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What is a prenuptial agreement?

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A prenuptial agreement, otherwise known as a ‘prenup’ for short, is a written contract created by two people before they are married. It’s designed to provide clarity and certainty around the arrangements in the event of a breakdown of a marriage. It saves time and the stress of arguing about the finances at a later stage. It typically lists what each person owns, including debts, and specifies how money and assets will be split.

No one enters into a marriage expecting it to fail, but if a prenup is something that you are considering, it’s really important to know how they work.

Why might you consider a prenuptial agreement?

There’s almost a taboo around considering a prenup. Many people see it as anticipating the breakdown of a marriage before it has happened, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Getting a prenup is simply about considering every eventuality and making sure that your finances, your future, and your children’s futures are secure – no matter what happens. That’s got to be worth giving a second thought.

what is a prenuptial agreement

Prenups are common amongst wealthier couples as they may have more of a need to protect their assets. Perhaps one party has a large inheritance or owns property or business. In normal circumstances, most couples consider a 50/50 split the starting point in the event of a divorce, however, a prenup allows you to make more specific arrangements if one of you is wealthier than the other and wants to protect their wealth.

That being said, prenups can also be incredibly valuable for couples of more modest means, and there is a range of reasons why. You might consider a prenup if:

  • You want to clarify financial rights
  • You want to avoid arguments about how things will be divided in the event of a divorce
  • You want to pass separate property to children from prior marriages. Without a prenup, a surviving spouse might have the right to claim a large portion of the other spouse’s property, which may not leave much for the children
  • You want to get protection from each other’s debts

What happens if I don’t get a prenup?

It’s fair to say that the majority of couples in the UK do not have a prenup, despite having a 33.3% divorce rate. Without a prenup, you will need to work out what you are entitled to in a divorce – which can be difficult when emotions are already running high. If you fail to decide how to split your assets, a Judge will decide for you. When doing so, they will take the following into account:

  • The needs and welfare of any children under the age of 18
  • The income, earning capacity, property, and other financial resources which each of the parties within the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • The financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities which each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage
  • Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage
  • The contributions which each of the parties have made or are likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family
  • The duration of the marriage

what is a prenuptial agreement

Is a prenup legally binding?

In the UK, a prenup is not yet legally binding. A prenup does still carry very significant weight and will be upheld by a court so long as it meets a certain set of criteria as decided by the Supreme Court and further reviewed by the Law Commission. This is as follows:

  • The prenuptial agreement must be freely entered into
  • Both parties must understand the implications of the agreement
  • The agreement must be fair
  • The agreement must be contractually valid
  • The agreement must have been made at least 28 days before the wedding
  • There should be disclosure about the wider financial circumstances
  • Both parties must have received legal advice
  • It should not prejudice any children
  • Both parties’ needs must be met

As a prenup must meet these criteria, it is wise to enlist the help of a solicitor to either assist you in deciding and writing the terms of the agreement or have a solicitor look over your agreement if you have already put it together. This will save you having your prenup disregarded by a Judge in the event of a divorce.

what is a prenuptial agreement

How can Bromfield Legal help?

Here at Bromfield Legal, we work with you personally and tailor prenuptial agreements to your own specific requirements. Just like you, we want to make sure your finances, assets, and property ownership are set out clearly and fairly. You can trust our expert advice and support to save you money when you need it most.

Need to speak to an expert? Just get in touch via our online enquiry form or give your nearest Bromfield Legal branch a call.

What is a Child Arrangements Order?

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One of the most difficult parts of going through a divorce or separation is the impact it will have on any children involved. Couples with children may have to have a Child Arrangements Order when divorcing or separating. This is a court order that regulates who the child is to live with, and how much time will be spent with either parent.

If you and your ex-partner can easily agree on these things, you may not need a Child Arrangements Order. You can then avoid going to court hearings and you do not need any official paperwork. It can be difficult to come to an agreement however and even if you do, you may still want to make your agreement legally binding.

Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?

A Child Arrangements Order is commonly applied for by separating parents, however this is not always the case. Sometimes one of the parties may not be a biological parent, or may be a guardian or other relative. For example, grandparents may apply for a child arrangement order in a situation where one or both of the child’s parents has passed away or if they are having difficulty arranging to see their grandchildren.

what is a child arrangements order?

