Congratulations to Sarah Heath, Chartered Legal Executive

11th January 2019

At Gilbert Stephens Solicitors we have a proud history of encouraging the personal and career development of our staff and building our firm from within. Another example of this is the recent qualification of Sarah Heath as a Chartered Legal Executive, specialising in Residential Conveyancing. Sarah joined the firm in 2013 and after initially working as a secretary, combined her studies to be a Chartered Legal Executive with her work and now deals as part of a highly skilled team with a wide range of conveyancing transactions, including purchases involving the Help to Buy Scheme.

Sarah is also an active committee member of the Young Professionals Network (YPN) and has been instrumental in growing this thriving Exeter based group. The YPN membership is now over 300 strong and provides fun monthly events that allow local professionals to meet and network in a fun and relaxed environment and build connections across professions.

Several of the Gilbert Stephens team get involved with charitable events throughout the year, and Sarah has proved to be a fantastic sport by training for and participating in the Nello Bike Ride, the Great West Run and a charity netball tournament for Jay’s AIM.

We had a chat with Sarah about how she has come to this point in her career, what inspires her and why she has chosen to study and work at Gilbert Stephens.

When did you first realise you were drawn to law?
I was about 13 when I got my first job in a law firm. I used to go into a local Solicitors for an hour and half after school on a Friday to help with photocopying, archiving, reception duties and occasionally with secretarial tasks. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to pursue a career in law.

Was there any one person or event that particularly inspired you to take this career path?
A friend of the family was a Solicitor and Partner in the first firm I worked for, I can remember visiting them in their office and believe those visits are what encouraged me to take that first job opportunity. As a young child, it seemed a very glamorous place to work!

Was there anything you found particularly hard during the training?
I qualified using the CILEx route and the most difficult part was finding the motivation to pick up my books after a tough day in the office.

That said, the experience I was able to obtain by taking the CILEx route has proved invaluable so whilst it was difficult, for me, it was definitely worth it.

How did you choose your specialist area?
It took me a long time to decide on my specialist area. Originally, I thought I’d want to work in Private Client or Litigation. However, to help find the area best suited for me, I became a Secretary to a Fee Earner who had a diverse caseload. This gave me experience and insight into a variety of other areas and I realised that I wanted to continue with a career in Conveyancing.

What do you like most about working at Gilbert Stephens?
My colleagues – working in this area can be quite stressful but having a good team around you really helps.

What are you most passionate about in your work?
A lot of my clients are first time buyers and it’s nice knowing that the work you are undertaking will help secure their first home.

What are you passionate about outside of work?
I am a huge sports fan, so I spend a lot of my time outside of work watching sports. I also enjoy running and cycling (both help clear my mind after a busy day) and playing netball. Exeter have an incredible netball league and it really helped me get back into the sport.

What advice would you offer to anyone considering a career in law?
Don’t rush into anything, take the time to decide what qualification path and specialist area is best for you and make time for you! It’s a long process so make sure you have fun as well.

All of the team at Gilbert Stephens would like to congratulate Sarah on her qualification as a Chartered Legal Executive. It is a pleasure for us to see young professionals in our team advancing their career through sheer hard work and dedication to their clients.

If you have a question about buying or selling property, you can contact Sarah at our Exeter office on 01392 424242 or by email at ku.oc1550820226.sneh1550820226petst1550820226rebli1550820226g@wal1550820226

Liz Govier

21st December 2018

We are sad to announce the death of our friend and colleague Liz Govier who passed away on 27th November after a long battle with cancer.

Although she was very unwell at times over the past few years, she refused to make any concessions to her illness and remained positive and upbeat throughout.

She kept her unique sense of humour and was wholly committed to the Ottery St Mary office, which she managed for several years during which time she became well known to our clients in the town and was regularly seen supporting local events.

She will be greatly missed by her friends and colleagues.

