What happens if I die without making a Will?

  • By Aquabridge Law
  • 20 Oct, 2017

The Intestacy Rules

If you die without leaving a Will then the rules of intestacy determine who benefits from your estate when you die. Note immediately that there is no recognition of a common law spouse and the definition of children does not include step children.

 ·         If you leave a spouse who survives for 28 days and NO children or other descendants

o  The surviving spouse receives all assets

·        If you leave a spouse and children or other descendants

o  The surviving spouse receives personal belongings

o  The surviving spouse receives a legacy of £250,000

o  The balance of assets pass 50% to the surviving spouse and 50% to the children or other descendants at 18 years.

·        If you leave no spouse or children or other descendants there is a list of people who benefit in turn

o  Parents

o  Brothers and sisters or their children

o  Brothers and sisters with whom you share one parent or their children

o  Uncles and aunts or their children

o  Grandparents

o  The Crown.


It is important to distinguish between assets that are in your sole name and assets that you hold jointly, like bank accounts.


In the majority of cases, assets that you hold jointly pass to the surviving joint owner. If you own your home or other property as tenants in common   this is not the case.

The Legal Blog

By Aquabridge Law 12 Dec, 2017

Workplace Relationships – Is it an employer’s business or not?

In an environment where we are spending so much of our time at work it isn’t surprising to hear that, on average, an employee enjoys one workplace relationship or romance during their career.

Employers often don’t know whether workplace relationships should be swept under the carpet and never discussed, or whether they should be positively, but sensitively, putting in place policies to manage relationships in the workplace.

When it comes to romance in the workplace, keeping quiet and hoping it all works out doesn’t seem to be the favoured approach anymore, but why?

·        Employers need to strike a balance between respecting their employees’ personal lives and setting guidelines for how personal relationships at work should be conducted to ensure the business is not impacted.

·        Personal relationships at work can be problematic where they involve members of the same team or are between a manager and a subordinate.

·        Workplace relationships can raise legitimate concerns about lack of transparency, confidentiality, the risks of discrimination and harassment, bias, conflict of interests, favouritism, impact on dynamics and teams and disruption or possible loss of employees if there is a relationship breakdown.

What should a workplace relationship policy do:

·        Confirm that workplace relationships are not prohibited;

·        Overview that workplace relationships should be dealt with sensitively and with respect for confidentiality and private life;

·        Provide guidance for managers on what can crop up and what to be particularly aware of when managing someone who is in a workplace relationship (data protection, harassment, discrimination);

·        Provide guidance on the conduct expected and not expected of employees who are in a workplace relationship. This can include displays of affection, discussions about their private life and using the employer’s IT or other resources for private matters; and

·        Make it clear that fair and equal treatment of all employees is paramount and that no one will be subjected to a detriment because of a workplace relationship.

If you would like advice on workplace relationships, how to handle them and guidance on the introduction of a workplace relationships policy please contact Amy Leite aleite@aquabridgelaw.co.uk

By Aquabridge Law 14 Nov, 2017

A Shareholders’ Agreement can protect your position as a shareholder and provide certainty for your business.

 All too often clients don’t consider the need for a shareholders agreement when things are going well and only contact us when there is disagreement between shareholders which is usually too late to be resolved amicably and can be devastating for the shareholders and the continuity of the business. A well drafted shareholders agreement will prevent costly legal disputes and disruption to your business.


What is a Shareholders’ Agreement?

 A Shareholders Agreement is a contract between the shareholders of a company in which the shareholders agree their rights and obligations. The company itself would usually be a party as well so the shareholders can enforce their rights against the company as well as the other shareholders.

Most companies will have standard Articles of Association which set out the rules governing the company and the rights of shareholders and directors. However these are usually basic and don’t give appropriate protection to individual shareholders. The articles will also be filed at Companies House and available to the public. A shareholders agreement has the added benefit that it is a private agreement and not available for public viewing.

Every shareholders’ agreement will be different and should be tailored to meet the specific needs of the shareholders and the business. The commercial team at Aquabridge set out below a brief explanation of a shareholders’ agreement and a summary of key terms usually included.


