News

The Really Big Quiz in aid of Inclusive Exeter

18th May 2022

A team from Gilbert Stephens recently took part in the Simpkins Edwards annual Exeter Really Big Quiz in aid of Inclusive Exeter. Inclusive Exeter CIC brings together groups and individuals from diverse communities across the city of Exeter and beyond. They are a community-led organisation which holds and facilitates activities and events to improve relationships between communities and local and national services, fostering better integration and reduced isolation.

Taking place at the Exeter Corn Exchange the quiz was a great success. Antonia D’Alessio who was part of the team said: “The Really Big Quiz has been greatly missed, having been postponed for 2 years due to the pandemic. It was fantastic to be able to take part and support such a great local charity, who do so much good work in the city, whilst catching up with friends and colleagues”.

The team put in an excellent performance coming 2nd and can hold their heads high! “We’re looking forward to next year’s event, and hopefully we can go one better!” said Antonia.

Budleigh Lions Gala Week

17th May 2022

The Budleigh Lions Gala Week kicks off on 28th May and we are delighted to be sponsoring the pebble building competition again this year.

Throughout the week there will be a variety of events including lots of Queen’s Platinum Jubilee themes.  Events are Children’s Pavement Artist Competition, Pebble Building Competition, Jubilee Coffee Morning, Musical Extravaganza, Horse Racing Evening, Jubilee Quiz, Jubilee Praise event and the Jubilee Street Party.

You can pick up a Gala Week Programme with details of all the events from shops listed here  

We always love the pebble building competition, it never ceases to amaze us how high some of them get and just how many fantastic and creative designs there are!

We look forward to seeing just what the Budleigh Salterton residents come up with this year!

 

Sponsors of Eggesford Point 2 Point

28th April 2022

The Eggesford Point 2 Point is taking place on 8th May, and we are excited to be one of the sponsors again this year, and are very much looking forward to a thrilling day! This horse race is a much loved community event in the area, and attracts people from all over. If you’re looking for a fun day out, then this is definitely the event for you!

If you are wondering just what a point-to-point race meeting is, let us explain. These races are organised to allow young horses and inexperienced riders the opportunity to race over fences in a controlled environment. The race itself is a form of steeplechase over fences and can be the first step in a horse’s and jockey’s racing career. There are normally around 6 races during the day but gates normally open well in advance allowing you time to settle in.  You can read more here

Point 2 points provide a great day out and are the perfect opportunity to get together with friends and family for a picnic.  So if you’re looking for something different to do this May, make sure you head to Eggesford!

We hope to see you there!

Full details including the race card can be found here

Gilbert Stephens will plant a tree for each new matter opened through May

28th April 2022

We are showing our support for Earth Day, which fell on 22nd April, by planting a tree for every new matter opened throughout the month of May.  We are committed to preserving and protecting our environment, and this initiative is one way of doing that.

Managing Partner Terry Bastyan said “We are very pleased to be working alongside JUST ONE Tree with this initiative. They plant trees where they are needed most to support our planet, such as Madagascar, Kenya, Haiti, Mozambique, Nepal, Indonesia, Zambia and The Oceans which includes planting vital sea kelp”.

JUST ONE Tree is a non-profit initiative removing CO2 from the atmosphere and reversing biodiversity loss through global reforestation. They plant trees in areas severely affected by deforestation to maximise the effect on reducing global warming. In the process they help to provide agricultural education and sustainable incomes to local communities.

But they don’t stop there. JUST ONE Tree concentrates on restoring the entire ecosystem by planting on land and in the oceans, and they also focus on helping to shape the next generation of planet-conscious thinkers by bringing environmental education into the classrooms with lesson plans and JUST ONE Tree Day in October.

We chose to partner with JUST ONE  Tree as they are a phenomenal UK based team of like-minded individuals that have a passion for planting trees all over the world.

It costs just £1 to plant a tree, individuals, schools and businesses can all play their part in supporting the planet through the scheme.

So, if you instruct Gilbert Stephens to act on your behalf in May, not only will you be getting expert legal advice, but you’ll also be helping to make our world a better place.

