How long does conveyancing take?

The legal aspects of an average sale and purchase of a house takes about 6 – 10 weeks from start to finish. We do our best to push your transaction through as quickly as possible, but the length of the property chain, time taken by searches, surveys and mortgage applications is out of our control. Purchases of a leasehold property can take longer, because issues may need to be resolved regarding the lease. We also need to collect information from third parties, (e.g. management agents) which can cause delays.

What is a conveyancing “chain”?

Most people buy and sell properties at the same time. This leads to a number of linked transactions dependent upon each other and as such the contracts in each transaction must be exchanged simultaneously. Therefore, the time taken for the process is dictated by the slowest link in the chain.

How much does the process cost?

On a purchase, in addition to the price of your property, you will need to budget for legal fees and “disbursements”. “Disbursements” are payments made by your solicitor to others on your behalf, such as stamp duty land tax, land registry fees and search fees. You also need to budget for lender’s valuation fees, your own survey fee, buildings insurance and removal service costs. In addition if you are buying a leasehold property, there will be items of expenditure additional to those mentioned above, including fees to the freeholder/managing agents on your purchase. We will not know at the beginning of the conveyancing process what these costs are likely to be, but we will itemise them on your completion statement.

On a sale, you also need to budget for estate agent’s fees (average 1.5% plus VAT), legal fees and removal service costs. In addition, if you are selling a leasehold property, we pay a fee on your behalf to obtain management information (for ground rent and service charge statements etc.).

Do you charge if my sale/purchase falls through?

This will depend on how far the transaction has proceeded by that time. If we are near to exchange of contracts, or have already set up the file for completion, and the transaction then falls through, we are entitled to charge almost the entire amount of the estimate. However, we are sympathetic and aim to keep abortive costs to a minimum however.

What is Stamp Duty Land Tax and do I have to pay it?

Stamp Duty Land Tax is a tax raised by the government and paid to the H.M. Revenue & Customs. We can advise what the current rate of tax payable will be for your transaction.

What happens if we are buying in joint names?

There are two ways in which joint purchasers can hold property, as Joint Tenants or Tenants In Common. We will explain to you the difference between them, as the way in which you hold the property will determine what happens if you died. We will also discuss with you whether you wish to enter into a cohabitation agreement, or a trust deed setting out the terms on which the property is held.

Will I need to come to your office?

Not necessarily. Barrett Law can conduct your conveyancing transaction no matter where you live in England or Wales. We can deal with all of your work via the post, internet or over the phone, but we are more than happy to see you in person if you prefer.

Can you arrange my mortgage for me?

We cannot arrange a mortgage for you, but can supply you with details of local mortgage brokers who may be able to assist.  It is also quite common for the estate agents dealing with your property to have their own mortgage brokers or contacts who may help.

Should I get a survey?

Our advice is generally yes. If you are buying a property you should be aware that the property is “sold as seen” and it is for you, as the buyer, to discover any physical defects by means of inspections and surveys. A mortgage valuation is not a survey – it merely ensures that the property is of sufficient value to protect the lender’s interest not yours.

Can you recommend a good estate agent?

There are a number of very good estate agents in the area with whom we deal on a regular basis and we are happy to give you their details.

The death of someone close can be devastating. The last thing most of us feel like doing is getting involved in sorting out their financial affairs… but it has to be done.  If you don’t feel up to dealing with all the formalities yourself let us do it for you. As solicitors we deal with this situation every day. We know what needs to be done and how to do it with the minimum of fuss.

What is Probate?

Probate is a general term used for dealing with the affairs of someone who has died. When someone dies, their assets are frozen and the Executors, appointed under the Will, need to apply for a Grant of Probate.

A Grant of Probate (“Grant”) is an official certificate issued by the Probate Registry (a Government department), which gives the Executor the authority to collect in or deal with the deceased’s property. This certificate is required in order to obtain the deceased’s person’s assets from the banks, building societies and other such organisations.

What happens if there is no will?

This is known as ‘dying intestate’. The next of kin usually need to administer the deceased’s estate by applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration (“Letters”).
A Grant of Letters gives authority to handle the deceased person’s assets. Assets must be distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which can be complex.

Why would I need a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?

If someone dies leaving any property, (for example a bank or building society account, an insurance policy, shares or a house), any institution holding that property or anybody buying it will want to know that they are dealing with the right person. A Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is the official document confirming who is the proper executor or next of kin. If the estate is less than £5000 or so in total you can sometimes get the money released without a Grant or Letters.

What does an Executor need to do?