Trainee Blog – Cheryl Bolt – Settling into the Commercial Property Department

20th December 2018

For those of you wondering why I have fallen silent on my blog, I have now moved back into the Commercial Property department so have been settling into the fast paced and exciting environment that the department offers. You may have also seen that my colleagues and I have been marathon training and I recently completed the Great West Run.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Okehampton College careers event. All morning students aged 15 – 16 years old from schools around the area attended to discuss their careers and further education with various institutions and local companies who were invited to pass on their knowledge and advice to these very keen and excited students. My colleague Antonia and myself represented Gilbert Stephens at this event and was very excited to have the opportunity to discuss our passion for law and our academic experiences. We found some keen lawyers in the crowd and were able to provide detailed advice in respect of the qualifications required to become either a solicitor, barrister or chartered legal executive. I am sure a few students gave a concerned look when I told them I had been in education for 7 years after leaving secondary school, although I did tell them it was worth it.

It was also great to speak with students who were not interested in law (at all!) but who had already had their heart sets on other careers such as the royal forces, sciences and business management.

Most of the students I spoke to were not decided in their chosen career path and our advice to them was to pick subjects at A level or BTEC level that interested them and that they were passionate about.

I have been lucky enough to been involved in careers event previously at both Exeter College and University of the West of England when I was studying there. I volunteered for these events as I was excited to share my experiences with the aim to provide support to potential students in their chosen career paths. I think we can all remember someone who has supported us and given us suitable advice to try and make big decisions, such as choosing A levels, a little bit less daunting and I hope that my attendance at Okehampton College did just that.

Making Worker’s Rights a Priority

20th December 2018

Earlier in the week, on Monday 17th December 2018, the government announced new legislation that is intended to increase worker’s rights across the UK.

This overhaul has been in progress for a while now. Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, delivered the Good Work report in July 2017. This was an independent review of modern working practices and addressed the issues of the ‘gig’ economy (free-market, short term or even single project contracts) and the government subsequently released four more consultations, the last closing in June 2018.

Christina Blacklaws, Law Society president, responded to the announcement: “With uncertainty over Brexit and the potential impact that will have on workers’ rights it’s heartening the government has prioritised modernising employment law, making it easier for people to understand and assert their rights.”

What does the new legislation change?

Out of the 53 recommendations in the Taylor report, yesterday’s announcement took up 51, some of which were developed even further than the original report suggested. Included in the changes are:

  • An extension of the right to a written statement from the first day of employment, which can detail eligibility for sick leave and pay, amongst other leave entitlements.
  • Fines for employers who have shown malice, spite or gross oversight have been quadrupled from £5,000 to £20,000.
  • An extension of the holiday pay reference period from 12 to 52 weeks, ensuring those in seasonal or atypical roles get the paid time off they are entitled to.
  • Closing the loophole that allows agency workers to be employed on cheaper rates than their permanent contract counterparts.
  • Introducing plans to bring forward proposals for a new single labour market enforcement body, which will ensure that worker’s rights are properly enforced.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, is optimistic about the legislation. He said, “Recruiters across the country will welcome the acknowledgement that temporary and agency work is a key part of a vibrant jobs market that delivers opportunity.

“Making sure workers have more knowledge of their rights at work – and greater ability to ensure flexibility works for them – is sensible.”

This package of workplace reforms is the biggest for over two decades, and is ambitious in its aim to make the UK a world leader in meeting the challenges of evolving workplace needs. The final package will be unveiled by Greg Clark, the current Business Secretary, and will support both businesses and workers in understanding their rights and responsibilities, backed by a fair and fit-for-purpose enforcement system.

If you have any questions about how the new legislation is likely to affect you or your business, please do get in touch to learn more. You can contact us by email at ku.oc1550820226.sneh1550820226petst1550820226rebli1550820226g@wal1550820226 or by phone on 01392 424242, and we can direct you to the office and department that best suits your needs.

Sparkling Lights in the Sidmouth Night

19th December 2018

Our Sidmouth office enjoyed being part of the Regency town’s annual Late Night Opening in the run up to the Christmas holidays.

From 5pm – 8pm on Friday 7th December, staff from our Sidmouth office began serving our local community, not our usual law services, but mince pies and mulled wine.

