Monday 18 December.

Kivells Auctioneers were on hand to lead an auction of various items donated by a number of local businesses to raise funds for FCN. Gilbert Stephens donated a children’s ride-on John Deere tractor and trailer to the auction, which was sold, with a Christmas Hamper from Mole Avon, for £120.00.

In addition to the charity auction, the event featured carol singing with the Salvation Army Band and the Unity Gospel Choir. There were also a prize hamper draw, various stalls and children’s entertainment. All proceeds from the event went to FCN.

Sarah Judd
from Gilbert Stephens attended the event. Sarah said, “The evening itself was a resounding success and Gilbert Stephens were pleased to be able to donate an item to the auction. FCN is a voluntary organisation and charity who rely on the donations they receive to continue the valuable supports they offer to farmers and their families within the farming community, through difficult times. Gilbert Stephens are pleased to be able to support FCN in this way.”

Over 500 people were in attendance raising over £3,000 for FCN. A great evening was enjoyed by all celebrating FCN and the vital work it does. Gilbert Stephens is proud to support such a worthwhile charity.

Staff go to new heights for charity

13th December 2017

Staff from Gilbert Stephens Solicitors donned their Santa suits and took to the heights of Princesshay Car Park last week to raise money for YMCA Exeter and raise awareness of youth homelessness.  Brave Santa abseilers Carolyn McAndrew, Paul Kibbler, Cheryl Bolt and Antonia D’Alessio sadly did not have Rudolph to assist them with landing back on the ground, so down the rope it was!

Antonia said: “The advice is not to look down, but that’s easier said than done when 100 feet above Exeter – you have to make the most of the view! Thankfully we were not deterred by the challenge ahead, and we all enjoyed the descent.  It was a fun event for a great charity and I would definitely do it again.

“So far the event has raised £4000 for YMCA Exeter, which is fantastic.  If anyone would like to donate there is still time with the Just Giving site remaining open for a further 3 months.  Funds raised will help to support those transitioning from vulnerable accommodation into their new home at YMCA Exeter.  Every year the charity provides Support Accommodation for almost 100 young people who are experiencing, or are at risk of, homelessness within the city.”

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gilbert-stephens2

Full photos of the event can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/dave.talbot.adventure.events

Ottery lawyer’s ‘second job’ at Christmas

11th December 2017

Chartered Legal Executive Tim Leat from Gilbert Stephens’ Ottery St Mary branch has revealed that he has another part-time job in December – as Father Christmas.

Tim took on the role of Santa at Kilmington Primary School’s Christmas fayre and his daughter Matilda was one of his two fairies, along with her friend Maisie.

Gilbert Stephens has also supported the primary school by taking advertising in its Parents, Teachers and Friends Association calendar, which is sold to raise funding for the school. For each month’s page, the calendar features photos of pupils with birthdays in that month. The December page of this year’s calendar, being held up by Tim/Santa in the photo, shows Matilda dressed as a Christmas star.

Children’s Christmas art brightens up Budleigh branch’s window

4th December 2017

Children at Budleigh’s St Peter’s Primary School have helped Gilbert Stephens to create a festive Christmas display for their shopfront.

Year Six pupils at the school drew or painted pictures of Christmas scenes which are now on show in the Budleigh office’s window, along with twinkling Christmas stars and miniature reindeer.

Gilbert Stephens partner Patrick Langrishe and colleague Bianca Gibbons visited the school to collect the artwork and meet the children on Tuesday November 28th, and the festive gallery was created in the office window the following day.

Patrick Langrishe said, “A big thank-you to the children of Year Six for making our Christmas window look so special.”

Gilbert Stephens inspires students to consider a law career

4th December 2017

Potential young lawyers of the future have been receiving advice and inspiration from staff at the Exeter branch of Gilbert Stephens Solicitors, who represented the firm at Exeter School’s annual careers convention.

The law firm was among 43 organisations who attended the event on November 16th to share their professional experience and expertise, as the students are considering their future career paths and finding out about the qualifications and training they will need.

