Understanding Equity Release

Equity release is a good way to give over 55s the opportunity to release some of the money held in their property without selling it, offering them the freedom to do things that they may not otherwise have been able to do. That money could be to help family financially, to pay off debt or to fund day-to-day retirement costs. Meanwhile, some homeowners use it to travel or for home or garden improvements. With house prices having risen by 73% in ten years, according to latest Office of National Statistics figures, many people now have a considerable proportion of their wealth invested in their property which they want to benefit from – so how do you go about releasing that equity in your home?

What is Home Equity?

Home equity is the value of your property, minus your mortgage balance. For example, if your home is valued at £500,000 with a remaining mortgage debt of £200,000, you have £300,000 in equity in your property. Equity accumulates in two ways; by paying off the mortgage and through the appreciation of the property’s value over time.

How to release Home Equity?

There are two ways to release equity; lifetime mortgages and home reversion plans. Both choices provide a way to obtain funds for a range of purposes such as home improvements, debt settlement and supplementing retirement income.

What are Lifetime Mortgages?

Lifetime mortgages offer homeowners a way to access funds, either through a lump sum or regular payments based on their home’s value, whilst allowing them to retain ownership of their property. Typically, the amount borrowed along with any accumulated interest is repaid when the homeowner passes away or moves into long term care.

Key considerations

1. Eligibility: Homeowners must be at least 55 years old. The amount that can be borrowed is determined based on the homeowners age and the value of their property.

2. Interest: The interest on the loan can be compounded (added to the loan balance) or paid off periodically. When compounded, it means no repayments are needed during the homeowner’s lifetime unless they choose otherwise.

3. Repayment: The loan is settled when the property is sold – either upon the homeowner’s passing or when they move into long term care. Any remaining equity after repaying the loan and interest goes to the homeowner’s estate or inherited by their beneficiaries.

4. Safeguards: Reputable lenders ensure that homeowners never owe more than their property’s value through a ‘No Equity Guarantee’.

Pros and Cons of Lifetime Mortgages


  • Ownership Retained: Homeowners can still own their home and live there for the rest of their lives.
  • Tax Free Cash: The money received is tax exempt, providing a lump sum or extra income without affecting retirement benefits.
  • Flexibility: Homeowners have the choice to receive a lump sum, regular payments or set up a fund, for accessing funds as needed.


  • Interest: With interest accumulating over time the debt could grow rapidly potentially reducing the property’s remaining equity.
  • Decreased Inheritance: As a result of the accumulating interest and the eventual repayment of the loan there will be less inheritance for beneficiaries.
  • Expenses: Getting a lifetime mortgage involves costs, like valuation, legal fees and advisor fees.

Applying for a Lifetime Mortgage

You can apply for equity release via a solicitors’ Residential Conveyancing team such as ours. Once we complete the legally required ID checks, and receive and review your mortgage offer, we will meet with you in person to run through these documents for signing and sending to the mortgage company solicitors. Completion tends to take place between weeks 6 – 10. Following completion, the mortgage company solicitors will make an application to the land registry to register the new charge.

Sometimes, equity release applications can take many months to complete. Matters that can slow the process down include:

  • Unregistered properties
  • Deceased owners on title deeds
  • Lease extensions
  • Undisclosed information at application stages
  • Property down valuations
  • Separation agreements
  • Properties held in trust
  • Applying to the courts of protection
  • CCJ’s, cautions and restrictions on the title deeds
  • Discrepancies in the names of proprietor
  • Dicrepencies in property address
  • Merger of leasehold and freehold
Lifetime Mortgage / Equity Release, What Happens Next - Thomas and Thomas Solicitors

Alternatives to Lifetime Mortgages

A lifetime mortgage isn’t for everyone, but there are other ways to access cash.

Choosing to downsize your home and buy a smaller property is an alternative that can help you access some cash without needing to take out a Lifetime Mortgage or release equity.

Similarly, Retirement Interest Mortgages (RIOs) function much like lifetime mortgages, with the main difference being that you do have to make interest payments, which can prevent the loan from growing over time.

Another option is a Home Reversion Plan which involves selling a portion or all the property to a provider in exchange for a lump sum or regular payments, while retaining the right to live in the home rent-free.

While lifetime mortgages and other equity release options provide people with ways to access the money that is tied up in their homes, it’s important to consider factors such as interest accumulation and how this might impact any inheritance you plan to leave.

Getting advice from professionals who fully grasp the terms involved and will explore every option available to you is a crucial step in making a well-informed decision about your financial future.

For expert assistance in securing your retirement finances, our dedicated residential conveyancing team at Thomas and Thomas Solicitors offers a range of services. Please read through our next steps guide related to Lifetime Mortgages and Equity Release or contact us for support and information here.


How to Sell Your Property Via Auction

Property can be sold in several ways, but have you ever considered selling your home in an auction? In January 2024, the number of properties sold under the hammer grew by over 49% compared to last year, and the market shows no signs of slowing down.

