Coronavirus and the Land Registry of Scotland

The property sales market came to a screeching halt on Tuesday with law firms all over Scotland unable to complete, or ‘settle’, transactions when the Land Registry was closed by the Registers of Scotland (RoS), their offices shut and staff sent home.

The Land Registry lists the owners of every bit of land and property in Scotland.   Every time a property is bought or sold, the Land Register is updated when the ‘Sale Transfer of Title’ documents are processed.

The law is slowly adapting to the opportunities of the digital world, but there are still things that must be done physically rather than digitally.  ‘Sale Transfer of Title’ documents have to be signed by real people with real pens.  Witnesses must be present and able to sign the same piece of paper.  These physically signed papers have to be posted to the Registers of Scotland for processing.

But if there is nobody in the office at the Registers of Scotland to open the post and process the forms, then the Land Registry cannot be updated.

The Registers of Scotland have indicated they are working on a digital solution which might allow the register to reopen.  While we wish the Registers of Scotland every success, that is a big piece of work under normal circumstances and these aren’t normal circumstances.  We have to be cautiously optimistic but brutally realistic with our clients – we will believe it when we see it.

The Registers of Scotland made a difficult decision in difficult times with the best of intentions.  They are working with the Law Society of Scotland and others to create new procedures that will hopefully restart conveyancing across the country as soon as possible.

The Registers of Scotland are updating their website with new information as they have it.

We have been in contact with all of our clients who are affected to talk about what this means for them.  We know this situation is adding a great deal of stress during an unbelievably stressful time.

Powers of Attorney and the Coronavirus

We’ve had a few conveyancing clients asking what are their options if they are unable to sign documents or access money if they are in bed with the Coronavirus.   The situation is potentially so extreme and so unprecedented, that there will undoubtedly have to be a degree of flexibility on all sides as this crisis unfolds, but we’re not there yet, so if you were unable to sign a time-sensitive document today, there could be a problem.

We have already moved to limit person-to-person contact by conducting business remotely whenever possible. Where we require a signature from you, we are posting documents and asking you to return them to us in the same way.  Even if you are in bed, you are legally able to sign a document as long as you are capable of understanding and remembering what you have agreed to do.

You could create a ‘Continuing Power of Attorney’ (POA) and give someone you trust the ability to help manage your finances and property if you are unable to do so.  However, as a reaction to Coronavirus, it is not so much ‘belt and braces’ as ‘belt, braces and superglue’.  POAs are currently taking up to fifty-five working days to register with the Office of the Public Guardian Scotland (OPGS) – but remember the OPGS could have staff off with Coronavirus, so slowing down their response times.

A POA is an excellent tool and one of the key documents (along with a Will) that we recommend all clients put in place.   The best time to put both a POA and a Will in place is now.  If the coronavirus has made this more of a priority for you, we’re here to help.  Below is some information on POAs, and you can read more about Wills and other personal legal tools using the drop down menu under ‘personal life’ on our website main menu.  You can also access information on POAs from the Alzheimer Scotland website, or read this case study that featured in our February newsletter.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A POA is a legal mechanism by which you can give another person or people the ability to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so. 

In Scotland, there are two different types of Powers of Attorney:

  • ‘Continuing POA’ – allowing someone to look after your money and property
  • ‘Welfare POA’ – allowing somebody to make medical and care decisions for you

You can make a POA for either financial matters or personal welfare, or both. 

Who can I appoint as my Attorney?

You can appoint one person to make all decisions, different people for financial matters and personal welfare.  You can appoint joint attorneys, so two or more people have to agree on the best way forward.  You can appoint substitute attorneys if your first choice isn’t available. 

You can appoint a relative, friend or professional to be a POA, but it must be somebody you trust.  You should seek agreement from whoever you choose to ensure they are willing to act on your behalf.

When can my POA be used? 

You can write a POA at any point in your life, but the key thing to remember is that is only comes into force when you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  Your POA would come into force if you were in a coma, but would cease to function whenever you wake up. 

Only YOU can create a POA but you need to be ‘capable’ of understanding what you are doing.  Broadly this means you have to be able make a decision, communicate a decision, understand a decision and retain a memory of a decision.   If you cannot, then only the courts can grant a POA on your behalf. 

A welfare POA can only be used if you are incapable of making your own decisions.  However, a financial POA can be used with your permission if you need help managing your money.  So if you are elderly and frail you could use a POA to give somebody you trust permission to access your bank account to pay bills or buy shopping.

How long does it take to register a POA?

In Scotland, a POA is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.  The OPGS aim to process registration in 30 days, but understandably this is taking longer at the moment.  Under certain circumstances, a faster turnaround time can be granted, but only if the OPGS agrees.

Want some peace of mind? – make or review your Will

This article featured in our February 2020 newsletter.