Dispute Resolution and deadlock provisions

 Agreements may contain a mechanism for resolving disputes, such as referral to a third party expert or arbitrator, or a buy-out mechanism whereby one shareholder (or a group of shareholders) buys the shares of the other at a price determined in accordance with the agreement in the event of a deadlock.


Reserved Matters – right of veto

 The shareholders will undertake not to carry out, and prevent the company from carrying out, certain matters without prior shareholder consent. These will vary between agreements but typical reserved matters include altering share capital, transferring shares and changing the articles. Key business decisions such as changing the nature of the business, incurring debt and pay rises over a certain level can also be included.

A veto on decisions relating to reserved matters would provide protection to, for example, an investor shareholder who had a minority shareholding. Without the reserved matters there is a risk the investor’s rights could be affected by the majority taking actions such as changing the articles, diluting the investor’s shareholding by altering the share capital and changing the nature of the business.

The reserved matters can be split into key matters which may require the consent of all shareholders and other matters requiring a percentage of shareholders to consent.


Non-compete provisions

Restrictions on shareholders preventing them from competing with the business or enticing away customers, suppliers or employees while they are shareholders and for a period after they cease to be shareholders are important protections for the business.


Drag Along and Tag Along

If an offer is received for the entire share capital of the company a drag along clause will allow the majority shareholders to drag the minority shareholders along i.e. force the minority shareholders to sell as well. This will be useful for a majority shareholder as the shares may be more attractive to a potential buyer if they can buy the entire share capital.

The opposite of this is the ‘Tag Along’ clause. Should the holders of a certain percentage or more of the shares wish to sell all their shares to a 3rd party, the tag along clause gives the minority shareholders a right to compel the majority shareholders to procure that the 3rd party offers to buy the minority shareholders shares on the same terms as the offer to the majority shareholder i.e. the minority shareholders can ‘tag-along’ to the deal.

This prevents a majority shareholder from selling his shares and leaving the minority shareholders with a new and potentially uncooperative majority shareholder.


Compulsory transfers – Good Leaver and Bad Leaver Provisions

Shareholders agreements commonly have provisions forcing shareholders to sell their shares on the happening of certain events. Depending on the event the shareholder will be either a good leaver or a bad leaver and the share price will be adjusted accordingly. Common good leaver events will be death or disability and common bad leaver events will be competing with the business or disqualification as a director.


Dividend policy

Requirements as to the payment of dividends such as the payment of interim dividends or linking dividends to a percentage of annual profit can also be included.


Growth Shares

We often see situations where employees are issued shares at an undervalue as an incentive to contribute towards growing the business. A shareholders’ agreement can include provisions that ensure the new shares will only entitle the new shareholder to growth in the value of the company from the date the shares are issued.


For more information on how you and your company could benefit from a shareholders agreement contact Simon Letts, a solicitor in our corporate department, on 01394 330 683 or sletts@aquabridgelaw.co.uk

By Aquabridge Law 20 Oct, 2017

If you die without leaving a Will then the rules of intestacy determine who benefits from your estate when you die. Note immediately that there is no recognition of a common law spouse and the definition of children does not include step children.

 ·         If you leave a spouse who survives for 28 days and NO children or other descendants

o  The surviving spouse receives all assets

·        If you leave a spouse and children or other descendants

o  The surviving spouse receives personal belongings

o  The surviving spouse receives a legacy of £250,000

o  The balance of assets pass 50% to the surviving spouse and 50% to the children or other descendants at 18 years.

·        If you leave no spouse or children or other descendants there is a list of people who benefit in turn

o  Parents

o  Brothers and sisters or their children

o  Brothers and sisters with whom you share one parent or their children

o  Uncles and aunts or their children

o  Grandparents

o  The Crown.


It is important to distinguish between assets that are in your sole name and assets that you hold jointly, like bank accounts.


In the majority of cases, assets that you hold jointly pass to the surviving joint owner. If you own your home or other property as tenants in common   this is not the case.

By Aquabridge Law 20 Oct, 2017

When two or more people own a property together then they can decide whether they will own the property as joint tenants or tenants in common. What is the difference and the implications of choosing one over the other?

