The buying and selling of houses can actually be quite complicated. No two cases are the same. It is obviously more complicated than buying your groceries or even a new car. There is more to your dream home than a can of soup!
It is essential for the buyer’s solicitor to raise the correct enquiries and check the title deeds to the property. There are many types of searches, in fact there seems to be a never ending array of new searches on offer.
At Emmersons solicitors we provide clients with a summary of the main types of search and why they are necessary. In one case recently we discovered that the entrance to a mine shaft was only 50 yards away from the front door of a property our client was about to purchase. Needless to say they didn’t go ahead.
Is the land you think you are buying owned by the seller? I t may be that years ago money changed hands in respect of an extra strip of land but neither party instructed a solicitor to deal with the registration at the time.
In all cases where a mortgage is involved, your solicitor is not just acting for you but also your lender. They have very strict requirements that solicitors must follow. The demands of lenders are many. They are extremely cautious having been too lax prior to the recession. Many have lost money as a result.
In addition there is a huge amount of fraud taking place at the moment in respect of property sales and purchases. A favourite trick is for someone to spot an empty property, find out who owns it, impersonate them with numerous
documents and then sell that person’s home without their knowledge.
At Emmersons solicitors, we have extra ID checking facilities in place; we require proof of the source of funds in order to avoid money laundering. Our staff regularly attend money laundering courses. Nearly every month there is a new scam taking place on a national basis. Last week alone the Law society alerted us to six new scams.
So what should you be looking for in a solicitor?
Speed of service- Emmersons has a state of the art case management system so that cases can be turned around in about half the usual time. In one recent case we had a new build matter ready to exchange in one week. We also have access to the Land Registry online service; this means that we can obtain documents in hours rather than days.
An ethical firm – Look for the Conveyancing Quality Mark scheme awarded by The Law Society. This means that a firm has reached a high standard in terms of service offered to clients.
A clear indication of costs – Don’t always plump for the cheapest firm. You need quality of service, a property solicitor who checks documents properly and who is able to protect you as you deal with the biggest purchase of your life.

Is Your Will Valid?

At Emmersons Solicitors we see all sorts of wills drafted by individuals themselves or by family members. We are usually presented with these when a client wishes to challenge the estate of a recently deceased family member.
We have come across all manner of tricks over the years. In one case an adult child had a will drafted by a friend who worked in a solicitor’s office. They then allegedly took the will to their elderly mother who was in hospital at the time. We were presented with the will after the death of the Testatrix. Our client was suspicious that the will was not genuine. We were able to prove that the his mother was unconscious on the day the will was “signed”.

It is necessary to have a will witnessed by two other people who should not be beneficiaries, or this will invalidate it. The witnesses must be present at the same time as each other and at the same time as the person who is making and signing their will. In this case it transpired that one of the witnesses had not even seen the lady when she signed her will. It had been brought to them by the relative and they were simply asked to sign it.
Needless to say the will was found to be completely invalid. This is an extreme case where one adult child was clearly trying to defraud the other. However, if you decide to make your own will you can easily make mistakes. If the correct procedure is not followed then your will can be challenged by anyone not happy with it.

When I see clients I am quite happy for them to bring a relative along to their first meeting. Some older clients can easily become confused and it can help if there is someone there to explain things. However, I always make sure that I then see my client alone. I need them to tellme in their own words what their instructions are. This is important as it establishes whether they have the mental capacity to make their will and it also lets me see if they are happy with the choices they made whilst their relative was in the room.
It is important to establish background facts
In one case I was informed that a family member had already received £10,000 from our client. Therefore the will was to be drafted so that the other child received the first £10,000 of his estate and everything thereafter would be split on an equal basis. However, when I asked for proof it transpired that £2,500 had already been paid back to our client. The will needed to be drafted so that only the amount outstanding at our client’s death was to be deducted.
This is a very common scenario and one which has just been dealt with by the courts in this country. Unfortunately to test the validity of the will meant that family members used up most of the inheritance in legal fees!
Don’t leave your family to quarrel with one another after your death. Make sure that your will is clearly drafted with evidence to support your decisions.

It’s All About Mediation!

You may have noticed in the news recently that anyone wishing to issue court proceedings in any family law case must use mediation first. The government have cut back on legal aid to such an extent that most people can’t now receive funding. As a result they then pushed mediation as being the panacea for all cases, everyone will sit down nicely and discuss their case with their ex partner, this will avoid stressful court cases and it will all lead to a happy ending!


Anyway, back in the real world…


So what is mediation? This is a process whereby each party separately visits a mediator for an assessment session. If both parties agree that the process is right for them then they will meet together with a mediator present. Some mediators are legally trained and some are not. The job of the mediator is to help you to reach a settlement by way of compromise. The process can be used to deal with Arrangements for Children or financial matters.


Whilst I am not against mediation as a method of settling matters it is not right for everyone. I have seen the most surprising cases settle at mediation; parties who seemed to hate each other and who have gone on to broker a good deal between them.


