Legal Updates

Statements of Truth Update

As part of the regular updates made to the Civil Procedure Rules 1999 (CPR), there was recently a significant change made to the wording used for statements of truth. This month we will look at why statements of truth are important and explain what has changed. 

Why are statements of truth important? 

Virtual Witnesses and Changes to Probate

Since lockdown, the social distancing rules have thrown up many issues for lawyers. Wills and probate lawyers warned the government at the start of the crisis that clients were finding it more difficult to make Wills. Worse still, this was happening at the very time when Wills were most needed. Many solicitors were able to find ways to still get the work done while maintaining social distancing, but this was not always possible. One of the most difficult problems was satisfying the requirement that a Will be properly witnessed.

The Re-Introduction of Commonhold

Those who have studied land law through an ILSPA course will already be familiar with the terms freehold and leasehold. These are legal definitions created by the Law of Property Act 1925 and relate to the extent of a person’s ownership of land. Another type of land ownership, commonhold, was introduced in 2002, but it struggled to establish itself and fewer than 20 commonhold developments have been built to date. This month, we are reporting on how this lack of interest in commonhold ownership may be about to change.

House Purchasing in 2020 – to View or Not to View

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected a lot of aspects of our lives, including buying houses. During the midst of the lockdown no viewings were taking place, causing stagnation in the housing market. As the rules have relaxed, people are now able to view properties they are interested in buying, but they must keep to the social distancing measures that have been put in place.

The government has advised house buyers to try to avoid viewing properties in person by doing it virtually where possible, but how does this balance with the legal risks of taking this approach?

Family Disputes and Divorce During Lockdown

As with other sectors in the UK, the legal profession has been significantly impacted the past few months. In this article, we are focusing on what changes are being seen by those working in family law.

Family relations are currently being strained in unprecedented ways and many in the legal profession expect there to be a surge in family law-related disputes. This could include a significant rise in the rates of divorce and cases involving finances and children. Divorce will obviously only affect married couples, but issues of money and children can be a problem for anyone.

A Challenging Time to Make a Will

This month we are focusing on Wills, as sadly, this is an area where lawyers are finding their services very much in demand. There are challenges at the moment for Wills specialists as they struggle to ensure that the requirements of the Wills Act 1837 are properly met. It is not the first time there have been calls to reform the Wills Act, but it is unlikely that a quick solution will be found. We will focus on the most pressing current issue (witness requirements), consider possible changes to the law and offer some practical solutions.

Background

Disclosure and the Consequences of Not Being Transparent

This month we will review what information a property seller should disclose as part of a conveyancing transaction and consider a recent case where a seller has been accused of misleading a buyer by saying nothing.

The starting point in any sale of land is to apply the contractual principle of caveat emptor or buyer beware. However, in practice it is rarely this simple. As part of a normal conveyancing transaction, a seller would complete a property information form in order to give a buyer detailed information about a property. The form has several versions, which cover sales of freeholds, leaseholds and new build residential properties. All of these forms have been designed by the Law Society as part of the national conveyancing protocol used in the majority of transactions in England and Wales.

Law Making in 2020

This month we will consider the Queen’s speech which took place towards the end of 2019 and what new laws we might expect to see in 2020.

The Queen usually only attends Parliament on ceremonial occasions. Last year, she was present at the State Opening of Parliament, where the start of the parliamentary year was marked. At the state opening, the Queen read out her speech from the throne in the House of Lords Chamber. To be more precise, the speech was not actually the Queen’s own words; it had been prepared for her by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The Queen’s speech normally happens once a year, but the last one happened in June 2017 because the Prime Minister at that time, Theresa May, wanted a two-year parliamentary session.

Can a Contract be Created by Email?

The law of contract has slowly been developing in line with changes in the way people enter into contracts and use technology to communicate. One recent example of these changes is how the law treats a contract made by email. Some have argued that an exchange of informal emails would not be enough to create a formal legal relationship, but they are sadly mistaken based on recent case law developments.

Whose File is it Anyway? Releasing a Client's Papers

On occasion, a solicitor’s firm may find itself in dispute with its own client. This can happen, say, in a case where there is a disagreement over the legal bill or when a client wishes to change advisors. In these types of situations, a firm may find a client demanding that “their” file be released but the firm is reluctant to do so immediately (particularly where a legal bill is in dispute). In cases such as these it may be necessary to consider who owns the file, what the contract between the parties says, and what personal data a client may be entitled to.

Ownership – When a solicitor acts in a case, the documents which are created fall into two categories:  

a) Those where the solicitor is acting as a professional advisor; and

b) Those where the solicitor is acting as an agent.