Cohabitation – don’t put yourself at risk

You may recall the Supreme Court case brought last year by the couple who wanted the right to enter into a civil partnership. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan did not want to get married; they wanted legal recognition of their relationship.

The Supreme Court judges found in their favour, decreeing that The Civil Partnership Act 2004, which allows only same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership, was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. So now, we await a change of legislation from the Government, which is unlikely to be any time soon.

At KWW, we are concerned that unmarried couples remain vulnerable as they are not offered the same protection as married couples and civil partners. Cohabiting couples often assume that moving in together creates similar rights and responsibilities as marriage (so-called ‘common-law marriage’) or absolutely no rights at all. Both beliefs are wrong.

If you are moving in together, or you are the parent of someone in that position, you should know how cohabiting affects your/their legal position and what protections there are should the relationship end or one of the cohabitees dies.

Choosing a solicitor? Think local!

There are many benefits to using a local solicitor rather than a remote or online service supplier.
The most obvious one is that you are in the same area, which makes certain stages of the transaction – for instance producing identification documents at the start of your matter or signing documents when you are edging closer to that dream move – much easier to deal with.
Having a solicitor ‘on your doorstep’ will undoubtedly make these sometimes tedious and time-consuming tasks easier to complete.
Solicitors that practice in the local area may also have strong links or relationships with other property experts in the area, which can be invaluable throughout the conveyancing process.
But isn’t it cheaper to use an online conveyancing firm?
Not always. You have to be very careful when comparing quotations from solicitors that there aren’t any hidden extras. Solicitors fees that sound too good to be true, generally are too good to be true.
Can’t we just deal with everything via telephone and email?
Email and telephone are great ways of dealing with your solicitor throughout a transaction but these methods cannot be used for every stage in the transaction. Legal documents such as contracts and transfers still have to be signed by hand. In some cases, these documents need to be witnessed – and that is something your solicitor can do for you if he or she is local.
By using a firm out of your local area the process of signing documents would have to be dealt with using the postal service, which can cause delays in transactions. Many conveyancing transactions are time-pressured, so a quick visit to your solicitor to sign can help you achieve your desired completion date.
Your solicitor must also verify your identity for every transaction, and check where your money is coming from if you are buying. This can be done online but verifying your identification this way carries additional costs. It is far easier to visit your solicitor at an early stage so your firm can check your identity in person.
Can I do my own conveyancing to save costs?
It is our strong advice that you should always instruct a suitably qualified conveyancer to conduct your sale or purchase. Conveyancers have trained for several years to become experts in the law and the conveyancing process. It is simply not worth the risk.
Ok, I’m happy to use a local firm but, how can I tell which firm is right for me?
There are a number of key things to look for when deciding which firm to use. To name a few:
 Is the firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or other licenced body?
 Has the firm provided you with a clear indication of costs?
 Has the firm been awarded the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) accreditation from the Law Society?
The list above is of course not a full list but does include some useful questions to ask when you are looking to choose a conveyancer for your transaction.
For many, moving house can be a stressful and daunting prospect. It is therefore vitally important that you instruct a conveyancer you can trust to do the best job possible and to act in your best interests.
Choose a firm that has a good reputation, is experienced and has qualified lawyers and, most important, a firm you feel comfortable dealing with. A firm like KWW Solicitors, perhaps.

A matter of identity

The vast majority of our clients would never dream of doing anything illegal.

However, a very tiny number of individuals may try to launder money through our accounts by instructing us to undertake work for them which at first sight appears legitimate but which is actually part of a process designed by them to hide the proceeds of criminal activity.
When we act for you, we are obliged by the Proceeds of Crime Act to ask you to provide us with proof of your identity and address. We may have to do this even though we have acted for you before. We may also have to ask you to provide further information about transactions which you instruct us to undertake on your behalf. We hope you will not find these requests to be intrusive and that you will appreciate why this is necessary.
The Proceeds of Crime Act places all solicitors under extremely strict rules to ensure criminals and terrorists do not try to use us as a way to launder money derived from criminal activities. One of the ways we do this is by being absolutely certain who we are acting for and precisely what the purpose of any transaction is. Failing to spot money laundering when we should can lead to us facing criminal charges so we take this issue very seriously.

All partners and employees of KWW Solicitors have been trained to spot attempts to launder money or other illegal financial transactions. They also undergo regular training to ensure their knowledge of this area is kept up to date.

KWW also has a dedicated partner who acts as the firm’s Money Laundering Reporting Officer. He has responsibility for the firm’s anti-money laundering policy and acts as our liaison with the National Crime Agency (NCA).

All solicitors firms, accountancy firms, banks and other financial institutions have a legal obligation to ensure they have procedures designed to combat money laundering.

Private Individuals
When acting for you we are required by law to check your identity and we may also wish to confirm information about your credit status. To verify the information you provide, we may make searches about you with a credit reference or fraud prevention agency; this will include information from the Electoral Roll. The agencies will record the details of the search and other organisations may share these searches to prevent fraud and money laundering. Scoring methods may be used as part of this process.
We will ask you to supply original documents as confirmation of your identity, address or both which we will use along with any electronic checks we perform. Any documents provided to us will be recorded and copied for audit purposes as part of our Anti-Money Laundering requirements.
Suitable items for the proof of identity could be a current passport or driving licence, and for the address, a utility bill, council tax bill or bank statement that is no more than three months old. We may also require supporting evidence of the source of any money involved, for example bank or building society documents, and full details of any third party to whom you may instruct us to send funds.

Corporate and other business clients
Before we can act on behalf of a company we will need to verify and identify the existence of the company including its name, business address, registration number and the names of at least two directors through the certificate of incorporation and/or details from Companies House. Additionally, we may request to see Annual Accounts and Incorporation documents and where necessary a suitable resolution confirming that the persons who are representing the company are properly authorised.
We may require supporting evidence of the source of any money involved, for example bank or building society documents, and full details of any third party to whom you may instruct us to send funds.