A property auction is a live bidding process, held either online or in person. Potential buyers compete to win a property up for sale by outbidding each other. However, there are variations of property auctions, and it’s important to understand the difference.

Putting your property into an auction is an exciting and potentially cost-effective alternative to a regular sale, and, while it may still be the path less travelled, the apparent uptick in property auction sales reflects a growing interest in buying and selling properties at auctions. But how do you go about it?

In this blog, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the various kinds of property auctions and their benefits, as well as how solicitors can assist in the process. We hope to leave you with a better understanding of your options and, most importantly, the knowledge to begin your auction journey.

Traditional Auctions vs. Modern Auctions

Traditional Auctions

Traditional auctions usually take place in person at an auction house or online, with several properties up for sale on a set day. They are often popular among property professionals who understand the system and can confidently make bids, as it is a rigid process with little room for error. As soon as the gavel falls and the auction is complete, contracts are exchanged and buyers are expected to pay a deposit that day (usually 10%), they then have approximately 28 days to complete the purchase.

Aside from this quick turnaround, the main appeal of selling your property in a traditional auction is the added layer of security; due to the strict rules around buying at auction, those in attendance are often ready to pay either on the day or imminently, reducing the likelihood of a lengthy process and buyers pulling out during the completion journey.

Traditional auctions are a good option for sellers who need to make the sale swiftly, and buyers who prefer cash. However, their fast-paced nature can intimidate inexperienced sellers and does not leave much time for a potential buyer to secure a loan or mortgage. This narrows down the pool of people who would be able to afford the property.

Modern Auctions

Modern auctions, on the other hand, take place purely online and are a little more flexible. Unlike traditional auctions, contracts do not have to be exchanged on the day of the bid, so it is not an immediate commitment. Instead, buyers have 56 days to complete the transaction, meaning that, while they are still committed to buying the property, they have a little longer to finalise a mortgage agreement.

Along with that same security blanket as a traditional auction, modern auctions are appealing for their online convenience and the additional time it affords potential buyers to secure their funding.

The lengthier process of a modern auction may be beneficial if you are looking for a quicker process than selling through an estate agent, but still need some time to get your affairs in order. However, there is no guarantee that your potential buyers will commit to the purchase, as they are not legally bound to complete it.

My Traditional Auction, What Happens Next - Thomas and Thomas Solicitors
My Modern Auction, What Happens Next - Thomas and Thomas Solicitors

Benefits of Auctioning Your Property

But why consider selling your property through auction at all? The process can be much faster and more secure than a traditional house sale, which may take several months in a property chain and can be subject to change depending on buyers pulling out. The journey itself can also be far easier and less stressful than selling through an estate agent, with less fees to pay, demands to negotiate and marketing to do.

What’s more, auctions often attract ambitious property investors and builders that are more likely to show interest in unusual properties or properties that need a little work done. The competitive spirit of the market encourages multiple bids, which may lead to a higher selling price than you were expecting.

How Solicitors Assist in the Process

Solicitors can help with a range of legal matters, and that includes the process of selling a property at an auction. To prepare, a solicitor will send you a welcome pack to complete and return with evidence of funding to prove you are able to pay the relevant auction fees.

Once initial checks, searches and payments are complete, and you have chosen the auction house you would like to sell through, an auction pack will be sent to your solicitor, which includes property details ahead of the sale itself.

Depending on what type of auction you are pursuing, the next few steps differ.

  • Before a traditional auction takes place, the auction pack will be shared with any potential buyers and their legal representatives. Your solicitor can also deal with any pre-auction enquiries on your behalf. The auction itself will then take place and, if there is a buyer, contracts will be exchanged. The buyer will also pay you a deposit, and after it goes through, you will agree on a completion date.
  • In a modern auction, we will write a report on the auction pack and share this with you. In the meantime, you can arrange any necessary surveys of the property. You would then reserve your property in the online auction by paying its agent a reservation fee. If a buyer is found, we will send you the contract documents to sign via email and then exchange them with the buyer. Then, a completion date will be agreed.

Selling your property via auction is generally much faster than going through an estate agent and the property ladder. Property auctions are an exciting opportunity for sellers who are comfortable with the possibility that their sale is not guaranteed. Selling your property in an auction should be considered carefully if you have the funds to do so, although it’s best to have other options in mind just in case the auction is not successful.

If you need help and support with selling your property through auction, our team of specialists at Thomas and Thomas Solicitors provide a comprehensive range of conveyancing services. For further support and advice, contact us here.


The Importance of Making a Will: What You Need to Know 

Creating a will is an important milestone in everyone’s life, and is something which everyone should consider, regardless of age. But what is a will and why is it crucial to have one? 

A will is a legal document which outlines how you would like your assets distributed after you pass away. It’s important to have one because if you pass away before creating one, your personal property, possessions and money may not be handled as you wish. This can lead to complex legal disputes between family members and friends as they work out a fair split for the inheritance, adding unnecessary stress during a highly sensitive time. 

