Your legal questions answered by Fahmida Ismail, Partner at Sydney Mitchell LLP. As featured in Worcester News on 20th January 2015.

Q. My eldest brother died leaving £7,000 and didn’t make a will. My youngest brother was able to go to the bank and withdraw this money without my knowledge. Was that legal?

A. Financial institutions can release comparatively small amounts on production of the death certificate. However the bank will almost certainly have asked your brother to sign a statutory declaration. If they did he will have agreed to distribute the funds to those (such as yourself) legally entitled to a share and to indemnify the bank against any legal action that might result. If you go to the bank asking for your share they will have to hold your youngest brother to his promise, and he will be liable for any financial or legal costs they incur. Alternatively you could just sue your brother for your money. 


Q. My partner and I have recently separated and are entering into a separation agreement. My solicitor has advised that I sever the joint tenancy of our jointly owned property. What does this mean exactly?

A. If either of you were to die while still owning a property where you are “joint tenants”, the whole of the equity would pass to the other. When couples are separating, this is not usually what they want to happen, and within the separation agreement it is usual to decide who owns what proportion of the property. However, before the agreement is finalised, it is best practice to "sever" the joint tenancy, or divide your ownership. That way, if you were to die before the agreement is finalised, your share of the property would be protected for your family.


Q. Ten years ago my brother and I owned a pub in partnership. When we gave this up we had a tax rebate of £13,000, from which the accountant took his fees. We had signed a form allowing him to do this. But at the same time he also took out his fees for the hotel business owned by my brother and his wife, which was nothing to do with me. I took the matter to court, but the accountant won; he told me to get the money back from my brother. Was he allowed to do this?

A. Evidently the judge at the court hearing thought so. It is indeed very likely that you would have been entitled to recover the money from your brother. However there is a six-year time limit on claims of this kind so you’re too late to do that now if you haven’t already started court proceedings.

For further information on any of the issues raised, please contact Fahmida Ismail on 0121 698 2200 or fill in our online enquiry form.

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