This year partner Kim McDonald and solicitor Rosy Holyer attended the convention, and also held a prize draw, with the winner getting the chance to shadow Kim in the Litigation department for a day.

Rosy said, “I particularly enjoy representing the firm at this event and the great opportunity to meet bright, aspiring and ambitious young people, and encourage and hopefully inspire them to consider pursuing a challenging yet extremely rewarding career in law.

“I remember attending a similar event myself at that stage of my life, and a conversation I had with a friendly solicitor representing a firm in Bristol had a huge impact in forging my interest in studying law. That led to my motivation and determination to become a lawyer, and so to think that perhaps one day I could have that same effect on a young student would be fantastic.

“The pupils were particularly interested in hearing what a day in the life of a lawyer actually involves. They were surprised to learn that we specialise and work in different areas of law, Kim working in Litigation and myself in Private Client for example, as well as the other areas such as Conveyancing, Commercial and Family dealt with by our colleagues.

“They were also keen to hear the variety of tasks we perform on a daily basis such as writing letters and emails, answering calls, drafting legal documents, and meeting and advising clients in person either in the office or, particularly in my area of Private Client work where many of my clients are elderly, going out to visit them in their own homes or residential care homes.

“They were also very interested in Kim’s area of Litigation and attending Court – which they thought sounded very exciting!”

Kim and Rosy were also able to advise the pupils on the A-level subjects that would be most useful if they were considering a career in law, and the academic qualifications and training required to become a solicitor.

Although Gilbert Stephens is not generally able to offer work experience, the prize draw to win a day shadowing Kim proved extremely popular.

Rosy said, “The interest generated from the draw just demonstrated the motivation and ambition of the pupils at the school, and we hope they and the parents we spoke to during the evening gained a better understanding of what we here at Gilbert Stephens do and what we have to offer.”

Among the many other professions and occupations featured at the careers convention were medicine, the media, science and engineering, the charity sector, finance and the armed services.

More than 300 pupils and families attended, and Exeter School’s careers advisor Ruth Cheesman thanked all the exhibitors for giving up their time to share their career journeys with the pupils.

Stamp duty in the news

4th December 2017

Solicitor Philip Horlock from Gilbert Stephens’ Okehampton branch specialises in conveyancing and property law. He explains what Philip Hammond’s Budget announcement will mean for first-time buyers.

In his Budget speech, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the immediate introduction of tax relief for first-time buyers.  With immediate effect, first-time buyers paying £300,000 or less for a residential property will pay no Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT).  First-time buyers paying between £300,000 and £500,000 will pay SDLT at 5% on the amount in excess of £300,000.

Before the Budget, first-time buyers would have paid SDLT at the current standard rates of 2% on the portion of the purchase price over £125,000 and up to £250,000, and then 5% on the portion of the purchase price over £250,000.

A first-time buyer is defined as someone who has never owned a freehold or leasehold interest in a residential dwelling in the United Kingdom or anywhere in the world, and who intends to occupy the property as their main residence.  All buyers in a joint purchase must be first-time buyers to be eligible for the tax relief.

First-time buyers purchasing property for more than £500,000 will not be entitled to any tax relief and will pay SDLT at the current standard rates.

Primary school and law firm bring Christmas cheer to Moldova

30th November 2017

An Exeter primary school and a solicitors’ office have joined forces to bring some Christmas cheer to people in the poorest country in Europe.

Children at Kenton Primary School and staff at Gilbert Stephens Solicitors have put together dozens of festively decorated boxes of presents for those living in poverty in Moldova, formerly part of Romania.

The shoeboxes all contain basic items such as soap, toothbrushes and facecloths, warm hats and gloves, along with notebooks, pens, coloured pencils, and sweets. Boxes for children contain small toys and games.

The boxes are put together during October and November, and collected from the school by Christian Response to Eastern Europe (CR2EE), which takes them to Moldova.