What is the difference between joint tenants and tenants in common?

Joint tenants - If you hold a property as joint tenants, the people who are the joint tenants all own the whole of the property. If you are joint tenants then on the death of one of you, his or her interest in the property would automatically pass to the survivor joint tenant or tenants without any further action. The surviving co-owner would then own all of the property and on their death it would form part of their estate. This is known as the "right of survivorship".

Tenants in common - If you hold the property as tenants in common, the people who are tenants in common own a specified share in the property – it can be 50:50 or 10:20:70. If the property is held as tenants in common, a person’s share of the property can be passed to another person or a trust, either during your lifetime or under a Will.

Why would you choose one over the other?

·        If you want a property to pass to the surviving co-owners then joint tenants is a simple way of owning the property.

·        Sometimes it is necessary to be tenants in common. Here are some examples:

o  If you wish to leave your part of the property to a third party in your Will – your children for example when you have remarried or formed a new relationship

o  If you wish to protect your property from payment of care fees but this must be in conjunction with a Will often through a Property Protection Trust in a Will ( https://www.aquabridgelaw.co.uk/wills-and-probate-solicitors ) or by direct gift during lifetime. There is a myth that just being tenants in common is sufficient.

o  If you wish to be able to deal with your part of the property separately during your lifetime, for example making a gift to a person or a trust.

There are also differences in treatment for inheritance tax and the necessity to apply for a Grant of Probate.

By Aquabridge Law 12 Oct, 2017

We are regularly asked questions about SSP so here are some helpful tips to understand how SSP works and what you should be looking for.

What's the entitlement?

The most important step when any employee is, or has been, away from work unwell is to check their contractual provisions concerning sick pay. Ascertain whether there is any entitlement to contractual sickness pay (whether it be express or discretionary) or whether there is an entitlement to SSP only.

Then consider whether there are any circumstances which would justify payment of full pay for a period of time, even in the event there is no contractual entitlement to it. Commonly, you should consider whether full pay for periods of sickness has been implied into the employee’s contract through custom and practice over a period of time.

Where there is an entitlement to SSP, remember:

  • SSP entitles employees (who earn, on average, not less than the weekly Lower Earnings Limit) who are away from work unwell to receive a minimum weekly payment (currently £89.35 per week);
  • SSP is taxable and subject to National Insurance;
  • Entitlement to SSP will be triggered where there is a period of incapacity for work. A period of incapacity for work is four or more consecutive days and can include days on which the employee is not required to work (such as weekends);
  • Generally, the entitlement is to up to 28 weeks SSP in any period of incapacity for work but periods of incapacity for work can be linked depending how far apart they take place;
  • Days of incapacity must be full days on which no work is done – if an employee leaves part way through a day having worked some of the day, this is not counted as a day of incapacity for SSP purposes.  Similarly, there is no top-up system where an employee is on a phased return to work and is working their normal days but at shorter hours;
  • SSP is not payable for the first 3 days of the period of incapacity for work (these are 'waiting days') but is payable from the fourth day;
  • SSP is only payable for qualifying days which are usually set out in the contract of employment.

If you have any queries in relation to SSP, discretionary sickness pay or sickness absence generally please contact Amy Leite.

By Aquabridge Law 09 Oct, 2017

A Property Protection Trust is a type of trust that is suitable for couples concerned that one of them might need long term care in the future.

Having this trust in your Will is intended to help protect your home from an assessment to long term care fees. The half share of the family home belonging to the first person to die, passes into the trust. This type of trust is also known as a life interest trust. The survivor is then the sole beneficiary which means that they can benefit from the share of the house in the trust during his or her lifetime. On the survivor’s death the share of the home in the trust usually passes to the children.  

Case Study

Mr and Mrs Harris own their house in joint names and have other joint savings. Mr & Mrs Harris want to:

  • Ensure that their respective half shares of the house ultimately pass to their children;
  • Ensure the survivor has the protection of living in the property for the remainder of their lifetime. If a direct gift of the half share of the property was made to the children and not through the trust this makes the survivor vulnerable to a child’s personal circumstances – death, bankruptcy, divorce or falling out;
  • Ensure the survivor can move to another property as he or she chooses;
  • Ensure that if the survivor requires long term care, at least half the property is ring-fenced for the children.