In order to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, you must have some sort of parental responsibility for the child. For example:

  • A parent, guardian or a special guardian
  • Someone who currently has parental responsibility of the child
  • A person in a marriage or civil partnership when the child is a child of the family (even if they are not a biological parent)
  • Anyone who has residence order in respect of the child, or who has lived with the child for three years or longer-term

Anyone else who wishes to seek a Child Arrangements Order can only do so if they apply to the court for permission first.

Agreeing on a Child Arrangement Order

Any parent wants to do what is right by their child, but it can be difficult to know exactly what that is sometimes. You’re not expected to know it all and it’s not easy to reach an agreement, so there are routes for you to take for some extra support. You could start with mediation. A mediator provides third party, unbiased advice and help on deciding what is best for the child going forward. This includes:

  • Where the child lives
  • When they spend time with each parent
  • When and what other types of contact take place (phone calls etc)
  • Child maintenance payments

At the end of mediation, if an agreement can be reached you’ll get a document detailing what has been agreed, however this is not legally binding. If you were unable to agree on suitable terms, or you would like the terms to be legally binding, the next step is to enlist the help of a solicitor to draft a consent order for a court to approve. A consent order is a legal document that confirms your agreement, signed by both you and your ex-partner.

what is a child arrangements order?

A solicitor will also be able to help by providing advice on deciding the terms of your Child Arrangements Order, drafting legal documents and agreements, legal advice during the mediation process and help filling in forms. They will also help by if necessary, preparing evidence and supplemental information for court hearings.

Once the Child Arrangement Order is applied for, the Court schedules a ‘directions’ hearing to encourage the parents to reach an agreement that takes into consideration what is best for the child. If this is not possible, further hearings can be scheduled where evidence can be filed and witnesses can be called. At the final hearing, the court reviews all of the evidence and statements, and makes a final decision which is put into an order of the Court.

When doing so they will primarily consider:

  • The wishes of the child
  • The child’s emotional, physical and educational needs
  • Any danger of abuse or neglect
  • The ability of the child’s parents/guardians to meet the child’s needs
  • The effects on the child of any changes in circumstances as a result of the order

Can you make changes to a Child Arrangement Order in the future?

Let’s say that five years down the line you decide to make some changes to the Child Arrangement Order. Family circumstances change over time and particularly as a child gets older, so it’s understandable that you might find yourself needing to make some adjustments.

what is a child arrangements order?

If you and your ex-partner both agree to any changes, then you won’t be breaching the order by departing from its terms. That doesn’t mean that the changes you’ve informally made are legally binding however, unless the order is formally varied by in court. If you want to be sure that there will be consequences if anyone breaches these new terms, you will need to involve the Court.

What happens if one of us breaches the Child Arrangements Order?

The Court can help you decide on the details of a Child Arrangements Order, but once in place it does not monitor any breaches. It would only become aware of a breach if a formal application for an Enforcement Order is made by either party. This will be investigated by the Court and if necessary, an Enforcement Order will be issued. When making an Enforcement Order, the person in breach could be faced with a warning, a fine, community service or in the worst cases, a prison sentence.

When the child reaches the age of 16, the Child Arrangements Order is usually redundant, unless the order specifically states otherwise. From this point, it’s up to the child to decide how much contact they would like to have with the parent they don’t live with – but they must remain living with the parent detailed on the order until they reach the age of 18.

How Bromfield Legal can help

Childcare arrangements are often the main worry in divorce or separation. We understand this and as experts in children’s matters, we will aid you with resolving issues about where a child should reside and who they should have contact with.

We understand that court action should be a last resort, so will always endeavour to resolve issues before this happens. For support with your Child Arrangements Order, get in touch with us today.

What am I entitled to in a divorce?

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Going through a divorce can be really upsetting and unsettling. It’s one thing to lose a marriage that you’ve perhaps been in for years, but everything that comes with may it be left in the lurch too; your children, your property and your finances.

Part of the divorce proceedings is working out who is entitled to what share of the family assets, and this can be a complex process. There are no specific guaranteed entitlements for either person when it comes to getting a divorce as each marriage is unique and everyone’s circumstances must be assessed individually when trying to reach a divorce settlement that works for each party. What you’re entitled to can be a difficult question to answer, but we can hopefully offer some clarity.

