Book Review: Probate Disputes and Remedies
by Dawn Goodman, Paul Hewitt and Henrietta Mason. (Jordans)
This is the third edition of the book, Probate Dispute and Remedies and published seventeen years after its original publication.
Perhaps one of the central questions facing the authors (all three based at the respected Withers LLP is the book still relevant?
The answer is a resounding yes.
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This broad book which is an extensive collaboration involving a series of lawyers (mainly from Withers, but not exclusively) is well written, well researched and up to date.
With respect to its structure, the book is split into five sections – Pre death issues, death and burial issues, obtaining the grant, problems with the Will and claims against professional advisors with a final section on appendices.
Rightly, the authors do not focus much on pre-death issues and only 20 pages are devoted to this issue.
Overall the book is 256 pages excluding the Appendices: In particular, I commend the chapters on the foreign element, validity disputes, claims against personal representatives and claims under Inheritance (Provisions for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.
Generally the heartening aspect about this book is the more the authors write, the better and more useful the content is. The style is easy to read and insightful. It will suit a trainee solicitor trying to get to grips with the subject, but more experienced practitioners will also benefit as well. The level of detail and succinctness helps at all levels.
This is not some dry text book which just gives legal cases and lets you get on with it; it is more practical than that. By way of example, the section on IPDFA claims has an excellent check list on collating evidence to help evaluate in making the decision to launch a claim.
An example of the value of the work is in the chapter on claims against Personal Representatives and how they go through the list of defences to a claim; the book is practical in covering evidence, preparation for trial and interim applications. In addition it covers removal of personal representatives and actions for removal of Will trustees.
The currency of the book is shown by the 2013 case of Goodman v Goodman within the section on application to remove a personal representative; the book was published before the implementation of the European Succession Regulation (Brussels iV) from 17th August 2015 but the authors apply some very useful analysis on how this will impact UK based testators despite the fact that UK has not adopted the Regulation.
The authors have provided genuinely useful precedents such as a caveat, warning to caveat, checklist when taking instructions regarding claims and list of documents under the IPFDA legislation. There are 26 sample documents in the back. Though they are not in CD Rom format, they should be relatively easy to add to your own precedent list.
From my perspective, the main weakness of the book lies in its lack of balance in some of the areas covered; which may be due to the fact there were at least nine other contributors beyond the three main authors. I wonder whether sharing the contributions accounts for some chapters being so brief – For example, Coroners Investigations (five and a half pages), Construction (four and a half pages) and blocking the Grant: Caveats (three and a half pages). It makes the book look a bit unbalanced.
It is a difficult balancing act as you want to cover as much as you can but particularly with caveats I was surprised that this important tactical manoeuvre within probate litigation received so little attention in the book.
In addition, it would have nice to have seen more coverage of mediation and practical ways to settle cases; whilst the subject of mediation is touched on in validity disputes and IPFDA claims, the sum consideration of mediation is barely a page and I would have been really interested to have the authors words of wisdom on this.
Nevertheless the content of the book is really sound and for those practitioners who are serious about doing Probate Disputes, this book does need to be purchased.
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