Individuals & families

Unmarried couples and bankruptcy

The recent case of Kernott v Jones has helped to provide some clarity as to how the court decides the level of a co-habitee’s interest in a property where the legal title is held jointly by introducing the concept of fairness into the decision-making process. However, the increasing impact of “fairness” on a court’s decision may only muddy the waters for a Trustee in Bankruptcy when to establish the level of a co-habiting bankrupt’s interest in the property for the purpose of realising that asset in the bankruptcy estate.

Clarification on property disputes between cohabitees

More than half of couples in the 16 – 44 age group are now cohabiting rather than being married and many of them will jointly own their property. But they rarely have a formal agreement that clearly sets out how the property should be divided in the event of the relationship breaking down. The Supreme Court has handed down their decision in Jones v Kernott, a case that concerned the allocation of shares in a jointly owned property after the relationship ended.

Inheritance rights of a cohabitee

The Law Commission has recommended that in certain circumstances, unmarried couples should have the same inheritance rights as spouses when a partner dies without making a will. Cohabitation is widespread and increasing. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of cohabiting couples in England and Wales will increase from 2.3 million in 2008 to 3.8 million in 2033. Yet the Law Commission has suggested that cohabitants are among the people least likely to have a will, meaning that surviving cohabitants are often left with nothing.

Business protection wills

If you own business assets or are unsure of the best way to leave your assets it is possible to retain flexibility for your spouse/partner or your children to administer your estate in the most tax efficient manner according to the circumstances at the date of your death. Business protection wills are flexible and potentially the most tax efficient form of will.

Are prenuptial agreements legally binding in the UK?

Prenuptial agreements were recognised as enforceable under British divorce law for the first time in the case of Katrin Radmacher and Nicholas Granatino. Before Katrin Radmacher and Nicholas Granatino married in 1998, the wealthy German heiress ensured that her husband signed a prenuptial agreement promising to make no claims on her fortune if the marriage failed. Katrin Radmacher was a wealthy woman with shares in a family company worth around £50 million and further assets of around £55 million all of which were inherited before her marriage. At the time of the breakdown of the marriage Mr Granatino was earning £30,000 as an academic at Oxford University.

What to do if your relative dies with assets abroad

A second home in the UK presents administrative and logistical challenges but at least within a familiar tax and legal regime. These challenges escalate with a foreign property, particularly in relation to succession law and tax issues. In both France and Spain there are fixed succession rules whereby local law provides for an automatic entitlement of a certain proportion of your estate to your children, unlike English law which allows you to leave your property as you wish.

Protect your compensation money and benefits with a personal injury trust

At present, if you receive compensation for a personal injury, the amount will be taken into account if you are assessed for means-tested benefits. One way of protecting both your compensation money and any benefit entitlements is to transfer the money into a personal injury trust, also known as a PI Trust. If you do this, you can receive both income and capital and the fund is not taken into consideration for the purpose of assessing you for benefits.

The right to a view

It is a long established principle in English Law, first recorded in 1610, that a land owner can not protect the view that he has from that land; the rationale is that it would unduly limit the freedom to build on one's own land and thereby hinder beneficial development. However this basic premise, under specific circumstances, has been successfully challenged in the Court of Appeal.

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