What assets are split in a divorce?

Assets can be split into two categories in a divorce; matrimonial assets and non-matrimonial assets. Matrimonial assets are assets that have been acquired during the marriage by you and your partner such as your family home, pensions, savings, personal belongings and cash in the bank.

divorce

Non-matrimonial assets are inherited assets or assets brought into the marriage. These are financial assets that were acquired before entering into the marriage and could be property, pensions or a business. These are usually treated differently to marital assets but aren’t necessarily excluded from a divorce settlement. It depends on the individual circumstances. For instance you might have inherited some money, but you then used that money to purchase a car for the family. The car may then be considered a matrimonial asset.

How would these assets be split?

You might initially think that any matrimonial assets – particularly finances – should be split 50/50 and non-matrimonial assets left to whoever they legally belong to. There is no rule or law to say that assets should be split equally. There are a number of different factors to consider, including:

  • The needs and welfare of any children under the age of 18
  • The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties within the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage
  • Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage
  • The contributions which each of the parties have made or are likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family
  • The duration of the marriage

The hope is to come to a mutual agreement on the fairest way to split assets but if there is a need for the court to step in and get involved, assets will be split with the above factors in mind.

Splitting finances

When splitting finances, your divorce solicitor will usually break any finances down into three areas:

  • Capital claims – properties, shares and savings
  • Pension value
  • Income – including any from additional property rentals etc

finances

Even though finances aren’t always split equally, it’s usually the starting point when working out who should have what. From there, the individual circumstances are taken into account. Splitting finances will always be more straightforward if both parties agree to the divorce and if the on-going relationship is not bitter, if there’s not children involved (or if there are, that they are grown up and financially dependent), if one of you isn’t financially dependent on the other and if you agree how your property and pensions should be split.

Who is entitled to our property?

A family home is often the most valuable asset within a marriage – not only financially but emotionally too. There’s a few different options when dividing a house within a divorce:

  • Sell and share – both parties move out of the matrimonial home and split the sale proceeds between them in an agreed way
  • Buying out – one party can buy the other out of the property and become the sole owner
  • Transfer of value – one party transfers some of the value of the property to the other person. The spouse leaving the home would not then own any of the property but would keep a stake in the home value, meaning that if/when it got sold then they would receive a share of the sale proceeds
  • Unchanged ownership – one party will continue to live in the house but the ownership of the property remains unchanged

house

What about if only one person’s name is on the property deeds? Does that mean they have full control over the property? Ultimately, yes you may take the property back as yours – however it’s not quite that simple. Your ex-partner still has matrimonial home rights. This means that even if a property is not in someone’s name, they have a right to live there until the marriage ends if it is their matrimonial home. Once the divorce is finalised however, this may end their right to live there so it is by no means a permanent solution.

What happens to our pensions?

Dividing pensions in divorce can be a complex part of the process that your divorce solicitor and pensions advisor are probably best handling. Not all pensions can be divided in a divorce, however. Pensions that can be split include:

  • A personal pension scheme (includes Stakeholder and Self Invested Personal Pensions)
  • Workplace pensions such as a defined benefit scheme or defined contribution scheme
  • Any part of your entitlement to the new State Pension that is ‘protected’ and built up under the old pre-April 2016 Additional State Pension

When it comes to splitting these pensions, they are commonly dealt with in one of the following ways:

  • Pension sharing order – you’re given a percentage of any one (or more) of your ex-partner’s pension funds by court order
  • Pension offsetting – the value of any pensions is offset against other assets. For example, you might agree to keep the pension fund and your ex-partner might agree to keep the family home
  • Pension attachment or ‘earmarking’ – some of your pension at retirement is paid to your ex-partner, or vice versa. This can be done in either a lump sum, or as part of the pension income – or both
  • Individual agreement – between both parties, you might decide to forgo any claims on pension assets in favour of a more balance settlement of other divorce terms. For example, one party might get better child access arrangements, or child maintenance if they agree not to claim against the other part’s pension assets

How we can help

If you’re going through a divorce, you don’t need us to tell you that it can be difficult. The last thing you need though is the headache of trying to split all your assets alone whilst trying to come to terms with big life changes. Although it is possible to arrange everything on your own, we would always recommend using a solicitor.

reach

Whether that’s booking in for a couple of advice sessions to help you get your head around what you might be entitled to, or whether that’s using a solicitor to help you through the whole process; we’re here to make the process simpler, smoother and quicker.