Terry Bastyan added “We are aware that simply offsetting a carbon footprint by planting trees is not enough, and this initiative in recognition Earth Day is just part of what we are doing at Gilbert Stephens Solicitors. We have many other initiatives within the firm and plans to reduce our impact on the environment further”.

Gilbert Stephens Solicitors are committed to making a difference every day. If you need legal advice or assistance, please contact us today. We would be more than happy to help you. Thank you for supporting Gilbert Stephens Solicitors and our tree planting initiative.

Find out more about JUST ONE Tree here

Gilbert Stephens Young Professionals Network

25th April 2022

Gilbert Stephens Solicitors Young Professionals Network had a great evening recently as they met at Margoux in Exeter for beautiful food, wine and excellent company.

A big thank you to those who attended and to Margoux for hosting them!

Do get in touch if you’d like to join and hear about upcoming events.

Gilbert Stephens Young Professionals Network

The Exeter based Young Professionals Network (YPN) offers members a chance to network with like minded professionals on an informal basis. The network was set up by Gilbert Stephens in 2010 to provide the firm’s younger members to build their own network of contacts in the Exeter area. The group has grown annually and now has over 300 members from industry, professional services and the charity sector.

The YPN is different to other formal networking groups as the atmosphere is relaxed and informal. What makes the events extremely popular with younger professionals is the alternative option to building professional and personal relationships outside of the more traditional business networks.

Wherever possible the group aims to support, through their events, new businesses in the local area. Events are typically announced 2 -3 weeks prior to the event taking place.  The previous events have varied from cocktail making, bowling, laser tag, the art of sushi making to trying the menus of some of Exeter’s latest restaurants and informal drinks events.

This is just some of the feedback from their most recent event:

Thank you very much for the invite last night, it was a great evening and what a venue! It was good to meet Carolyn and Sonja and interesting to find out a bit more about their respective specialties. Look forward to seeing you all again soon.”

“Thank you for arranging the evening last night, both myself and other FC counterpart thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Looking forward to the next one”

“Thanks again for the event last night – It was the best networking I’ve been to so far!”

 

Join the Gilbert Stephens Young Professionals Network today

Simply contact us via one of the methods below to register. Membership is free and confirmation of acceptance of membership will be emailed to you.  Once you have received confirmation, you will be emailed invitations to our events.

Please contact us

Email  and/or follow us on Facebook @GSYPN and Twitter @GS_YPN

A Guide to Joint Ownership

22nd April 2022

Whenever you are purchasing a property in your joint names, it is extremely important that you understand the ways in which you can hold the beneficial interest in the property and the effect that this will have on any division of the future sale proceeds – for instance on the sale of the property, divorce or breakdown of your relationship, dispute with co-owners or eventually on your death or the death of your co-owner.

The purchase of property is usually the biggest investment you make and the way in which you own the property should be given particular consideration, taking into account a number of factors to include:

  • Whether you are currently married or in a civil partnership; or not;
  • Whether you are contributing equally to the equity of the property;
  • Whether you are receiving a gift from a family member to either one of you; or it is a gift to you jointly;
  • Who is going to pay the mortgage [if there is a mortgage];
  • How you are going to finance any improvements to the property in the future;
  • Whether you will repay part or all of your mortgage in the future from an inheritance.

It is a sad fact that most disputes in this area occur between unmarried co-habitees, but these disputes can also arise between family members, friends, or business partners who purchase property together. We have to advise you of the problems which may arise if consideration is not given to this issue which include:-

  • The possibility of dispute;
  • Becoming involved in expensive litigation at a later stage;
  • The possibility that the Court will divide the property in a way that is different from what you had intended
  • There are also different assumptions made in the event that you are unmarried relating to ownership of property, and it can be very complex and expensive if the matter needs to be resolved.

 

How you can own the beneficial interest in property?

There are two ways:

BENEFICIAL JOINT TENANTS

What is the effect of holding as beneficial joint tenants?

