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As a result of Howard and Over joining forces with Abbey Legal After the Event Insurers, we are now in a position to offer our clinical negligence clients a completely free initial assessment of your claim.

All you have to do is provide us with copies of your Hospital and GP notes and we will arrange for a Medical Expert to review the medical records to identify any breach of duty.

(If you do not have copies of your Hospital or GP notes, we can obtain these for you. Your Hospital or GP may make a charge for copying, capped at £50 for each set of notes).


The situations in life in which you need a lawyer are inevitably going to be important, consequential, and often time-sensitive. Whether you are writing your will, selling your house, going through changes to your family circumstances, or are a business owner looking for legal advice, you are faced with the choice of whose hands you put your important affairs into. As with any service, there are a range of options available to you, and your choice of lawyer can make all the difference.

We have all felt the feeling of being ‘just’ another number, having to speak to a different person every time we contact a large firm, regardless of what that firm does. Local lawyers value your instruction. Dealing with your local law firm gives you the benefit of not only knowing the name of the person dealing with your matter, but being able to talk to them. At an important time in your life, whether personal or commercial, being able to contact someone who has an in depth, day-to-day understanding of your circumstances is crucial.

Your local lawyer will have a strong knowledge of the locality, and likely will have been there for some time – for good reason. They understand the importance of meeting face to face with you, being easily accessible, and providing a service that will make them recommendable to other members of the local community.

Howard & Over have been a part of your local community for over 100 years, with offices in both Plymouth and Ivybridge. We understand the importance of accessible, personal and affordable service and are always committed to providing it. Please visit to find out more about our lawyers and their specialities.


So the question this poses is “Is it time for a change to the divorce law in England and Wales to enable a no fault Divorce?”

This is a significant case that will have a real impact on the advice given to Divorcing Parties by solicitors.

For many years it has been regarded as good practice among family lawyers to draft divorce petitions for unreasonable behaviour in a way that whilst identifying some of the problems leading to the breakdown of the relationship, will not add to the pain and aggravation of the process for those involved. Wherever possible a draft is sent to the other party and the allegations of unreasonable behaviour are amended to reach a consensus that is acceptable to both.

This practice is threatened by this case, where the court have held that the allegations made are not sufficiently serious to satisfy the court that the behaviour of the respondent was so serious that the petitioner could no longer be expected to live with him, which is essentially what is required to be proved to the court in respect of unreasonable behaviour. So the divorce petition was dismissed.

The view taken by the district court , and upheld by the court of appeal, was essentially that a no fault divorce does not exist in law and was not what Parliament intended. The Wife has now been given leave to appeal to the Supreme court.

If the decision of the lower courts is upheld, it will undoubtedly lead to pressure for new law. Watch this space!


There is no such thing as a ‘common-law’ husband, wife or marriage. This term has come to be used socially and by insurance companies but has no legal meaning in England and Wales.

Regardless of how long you may have cohabited with your partner, if you are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner will not benefit from the rights that a husband or wife would receive.

When someone dies without making a Will, the intestacy rules decide who will benefit from their estate. If a person is married or in a civil partnership at their death, they will be the main beneficiary of the estate followed by any children, parents and then siblings. Cohabiting partners are not mentioned within these rules therefore, unless you make a Will, a cohabitee will not receive anything upon your death.

Unmarried couples will also lose out on the tax benefits that married couples receive upon death. For example, a husband and wife can leave an unlimited amount to one another with no Inheritance Tax payable. If however the couple were not married or in a civil partnership then anything above £325,000 (more if entitled to a residential nil rate band) would be taxed at 40%. On an estate of £500,000 this would mean a tax bill of £70,000.

By making a Will, unmarried couples can ensure that their partner is able to live in their home for the rest of their lives, pass on their assets and ensure that their estate is left in a tax efficient manner.

Joint Ownership of your Home

There are two ways in which you can jointly own your home. Firstly, ‘joint tenants’ allows the property to pass automatically to the survivor on the death of the first co-owner (regardless of what is said in a Will or the intestacy rules) and the second is ‘tenants in common’ which allows each co-owner to have a share of the property which can be left in a Will or pass through the intestacy rules. It is important that you ascertain how your property is held to ensure that it passes to your chosen beneficiary.

What rights do you have if you aren’t married?

If your partner has died and you did not receive anything from the estate, you may be entitled to make a claim against their estate on the basis that you were ‘dependant’ upon them. This is often a costly and lengthy process involving court proceedings and therefore should be seen as a last resort.

For more information on these issues, please contact our private client department.


People often don’t tend to realise the importance of Lasting Powers of Attorney until they see the effect of a loved one losing the ability to understand information and to make decisions for themselves.

Lasting Powers of Attorney are documents that allow a person, chosen by you, to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself. In other words, your chosen ‘attorneys’ can assist you in handling your paperwork and decision making when you may be unable to deal with it. This can be either decisions relating to your property and financial affairs, enabling them, for example, to pay bills and collect your pension on your behalf or alternatively, to make decisions on your health and welfare such as what care home is most suitable for you.

If you do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place and you lose your mental capacity, someone will need to make an application to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order. This is likely to be very costly and can take many months. In the meantime, nothing can be done in relation to your finances.

I always recommend that my clients consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney. The document may never need to be used however, if anything should happen to them, they have the peace of mind of knowing that they have chosen someone they trust to assist them without any delay or expense.

If you would like to discuss Lasting Powers of Attorney in more detail, please contact one of our private client team.