If Mr Harris dies first and Mrs Harris requires long term care, Mr Harris’s half share of the property is retained in the property protection trust created by his Will and this half of the property cannot be subject to a capital assessment for the purpose of paying care fees. On Mrs Harris’s death, the Property Protection Trust automatically terminates and the half share of the house transferred subject to the trust passes to the children. 

By Aquabridge Law 01 Sep, 2017

Unfortunately, having problems with a franchise or franchise agreement is not uncommon at some stage on your franchise journey. Franchise problems can arise for a number of reasons whether due to additional obligations imposed on the franchisee, the franchisee being unable to make ends meet or because the franchisee does not think the franchise lives up to what was sold to them at the outset.

In these circumstances there are a variety of things a franchisee should or should not do... these are what we consider to be the most important dos and do nots.

Do not:

  • Go on social media or the internet making allegations about the franchisor or name calling;
  • Seek to rally the rest of the network against the franchisor without having taken legal advice;
  • Tell the franchisor you are terminating the agreement without have taken advice on your right (or lack of) to do so;
  • Just stop paying your franchise fees without taking advice;
  • Stop communicating with the franchisor altogether.

If you do these things you may well find your franchise agreement is terminated for breach and you are on the hook for damages as a result of your actions and breach of the franchise agreement. You may also find your conduct makes it more difficult to reach a swift and amicable resolution of your problem with the franchisor and limits the options the solicitor may identify for you.


  • Prepare a chronology of events which highlights why you are unhappy;
  • Go through your paperwork and pull together any email evidence, your franchise agreement and any sales material that you received about the franchise;
  • Consider ways the issue might be capable of amicable resolution and what your ideal outcome is;
  • Above all else - take legal advice on your position before making any decisions or seeking to extract yourself from the franchise. Ensure you receive advice from a franchise specialist who has dealt with many franchise cases.

Early advice on your position will help you understand your options, risks and possible solutions. It will also prevent you from making costly mistakes which may be hard for a solicitor to undo once it is too late.

Amy Leite, Franchise Solicitor t: 01245 206341 e: aleite@aquabridgelaw.co.uk

By Aquabridge Law 12 Jun, 2017

One of the most commonly used employee share schemes is an Enterprise Management Incentives Option (EMI option). An EMI Option is a type of employee share option that enjoys favourable tax treatment.

  What are the key business benefits of employee share schemes?

 The main benefits are financial and motivational:

  • Tax and NICs savings Some types of share scheme attract particular income tax and national insurance contributions (NICs) advantages that can help reduce a business’s employment costs. Corporation tax relief may also be available.
  • Employee retention They can help to recruit, retain and motivate high-calibre staff, and align shareholder and employee interests.
  • Conserving cash There may be less pressure on salaries if a business offers a share plan.
  • Employee performance incentive They can act as an incentive for employees to meet key business and financial targets.
  • Succession planning Ownership of a business can be gradually transferred to its employees, rather than to new outside shareholders, through awards made under employee share plans.

Which companies can grant EMI options?

To qualify to grant EMI options, a company must be an independent trading company with:
  • Gross assets of no more than £30 million.
  • Fewer than the equivalent of 250 full-time employees.

Certain trading activities will not qualify and there are detailed rules relating to the independence requirement, the trading requirement and the shares that can be used for EMI options.

  What shares can EMI options be granted over?

  EMI options can be satisfied by:

  •  Newly issued shares.
  • The transfer of existing shares from a shareholder.

 The shares must meet certain requirements, including that the shares must be fully paid up, ordinary shares.

  Who can be granted EMI options?

To be eligible to be granted an EMI option, an employee must work for the company for at least 25 hours per week, or if less, 75% of their working time.

Employees cannot be granted EMI options if they (or their ‘associates’) have a ‘material interest’ in the company whose shares are used for the scheme, or in certain related.

EMI options can only be granted to employees. They cannot be granted to non-executive directors or consultants.

When can an EMI option be exercised?