To help shine a light on what you need to know about wills, probate, and what can happen if you don’t have a professionally crafted legal will, we’ve sat down with Molly Graham, Solicitor in our wills and probate team, to provide her expert insight into some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding these areas of law. 


Q: What happens if someone dies without a will? 

A: If you die ‘intestate’ – which means without having made a will – the intestacy law will divide your estate equally among your legally recognised relatives. This includes a spouse, civil partner, and/or child(ren).   

However, this may not always be what you desire, and can create tension among each of the respective parties if they feel this equal split is unfair. Additionally, intestacy law does not cover stepchildren, unmarried partners, friends, and charities, meaning that many of those who are close to you may be left with nothing after your passing. 

Q: How does intestacy law affect the distribution of assets? 

A: How intestacy law distributes your estate depends on which family members the inheritance needs to be split between. 

If both a spouse and the children have a claim to the inheritance, it is usually split into two.  One half, including all personal possessions, for your partner, and the other half is divided among your children.  

If you are without a spouse or children, then any other surviving relatives will inherit your assets. This is decided by an order of priority, with closest relatives first, followed by more distant family. If there are no relatives to claim your estate, your assets will go to the Crown.  

Q: What specific challenges arise in administering an estate without a will? 

A: The probate process, which involves the distribution of your estate among beneficiaries, does not vary too much whether a will is present or not. However, without this document in place, you lose all control over how your estate is broken up. For example, a family member who has been a part-time carer throughout the later stages of a parent’s life will receive the same amount of inheritance as an estranged family member. This could lead to friction between families and unnecessary court and legal fees if a court is needed to resolute a legal dispute. 

If you are a relative of a person who dies intestate, you can make an application to the court for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. This needs to be done within the first two years of your relative’s passing, after which the law will begin to distribute the estate automatically. There cannot only be one administrator – there must be a minimum of two, up to a maximum of four. 

Q: Please explain the probate process further when someone dies without a Will 

A: To gain a letter of administration, you must have details of everything the deceased owned, how much it is worth, and any outstanding debts. This information is then used to fill out the necessary Inheritance Tax Returns forms. You will then be able to gain a full picture of the amount of tax that is owed to HMRC. 

Alongside these tax forms, the application also requires the original death certificate for the deceased, as well as a fee that to be paid to the Probate Registry for their service. 

If approved, the applicant(s) will be appointed as administrator(s) of the estate. This grants them with the legal authority to deal with the estate, which can require access to the deceased’s private information. 

When undergoing probate in this scenario, it is extremely complex, and mistakes are much easier to make. 


Q: How can potential disputes or complications be mitigated in the absence of a will? 

A: Having multiple administrators avoids disputes by allowing more of the deceased’s loved ones to have their interests represented, especially if the estate is complicated. However, third-party advice from a solicitor is also recommended. They can act as an unbiased party and consultant for any legal queries the administrators and their loved ones may have. 

When someone passes away it can be an extremely difficult time for all those involved in the individual’s life. To avoid undue stress and worry, everyone should have a will in place, meaning that when someone passes away, their friends and family are able to honour their memory with peace of mind, knowing that there is a plan in place for handling their estate. 

If you need help and support on matters concerning wills and probate, our team of specialists at Thomas and Thomas Solicitors provide a comprehensive range of Will services. For further support and advice, contact us here.  


Five areas to consider when leasing commercial property

The UK commercial property rental market is predicted to look strong for at least the next five years. Latest Statista figures forecast growth in rentals between 2023 and 2027 across all sectors from industrial, office to retail, shopping centres and warehouses. Perhaps surprising to some, with the rise in working from home, office space rentals are predicted to be one the highest with a 1.1% increase expected during this period, while industrial real estate rents lead the way with an anticipated 3.3 % per year growth util 2027.

This is all very encouraging however, it is worth noting that whether you’re an experienced commercial landlord or in the process of purchasing your first property to lease, commercial leases are more complex than residential leases. They come in various forms, each with its own set of terms and conditions. Therefore, we’ve outlined below several factors to consider within a commercial property lease that both the landlord and tenant should be aware of.

Basics of a commercial lease

A commercial lease is a legally binding contract made between a business tenant and their landlord. There are usually two parties involved. The ‘lessor’, who is the landlord and owns the property and the ‘lessee’, who is the tenant and is allowed to use the property in exchange for rent.

The lease gives the tenant the right to use the property for commercial activity for the lease’s duration in exchange for regular payment to the landlord. Any agreements made, whether financial or other, should be recorded in writing for future legal reference. If a dispute occurs over the lease, a court will hear evidence, and it usually upholds a written agreement over anything verbal. In addition to this, commercial leases have less government protection than residential leases, as businesses are expected to be able to negotiate for themselves. However, this also means that both the tenant and the landlord have more bargaining power.