The late night opening allows local businesses in the seaside town to open their doors to shoppers to browse for gifts. This is a key date in the festive calendar for Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce, as they organise the event each year. The tradition of local businesses and organisations serving refreshments provides a chance to show the community not only high quality, often unique gifts, but also the cafés, restaurants, independent book shops and professional services that can be found on their doorstep.

The evening offered Christmas lights and window displays in the high street and live entertainment. This included music from Sidmouth Town Band and local choirs, performances from the Sidmouth Steppers and the Sidmouth Mummers.

It was a joy to wrap up warm and be part of this community event. Gilbert Stephens was happy to welcome so many locals to the office, and to get into that magical Christmas spirit, which can’t help but warm you on a cold night filled with twinkling lights, mulled spices and smiling shoppers



Lasting Powers of Attorney

19th December 2018

You’ve probably heard about Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPA) but put it aside as something to consider when you are older. You may be surprised to learn it is actually good practice to make an LPA at the same time as you make your Will.


Your Will ensures your affairs are all in good order and your wishes will be met in the event of your death – but what if you had an accident tomorrow and were left incapable of making decisions about your own finances and wellbeing? You may simply decide that you don’t want to deal with certain affairs when you are older and would prefer to appoint someone else.


What if a family member is diagnosed with a condition like Alzheimer’s, but puts off the making of an LPA because, for now, they have full mental capacity? Once that mental capacity has waned we can no longer legally be sure of that person’s wishes.


It is therefore vitally important for the security of your finances to ensure you have an LPA in place, just in case. Of course, we hope that the need for one will never arise, and for most of us thankfully it won’t, but for those who find themselves in that unenviable position at least they, and those around them, can have peace of mind that their wishes are being carried out.


How does a Lasting Power of Attorney work?

There are two types that we recommend people sign: a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs; and a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare. We recommend having both because the people most suited to running your financial affairs may not be the same as those most suitable for taking care of your health and welfare, having to make medical decisions on your behalf.


If you already have an LPA in place, or the old form of Enduring Power of Attorney signed prior to September 2007, it is vital that you ensure it remains up to date. The person who you wish to run your financial affairs may now be different, for example if there has been a relationship break up, or perhaps a child reached adulthood and you consider them to be more suitable. For whatever reason, ensure you keep any LPA under review.


What happens if I can no longer manage my financial affairs but do not have an LPA?

If you became mentally incapacitated and unable to manage your affairs, then someone would need to apply to the Court of Protection for permission to take on your financial affairs on your behalf.


The process of being appointed someone’s “Deputy” by the Court of Protection can be lengthy and expensive, it may also be overwhelming and emotional for those involved. It will often take 6 months or more, and the court fees alone can be several hundred pounds. Once appointed, the Deputy may still have less control of your finances than if you had appointed an attorney. Lots of additional work is required too, with the Deputy having to report annually to the Court of Protection and pay fees, which come out of your supervision funds.


What happens if I am unable to make my own medical decisions but do not have an LPA?

As with the Property and Financial Affairs LPA, if you do not have a Health and Welfare LPA then no one will be able to make decisions about your social and medical care unless a Deputy is appointed by the Court of Protection. Therefore, doctors and social workers have as much say in what care or medical treatment you receive as your spouse, partner or other close relatives.


If you would like to find out more about LPAs, have one drawn up or update an existing one, get in touch with us at Gilbert Stephens.


We have offices in Exeter, Budleigh Salterton, Crediton, Okehampton, Ottery St Mary and Sidmouth. Call us now on 01395 512443.

Christmas Jumper Day at Gilbert Stephens Solicitors

15th December 2018

On Friday 14th December a great number of staff at the Gilbert Stephens Solicitors offices joined in with Christmas Jumper Day in support of Save the Children.

Staff wore their Christmas jumpers to work and each donated £2 to the collection.

The Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day is an annual campaign that enables businesses and community groups to raise funds in a fun and festive way.