As joint tenants, you are deemed to hold the property in equal undivided shares and this is so whatever provisions may have been made in your Wills. In other words, you will be regarded as owning the whole of the property and the net proceeds of its sale belonging to all owners as one.

 

What happens if one of you dies?

If you hold the property as joint tenants, then on the death of either of you the property will automatically vest in the survivor. All that has to be produced to the Land Registry is a copy of the death certificate for the property to be transferred into the sole name of the survivor.

 

What happens if you sell the property whilst you are both alive?

If the property is sold, it will be assumed that the net proceeds of sale will be divided on a 50/50 basis if there are two co-owners, whatever you each put into the property at the time of purchase, or afterwards by way of improvements/mortgage contributions.

 

Can you change the way you hold the property at a later date?

If you decide to hold the property as joint tenants, but at a later date decide that you wish to hold the property as tenants in common, then you can change the way you own the property. However, if one of you decided unilaterally to sever the joint tenancy and hold as tenants in common, this would be on the basis that you would own 50% each, irrespective of what you had each contributed to the purchase price. It would only be with agreement of all co-owners that you could set out an unequal share.

 

When would it be unsuitable to hold the property as beneficial joint tenants?

There are many different scenarios in which we would not advise you to hold the property as joint tenants, because it would not adequately protect your investment. These would include, but it is not an exhaustive list:

  • Where you are unmarried or not in a civil partnership;
  • Where one of you has received a gift towards the purchase price from a relative/friend;
  • Where one of you is contributing more to the purchase price;
  • Where you are not paying the mortgage jointly;
  • Where one party intends to invest a future inheritance or funds into the property for renovations/improvements;
  • There may be instances where it is not suitable for a married couple to hold a property as joint tenants.

 

BENEFICIAL TENANTS IN COMMON

What is the effect of holding as beneficial tenants in common?

If you hold the property as tenants in common, it means that you each hold a separate divided share of the property. You can hold in any proportions which can be either equal or unequal, for example, 50/50, 40/60 and so on.

 

What happens if one of you dies?

If one of you were to die, then the deceased’s owner’s share will pass in accordance with the terms of that person’s Will, or under the rules of intestacy (usually next of kin) if no Will has been made.

 

What happens if you sell the property whilst you are both alive?

The proceeds of sale would be divided in accordance with the shares you hold in the property – either equal or unequal – as you indicated when you purchase the property.

 

Can you change the way in which you hold the property at a later date?

If you do decide to hold the property as tenants in common, but at a later date decide that you wish to hold as joint tenants, then this change is possible. Express declaration of trust – a Trust Deed When holding the property as tenants in common, we would strongly advise you to have a Trust Deed, which we consider is necessary. This is also known as ‘Declaration of Trust’ or a ‘Co-Ownership Agreement’.

 

Trust Deed

A Trust Deed should be entered into at the same time as the purchase transfer document. It records what has been agreed between you at the time of the purchase and will be binding on the current law, unless there has been fraud or mistake. This Trust Deed is aimed at reducing the risk of misunderstandings or future difficulties when buying with someone else and is aimed at protecting you. This Firm always advises that this should be prepared. It will avoid the costly litigation if there is a dispute in the future

 

A Trust Deed can include information such as:

  • Your respective contributions towards the purchase of the property;
  • How the equity of the property is to be divided when the property is sold, once any mortgage has been repaid;
  • What will happen if one owner wants to sell and the other does not;
  • How each owner is contributing towards repair of the property and payment of utilities;
  • What happens if there is future investment in the property by one or other of the co-owners;
  • How each owner is contributing towards the mortgage repayments, (if applicable)
  • An inventory of who owns which items of furnishings.

 

The above list is not exhaustive. Your Trust Deed will be specifically tailored to your requirements.

 

The importance of making a Will

When holding as tenants in common, you should also consider what will happen when one of you dies. It is possible that the surviving joint owner of the property will have no control over the deceased’s beneficiary who may wish to live in the property, or insist on a sale of the property to realise his/her interest. A Trust Deed can include a provision stipulating exactly what should happen to the property if the joint owner dies. You may like to consider giving the surviving owner the right to reside in the property for as long as he/she would like and/or the power to purchase an alternative property on similar terms. In this instance, in addition to including a provision to this effect in the Trust Deed, it would be essential to give a direction to your respective Personal Representatives in your Wills.

