Relationship breakdown and the immediate issues to consider.

Breaking up is never easy and the pain, anger and heartache that you are feeling maybe all that you can think about, but there are various issues which need to be considered immediately when there is a breakdown in a relationship.

As part of our post on the subject of family law, we will be providing guidance on the key areas that you need to consider, which may include the following areas:

Joint bank/building society accounts

One of the first matters to be considered is whether you hold a joint bank or building society account with your spouse and the amount of funds, which are contained within that account.

We also have to consider the overdraft facility, which may be available to you on that account and whether your spouse may seek to remove funds from the account without your authority.

If your spouse withdraws funds, for example, on an overdraft facility, then you may find that you are liable for all of the funds outstanding to the bank and not just your half.

Most high street banks will automatically freeze a joint account if they are notified that the parties are experiencing marital difficulties.

You must carefully consider therefore whether any steps should be taken in relation to a joint bank account, especially where there are direct debits, for example, mortgage payments, on the account.

Where the house is in the other party’s sole name

Where the matrimonial home is in the sole name of your spouse you will, by virtue of your marriage, have a legal right to occupy the property.

It would be unlawful for your spouse to seek to remove you from the property without a Court order.

We also have to protect your rights in the property in case your spouse tries to sell it without your consent.  We achieve this by registering your rights in relation to the property with the Land Registry.  If you are forced from the home we can assist you by making application for a Court order so that you can return to the property.

Where the house is in joint names

If the former matrimonial home is in the joint names of yourself and your spouse it is likely that you will hold the property as “joint tenants”. This means that, should you die, your spouse will be entitled to receive the entire property, irrespective of the contents of your Will.

It is almost always the case that the property will at that time be mortgage free because there is generally an endowment or a life policy linked to the mortgage which would be used to clear the outstanding mortgage.

This can be prevented by “severing” the joint tenancy. You will still remain joint owners of the property but you will then hold the property as “tenants in common”. This means that you can leave your interest in the property under the terms of your Will to whomsoever you choose.  This would not affect rights of occupation or the position regarding the mortgage with your bank or building society.

Again, your advisor will confirm to you how the severing of the joint tenancy can be achieved and, if necessary, will deal with this on your behalf.

Making a Will

It is very important that upon separation a new Will is considered.

Your existing Will, will almost certainly leave your entire estate to your spouse and you may not wish this to remain valid during the proceedings. Making a new Will is a fairly straight forward procedure and we can arrange for you to do this relatively quickly.

Our Wills and probate department are located at our Old Market House office on 01243 532777.  They are happy to assist and will offer fixed fees for the preparation of your new Will.

Pensions

If you have an occupational pension it is likely that this will include a “death in service benefit”.  This is, in effect, an insurance policy that pays out a lump sum of up to 4 times your annual salary, usually to your surviving spouse.

Very few trustees make the distinction between spouse and estranged or separated spouse.  We usually recommend therefore that you write a letter of wishes to your trustees asking them to leave your lump sum to the children or other family members.

For more information, continue to follow our weekly posts on family law or if you would like to arrange a meeting, please contact Sara Fildes on 01243 790532