Kenton Primary School has been collecting for the boxes for about 10 years. Gilbert Stephens’ Exeter office became involved seven years ago through solicitor Helen Clegg, whose older son attended the school. Gilbert Stephens decided they would like to contribute to the appeal, and joined forces with their stationery supplier Devon Commercial Stationers to provide 100 notebooks and pencil cases filled with pens and pencils. DCS provide half of the items free of charge, and Gilbert Stephens pay for the rest, with DCS supplying them at cost price.

Gilbert Stephens staff also donate all the other items needed for around 30 boxes, and deliver them to Kenton Primary School at the end of November, along with the remaining 70 packs of stationery.

Central to the Gilbert Stephens Moldova Appeal operation is office manager Julie Besley, whose office begins filling up with piles of donations from October onwards. In her own time Julie packs the 30 boxes and puts together the stationery packs, which she and Helen Clegg delivered to Kenton school on November 22nd.

Julie said, “My office gets pretty cluttered for a few weeks of the year, but I love being involved in this appeal that brings a smile to the faces of so many Moldovans at Christmas.

“Collecting the toiletries and things for the boxes has become a year-round operation for me – I see soap or something on special offer and buy it, knowing I’ll be glad I did when November comes!”

Helen Clegg said, “Julie and I get a lot of pleasure from filling these boxes knowing that they may very well be the only gift a Moldovan child receives this Christmas.”

The changing face of residential conveyancing

22nd November 2017

Jane Gawn, Head of the Property Department at Gilbert Stephens, has seen many changes in conveyancing since she qualified as a solicitor over 25 years ago. She explains how all conveyancers, and others in the property market, need to adapt to the challenges lying ahead.

How times have changed

Back in the late 1970s/early 1980s, conveyancing was a less pressurised process, and estate agents helped to make it as easy as possible for the client. Completion dates were discussed when the client signed the contract and all the legal aspects were in order, and the conveyancer concentrated on the legal work. The completion or moving date was usually around 28 days.

2004 saw the introduction of Home Information Packs, designed to speed up the conveyancing process. HIPs, supplied to the buyer before the contract was issued or at the same time, contained local authority searches, an Energy Performance Certificate and a copy of the title, along with a list of what was included in the sale and other relevant information.  This was expensive for sellers, and many who spent a lot of time and money on the packs lost out when HIPs were scrapped in 2010.

Nowadays a seller’s conveyancer still uses material similar to that used in the Home Information Packs, including the Energy Performance Certificate, the Property Information form and a list of items included in the sale. Searches are carried out by the buyer’s conveyancers, not those of the seller, putting the onus on the buyer once more.

Another change is that members of the public now have access to title records at the Land Registry, which was not the case in the past. This has been rather controversial and makes it easier for fraudsters to register or obtain mortgages without the consent of the owner. People who do not live in the property, or have a mortgage registered against it, are at particular risk, although the Land Registry does give guidance and take precautions.

The increasing use of email and conveyancing case management systems is also very different to the paper-based system used back in the past. Clients, conveyancers and estate agents often use email rather than letters, and applications to the Land Registry can also be made electronically.

Banks and other lenders offer conveyancing services as well as other organisations which is increased competition for the High Street solicitor.

What is the future?

The Government wants to speed up the conveyancing process, using technology to expedite dealings with the Land Registry and possibly introducing contracts between sellers and buyers to prevent ‘gazumping’. However, the use of electronic methods in conveyancing services could lay them open to the risk of fraud and hacking, and precautions will be needed to prevent this.

It is not yet clear which proposals are going ahead, but conveyancers are certainly under increasing pressure from competition, lenders’ requirements and the large amount of time spent ensuring that transactions adhere to the Money Laundering Regulations.

Solicitors and conveyancers who move with the times will be able to offer the best service, but will face a great deal of forward planning. Exciting if challenging times are ahead, and buyers and sellers need to recognise the importance of choosing a solicitor or conveyancer suitably qualified to advise them.