An Executor’s job can be very time consuming and involve the following:

  • Registering the death
  • Arranging the deceased’s funeral
  • Gathering details of the deceased’s investments, money, property and possessions
  • Collecting in the assets and selling any property
  • Paying any debts or liabilities owed by the estate, including inheritance tax
  • Transferring the assets to the beneficiaries of the estate

Barrett Law can advise on and help you with all the above tasks.

Is Inheritance Tax payable?

Generally, Inheritance Tax is payable on death at 40% of the balance above the nil rate band threshold (the nil rate threshold band for 2011/2012 is £325,000.00). The nil rate band is adjusted annually in the Budget.

It is possible to change the way assets have been left, to minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax payable and/or to reduce any liabilities for care home fees. Getting professional advice on tax can be extremely cost effective.

What happens if beneficiaries cannot be traced?

Families often assume that they will inherit the share of a missing beneficiary because they cannot be found, this is not the case.
The most cost-effective and quickest way to find beneficiaries is to seek the advice of an experienced genealogist. In most cases, the missing beneficiaries will be found.
If not, Executors can take the following action:

  • Insure against the possibility of a missing beneficiary coming forward
  • Apply to court for a Benjamin Order, which authorises Executors to distribute the estate as the court directs
  • Pay the missing beneficiaries share to those known, but in return the beneficiaries promise to repay the inheritance if the missing beneficiaries come forward
  • Pay the missing beneficiaries’ inheritance into court


Let Barrett Law sort out the legal and financial formalities for you while you look after your family and yourself.  Contact us on 01628 476283.

Why do I need to make a will?

You need to make a will to make sure that any money, property, or other assets you hold will go to the people or causes that you want them to after your death.
By making a will you can:

  • Choose your executors to administer the distribution of your assets and wind up your estate after death
  • Prevent financial complications and difficulties for your family
  • Outline your preferences for your funeral

Who gets my property if I don’t make a will?

If you don’t make a will you will be said to have died intestate. Your estate will be divided up according to the rules of intestacy which means that your assets could end up in the hands of an unknown party rather than the people you would choose.

Will my partner inherit my estate?

If you are not married to your partner and you don’t leave a will, your partner is not automatically entitled to inherit any of your estate.

When do I need to change my will?

You should review your will on a regular basis – we would suggest every three to five years. However, there are specific key life events where it is vital that you review your will, for example:

  • upon marriage, separation or divorce
  • when you have children
  • if you move house
  • should one of your executors die or wishes to stop being an executor
  • should there be a significant change in your financial circumstances

Minor changes to a will can be made without the necessity of a whole new will.  However, if you require major changes, then it is best to have a new one drawn up.

Can an executor also be a beneficiary?

Yes. You can choose up to four executors – most people have two. It helps to choose at least one person who is financially experienced, and it’s sensible to choose people who you would expect to outlive you.

Do I need to use a solicitor to make my will?

You don’t need to use a solicitor to make your will but you risk:

  • a will that is not legally valid
  • a will which does not take into account everything that you need to address
  • a will that is badly worded and will not dispose of all your assets properly
  • missing out on minimising inheritance tax
  • using an organisation that is not regulated and affords you no protection should things go wrong

By discussing your affairs in detail with a solicitor you can ensure that your will covers all of your assets and responsibilities including trusts for dependants, leaving no nasty surprises for your loved ones.

Do I need to come into your offices?

We prefer to see you at least once, either when we take instructions or when you are ready to sign your will. This helps to ensure that you are happy with the contents of the will and that it is correctly witnessed. We currently offer free will storage.  If you are in hospital or find it difficult to leave home, we can make arrangements to visit you.

How long does the process take?

The more straightforward your requirements, the less time it will take to draw up your will. However, we can advise you on the length of time once we have all your details.
We generally allow three to four weeks for sending a draft will to you once you have completed our questionnaire. Once you have confirmed that you are happy with the provisions, we will produce the final version and make arrangements for you to sign.

What if I need to make a will in a hurry?

In the event that you need to make your will very quickly, for example if you are seriously ill, we can visit you and produce a will for you to sign within a very short timeframe.

What is a living will?

A Living Will or Advance Decision is a document, which records individual’s wishes about what should happen to them if they become too ill to make their own healthcare decisions. No one can request that their life be ended, but they can by means of a living will set out the circumstances under which they would not want to receive life-sustaining medical treatment or have treatment that would reduce their suffering but might bring an inevitable death sooner. They would nominate a person to administer this living will on their behalf.  We can advise on the issues involved in making such a document and prepare one in accordance with your wishes.