Here at Bromfield Legal, we are experienced in family and divorce law. We will always do what is right and fair to obtain the best outcomes for our client in a divorce. For more information on how we can help, please contact us.

Dividing pensions in divorce

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The process of divorce can often be quite lengthy and often quite complex. There’s usually a lot to be considered and decided on, as well as quite a few assets to split, such as property and personal possessions. One of the major assets to be considered might be your pension funds and these can sometimes be the biggest asset after the family home.

Splitting pensions however isn’t quite as simple as it might sound and there are a few different options that you could take, so it’s important to understand each before deciding which is best for you in the event of a divorce. It is interesting to note that if a cohabiting couple split up, then one party cannot normally have a legal claim against their ex partners pension fund, unlike couples that are legally married or in a civil partnership.

You may have accumulated a number of different pension investments under your belt during your working life; personal pensions, workplace pensions, stakeholder pensions, self-invested personal pensions and NEST pensions to name a few. Your ex-partner may have a claim on some or all of these schemes.

What pensions can I divide?

Not all pensions can be divided in a divorce. For instance, you cannot divide and share your basic State Pension or your New State Pension. Pensions that can be split include:

  • A personal pension scheme (includes Stakeholder and Self Invested Personal Pensions)
  • Workplace pensions such as a defined benefit scheme or defined contribution scheme
  • Any part of your entitlement to the new State Pension that is ‘protected’ and built up under the old pre-April 2016 Additional State Pension

piggy bank

Your solicitor will often work with an independent financial advisor who will help you to work out which types of pensions you have, how they can be divided and what they are worth.

How are pensions divided?

Pensions arrangements are commonly dealt with in one of the following ways:

Pension sharing order – you’re given a percentage of any one (or more) of your ex-partner’s pension funds by court order. The sum is either transferred into a pension scheme in your name or you may be able to join your ex-partner’s pension scheme and this portion of the total fund is allocated to you. Either option will be dependent on the pension scheme rules of the particular schemes the funds are invested in. Normally, the pension fund will provide a transfer value and then these funds can be transferred into a fund in the receiver’s own name.

Pension offsetting – the value of any pensions is offset against other assets. For example, you might agree to keep the pension fund and your ex-partner might agree to keep the family home. It’s really important to have an accurate pension valuation in this instance to ensure that the divide is equal and fair. Pension offsetting does not require a court order.

Pension attachment or ‘earmarking’ – some of your pension at retirement is paid to your ex-partner, or vice versa. This can be done in either a lump sum, or as part of the pension income – or both. This only comes into play once the pension holder has started taking their pension. In this instance, you would effectively be deferring the split of the asset until you reach retirement age. As with pension sharing, this arrangement will require a court order.

Individual agreement – between both parties, you might decide to forgo any claims on pension assets in favour of a more balanced settlement of other divorce terms. For instance, one party might get better child access arrangements, or child maintenance if they agree not to claim against the other part’s pension assets. You and your ex-partner can ask the court to approve an individual agreement and turn it into a court order to provide greater protection in the event of a later dispute.

divorce

When exploring any of these options, it is always best to seek legal advice as it can be a complex and emotionally charged area to navigate.

How do I know the value of my pensions?

In divorce, the value of a pension is usually determined by the ‘cash equivalent transfer value’. This is the amount you’d get if you moved your pension elsewhere. It might be slightly less than the ‘fund value’ of your pension because it will include charges for transferring.

As part of a financial disclosure required in divorce negotiations, you will need to find out the up-to-date ‘cash equivalent transfer value’ of all pension investments you may have. This information is required so that the value of your pension assets can be understood, before potentially dividing them and it’s something that only the pension holder can ask for. You can obtain these valuations from the pension scheme administrators, although there is sometimes a fee for this service. For work based schemes you may need to go through your employers HR or payroll department for this information.