The Lease Term

When working with a commercial conveyancing solicitor, consider your lease term, which is the length of time that the tenant has agreed to rent the property. This may differ depending on the agreement made. It should typically stipulate a ‘fixed term’ which is when the lease starts and ends on specific dates however either party can terminate the lease earlier if there is a Break Right in the lease.

Also, attention to detail in the contract is key as the landlord cannot increase the rent or change any terms of the lease unless they reserved the right to do so in the terms of the lease. When the lease term is up the tenant may have the statutory right to renew under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 however, a lease can contract out of the Landlord and Tenant Act which means that there is no right to renew. This means that after a fixed lease ends, the landlord may evict their tenant or agree to a month-by-month payment basis for them to stay. Alternatively, a new lease can be signed.

If you have a periodic tenancy then this will continue indefinitely until either the tenant or the landlord gives notice to terminate the lease. At the end of the notice period, the tenant must move out or the landlord can begin eviction proceedings. In a periodic lease, the landlord is usually able to raise the rent and change the lease’s terms so long as notice is given.

Financial Payments

Stipulating in your lease how much will be paid in rent is critical for the security of both the tenant and landlord. Rent can be paid on any date that the landlord and tenant agree on, but it is usually paid monthly or on quarterly days of the financial year. This minimum rent, excluding any additional or operating costs, is known as the ‘base rent’. Commercial leases can also include a rental arrangement known as a ‘percentage lease’, common in shopping centres and similar premises, where the tenant will pay a base rent in addition to a percentage of their gross income.

Some lease types come with specific renting conditions. In an ‘FRI’ lease, the tenant covers the costs of maintenance and repair on the property, as well as insurance (whether insured directly or through the landlord).  A ‘Gross rent’ commercial lease only requires that the tenant pays a base rent while the landlord pays all other expenses, including operation, tax, maintenance, utility and insurance.

Check service charges 

Whether you hold a Gross rent commercial lease or other, ensure to check the lease for any service charges, which is the cost of maintaining and repairing a property that the landlord can charge back to the tenant. Negotiate these within the lease before signing, taking the advice of a commercial conveyancing solicitor, as these expenses can range from things beyond repairs and maintenance to insurance premiums and employing staff such as gardeners and cleaners. Check as there may also be a ‘sinking fund’ in the lease which allows landlords to collect money for any unexpected costs such as roof repairs.

Security Deposit

Finally, consider your security deposit when drawing up a commercial lease. This is a sum of money that the tenant must pay to the landlord at the beginning of a lease, used to cover any property damage or missed rent during their stay. In commercial conveyancing, this sum can be whatever amount the landlord asks for so ensure to negotiate. What remains of this deposit will be returned when the tenant moves out.

If you need help and support on matters concerning a commercial lease, our team of commercial conveyancing solicitors at Thomas and Thomas Solicitors provide a comprehensive range of services. For further support and advice, please contact us here.


Understanding Unfair Dismissal

If you’re facing an employment related legal issue, you’re not alone. We understand that dealing with employment law can be overwhelming, whether you’re the employer or the employee.

Unfair dismissal is a statuary right that is important to understand when an employee is suddenly dismissed. Successful cases that received compensation have been falling since 2010, although in 2021/22, there was a rise of cases that resulted in the employee’s favour. Today, we’ve explained what you need to know about unfair dismissal, and how it can affect you.

What is unfair dismissal?

Employees that have worked at a business for over two years have the right to not be unfairly dismissed. However, employees that have not yet worked at a business for two years may still have this right, as there are exceptions. What falls under ‘unfair dismissal’ must include at least one of the following:

  • No fair reason for dismissal
  • Not enough reason to justify dismissal
  • The employer did not follow fair procedure

Fair dismissal procedure must also follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures if the dismissal’s reasons involved misconduct or performance capability. While employees are generally protected by the Acas code, every company has its own disciplinary or dismissal process to follow.

There is a limited window of opportunity for an employee to begin the appeal process for an unfair dismissal. This starts from the last day of employment and lasts for three months.

What employers should do if they want to dismiss an employee

An employer must show that there is valid reason for an employee to be dismissed. If there is more than one reason for dismissal, then the principle reason must be valid. The reasons given for an unfair dismissal cannot be based on new discoveries or behaviour after it has already occurred.

However, even if an employer proves that the dismissal is for fair reasons, it is still ultimately up to the court to decide whether the dismissal was fair or not. They will decide if the employer responded reasonably in dismissing the employee, or if a less severe penalty would have been adequate.

If a court believes that no reasonable employer would use the given reason to dismiss an employee, then the dismissal will still be determined as unfair. This decision will be made, factoring in the size and resources of the employer, such as if they are an SME.