EMI options must be capable of being exercised within:

  • Ten years of the date of grant.
  • A period of 12 months after the option holder’s death.

Otherwise, there are no restrictions on the exercise provisions that can apply to EMI options, and this flexibility means that they can be used for exit-only arrangements (where an option can only be exercised on an exit event, such as a share sale or listing) period.

If you would like to arrange a free consultation to discuss the benefits of EMI options with one of our senior corporate lawyers, please contact Kieran Lowe on klowe@aquabridgelaw.co.uk or 01245 673072.

Aquabridge Law and its affiliates do not provide tax or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for information purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

By Aquabridge Law 09 Jun, 2017

If you are thinking of buying or selling a leasehold property, make sure you understand the terms of the lease as it can impact your plans:

  • A short lease can impact the sale price of your property
  • If you’re buying, mortgage companies won’t lend on properties with less than 70 years remaining on the lease, some lenders can require more
  • Lease issues can hold up the sale or purchase of a property which can cause problems, particularly if you are in a chain.

On the upside, lease issues can be resolved with proper legal advice and, of course, the Conveyancing Team at Aquabridge Law will be very happy to help you.

Often a flat owner may not be aware of the issue until it is too late so it is important that you consider these issues prior to putting your property on the market, or making an offer to buy a leasehold property.

In law, a flat owner has the right to buy a new lease and we can help you through this process, explaining the costs and timescales required and liaising with your landlord throughout. Typically you would need to cover the costs of the valuation of the lease, the cost of the lease itself and the landlord’s legal fees.

If you have owned the property for at least two years, you are entitled to apply for 90 years plus the remaining term of the current lease. So, for a lease granted in the 1980s on a 99 year term, you would end up with a new lease term of around 150 years. As well as improving the value and appeal of your property, a new lease can often mean that ground rent is reduced; good news whether you are planning to stay in the property or planning to sell it.

If you are selling and don’t want to go through this process yourself, you can assign your right to a new lease to your buyer as part of the sale contract. They can then apply for the new lease without waiting for two years.

Extending your lease can be a complicated process and take time to complete the valuation and subsequent negotiations with the landlord. The Aquabridge team have helped many clients with lease extensions, either as a standalone legal process, or as part of the sale of a leasehold property.

Make sure you know the length of your lease, and seek solid advice on how to deal with it before it starts to become an issue. Call Sharon at Aquabridge on 01394 330680 to discuss how we can help.

By Aquabridge Law 09 Jun, 2017

We frequently come across questions from our employer clients about giving or asking for references. This highlights how many employers remain unsure about the rules for references.

The Basics - Obtaining a reference

Although it is very common to do so, a new employer is not obliged to take references for employees. You can rely on information from the employee, the application and/or the CV if you wish. If you do choose to request references, remember:

  • Offers of employment can be made conditional upon receipt of at least one satisfactory reference. If an employer fails to make an offer conditional and the offer is then withdrawn on the basis an unsatisfactory reference is received the employee can have a claim for breach of contract.
  • To avoid arguments over whether a reference is ‘satisfactory’ consider stating that the offer is “subject to receiving a reference(s) that is satisfactory to us/the Company”.

The Basics - Giving a reference

Generally, there is no legal obligation to give a reference. However, policies on when and in what circumstances a reference will be given should be consistent to avoid allegations of discrimination. Here are a few points to consider when giving references:

  • An employer has obligations to both the new employer and the former employee when giving a reference.
  • If a reference is given it must be true accurate and fair and must not give a misleading impression. There is a duty to take reasonable care when preparing a reference.
  • References should include an appropriate and properly drafted disclaimer.
  • References can be given in a personal capacity or on behalf of a company employer. If a personal reference is to be given it should not be on company headed paper.
  • It is a good idea for Employers to have a reference giving policy to set out who in the company can give company references and what information they should contain.
  • Providing a reference will generally involve processing personal data and be subject to the Data Protection Act 1998.

If you need any help with references, Amy Leite, Aquabridge’s Employment Lawyer can advise on deciding to give a reference, wording or disclaimers. Contact Amy on 01245 206341.

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