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We would always recommend speaking to a pensions advisor who will be able to guide you on how to obtain the necessary valuations and will also discuss some of the various options that might be available to you. Your divorce solicitor will then be able to help you through the legal process, the negotiations with the other party and guide you on what you can and can’t claim for. They will also agree and draw up the final divorce agreement, as well as preparing the documents for final court approval to legally dissolve the relationship.

Divorce settles can be contentious, but at Bromfield Legal we will always try and find amicable solutions to avoid points of friction whilst obtaining the best outcomes. We’ll do what we can to make the process smooth and straightforward. For more information on how we can help, please contact us.

What is Stamp Duty Land Tax?

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If you are thinking of buying a house or you have bought a house in the past, you’ll probably be aware of the term Stamp Duty Land Tax. It can add thousands of pounds to homebuyers’ costs. But how much do you actually know about it and how it’s calculated?

Stamp Duty Land Tax has seen a few big alterations in the past few years, so if you had to pay it when you moved house six or more years ago and you haven’t had to think about it since, it’s important to get up to date on the changes.

Firstly, what is Stamp Duty Land Tax?

Stamp Duty Land Tax is a property transaction tax that must be paid if you buy a property or a piece of land over a certain price in England and Northern Ireland. These thresholds are £125,000 for a residential property, and £150,000 for non-residential.

calculator

The origins of Stamp Duty Land Tax in England go way back to 1694 during the reign of William and Mary as a transaction tax to raise money for war against France. It was raised on goods including hats, newspapers and medicines. It’s changed a lot over the decades since.

Home buyers paid 1% tax on properties costing more than £60,000 until 1997 when then-Chancellor Gordon Brown introduced bands above which higher payments would be charged. The upper band was set at £500,000. Over time, the lower and upper thresholds have been raised due to rapidly rising house prices, but Stamp Duty saw its biggest change in 2014 when this slab structure was scrapped and the system became more progressive.

How does Stamp Duty Land Tax work now?

You pay Stamp Duty Land Tax when you buy a freehold property, a new or existing leasehold, a property through a shared ownership scheme or if you are transferred land or property in exchange for payment, for instance if you take on a mortgage or buy a share in a house.

There are several rate bands for Stamp Duty and the tax is calculated on the part of the property purchase price falling within each band. Here are the rate bands for Stamp Duty rates in England and Northern Ireland:

£0 – £125,000 – 0% to pay
£125,001 – £250,000 – 2% to pay
£250,001 – £925,000 – 5% to pay
£925,001 – £1,500,000 – 10% to pay
£1,500,001+ – 12% to pay

Let’s say you buy a house for £275,000. Your Stamp Duty is calculated like this:

0% on the first £125,000 = £0
2% on the next £125,000 = £2,500
5% on the final £25,000 = £1,250

The total amount of Stamp Duty you would owe is £3,750. To work out how much tax you would pay on a property, you can use HMRC’s Stamp Duty Land Tax calculator.

When do I pay Stamp Duty Land Tax?

Buyers used to have 30 days to pay their Stamp Duty Land Tax, but new legislation reduced this to 14 days on March 1st 2019. This 14 day period usually begins on the date you completed the purchase of your home.

If you are using a solicitor or conveyancer for the purchase of your property, then they will often file your Stamp Duty tax return and pay the tax on your behalf on the day of completion and add the amount to their fees. This means that you don’t have to worry about paying it late, as doing so may result in penalties and interest.

tax paperwork

That being said, it is legally your responsibility to ensure that your Stamp Duty Land Tax gets paid, so make sure you pay close attention to your solicitors fees to check that the tax has been sorted and when. It’s also important to note that even if the price of your new home is under £125,000 and not eligible for Stamp Duty Land Tax, you must still submit a return (unless you are exempt from doing so), even though you won’t need to actually pay anything.

Stamp Duty Land Tax for first-time buyers

Although the majority of home buyers will pay Stamp Duty Land Tax, there are certain groups of people who will be exempt or will get a discount. One of these is first-time buyers purchasing a property worth up to £300,000. To be classified as a first-time buyer, you must never have owned or had shares in a property in the UK or anywhere else in the world, and you must intend to be living in the property you’re purchasing as your only or main residence. This applies to everyone buying the property, if more than one person.

