Protecting Yourself With A Cohabitation Agreement

Protecting Yourself With A Cohabitation Agreement

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of cohabiting couple families in the UK doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million last year. While married or civil partnership families remain the most popular type of family arrangement, these figures show that cohabitation is not just on the rise but swiftly gaining in popularity. It’s important to note that cohabiting couples don’t have the same rights and interests as married couples. For example, the entitlement to claim for maintenance or a share of assets. So what can couples do to protect themselves? The answer lies in the cohabitation agreement.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

It is a document entered into before moving in together that sets out the rights and responsibilities of the two parties to the relationship. It covers three key areas that otherwise would remain unprotected:

Property - the property in which you live together, how it is to be paid for now and what will happen to it if the relationship breaks down. For example, if Partner X moves in to a home owned solely by Partner Y and then 10 years later they split up, Partner X has no right of ownership of the property even if they have contributed directly to the mortgage or contributed in other ways, such as staying at home with the children so Partner Y could go out to work.

Finances - what the financial arrangements will be while you’re living together – and if some day you’re not. This could cover any split in mortgage payments, who pays the credit card bills and who owns the car. In the event that the relationship comes to an end the cohabitation agreement will have set out exactly how all money and assets will be divided, from savings to furniture.

Breaking up - the process that you’ll follow if a split does occur. It may sound pretty unromantic to start thinking about this before you’ve even spent a night in the same bed. However, anyone who has been through a break up knows exactly how bewildering this can be and a set of established steps to follow can be quite a relief. It also reduces the scope for arguments – e.g. who gets the dog – and ensures that there is certainty if there are children involved.

Is a cohabitation agreement worth having?

There are many reasons why a cohabitation agreement is a beneficial option for couples who want to live together.

Reducing property ownership disputes

You’ll know exactly who owns the property, and in what shares. Recording both party’s legal and beneficial interest in the property means you can avoid one of the biggest areas of dispute for separating couples.

Protecting loaned cash

This is the kind of money that has come from family members to a grown up child who is one partner in the relationship e.g. the deposit for a home. A cohabitation agreement ensures that, if there is a split, the investment remains with that child.

Providing for children

The cohabitation agreement can cover arrangements for children if a relationship breaks down. In particular, it is often used to set out arrangements for financial support.

Keeping control

Certainty is not something that most relationships have – at any time, but especially during a break up. With a cohabitation agreement there is financial certainty and the parties have control over what happens to their individual property and assets.

Dealing with neighbour disputes

Dealing with neighbour disputes

We live in increasingly close proximity to one another and, inevitably, that can lead to tensions rising over the behavior of your neighbours. There are many different levels of disputes, from a neighbour playing music at full volume throughout the night, to those who move fences and park where they shouldn’t. If you’re facing a dispute with someone you live close to then here are a few tips on how to deal with it.

Neighbours changing their property

Not all changes to a property require planning permission but many do, so if your neighbour is planning – or already making – changes, the first place to start is with your local authority. Speak to your local planning department to make sure that your neighbour has the planning permission in place for the changes that they want to make. Even if they have already completed the project you can still take action – changes that wouldn’t receive planning permission if it had been applied for may need to be undone.

Trees and hedges

This is one of the most common sources of problems between neighbours, from those who don’t take proper care of what is growing on their land, to disputes over blocked light or roots that are causing an obstacle. The first step is always to check with the local authority whether any trees that you have an issue with are protected. If they are subject to a Tree Preservation Order then it’s illegal to willfully damage, uproot, cut down or even cut the roots of that tree without a written consent order from the local planning authority. If trees or hedges aren’t protected then branches etc that overhang into a neighbouring property can be cut down by a neighbour. If you feel the tree is dangerous e.g. it presents a risk to you or your property, then you can get the local planning authority involved in the dispute.

Noise

Another very common issue between neighbours is noise, from barking dogs through to DIY. It’s important to start out trying to be tolerant as we all make noise that disturbs our neighbours, even if we don’t realise it. However, some noise is intolerable – for example building work that starts at 6am and continues late into the night for a long period of time or neighbours who are constantly having parties at all hours. These may constitute noise pollution for which you can take action. The best first step is always to give the neighbour the chance to stop what they’re doing by letting them know it’s disturbing you. If they don’t stop then keep a noise diary, try to record noise levels and take photos or videos that show dates and times of problems. Police and local authorities can deal with noise troublemakers so take your evidence to them.

If you get involved in a dispute…

Try first to find an amicable resolution to the problem. Sit down with your neighbour and look for some common ground – with a third party present if necessary. If that doesn’t work, or it’s not an option, then you may need to consider a property lawyer. There are certain situations in which this is particularly appropriate, for example if you’re dealing with boundaries or plans for building works that may involve complex planning regulations.

To speak to a dispute Solicitor in Blackpool call 01253 629300 or click here to contact us.

What does the employer duty of care entail?

What does the employer duty of care entail?

All employers have a basic responsibility to make sure that their employees are safe while they are at work. This is known as a ‘duty of care’ and is something that the courts in the UK take very seriously if employers breach it. There are lots of different elements to the duty of care, but some of the principal areas of concern include making sure that staff have been properly trained (and training is updated on an ongoing basis), providing the right equipment for the role, and creating a safe working environment. If these are not met, and an accident or incident occurs at work, an employee may be able to make a claim against an employer.

A varying duty

The nature and extent of a duty of care will depend a lot on the job in question and the industry involved. For example, if an employee is operating heavy machinery or working with toxic substances their employer will need to pay far more attention to safety procedures and preparation than where employees are working at a computer all day. However, even in an office environment employers are still required to take all steps that are reasonably possible to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of employees.

