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 The cost of updating a will may be much less than putting right the consequences of an outdated document which does not reflect current circumstances or how you would like your estate distributed.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

‘No fault’ divorce delay revealed

18th June 2021

To the dismay of separating couples and the legal profession, implementation of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act has been delayed until 6 April 2022, to allow sufficient time for the digital arm of the service to be developed and tested.

Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “‘No fault’ divorce was due to come in this autumn so we are disappointed about this delay to what is after all a key moment in bringing the law up to date.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, 107,599 opposite sex and 822 same sex couples divorced in England and Wales in 2019.*

  1. Stephanie Boyce added: “Under the current divorce system – unchanged for over 50 years – separating couples either have to prove a fault-based fact against their ex-partner or spend years still married to obtain a divorce which only exacerbates tensions.

“For separating parents, this process can make it much harder to focus on the needs of their children.

“‘No fault’ divorce will cut unnecessary conflict from the separation process – allowing couples to move on as amicably as possible and focus on what really matters.

“While we’re disappointed at the delay to the reforms, we welcome the continued commitment to ensuring the reforms are fit for purpose. It is better to have a working system in place rather than forging ahead when there are known issues.

“We call on HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to use this delay to ensure the digital platform is fully functional and that issues affecting the online service, such as the recent ‘bug’ in the represented respondent journey, are promptly rectified.

“We urge HMCTS to communicate clearly with the profession when there are issues with the digital service, outlining how it will fix any bugs in order to avoid delay. HMCTS must also ensure that there are fully developed and clearly understood contingency plans in place.

“We look forward to welcoming the implementation of ‘no fault divorce’ in April 2022 and hope the system will be fully operational for divorcing couples and their solicitors who will use the system.”

Read junior minister for the Ministry of Justice Chris Philp’s statement on the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020

*Read the Office for National Statistics data for England and Wales

Gilbert Stephens Sponsor CODS “Sister Act”

11th June 2021

We are thrilled that CODS are now presenting Sister Act during the week of 9-14th August 2021 and rehearsals are underway – and have been in a limited way since October under strict Covid guidelines.  We’re excited to offer our sponsorship and support for this exciting show and are very much looking forward to the opening performance!

Whether you already know the 1992 Sister Act film, or not, you won’t want to miss this live performance which features uplifting music with laughs throughout. This fun musical comedy tells a story about how disco diva Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder while on tour in Chicago then seeks protection by hiding out at a convent where she was sent as an orphaned child years ago – disguised as one of their own sisters.

​Sister Act is a truly moving story about the power of friendship and how it can help us to find strength in our faith. If you’re looking for an uplifting show that will leave you breathless, this is this show for you!

If you are interested in any remaining tickets you should email   to register your interest.

Here’s just a few images to give you a taster!

Our Property Department welcomes Chartered Legal Executive David Smith

4th June 2021

Gilbert Stephens is pleased to announce the appointment of Chartered Legal Executive David Smith within our Property Department, David will be based at our Okehampton office and joins us from Coodes LLP, where he headed up the firms Leasehold Specialism team.

David brings with him over 20 years experience in Residential Property Law. He is an expert in conveyancing transactions, acting for both vendors and purchasers on residential property matters ranging from straightforward purchase agreements through to complex developments with multiple properties changing hands simultaneously. Additionally, he specialises in equity release mortgages.

Starting out as an office junior he worked his way up until qualifying as a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Legal Executives in 2004 and we are delighted that he now makes the move to join us here at Gilbert Stephens.

Outside of work David loves Badminton and is a competitive member of his local club.  David also follows tennis very closely and Wimbledon is one of the highlights of his year.  A self-confessed film buff with horror often top of the agenda, he also has a love of music.  This love has led to many successful fundraising evenings, organised by David in the form of music quizzes.

We asked David 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?

I have had many dealings with the firm over the last few years and have always found the staff easy to talk to and friendly.

When applying for the role it was clear to me from my interviews that this is where I wanted to work.  There is an emphasis on providing the best service for clients.

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

It is accepted that moving house can be very stressful.  The most satisfying part of the work for me is building a good relationship with my clients and keeping them updated throughout the transaction to ease some of the stress that comes with the process.

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

Professionally carrying out my role to best of my ability.   One area which I would like to get more involved with is Equity Release. There is a growing industry and a way of providing financial relief in retirement.

On a personal basis I would like to learn another language and go the French Open tennis championships.

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

Be passionate about what you are doing, choosing an area of law which best suits your personality.

 What are you passionate about outside of work?

My wife and I always look forward to travelling, whether it is a week away in the sun or mini city breaks.   Just before Covid hit we had the best time exploring New York.

A final word from David: “I am delighted to join Gilbert Stephens and look forward to meeting new clients in the near future.”

If you would like to David you can email him at  or telephone 01837 512100


Philip Horlock promoted to Head of Department in the residential conveyancing team

2nd June 2021

We are very pleased to announce that Philip Horlock has been promoted to Head of Department in the residential conveyancing team.  As an expert solicitor with over 20 years of experience he brings a wealth of expertise to the position.

Philip’s promotion is a testament not only to his hard work but also his commitment to his clients, always ensuring a professional and friendly service.   He will be working closely with our residential conveyancing team to ensure all legal aspects are taken care of when it comes to your property matters.