Save the Children is a UK based charity who work across the UK and globally to help poverty or disaster stricken children and their families. More than a quarter of England’s children are currently living in poverty; Save the Children uses our donations to fund programmes that aim to help every child access the education and care that they deserve.

Gilbert Stephens were happy to be a part of the fundraising effort again this year, we will let you know how much we raised for Save the Children very soon!

Government Considering No-Fault Divorces

11th December 2018

A recent government consultation on no-fault divorces has caused a lot of discussion. Today is the final day of the consultation period for changing the rules regarding divorce in England and Wales.

Divorce is a hard enough time in people’s lives without over-complicated and prolonged proceedings. The Law Society of England and Wales believes that removing the blame from the divorce process will allow separating couples to focus on the future and help divorces to progress with as little unnecessary drama as possible.

At the moment, divorcing couples in England and Wales are required to allege one of five possible fault-based facts. This means that divorce proceedings are often uglier and more traumatic – and longer – than many people want or need them to be.

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws points out that this, “exacerbates conflict between separating partners. It makes it much harder for separating parents to focus their minds on the needs of their children when making child arrangements. Introducing ‘no fault’ divorce would change the way couples obtain a divorce – for the better.”

It is often the case that early legal advice in the case of divorce results in referrals to mediation. This avoids the cost of court hearings, but unfortunately many people do not know that the option of mediation exists, and due to cuts in Legal Aid, they are unable to access this early advice from a solicitor.

Unfortunately, many people going through a divorce are unaware that an early investment in legal advice can save them perhaps thousands of pounds in the long run, as well as give them clear and reassuring support from the outset by making the process of arranging a future for their children, home and finances easier to understand.

We know that divorce is always going to be hard, but we are optimistic about the prospect of ‘no-fault’ divorces. We sincerely hope that this will enable us to help our clients through this process more smoothly, so that rather than being forced to recount the past, they can look towards the future.

You can contact our Family Law department at ku.oc1550820226.sneh1550820226petst1550820226rebli1550820226g@waL1550820226ylima1550820226F1550820226 or on 01392 424242 to see how we can help you.

Christmas Jumper Day

7th December 2018

We are very much looking forward to participating in Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day again this year.

On Friday 14 December staff in all 6 branches of the Gilbert Stephens Solicitors offices will be donating £2 for the privilege of wearing their Christmas jumpers.  We can’t wait to see what our teams will be wearing and who will have the most outrageous festive jumper, will there be sparkly 3D snowmen, glitzy unicorns or Stormtroopers in Christmas hats?!

This day isn’t just about the sparkles, it’s also about helping to create a brighter future for children. Putting on our Christmas jumpers is a lot of fun but it will also help bring essential food, healthcare, education, and protection to millions of children around the world who are missing out.

Find out here just how the money raised will help here 

YPN Festive Food and Seasonal Spirit!

6th December 2018

The Exeter based Young Professionals Network had their annual Christmas drinks event on Tuesday 4th December 2018. Guests arrived at the Gilbert Stephens Solicitors’ Exeter office straight from their various roles in local businesses and organisations, to be met by Christmas sparkle and festive fare.

The Christmas spread included cakes, quiche, sandwiches, mince pies and the all-important offering of mulled wine.

We would like to thank everyone who organised this event, as well as all of the energetic and hard-working members of the YPN who give their time to make this network the great success that it is.

Membership to the Young Professionals Network is free, and it provides the opportunity to attend many varied and interesting events throughout the year. If you are interested in joining, get in touch with us via email at ku.oc1550820226.sneh1550820226petst1550820226rebli1550820226g@npy1550820226 or follow us on Facebook @GSYPN and Twitter @GS_YPN.

To check out the sorts of things we get up to, have a look at our website

As with all YPN events, the emphasis is on mingling and enjoying each other’s company rather than formal networking. Sarah Heath from Gilbert Stephens said, “This was a lovely relaxed event, which gave us the opportunity to share a festive tipple with our contacts. We wish to extend the compliments of the season to all of our members.”