Five fair reasons for dismissal

To be considered fair, the reason for dismissal must fall into at least one of the five categories that are set out by the Employee Rights Act 1996. These include;

  1. Lack of Capability:
    The employee lacked the qualification or the ability to perform the work that they were employed to do.
  2. Genuine redundancy:
    The employee’s role is no longer necessary due to business reasons.
  3. Conduct:
    The employee behaved in ways that amount to gross misconduct, including poor attendance, dishonesty, and failure to follow instructions.
  4. Contravention of a statutory enactment:
    If an employee is no longer able to perform a key part of their role, like if they are banned for speeding when their day-to-day work involves driving, this is what is known as contravening a statute.
  5. Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR):
    The dismissal follows none of the above reasons. SOSR could include a personal disagreement with the employer or a non-renewal of a fixed-term contract that is specific to certain roles. Every SOSR case will be determined by its own context and facts.

The consequences of unfair dismissal

If a dispute arises regarding an employee’s termination, the involved parties may consider alternative resolutions such as compromise agreements. These may include reinstating the employee in their previous position or re-engaging them in a different role.

Financial compensation may be part of the resolution, taking into account factors like the employee’s age, gross weekly pay, and length of service. If the agreement includes reinstatement and it is not implemented, additional compensation may be required.

It’s essential to note that there are limits on the compensation that can be awarded in cases of dispute resolution, with exceptions for instances related to health and safety or whistleblowing.

Thomas and Thomas Solicitors is a friendly, local law firm that has a unique insight and an inclusive approach to clients with years of experience. With a team of specialists in their specific legal field, the firm offers a range of legal services, including employment law. Get in touch with us today by emailing or visiting to find your nearest office.


How Long Does a Power of Attorney Last?

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is the most common form of Power of Attorney, granting someone legal permission to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf should you lose capacity to manage these affairs yourself.

It may be an illness or an accident which leaves you incapable of making critical and everyday decisions. An LPA grants that designated individual Power of Attorney (the ‘attorney’) to act on your behalf (‘the donor’) on several matters, from property and finance through to health, depending on whether you hold a Health & Welfare or a Property & Financial Affairs LPA.

The types of Lasting Power of Attorney

A Health & Welfare LPA can only be used once you are unable to make your own decisions and gives your attorney the power to decide on matters regarding:

  • your daily routine (such as washing, dressing, eating)
  • medical care
  • moving into a care home
  • life-sustaining medical treatment

Whereas a property and financial affairs LPA can be used immediately upon registration with the Office of the Public Guardian or held on file should you lose capacity. This document gives your attorney the power to decide on aspects of your money and property, including:

  • managing bank or building society accounts
  • paying bills
  • collecting a pension or benefits
  • if necessary, selling your home.

When does my Lasting Power of Attorney end?

Neither LPAs expire unless certain circumstances change. Once registered, both LPAs remain valid until the donor passes away, the legal document is ended either voluntarily, or because the attorney is no longer able to act on behalf of the donor.

There are several reasons why an attorney may be forced to step down from the role: –

  • If the donor ‘revokes’ it from them.
  • The attorney themselves loses mental capacity.
  • If the donor’s married or civil partner acts as their attorney and they separate, then the LPA will end, unless it was specified in the document that a divorce would not end the attorneyship.
  • If one of two joint attorneys stops acting as an LPA, the remaining attorney cannot continue to act alone unless the document permits it.
  • A Property & Financial Affairs attorney who becomes bankrupt or subject to a debt relief order must also stop acting as an LPA for the donor.

Should a Lasting Power of Attorney be ended for any of the reasons mentioned above, the donor can amend it by contacting the Office of the Public Guardian. However, it is recommended to write up a new document anytime changes are desired because amended documents can become invalid.

Registration for a Lasting Power of Attorney

In England and Wales, the registration for a Lasting Power of Attorney is £82. This can be paid online (such as through or at any location that offers services for the Office of the Public Guardian. As there are two different kinds of LPA in the UK, they must be purchased individually, which can double the price to £164. If a donor is financially unable to pay the fee, there are support schemes available.

The Office of the Public Guardian’s application forms will contain guidance on the payment and setup process of an LPA’s registration, which can take up to 20 weeks if there are no delays. Hiring a solicitor is not required to register, but their experience may streamline the process.

Who can be a Lasting Power of Attorney?

Anybody can act as a LPA on behalf of a donor so long as they are over the age of 18. However, for a Property & Affairs LPA, the holder chosen cannot be bankrupt. If this occurs, the attorney must stop acting as an LPA.

Four in five UK adults have not registered an LPA, with 77% of these individuals being over the age of 55. Yet the number of LPAs are growing, as according to the Office of the Public Guardian, 848,896 documents were registered in the UK during 2022 – a 20% increase compared to 2021.

How do you end a Lasting Power of Attorney?

As an LPA has no expiration date, the attorney must end the legal arrangement if they no longer wish to fulfil the responsibilities of the role. To disclaim an LPA a notification form must be sent to the donor and the Office of the Public Guardian, as well as details of any replacement attorneys listed in the registered document. If there are no replacements available, then an alternative method to help the donor in their decision-making may be necessary.