For properties costing up to £500,000, a first-time buyer won’t pay Stamp Duty on the first £300,000, and only on the remaining amount up to £200,000. If the property in question is worth over £500,000, then standard Stamp Duty Land Tax rates will apply. As of October 2018, first-time buyers under Shared Ownership schemes can also now claim this Stamp Duty relief on homes worth up to £500,000.

Do I pay Stamp Duty Land Tax if I am buying a second home?

When buying a second home, an extra 3% in Stamp Duty on top of current rates for each band apply and this increase rate applies to any properties bought for £40,000 or more. Anything other than your main residence is classed as a second home. This could be a holiday let, an investment property, a buy-to-let, or somewhere that you’re helping a family member to buy. This doesn’t however apply to caravans, mobile homes, plots of land or houseboats.

Whilst Stamp Duty is charged on a tiered basis, the 3% surcharge for second properties works as a slab tax. Let’s say for instance that you purchased a second home at £300,000. You would pay £5,000 in Stamp Duty as normal, but you would also pay the surcharge of £9,000 (3% of the property price). In total, you would need to pay £14,000 in Stamp Duty.

houses

So, what about if you buy a second property with the intent of it being your main residence, and there is a delay in selling your current main residence? You will still have to pay the higher Stamp Duty rates as you will be the owner of two properties. However, if you manage to sell your previous main residence within three years of buying your second, then you can apply for a refund of the higher Stamp Duty rates.

You also won’t be liable for the 3% surcharge if the second property you are buying will replace your main residence. If this is the case, it’s definitely wise to seek advice from a solicitor or conveyancer such as us here at Bromfield Legal, as this can be a complex area to navigate.

Stamp Duty Land Tax can certainly be a lot to take in – particularly if your situation isn’t completely straight forward. The best thing to do is talk to an expert. We are well placed to help you with your Stamp Duty questions, so get in touch with us today.

What does a conveyancer do?

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Being aware of what a conveyancer does is a good place to start when getting your head around the complexities of buying (and selling) a home. In basic terms, a conveyancer deals with the purchase of a property once you’ve had your offer accepted. But of course, the purchasing process is not a straightforward and simple one – and that’s why we look to conveyancers to handle it for us.

Most of the time, a conveyancer will be a solicitor. All solicitors are qualified to undertake work of this kind but not all are experienced in it so when searching for the right one, find a solicitor that specialises in residential property transactions such as us here at Bromfield Legal. If you are buying a new build, you should also consider choosing a solicitor that specialises in this area and who will have your best interests at heart. Sometimes this means not going with your developers recommended solicitor, and finding your own instead.

Do I need a conveyancer?

Although we would always recommend using a conveyancer, you could carry out the conveyancing process yourself; although it’s not without its difficulties. There’s a reason why solicitors achieve qualifications to carry it out, and that’s because there is a lot of specialist legal work involved, and a lot to be aware of. Mistakes can be extremely expensive!

house keys

If you’re taking out a mortgage, you won’t be able to carry out the conveyancing process yourself, and this is because lenders will require a professional legal firm to be involved. If you’re buying a property outright and therefore without a mortgage, you don’t have to use a conveyancer if you don’t want to. However, unless you really know what you’re doing, you could fail to spot something important such as a boundary dispute, or that the seller does not have a legal right of way to access the property. No one wants to move into a property and then have to face issues around something as trivial as whether you can park your car on the property.

If you are considering doing it yourself, just remember; properties are very expensive and likely to be the biggest purchase you ever make. It’s definitely worth getting it right! With that in mind, it’s always best to have a professional on board to guide you through the purchase process.

How does the conveyancing process begin?

Once you’ve found the right conveyancer, you must ‘instruct’ them to get started on the job. The conveyancing process usually takes a few months to complete, depending on the chain and there’s a lot of steps for a conveyancer to complete, so we’ll break it down for you.