However, Emmersons  Solicitors Family Law Department has referred hundreds of clients to mediation.;Those on legal aid had no choice in the matter. The failure rate has been about 85/


In order for this process to work, you must both feel comfortable sitting in a room together. One person should not feel bullied into accepting a compromise. You should be thinking not just about today’s settlement but how that will look in ten years time when you are retired. Will you have sufficient money to fix your leaking roof at that stage or will you have left yourself poor in old age because you have tried too hard to reach a pleasant settlement? The law has evolved over the years to protect you.


 The process should not be delayed because one party chooses to drag their feet. One of our client’s recently  tried mediation. His wife would not discuss the relevant issues so he had to go back for a second meeting, she still refused to discuss their financial situation. He felt that he had wasted money on three sessions in the end but more importantly he had wasted another three months and was no further forward.


However, do not panic. If mediation is not for you then you can try other ways of settling your case without ever having to visit a court. The new law permits a wide range of attempts to settle matters. As long as you can show that you have genuinely tried to settle matters between you the court are likely to let you issue proceedings if you have reached a partial agreement or no agreement at all.


The press, and some mediators, are concentrating only on the specific mediation route. About 90/ of our cases never reach court. That means that most people are capable of reaching an out of court settlement. We can achieve that by negotiation by letter, telephone and email. We can offer meetings where both parties meet with their solicitors and discuss matters face to face. Some of our clients don’t want to be in the same room as their ex partner. Therefore we use separate rooms and the two solicitors negotiate and then discuss issues with their clients. You could also use the Collaborative Process which is detailed on our web site.


Ultimately however, this will all depend upon you and your ex partner. If one or both of  you will not negotiate then a judge will have to make a decision for you. There are some cases which will need judgement in any event; for example If one parent wishes to move abroad with a child and the other does not want the child to go.


If you need advice contact us at Emmersons Solicitors and we will do our best to keep you out of court.



It seems at last that Local Authorities are now making it a priority that elderly people should be able to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. This is often with the help of a care package. I have no doubt that this will be for financial reasons but at last good news for our clients.
When I am drafting Lasting Powers of Attorney, I always discuss which powers the client wishes to give to their attorney. The vast majority will state that their home is not to be sold, and that they do not wish to go into a care home unless their own doctor assesses them as not being able to manage in their own home at all. This seems to be the single most important factor for our clients when they come to see us at Emmersons Solicitors Elderly Client Department.
If this resonates with you or your family then come and see us to discuss the matter further.
On another note, you will all have seen the new adverts about Dementia Friends. As a firm, Emmersons Solicitors has always dealt with a lot if elderly clients. We therefore took the opportunity to become Dementia Friends. Helen Miller, who is also a member of Solicitors For the Elderly, having passed their exam, attended a training session recently to become a Dementia Friend. I asked her what she gained from the training and was very moved by her answer,
“We discussed the illness itself and how it can make people feel isolated, frustrated, scared and vulnerable. I think that from now on, I will be even more aware of how our clients are feeling having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. This will also be relevant when I am acting for other family members in relation to a patient who no longer has sufficient mental capacity to be able to make a Lasting Power of Attorney. In such cases I then have to apply to The Court Of Protection for a relative to become a Deputy to manage the affairs of the patient. The Dementia Friends course will help me to look past the legal issues and past the illness itself to see that there is a v ery vulnerable person who needs help.”
Both Helen and I have dealt with Elderly Client matters for years, in my case 25 years. However, Helen’s comments had a very powerful effect upon me.
Finally, we dealt with a case recently that made us think again about the decisions that people make in their lives. When we are dealing with probate matters we may never have met the deceased however, we often ponder about their lives.
Some years ago a lady from the North East married a chap from the Middle East. They did not have children together. After living together for about five years they decided to separate. That was about 25 years ago. Last year the lady died, she had not made a will; a distant relative came to see us. We had to establish whether the couple had ever divorced. Having investigated this matter we concluded that no divorce had ever taken place in this country.
We then had to track down the husband with the help of an heir hunters firm. We did not know if he was alive or if he had instigated divorce proceedings in his country. Having found the husband he stated that he had not divorced his wife, he just assumed that she would have divorced him. Therefore he was still the lady’s next of kin and as such was entitled to her whole estate. We assumed that he may politely decline the money, after all he had not seen or heard of his wife for all those years. I bet you know the outcome; yes he took all of the estate.
Imagine the mess if the lady had children with another man. They would have been involved in a battle with her husband. What if she had a sister she was close to who had possibly nursed her in the later stages of her life, that sister would not have been entitled to anything.
Think about your own circumstances and who would inherit your estate if you do not have a will. Or do you have a very old will leaving your estate to someone you are no longer in touch with?
Don’t leave it to chance, ask us for a FREE APPRAISAL of your existing will.