If you need help and support on matters concerning LPAs, whether that’s setting up the legal document or to make an amendment to an existing agreement, our team of specialists at Thomas and Thomas Solicitors provide a comprehensive range of services for both types of LPAs. For further support and advice, contact us here.


What is Joint Tenancy?

In this blog, we’ll unravel the intricacies of property co-ownership, specifically the difference between ‘Joint Tenancy’ or ‘Tenants in Common’, and how these choices can profoundly affect your ownership experience. Did you know that there are significant legal and financial differences between both?

How does a Joint Tenancy work?

Property ownership can be shared in two different ways – ‘Joint Ownership’ and ‘Tenants in Common’.

Property can be purchased by any kind of pairing, such as spouses or business partners. However, when this purchase is made, it’s important that the legal title under which the property is held, is clear. This is because future contingencies must be considered, and these will differ between circumstances (like whether the joint owners are personally or professionally related).

Joint Ownership/Joint Tenancy

‘Joint Ownership’, which is also known as ‘Joint Tenancy’, considers both partners the legal owner. However, when one partner passes away, the property remains with the surviving party. This is because the deceased’s ‘interest’ disappears, and nothing needs to done other than to record the death. The property cannot be inherited by the deceased’s relatives because the property still has a living legal owner, this being the co-owner that survived them.

As joint tenants you have an undivided share of the whole property. Up to four people can own the same property. (you cannot have more than four parties registered at the Land Registry).

Tenancy in Common

‘Tenancy in Common’ considers the property to be split between its owners as separate percentages known as shares. These shares do not have to be equal, which means one party could have a much higher share than the other. Because each party is only legally entitled to their own percentage, that share will be inherited by next of kin. Thus, the surviving co-owner of the property will not get this share by default.

For ‘Tenants in Common’ it is sensible and sometimes necessary to document the precise agreement between the owners. This agreement is best recorded in a formal trust deed.

Joint Tenancy versus Tenants In Common

The ideal form of ‘Shared Ownership’ depends on the co-owner’s circumstances and their individual interests.

‘Joint Ownership’ has an appeal for being convenient and simple, leaving minimal paperwork in the event of a death when it comes to who now owns the property. ‘Joint Ownership’ may be preferable if a property owner does not wish for their share to be inherited by their next of kin and would prefer the property to remain with their co-owner. This is often why married couples are in ‘Joint Ownership’ so that the property remains within the marriage by law.

‘Tenancy in Common’ is usually recommended by solicitors because it gives each co-owner more agency when it comes to their share. When a property is split unevenly for example, the party with the larger share may not wish for all of it to go to their co-owner. This is often the case in circumstances such as unmarried couples and business partners where events can change. For example, a business property co-owner may wish for their share to go to their family instead of their partner.

What happens if a shared property owner passes away?

In the event of a shared property owner dying, ‘Tenants in Common’ is recommended if they would not wish for their share to automatically go to their co-owner. A remarried parent may wish to bequeath their share to children from their previous marriage and not their new spouse.

‘Tenants in Common’ may also reduce potential inheritance liabilities, as a party will have greater autonomy over what would be inherited by their next of kin and, as a result, more control over the consequential inheritance tax.

Overall, a good rule of thumb for choosing ‘Tenants in Common’ is when the co-owners will be making unequal contributions toward the property, or there is no positive reason to consider ‘Joint Ownership’.

Thomas and Thomas Solicitors understands that buying or selling a property can be one of the most important financial commitments you will make in your lifetime, and we are here to ensure that the process is handled seamlessly. Our solicitors will guide you through every step of the process.


A guide to some of the most impactful UK law cases

In the ever-evolving landscape of the UK legal system, certain cases shape the course of legislation and set crucial precedents for future judgements. Join us as we journey through some of the most impactful law cases in the UK. By delving into these legal battles in recent history, we offer a glimpse into the intricacies of the law as well as the marks they leave in society and the judicial system.

Injunctions exposed by the internet

The beginning of the 2010s was a strange time. Social media was rapidly going mainstream, injunctions were all the rage, and the extramarital engagements of football celebs were a popular scandal. However, the case of Ryan Giggs’ injunction against a tabloid newspaper stood out.

In April 2011, the footballer sought to prevent The Sun from publishing claims that he had an extra-marital affair. However, his wish to stay anonymous was short-lived – the gagging order was flouted by thousands of people on Twitter. This became one of the first prominent cases where the law had to react to the age of social media that we were entering.

The case grew even more farcical when an MP used his parliamentary privilege to name Giggs in the House of Commons itself when he was meant to have anonymity. Between this and the Twitter gossip, Giggs ultimately consented to the removal of his injunction’s anonymity in February 2012.

Snail Beer

A court decision was credited with laying the foundations of negligence in common law worldwide… all thanks to a snail. Quite the legacy! Donoghue v Stevenson, also known as the ‘Paisley Snail’ or ‘Snail in a Bottle’ case, was a 1932 debate when Mrs. Donoghue was drinking a ginger beer in a café in Paisley, Scotland. Little did she know that an unfortunate snail was decomposing inside the bottle, and subsequently made her ill.