Step one is to open the purchase file. A letter is sent out to you, the buyer, setting down the terms of business with details of their charges and the deposits required. You’ll also be asked to complete an information form with basic details such as your contact, date of birth and national insurance number. Your conveyancer will need the details of your estate agent, whether you need a mortgage for the purchase and if so, which lender you’re using and where the deposit is coming from. You will also need to submit photo ID such as a passport or your driving licence.

meeting

Next, the conveyancer will contact the seller’s conveyancer to let them know that they have been instructed to act for you with the purchase of the property. This is where the ball starts rolling and the paperwork begins to build. The seller’s conveyancer sends over a draft contract together with a copy of the property’s Title (or ‘Deeds’ as you may more commonly know it as). If the home has been sold at least once since 1990, the Deeds will be electronically recorded with the Land Registry but if not, the property could be ‘unregistered’ which means that ownership can only be proved with the original hard copy of the Title Deeds. This is usually held in the Deeds storage by the bank that has/had the mortgage.

Alongside the draft contract and deeds, a conveyancer will also receive the ‘protocol documents’ which include a sellers property information form, a fittings and contents form that details what will be left and removed from the property, and a leasehold information form if applicable.

What searches will a conveyancer carry out?

Searches are a big part of the conveyancing process. These include the local authority, environmental and water searches. The purpose of these searches are to uncover any potential issues such as public rights of way, compulsory purchase orders, enforcement notices for the property and flood risks that may interrupt the way of life within the property. Simply viewing or getting a survey on a property isn’t enough to know everything there is to know, and sometimes issues can be hidden away only to be discovered through a search and put a spanner in the works – and that’s why they are so important.

Alongside these searches, a conveyancer will also be responsible for checking all the paperwork and any returned searches in great detail, raising any questions with the seller’s conveyancer and making the buyer aware of any issues. If you do happen to run into any issues, this stage can take a few weeks and is often the culprit for any hold-ups, but it’s very important to get to the bottom of anything needing attention so that it’s plain sailing for the buyer once the purchase is complete.

At what point do I actually get the keys to my new property?

Once the watertight paperwork is signed, sealed and delivered, the buyer is required to pay their deposit. This is usually 10% of the purchase price and can be done via online bank transfer. Your conveyancer will then begin the conversation about finding a convenient day to move into the property that you’re purchasing. This date will need to be agreed with all parties in the chain which, again, can take a little while. Once this date is agreed, the conveyancer can then work towards a date to exchange contracts.

moving house

Once the contracts are exchanged and a date is agreed for completion, the purchase becomes legally binding. This is the moment that you can breathe a sigh of relief, as you will have a legally binding contract to buy your new home and/or sell your existing home. With the final completion statement ready to go, you will need to pay any outstanding balances and your conveyancer will request the balance of the mortgage amount from the bank or building society.

Only when the cash has been received by the seller’s conveyancers will the estate agents be authorised to release the keys for you. Then it’s up to you to pick the keys up and begin the moving in process!

Is there anything else that a conveyancer will be responsible for?

Even though the conveyancing process is complete, a conveyancer’s work doesn’t stop there. There’s usually a few loose ends to tie up before the case is closed, but it’s not usually something that they will need your input with, so you can focus on painting walls and unpacking boxes in your new home.

Your conveyancer will be required to register the change of ownership with the Land Registry, pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf, send a copy of the title deeds to your mortgage lender and finally give you a bill for their payment. If you have purchased a leasehold property then they will also need to notify the freeholder.

What about if I’m selling?

Even though you won’t be the one parting with thousands of pounds on a property purchase, it’s just as important for a seller to have a conveyancer as it is for the buyer. As a seller, there are certain legal obligations that you must comply with, and you’ll need to draft and negotiate the terms of a contract before a property can be transferred. It’s always best to enlist the help of someone who really knows what they’re doing.

handshake

It works in quite the same way, in that your conveyancer will be the point of call for the buyer’s conveyancer in answering questions, solving issues and combing through contracts. They will deal with the property’s title deeds, handle the exchange of contracts and manage the day of completion, including handling the logistics involved with the all-important handover of keys. Ultimately, their job is to lend their professional advice and expertise to ensure that the process is as smooth and stress-free for you as possible.

Buying a house can be lengthy and quite stressful at times. However, with the help of the right solicitor, it’s much, much easier. Do your research and put your trust into the right hands, and you’ll be unlocking the door to your new home for the first time before you know it.