 

There may be slight inheritance tax advantages in holding the property as tenants in common which is dependent on your overall assets. There may also be potential benefits in respect of care home fees but this is a matter you would need to consider in conjunction with a review of your Wills.

 

Our Private Client Team have experts in this field, who would be pleased to advise you and discuss Inheritance Tax Planning.

Contact us on 01392 424242 or email .

Purchasing a New Build Property

20th April 2022

If you’re in the market for a new property, you may want to consider purchasing a new build. New build properties have a number of benefits that older properties don’t offer, including modern design, energy efficiency and new build homes tend to have lower maintenance costs, as they are less likely to experience problems with damp, mould, or pests.  Importantly developers will also often provide a 10 year warranty scheme for the construction of the property such as the National House-Building Council (NHBC).

If you’re looking for a new build property, it’s important to work with a reputable builder or developer. Once you’ve found a few builders that you’re interested in working with, be sure to visit their properties and ask lots of questions. You should also make sure that you understand the terms of your contract before you sign anything.

The purchase of a new build property is a more complex transaction than the purchase of an existing house or building.  The main characteristics of a new build property are:

  • It is a sale of part. The developer will usually own the whole site and is “disposing” of it or releasing it in the form of housing plots.
  • The developer may adopt a slightly different Conveyancing procedure from that normally encountered. The developer does this for his own convenience when dealing with a large number of sales simultaneously.

When acting for you in the purchase of your new build property, we will ensure that the following information is obtained from the developers:

  • Planning permission and planning agreements – We will confirm whether planning permission has been granted and investigate if any conditions have been or will be complied with. We will also check that the conditions on any planning agreements that the developer may have entered into with the Local Authority have been complied with, or that you have an indemnity against any breaches from the Developer
  • Building Regulations – Has building regulation consent been granted? Building regulations control the methods and materials to be used in the construction to ensure that proper standards are maintained in all new-build properties. If there is no consent, it may suggest that it has not been constructed to the correct standards and we will need to investigate further.
  • Build Guarantee – A form of structural guarantee should be offered. A structural guarantee is likely to be a condition of the mortgage offer in relation to a new build property. We will ensure that the guarantee offered will be acceptable to you and your mortgage lender.

 

If you’d like to discuss any of the above or get a quote for the purchase of a new build you can contact us on 01392 424242 or email .  We have offices in Exeter, Crediton, Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary, Budleigh Salterton and Okehampton.

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020

5th April 2022

On 6th April the long awaited Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force, this has also been labelled the “No Fault Divorce Bill” as there will no longer be a requirement to provide evidence of “conduct” or “separation” to file for divorce.

The Ministry of Justice state:

“The DDSA represents the biggest reform of divorce laws in half a century and aims to reduce the impact that conflict and allegations of blame can have on families, and in particular, on any children.”

“Previously, the party seeking divorce had to satisfy the court that the legal test of irretrievable breakdown was met, by citing one or more of ‘five facts’.  The new law will remove the requirement to assign blame, by allowing one party – or the couple jointly – to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown. No evidence will be required for this beyond a statement. It will also limit the ability of one party to challenge a divorce – which in some cases has allowed domestic abusers to exercise further coercive control over their victim.”