As a result, Mrs. Donoghue sued the beer manufacturer. The House of Lords held that the manufacturer had breached its duty of care to Mrs. Donoghue as a consumer, resulting in Donoghue winning the case as well as making a full recovery. We can’t say the same for the snail, sadly.

Before this case took place, liability for personal injury was quite restrictive. There had to be physical damage inflicted directly or indirectly, but a noxious substance, like ‘the snail’ beer, was defined by neither trespass. This meant that from the orthodox perspective, Mrs. Donoghue had no sustainable claim, but the court’s decision created a new kind of liability.

Manslaughter under the influence

Another law-defining case that took place in 1967, R v Lipman helped establish what could be used as a defense in English criminal law. It forced the court to deal with the issue of unintentional murder, specifically committed under the influence.

In this case, a couple that regularly partook in recreational drugs, used LSD. The man hallucinated, claiming that he was being attacked by snakes, and while defending himself from these imaginary terrors, he strangled his partner. The police quickly saw the evidence of his guilt, but he claimed that he had no intention of murdering her.

The man was eventually found guilty despite his intoxication, as the court found that by creating a reckless situation with LSD, he had also created a risk that “ordinary sober and responsible people would recognise”. Cause vs intention is a timeless debate that even today is taken on a case-by-case basis in the court of law, but this decades-old tragedy still defines whether a person’s voluntary intoxication could be used as a defense against manslaughter.

Splashing civilians

In January 2014, a 22-year-old driver in Essex faced court summons and a £50,000 fine for driving through a puddle. Why? While doing so, he splashed a mother and her two children. Debbie Pugh was convinced that the driver had done it deliberately because he could have easily avoided the water.

Claims are one thing, but witnesses are another. To the driver’s bad luck (and Pugh’s good fortune!) a police officer was driving behind all of this and seeing the whole thing, PC Mark Hercules pulled over the driver. Officially, the driver was reported for careless driving under violation of Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act upon grounds of driving ‘without reasonable consideration’. According to the Crown Prosecution Service policy, this included ‘driving through a puddle causing pedestrians to be splashed’.

While some cases are isolated incidents in legal history, others become solicitor folklore and the basis of our profession. Fascinating cases like the Paisley Snail and R v Lipman prompt the law to evolve and adapt to new scenarios, becoming milestones in our profession. They reveal insight into the laws that we take for granted, and how they may have had to be created in the first place.

Whatever your legal case, here at Thomas and Thomas Solicitors we can help. We offer a range of legal services, from conveyancing to probate and criminal law on


A guide to civil litigation

Are you facing a legal disagreement or problem? We know that dealing with legal matters can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with the world of law. 

In just the first three months of 2023 there were 443,000 civil litigation County Court claims lodged, the highest number for three years according to data from the Civil Justice. 89% of these are money and damages claims, up 8% compared to the same period as last year, while non-money claims are up 10% compared to the same months. But what exactly is civil litigation? 

What is civil litigation?

Civil litigation and civil law is the process of solving legal disagreements between people or businesses using a ‘litigator’. It handles non-criminal conflicts, covering various matters from family and property disputes, arguments over money, and contract breaches. 

A dispute is an umbrella term for issues that result from an unfulfilled task or an expectation that was not met when there was a legal obligation to do so. This can range from anything from unpaid bills to defective products. Litigation is the process of resolving these disputes. 

Furthermore, in civil litigation, one side seeks compensation (usually money) for harm or things that weren’t done as promised (a dispute) by filing a lawsuit with the litigator where the matter can be handled in court. These conflicts can be settled with the help of the litigator in various ways such as through a trial, meetings or through discussions with mediators or arbitrators. 

13 types of civil litigation

Litigation covers a range of areas. Be sure to hire a legal representative that specialises in the relevant practice area because the process may differ depending on the dispute. The most common areas are:-  

  1. Personal injury 
  2. Medical malpractice 
  3. Marital law 
  4. Intellectual property 
  5. Employment and labour 
  6. Educational law 
  7. Tenancy disputes 
  8. Product liability 
  9. Environmental law 
  10. Construction issues 
  11. Real estate 
  12. Anti-trust law 
  13. Worker’s compensation 

              It is important to know that criminal charges are not resolved under civil litigation. As laws are broken, criminal litigation is brought by the state, while civil litigation is a private lawsuit between two parties. 