Philip said of his promotion, ‘I am delighted to have been promoted into this role and look forward to the challenges that await me and working with our excellent team.’

Buying and selling property can be a stressful time, but we’re here to support you. Our team has decades of experience in the business, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about our process or anything else related to buying and/or selling your home. We want your transactions to go as smoothly and as stress free as possible.

If you are looking for someone to handle your residential conveyancing, re-mortgage, equity release, lease renewal or property transactions, give our team a call on 01392 424242 or email


What is the Domestic Abuse Bill 2021 and how will it help?

28th May 2021

Millions of people experience domestic abuse every year, more protection for victims was needed alongside stronger measures to tackle perpetrators.

In the United Kingdom, domestic abuse is a common issue. The Domestic Abuse Bill 2021 aims to protect victims of domestic violence and abuse by emphasising issues such psychological abuse and coercive control in addition to physical violence. It will also offer further protection for victims such as prohibiting perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in family and civil courts.

The Domestic Abuse Bill passed both Houses of Parliament and was signed into law on 29 April 2021.

Detailed factsheets on each new measure are available on

This information below comes from the Domestic Abuse Factsheet here

How will the Act help victims?

The Domestic Abuse Act will:

  • create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse. As part of this definition, children will be explicitly recognised as victims if they see, hear or otherwise experience the effects of  abuse;
  • create a new offence of non-fatal strangulation;
  • extending the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse;
  • extend the ‘revenge porn’ offence to cover the threat to disclose intimate images with the intention to cause distress;
  • clarify the law to further deter claims of “rough sex gone wrong” in cases involving death or serious injury;
  • create a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts (for example, to enable them to give evidence via a video link);
  • establish in law the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness, monitor the response of local authorities, the justice system and other statutory agencies and hold them to account in tackling domestic abuse;
  • place a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation;
  • provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance;
  • place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing;
  • ensure that when local authorities rehouse victims of domestic abuse, they do not lose a secure lifetime or assured tenancy;
  • provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance;
  • stop vexatious family proceedings that can further traumatise victims by clarifying the circumstances in which a court may make a barring order under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989;
  • prohibit GPs and other health professionals from charging a victim of domestic abuse for a letter to support an application for legal aid


How will the Act strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators?

The Domestic Abuse Act will:

  • prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in family and civil courts in England and Wales;
  • bring the case of R vs Brown into legislation, invalidating any courtroom defence of consent where a victim suffers serious harm or is killed;
  • enable domestic abuse offenders to be subject to polygraph testing as a condition of their licence following their release from custody;
  • extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences;
  • provide for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order, which will prevent perpetrators from contacting their victims, as well as force them to take positive steps to change their behaviour, e.g. seeking mental health support;
  • Extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the criminal courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to further violent and sexual offences;
  • Introduce a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to publish a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy (to be published as part of a holistic domestic abuse strategy).


Domestic violence is a serious issue that affects many people all over the world. It can be difficult to escape and even more so when you have children involved too. The new bill will hopefully now offer better protection to victims, and help ensure they are clear about their rights.

If you or someone you know needs assistance with this matter please seek professional advice.  This NHS website gives details of various organsiations who can offer immediate support and advice and just what you should do if you find yourself a victim of domestic abuse:

If you need legal advice in relation to this matter please do feel free to contact our team on 01392 424242 or email .  Our understanding and approachable family legal team have extensive knowledge on such matters and are experienced in dealing with clients who have experienced all types of abuse. We can act very quickly to protect you, under the strictest confidence. If you are unsure about your rights and how best to protect yourself, then contact us by – we will respect your privacy and the need for complete confidentiality.

Legal aid may still be available for cases involving domestic abuse and we can help you apply if this applies to you.

We want nothing more than for every person who calls us needing help to find safety and peace again after experiencing such trauma.

Congratulations to Antonia and Sarah on their new roles

24th May 2021

Congratulations to Antonia D’Alessio and Sarah Heath who are our newest associate members at Gilbert Stephens Solicitors. Antonia and Sarah are Chartered Legal Executives in the Residential Conveyancing Department, based at our Exeter office and have been with the firm for a number of years.  They are well-known for being instrumental to the success of both the Young Professionals Network and founding the Exeter Property Circle. We’re excited that their hard work has paid off with an associates title from us here at Gilbert Stephens.

In particular this last year has seen many challenges and we’ve needed a lot of flexibility from them to meet our clients’ requirements despite Covid, they have worked tirelessly adapting to all that arose without complaint!

Antonia and Sarah are wonderful assets to our team and it’s going to be great seeing what we can accomplish together in the future. This is an exciting time for all of us!

If you would like to talk to our conveyancing team about a property matter you can call on 01392 424242 or email

What is the Court of Protection?

25th March 2021

The Court of Protection is the division of HM Courts & Tribunals Service which oversees decision making for those adults who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions. It works alongside the Office of the Public Guardian and receives many of the concerns raised about misbehaviour by anyone who has responsibility for dealing with the affairs of incapacitated adults. Read more…

Co-Ownership of Houses and Flats, Land and Buildings

17th March 2021

The are many ways of owning land and buildings, including your home, along with other people. The simplest types of co-ownership are referred to by lawyers as owning as Beneficial Joint Tenants under Joint Tenancy or as Beneficial Tenants in Common under a Tenancy in Common. Read more…