Amendments include:

  • removing the requirement to provide evidence of ‘conduct’ or ‘separation’ facts and replacing this with a simple requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership or to obtain a judicial separation.
  • removing the ability to defend the decision to divorce or end the civil partnership.
  • allowing, for the first time, joint applications for divorce, dissolution, and separation, meaning that couples can now apply together for a divorce, dissolution, or separation.
  • introducing a new minimum overall timeframe of six months (26 weeks) made up of a ‘minimum period’ of 20 weeks in divorce and dissolution proceedings between the start of proceedings (when the court issues the application) and when the applicant(s) may apply for a conditional order and the current minimum timeframe of 6 weeks between the conditional order and when the order can be made final. This ensures that there is a period of reflection, and where divorce is inevitable, provides a greater opportunity for couples to agree the practical arrangements for the future.
  • updating the legal language used for divorce. ‘Petition’ will become ‘Application’, ‘Petitioner’ will become ‘Applicant’, ‘Decree Nisi’ will become ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ will become ‘Final Order’. This makes language simpler and more accessible to those outside the legal profession, and aligns across all legislation relating to divorce, dissolution, and separation.

If you would like to make an enquiry regarding divorce you can contact our team on 01392 424242 or email

You can read the MOJ’s full information pack on the changes here.

Farmland occupancy and rights of access

30th March 2022

Farmland by its very nature can be used in a variety of different ways.  People who are not the legal owner of the land may need access or rights over it.  If you are an owner or occupier of land, it is crucial that you take legal advice before allowing anyone to use your land so as to ensure that the correct legal documentation is in place before the use begins and that you do not inadvertently create unintended rights without even realising it, the legal consequences of which could be far reaching.   Rights over land can include rights of access which include rights of way and easements such as easements for services to run under or over land and land drainage rights.

A right of way is right to use a particular route on someone else’s land.  These rights might be for vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.  Rights for services to run across land are known as easements.

Rights over land can include the right of statutory access for gas, electricity and water pipelines.  The High Court has said that companies which transport these services have a right of access over land even if the owner or occupier does not want them to.  This is because it is in the public interest that these services are delivered without interruption.

The public also has rights of access on all navigable rivers which means that if you own land adjoining a river, the public should be allowed to use that river for recreational purposes such as swimming.

Much of the law in the area of land management is complex and we strongly advise a landowner not to take risks and to take advice to ensure that they are aware of the legal issues involved so as to ensure their interests in the land are protected.

If you are an owner or occupier of land and someone wants to use it for a right of access or an easement for services, it is important to take legal advice to ensure that the correct legal documentation is in place.  This will ensure that both you and the user of your land are protected from any legal consequences which may arise.

If you would like advice, you can contact us on 01392 424242 or email .  We have offices in Exeter, Crediton, Okehampton, Ottery St Mary, Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth.  Our expert Lawyers can also make home farm visits, if required.

 

5 Tips for Employers to Stay Compliant

26th March 2022

For any business, it is important to stay compliant with the law. Employment law can be difficult to navigate without a solicitor on your side. Here’s 5 tips for employers who want to stay compliant and avoid legal troubles.

 

  1. Get a solicitor to read your Employment Contract. Employment law can be tricky, and in the UK there’s numerous Acts of Parliament which regulate it. This means that when you’re preparing your Employment Contract, or if you want to change things in an Employment Contract, you should make sure you get legal advice from a qualified solicitor to ensure everything is correct.

 

  1. Employment law is complicated, and it’s easy to get distracted by other matters in the workplace. However, employment law touches on almost every aspect of business life from advertising jobs to preventing discrimination at work. Knowing what you need to do before you start will save a lot of time later on if things go wrong.

 

  1. Pay your employees on time and check employment law regulations for what you need to do if your employee has become ill or is going off sick.

 

  1. Employees are entitled to a written statement of employment particulars within two months of starting work with their employer or before the date when any change in terms is due to take effect. These could include details like pay rates and hours worked, employment regulations dictate that this information should be provided free of charge if requested by the employee.

 

  1. Do not discriminate against an individual on any grounds, and follow employment law regulations if you find yourself in the position of needing to dismiss them. The employment law regulations set out how much notice you must give before informing someone that their employment is being terminated.

 

At the end of the day to ensure you do not make yourself vulnerable to a claim by an employee we would always recommend you seek legal advice.   Employment law is complicated and it’s easy to get distracted by other matters in the workplace, but it is vital to be on top of it.  At Gilbert Stephens our employment team advises employees on all aspects of employment law.

Get in touch by calling 01392 424242 or email