Examples of an employer duty of care

The list of what constitutes an employer duty of care is long and broad but these are some examples of how the duty works.

A safe working environment. There is no set formula for what constitutes a safe working environment but many factors have a role to play here. In particular, lighting is crucial to avoiding accidents and injuries such as eye strain. Employees who suffer an injury because of a trip or fall in an area that wasn’t adequately lit may well have a cause for action against an employer who didn’t make sure that the working environment was safe. Safe equipment that is suitable for the job is another important element in a safe working environment.

A clearly defined job. Employees should understand what employers require from them in order to successfully fulfill their role, as this helps to avoid confusion and accidents. It’s important that employees aren’t asked to do something that is outside of a job description. For example, the 1992 Manual Handling Operations Regulations require employers to automate to avoid hazardous manual handling operations wherever possible. Where this isn’t possible, employers must try to do what they can to avoid injury to employees as a result of manual handling – if this is not done, and an employee suffers an injury, there may be a breach of the duty of care.

Avoiding relaxing health and safety laws ‘one time.’ It’s not acceptable for employers to ask employees to go outside their job description, or health and safety law, to do something ‘just this once.’ For example, an employer who asks an HR professional to carry a heavy box down the stairs could well in breach of their duty of care.

Other employees. If an employee is injured at work by another employee who was negligent then the law can hold the employer responsible as part of the duty of care. This is called ‘vicarious liability’ – the employer is made responsible via the offending employee – and all employers must have insurance to cover compensation to an injured worker where this arises.

To speak with an employment law Solicitor in Blackpool call 01253 629300 or click here to contact us.

Lasting Power of Attorney - Why Bother?

Lasting Power of Attorney - Why Bother?

When it comes to ensuring that our later years are secure Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) play a crucial role. However, surprisingly, very few Brits are taking advantage of this essential document. According to research, 84% of people want family or friends to be able to make decisions for them if they become too ill, yet only 7% of people have an LPA in place.

What will an LPA enable you to do?

The LPA is basically a document that you can set up to ensure that your affairs are taken care of, whether or not you are able to do this yourself. There are two different types of LPA in the UK:

  • An LPA that covers property and financial affairs e.g. decisions that relate to your bank account, bill payments and managing any property you own or rent.
  • An LPA that covers health and welfare e.g. medical care, care plans and any end of life wishes that you have made or wish to make.

With an LPA in place, it’s possible to ensure that all angles are covered, from where you will live to what happens to your property and other assets.

What happens if you don’t have one?

The alternative can be incredibly costly. There were 6,744 applications made to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy in 2015. That’s the process that must take place if you no longer have the mental capacity to make your own decisions and you don’t have an LPA. Applications can cost thousands of pounds, and it may take 6+ months to put an arrangement in place. During that time finances and life decisions are frozen.

Can you draft your own LPA?

In theory, yes, but this presents a big risk to the validity of the document – at a time when you may not be able to do much about it. If an LPA is poorly drafted, or not in the correct form, then it may be invalid. The result is that the family of the person involved will not be able to help out with essential decisions such as financial matters, housing and care. Plus an application must still be made to appoint a deputy, requiring more expense and time commitment.

So, whether or not you’re one of the 39% of Brits with a Will, make sure you have provision for your later years with a properly drafted LPA – ideally you should have both.

To set up a Lasting Power of Attorney call 01253 629300 or email info@blackhurstbudd.co.uk

Linking up life and estate planning: digital assets

Linking up life and estate planning: digital assets

As recent statistics have shown, many of us find it difficult enough to engage in estate planning when it comes to our physical assets. According to YouGov research, around two thirds of adult Brits have not made a Will. And even for those who have, few consider the less tangible assets of life. But what happens to the digital lives we inhabit – and the assets we have there – when we pass away?

What counts as a digital asset?

In estate planning terms, property, possessions, cash, investments and bank accounts are easy enough to identify as assets that need to be included in a Will. But what of digital assets? Essentially, anything that is created online could be included in this definition – and it doesn’t necessarily need to be something of traditional ‘value,’ i.e. worth something to someone else. So, for example, cloud storage full of photos could be a digital asset, as much as an online bank account or social media profile. Domain names, gaming accounts, websites, email accounts and any code you have created also count. Digital assets have the potential to last much longer than real life assets. In fact, in theory they could simply go on forever. That is why it is so crucial that you include instructions on how they should be disposed of in your Will.

Passwords

In this age of heightened awareness of the need for digital security, most of us have password protected our accounts. This is the safe and sensible thing to do but also needs to be taken into consideration in estate planning. If you die, do you want your relatives to be unable to shut your Facebook page down, for example? Although in most situations it is simply an inconvenience to have these accounts open, they are more vulnerable to hacking and that could cause problems. Imagine the pain for relatives if a hacker gained access to your social media account and started using it to post after your death. So, ensuring that you leave instructions about passwords is crucial.

How to deal with digital assets in estate planning

Firstly, make sure you keep a record of all your passwords but don’t do this in your Will – after you die your will becomes a document of public record so anyone will be able to access the logins. Instead, keep a record of this in a separate document, perhaps on a memory stick that you can bequeath to one of your relatives. Second, create an inventory of all your digital assets so that it is possible to get an overview of everything in one place – and update it regularly. Make this as detailed as possible – include absolutely every account, site, profile and collaboration even if you are not 100% sure whether it comes within the definition of a digital asset. As the law has proven slow to keep up with tech developments this is still something of a grey area, but being as clear and unambiguous as you can will help to avoid misunderstandings. Finally, bear in mind that you will leave all your digital footprint behind when you die – make sure that the right people have access to the right assets to ensure there is no unnecessary confusion, upset or shock.

To discuss your Will call 01253 629300 or click here to contact us.

 

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