It is sadly true to say that Domestic Abuse is an issue in a significant number of relationships. As Rebecca Ellerbeck of Howard and Over Solicitors, explains, "Domestic abuse is much more common than people realise. Many factors can contribute towards stress in a relationship and when levels of stress rise domestic abuse peaks."

On numerous occasions such abuse is often witnessed by children causing them significant distress and long term emotional problems.

Domestic abuse is not only physical violence but can include emotional or psychological abuse, sexual violence and abuse, threats, harassment and financial control. It can happen in all kinds of relationships and for any reason irrespective of age, race, sexuality, sex, wealth, geography and lifestyle.

Domestic abuse tends to follow a pattern of abuse and is designed to consciously control and dominate a partner/ former partner or family member. Once the abuse starts it often gets worse over time.

Whilst women are more likely to be the victims of domestic violence, men are also affected.

The first step in dealing with domestic abuse is to recognise what is happening to you and understand that you are not to blame.

It is important to tell someone you can trust as quickly as possible.

There are remedies available to protect you if you or your family are victims of domestic violence. The Court can make a Non-molestation Order which forbids the abuser from abusing or threatening violence, harassing, pestering or intimidating you and any children. Such an Order gives the Police powers to arrest the abuser should the Order be broken. The Court can also make an Occupation Order which will enable you to enforce your right to stay living in your home and for the abuser to leave.

Howard and Over’s Domestic Abuse Team have significant experience in dealing with Injunctions and other work necessary to protect victims of domestic abuse.

During office hours please contact Rebecca Ellerbeck on 01752 690123

We can also put you in touch with local support networks who will continue to support and assist you in coming to terms with the situation once all legal aspects have been dealt with and the appropriate protection afforded. There is a huge amount of support out there!

Support Networks

• Plymouth Domestic Abuse Service– 01752 252033

• 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 200 0247

If you are affected by domestic abuse please do call us. Don’t suffer in silence.


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But taking Legal Action can be Expensive

There are various ways of funding your case. You may already have legal expenses cover through your household or motor insurers and this may meet the cost of pursuing your claim. Alternatively if you are a member of a Trade Union they may be prepared to fund your case.

If you do not have any of the above you can pay the legal costs yourself as the case progresses. However most of our clients prefer to fund the case by way of a Conditional Fee Agreement, often known as a "no win no fee" agreement.

No Win, No Fee

We can look at dealing with your personal injury cases under a Conditional Fee Agreement. This means that if you win your case you must pay our costs but you should be able to get the majority of your costs paid by your opponents. If you lose, you pay nothing.

We recommend that the agreement is backed by insurance and our Personal Injury Specialist will discuss this with you in more detail during your first appointment.

What next?

We would be pleased to discuss any possible claim with you. If your claim has a reasonable chance of success we will be happy to represent you and we will guide you through the whole process.

We have offices in Devonport, Plymstock and Ivybridge and we are happy to see you at the office which is most convenient to you.

In the event that you cannot travel to one of our offices due to your injuries we may be able to visit you at home.

Is there anything I need to worry about before putting my business premises on the market?

Yes, unfortunately there are quite a few things you need to consider before placing your business on the open market if you hope to achieve a successful sale. Some requirements, like the Energy Performance Certificate, are needed before any businesses premises can even be marketed. But there are other matters, which most small business owners do not discover until the transaction is all ready underway, leading to unfortunate and avoidable delays. For example:

a. Apportionments – How are you going to apportion the sale e.g. between Goodwill, Property and Fixtures and Fittings? This should be considered carefully as the apportionment will have Tax consequences.

b. Asbestos Survey – this is a legal requirement under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. A lot of small businesses owners are unaware of the obligation until a potential buyer’s solicitors ask to see the report.

c. Fire Risk Assessment – this is also a legal obligation that some business owners are not aware of until it threatens to slow down a transaction.

Even when a buyer has been found there are certain matters which should be considered right at the start of the transaction to prevent delay. For example:

Planning Permission – what if your potential buyer intends to change the use of the premises? It can take at least eight weeks to obtain planning consent for change of use, and in a buyer’s market this is as much of a concern for the seller as it is for the buyer and could result in the transaction falling through. These matters should be discussed right at the start of a transaction. 

I’m entering into a new lease of business premises, what are the things I need to look out for?

There are lots of important aspects to a business lease that may not come to light until some years after the transaction has completed, and when the consequences could have a severe impact on your business, some of these are as follows:

a. Rent – you need to check if VAT is included or excluded, the frequency and type of rent reviews. Is there any rent-free period? Is a rent deposit required?

b. Term – is it suitable for your business needs? If it is too short, you may find you’re forced to look for new business premises. If you have just started a new business venture, you may not be ready to tie yourself to a long-term liability.

c. Break Clauses – who is the break clause in favour of? It may be in favour of the Landlord and what appeared to be a ten-year term could be terminated after only three years.

d. Assignment – Can you assign the lease, and if so are there any conditions? e.g. Do you need to sign a personal guarantee? Do you need the Landlord’s consent?

e. Repairing/Insuring – who is responsible and how extensive are the obligations? You do not want to find yourselves entering into a lease of a premises which is in a poor state of repair, to find yourself with the inconvenience and expense of extensive remedial work because of your repairing obligations or a failure to agree a Schedule of Condition.

Note: This analysis may contain information of general interest about current legal issues, but does not give legal advice.

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