Are you going through a separation or looking at separating during lockdown?

Here is our advice for married couples separating during this unprecedented time.

Coronavirus has stopped life as we know it for some time now and our country is effectively in a state of lockdown. Our schools our closed, as are most shops and those who can are working from home. This is a challenging situation for many but even more so for those who either were or are going through a marital breakdown.

Our team here at Dodds Solicitors have received several enquiries about how they can protect their financial assets whilst they are negotiating a settlement during lockdown. In particular, the main concern for couples currently separating is how to protect their house. Normally this would be dealt with as part of the marital split and divided accordingly.

However, with the current situation, couples are worrying that this will be delayed and if they became ill in the meantime and passed away, what would happen to the house?

The simple answer here is to make a Will. This allows the couple to put down in writing what their wishes are for their assets following their deaths and allows them to safeguard the property for their children if they so wish. However, an extra step is also advised to ensure that the property is going to pass in accordance with their wishes. This involves addressing the way that the property is owned.

Most married couples will own their property jointly as it is normally their marital home that they are negotiating the split of. There are two ways to own a property jointly; joint tenants and tenants in common. Most couples will own their property as joint tenants. This means that in the event of either person’s death, the property passes automatically to the survivor by a rule of ‘survivorship’.

If the couple own the property as tenants in common though, they each own distinct shares and so can leave their shares as they so wish in their respective Wills. This would be the preferred option in such circumstances.

The advice therefore is twofold – we always recommend that every person should have an up to date valid Will in place but also in these circumstances we would advise you to ensure that you also address the way that your property is owned at the land registry. Otherwise if one member of the couple was to pass away without doing this, the property could pass automatically to the survivor which is unlikely to be what both parties would like.

Our team here at Dodds are here to help and advise you every step of the way.

For Will enquiries please contact Claire Brown on claire.brown@dodds-solicitors.co.uk

For Family enquiries please contact Jennifer McNeil on jennifer.mcneil@dodds-solicitors.co.uk