              Dealing with civil litigation and its process

              Within the jurisdiction of England & Wales, there are five stages to civil litigation that are prescribed by court rules. It’s important to ensure that any litigation matter follows these in this particular order:-  

              • 1.) Pre-action Protocol

                A party’s claim for a dispute must comply with CPR (Civil Procedure Rules). This includes sending a letter of claim to the other party and giving them a chance to respond. Parties are expected to engage and make an effort to resolve the dispute without involving the court, as civil litigation is a last resort. If no resolution is reached then civil litigation action is taken.  
              • 2.) Exchange of Statements

                The claimant issues a Claim Form which sets out their case and states the resolution they seek, such as monetary compensation. Once this is issued by the court, the defendant will have 14 days to file an Acknowledgement of Service. This is called the ‘Defence’. The court will then govern proceedings from this point on.  
              • 3.) Exchange of Evidence

                This is usually the first time that the parties appear before the court. Their representatives should have prepared documents and evidence for disclosure at the upcoming trial. Each party will be required to exchange witness statements under the timetable set out by the court. This can also include the exchange of ‘expert evidence’ – unbiased evidence given by an expert in the dispute’s legal area. 
              • 4.) Trial

                To ensure that both parties can attend the trial, they should have provided dates which they cannot make so that the court chooses a day that works for both sides. During the trial, the court will witness evidence and hear legal submissions. Judgement doesn’t usually happen during the trial. Instead, there will be a second hearing at court later on to announce the decision made.  
              • 5.) Post-Trial

                After judgement is announced, the party that was not in favour will be ordered by the court to fulfil any judgements made within a set period. However, they do have 14 days to appeal for a case review after the dispute was resolved. 

              Do civil cases always go to court?

              Civil litigation is considered a last resort both for the sake of the court’s time as well as the amicable outcome of a private dispute.  This is why the parties must demonstrate that an effort was made to engage and find an ADR – an Alternative Dispute Resolution before the case reaches the courts.  

              Thomas and Thomas Solicitors is a friendly, local law firm that has a unique insight and an inclusive approach to clients with years of experience. With a team of specialists in their specific legal field, the firm offers a range of legal services, including both civil litigation and criminal law.


              A guide to wills and remarriage

              Did you know the most recent ONS government figures on marriage and divorce show that the number of people to remarry in the UK has remained largely the same since 2019? In fact, the number of people to marrying more than once remains quite high. Over 14% of marriages involved both partners remarrying while 17% of newlyweds, a least one of the partners had been previously married. That’s nearly a third of couples (32%) combined where at least one of the partners has been married before.

              Amidst all the excitement of a marriage though, one thing that people often forget to revisit or consider is their will. However, if you want anyone other than your current spouse to inherit the majority of your property when you pass away, making a will after remarrying is essential.

              Our latest blog provides valuable insights into the realm of marriage and estate planning.

              Marriage and inheritance law

              Alarmingly, “recent studies reveal that 59% of UK citizens have yet to create a will, with the number rising to 65% among individuals aged 45 to 54” (source: Legal and General)

              Yet, by creating a will, you can utilise tax planning strategies to reduce the inheritance tax for your beneficiaries. This includes capitalising on exemptions and reliefs like the nil-rate band, residence nil-rate band, and charitable donations.

              This advice is for England and Wales.

              A will also gives you control over who inherits according to how your estate is divided up. Without one, assets are distributed according to intestacy rules. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy. Your spouse will get all of your personal property and the first £270,000.00 of your inheritance. (This will change to £322,000.00 on 28th July 2023) More involved processes are employed to decide how your estate will be allocated when its value reaches £270,000.00. You can read more here on ‘Who inherits if someone dies without a will?’’

              What will happen to my will if I remarry?

              For anyone with a will then it’s worth noting that getting remarried nullifies the will. To avoid this happening, before marrying, ensure your will contains a clause from your solicitor that interprets the terms as if you are already married. Making a new will soon after getting married though is advised.

              Assets and second marriage

              Assets involving second or blended families are rarely simple due to the numerous factors that must be considered, such as:

              • The overall wealth of your family
              • Age of any minors involved
              • The age or health of your current spouse or partner
              • Your former partner’s age and health
              • Retirement benefit
              • Other people from whom your children could inherit

              This is why we recommend speaking to a legal representative who can guide you through the process.

              Can children from a previous marriage contest a will?

              The adult children from an earlier marriage may feel betrayed if a will is drafted but does not provide for them, and they may be able to file a claim against the estate for “reasonable provision”.

              “Reasonable provision” is the fair financial arrangement left in a will for those who were financially dependent upon the writer.

              Can a child be excluded from a will in the UK?

              Current inheritance laws would allow your new spouse to inherit all, if not most of your possessions, instead of children from a previous marriage. That is why it is important to make a new will soon after you get married to ensure you are in control of your own inheritance planning.

              Who can help me make a will for my second marriage?

              Thomas and Thomas Solicitors have a dedicated team who specialise in providing professional legal services for wills and inheritance tax matters, and can work through the estate planning process with you, step-by-step, offering a no-obligation discussion.

              With a wealth of experience in handling complex issues related to estate planning, asset protection, and inheritance tax planning, Thomas and Thomas Solicitors are committed to protecting your interests and achieving desired outcomes.