January’s the month of resolutions – and most of the resolutions we’ve made have been left well behind as we move into February with the rest of the year stretching out in front of us. Isn’t it amazing how resolutions are usually very personal? I’m going to lose 2 stones in weight. I am going to go to the gym at least 3 times a week. I’m going to stop eating sweets. I’m giving up drinking alcohol in January. Whatever the resolution, they’re designed to make you feel better in the long run. The only problem is, you need to keep focusing on them over and over again until they become habits – and that’s more difficult than most people realise!

So, how about a resolution that’ll give you some piece of mind? Something you can do once and then relax for a few years. Then, if circumstances change, do it again and then relax once more knowing everything’s in place.

We’re talking here about making or reviewing your Will. It’s something we encourage all our clients to do, no matter their age. It’s the only way you can make sure those you love inherit your estate.

There’s no mystery about making your Will. You tell us what you want done with your estate and we express those wishes in your Will.

First of all, decide who you want to deal with the administration of your estate. It might be your spouse, partner, child, friend or a professional. That person is called your executor.

If you have any specific items or sums of money you’d like to leave to individuals, charities or other organisations, we list them separately for you.

You can decide what to do about your house and other important assets you own.

We will discuss your wishes for your children should you pass away before they reach the age of majority.

We’ll also discuss how you wish your remains to be disposed of and any other special wishes you may have.

We take care of all the technicalities to make sure your Will is completely valid.  Once you’re happy with its terms, you can then sign it and it becomes effective from that date.

If there’s one resolution you can easily keep in 2020 it’s to make or review your Will and give yourself peace of mind. Contact us now and make an appointment and we’ll take it from there.

A Power of Attorney – isn’t that just for old people?

this article featured in our February 2020 newsletter

Frank was only 35 when he made a Power of Attorney. He only did it because his wife, Janette had nagged him for months about it. She’s read somewhere that if you couldn’t look after your own affairs, if you had granted a Power of Attorney, someone you trusted would be able to look after your affairs for you.

Deep down, Frank thought is was a lot of nonsense and that a Power of Attorney was only for an old person who were on the edge of dementia. However, he gave in to Janette’s nagging and went ahead and had one prepared anyway. Of course, Janette had one prepared too!

The Powers of Attorney were combined welfare and financial Powers of Attorney.  They were registered with the Office of the Public Guardian in Scotland. Their lawyer gave Frank and Janette copies to keep for reference.

Frank was a successful self-employed builder. He had ten full-time employees and his business was growing year on year.

On the night of his fortieth birthday, Frank and Janette were out celebrating with some friends. They left the restaurant close to midnight when their taxi arrived to take them home. It was a cold night and it was getting a little bit icy. About a mile from home, the taxi driver slowed down to take a right turn when a car shot out from the road they were turning into and smashed into the back of the taxi just at the rear passenger door where Frank was sitting. Even though he was wearing his seat belt, Frank was thrown backwards and his head smashed against the side of the taxi. He didn’t remember anything else for quite some time.

Janette escaped relatively unscathed from the collision and whilst being very angry with the other driver realised very quickly that Frank had sustained a very serious head injury. He was unresponsive and there was blood coming from his ears and nose. Someone had clearly called 999 and the emergency services were on the scene very quickly. Frank was rushed to hospital and went straight into theatre. The surgeons repaired the damage Frank had sustained as best they could and put him into an induced coma to keep him stable. He was in the coma for six weeks. Whilst he was in a very bad way, the doctors were confident that he would recover, but to what extent was still unknown.

Whilst Frank was in hospital, life went on with Janette. She very quickly realised just how much Frank had to do every day to run his business – taking calls from and meeting with customers, arranging the workload, dealing with the accounts and financial side of the business. Janette discussed the position with the employees, most of whom had been with Frank for quite some time and decided she would run the business during Frank’s recovery. She arranged a meeting with the bank to discuss the position. They explained to her that as Frank was a sole trader and whilst they sympathised with her, they couldn’t actually discuss anything with her because they didn’t have any authority to do so. Janette then explained that Frank had granted a Power of Attorney in her favour a number of years previously and she’d asked her lawyer to send it on to the bank. She then arranged another meeting for the following week.

When she met with the bank the next week, they couldn’t have been more helpful. Whilst they’d been sympathetic at the previous meeting, they couldn’t discuss any of Frank’s accounts. On this visit it was very different – it was as if they were discussing the accounts and financial affairs with Frank himself – you see, a Power of Attorney gives your attorney the power to step into your shoes and act just as you would act.

Janette had to deal with a number of financial, employment and other business issues whilst Frank was in hospital and because Frank had granted a Power of Attorney in her favour, she could do so with ease.

Many months later, Frank made a full recovery and resumed the running of the business from Janette.

Frank said “I always thought the Power of Attorney was a complete waste of time and only something that old people would think about. Thank goodness Janette harped on and on about it. I shudder to think what kind of mess we’d have been in if Janette hadn’t persuaded me to grant that Power of Attorney. If you ask me now what I think about it, I’d encourage everyone to have one – irrespective of age”

Jeanette was understandably relieved that Frank had made a full recovery. When asked what made her go on and one about Frank granting a Power of Attorney, she said “I’d read somewhere that you can grant a Power of Attorney and still go on making your own decisions and get on with your life without it interfering with anything you wanted to do – but that if something happened, if you had one, someone you trusted could look after everything for you. It was kind of like an insurance policy. Thank goodness Frank listened to me – for once”!

As you can see from this story, a Power of Attorney isn’t just for older people. You can grant one and it only comes into play if you can no longer look after your own affairs and should that happen, you’ll thank your lucky stars you made one!

If you would like to discuss a Power of Attorney, please get in touch.

Two new Directors for Wallace Quinn

Margaret McMillan

Wallace Quinn are delighted to announce the promotion of two key members of staff.

Margaret McMillan has been promoted to ‘Director of Business Development and Marketing’ and Associate Solicitor Amy Ieropolous also becomes a Director.

Margaret has been with Wallace Quinn for nearly twenty-five years, starting off as our in-house Estate Agency Manager before moving to business development five years ago.  Amy joined Wallace Quinn two years ago from her own practice to help open our Livingston office and develop our new-build conveyancing department.

Wallace Quinn Managing Director John Quinn says,

‘I’m delighted to announce these two key promotions within our firm.  Amy joined Wallace Quinn two years ago to head up our new Livingston office and has quickly developed the relationships and partnerships needed to ensure Wallace Quinn continues to build a strong presence in the East of Scotland. Margaret has been a vital part of our business for over twenty years and her relationships with Scotland’s key building firms have been a huge part in our recent growth.  Amy and Margaret’s promotions are both a recognition of what they have achieved so far and a huge boost to our prospects for the future.  My congratulations to them both’. 

 

Amy Ieropoulos

Amy Ieropoulos

New Year, New House – tips for getting your property ready for selling

Wallace Quinn and Keys Estate Agents offer an enhanced Estate Agency and conveyancing service to clients across Glasgow.  Keys extensive knowledge of the Glasgow property market and their great team of Estate Agents, together with Wallace Quinn’s knowledgeable conveyancing solicitors mean our clients get a level of service and efficiency that our competitors struggle to match.  We’re currently running a promotion where there are no up-front costs to bring your property to market.  We caught up with Keys’ Pam McLeman to ask for her top tips on getting your property ready to take to market.

Decorate in neutral colours

A fresh coat of paint can make a big difference but try to keep things light and neutral.  One of the things most of us like to do when we move into a new home is decorate to our tastes and it is easiest to change from light, neutral colours.  However – really question whether you need to redecorate.

If you are thinking of selling, get in touch with us and we’ll arrange an Estate Agent to come and value your home and give our thoughts on what is needed and what isn’t.

Tend to the front garden

If you’ve got one, the front garden is the first thing people see as they approach your property.  Cut the grass and do a bit of weeding.  If you’re throwing things out ahead of a move, cover any rubbish with a tarpaulin.

front doorDeal with your front door

If you’ve got a PVC door, scrub it clean.  If you’ve got a wooden door, paint it.  If your front door doesn’t look well maintained, then you’ll have potential buyers wondering what else might not have been maintained and they’ll look around with the wrong mindset.

Great Lighting 

Good lighting can make small spaces look bigger, particularly hallways.  Think about where lights are positioned, make sure all the bulbs are working and ensure the lights are turned on before you let people through the door.

Check your windows

Unless you’ve got an amazing view, after a while we stop looking out of windows and just appreciate the light that comes into the house. That can mean you don’t notice when the windows need a clean as much as your visitors do.

fridge magnetsDeclutter

The more potential buyers spend looking at your things, the less time they imagine what they could do with the space.  Make it as easy as possible for people to think creatively.

Tidy

Tidy and clean every room as if you are getting ready for a visit from the Queen!

Hide unusual items that will compete for attention

If you’ve got a Rembrandt on the wall or a Ferrari in the driveway, people will want to ask you questions about them and you’ll want to answer them.  When potential buyers are talking about their options after seeing lots of properties, make sure yours is remembered as ‘the one with the amazing ceilings’ rather than the ‘one with the really cool classic car but I can’t recall how many bedrooms it had’.

DogTake the Dog for a walk

No matter how much YOU know your Schnauzer is a big softy that only wants a cuddle, people who have never been to your house don’t! If possible, arrange for somebody to take the dog for a walk during a property showing.  If not, keep the dog in a different room until you’ve asked potential guests if they are comfortable for Yoda to come out and say hello.

Put expensive and sentimental items out of harm’s way

Visitors don’t know the layout of your house as well as you do, and if they accidently knock over your favourite vase you’ll feel bad and so will they.

No Up Front Costs

If you instruct us to sell your home in February, there are no up-front costs – which means you don’t pay anything until your property sells. That’s less risk for you, so get in touch and get your property on the market and you onto the next chapter in your life or your buy to let business.