Book review: Parker’s Will Precedents – Ninth edition

 In Book Reviews for Private Client practitioners, Wills

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Published by Bloomsbury Professional (Hardback)

Purpose

The last edition of this book was brought out in 2014 since when we have had quite significant changes in this area of law. The current editors are Richard Dew (whose second edition this is) and Leon Pickering (whose first edition this is). Book review

Their aim was to bring the work up to date in a time of unclear legislative climate due to the current economic and political uncertainty while being keen, they say, not to damage the elegance and simplicity of the precedents or the quality of the commentary. They have in particular included new sections on the residence nil rate band and flexible life interest trusts and rewritten the chapter on the EU Succession Regulation.

Content

The book contains commentary as well as precedents for Will drafting and would be useful for someone new to will drafting as well as a quick reference point for an experienced practitioner on a particular point. For example, it includes commentary on matters such as the intestacy rules, claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, taking Will instructions and Inheritance Tax mitigation. There is a very detailed checklist provided for taking Will instructions too.

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With the previous edition the precedents were also available on a separate CD – Rom which came with the book. This time the book explains that instead, the precedents can be downloaded electronically, individually or in whole with the use of a password which is provided. This appeared to work when I tried it.

Structure & Layout

The book comprises 34 chapters compared with 32 in the previous edition. Most comprise commentary followed by the relevant precedents.

There are a couple of initial chapters covering general matters and about five chapters just containing entire Will precedents  for different classes of people e.g. single adults or married couples/civil partners with or without children.

The other chapters all contain commentary on a particular aspect followed by the associated precedents. The structure is logical and in the order we would expect when drafting a Will, starting with the initial matters such as opening and revocation, mutual Wills, foreign Wills, funeral wishes and appointment of executors and trustees before moving onto specific gifts of different types of assets, different types of beneficiaries, such as disabled or minors and then onto trusts, powers of trustees and inheritance tax and so on.

It includes a chapter and precedents on disclaimer and deeds of variation and a chapter giving various precedent letters to use when writing to your client (such as ones to explain a discretionary trust and a life interest trust and how to properly execute a Will). It also contains a promissory note, notice of severance and deed to appoint out of a discretionary trust within 2 years of death. It is a pity the editors have not included for completeness a letter of wishes to trustees of a discretionary trust or any very helpful letter to explain the reasons why an individual has not been included as a beneficiary in the circumstances of an anticipated possible Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act claim.

There is also a helpful chapter on digital assets.

The Appendix is useful as it contains extracts of legislation which the practitioner may need to refer to frequently, for example, for trustees’ powers and also includes the wording of the new Inheritance Tax Act 1984 Sections 8A to 8M covering the transferable and residence nil rate bands.

Tools

Parker’s Will Precedents would be an extremely useful book to carry round as part of an emergency Will Kit when attending a dying client in hospital. It will provide all of the standard clauses one would routinely need.

It does not contain any precedent retainer letter or letter for waiver of cancellation of contract made in a consumer’s home however.

Clarity & readability

It has a succinct and straightforward explanation of the main issues but if you are looking for a more detailed discussion of complex issues you need to look elsewhere. For example, the chapter on residence nil rate bands explains the basic principles in just over two pages.

Relevance to practitioners

Worryingly, I found two instances where the law seems to be out of date although the book professes to state the law as at 1st April 2017.

The first is the reference in chapter 3 to the rules concerning the rights to cancel a contract made in the consumer’s home.  There is a reference to The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc. Regulations 2008. In fact this regulation was replaced by The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 which came into force on 13 June 2014.

Importantly, the cooling off period within which a consumer can cancel a contract is now 14 days whereas Parker’s states it is 7 days which was the period under the previous 2008 regulations.

The second instance concerns the Frankland trap which was removed by an amendment to Section 144 IHTA 1984 which was made by Section 14 Finance (No.2) Act 2015.

Where a death occurs on or after 10 December 2014, section 144 is amended so that where property is settled by Will and an appointment is made before an interest in possession subsists in the property, the provisions of section 65(4) are ignored. This means that where an appointment in favour of the surviving spouse or civil partner is made within 3 months of death the appointment can now be read back to the date of death.

While Section 144 is shown in its correct amended wording in the Appendix to the book, unfortunately the precedent in Form 24.9 in chapter 24 has not been amended so it states that any appointment out of a short term discretionary trust cannot be made within 3 months of death. An incorrect footnote still remains to say an appointment within 3 months of death will not be read back for the purposes of s.144 IHTA 1984.

When reviewing the book, I also tried to look for clauses which I often find useful in practice. I know these precedents can be difficult to find in practice so I usually use my own model or draft from scratch. For example:

  • a clause to direct executors to use the proceeds of a particular life insurance policy to pay off a mortgage on a particular property and then to give any balance of the proceeds to a named beneficiary, (even though this may amount to a gift to, say, a joint owner of the property);
  • a clause to make a pecuniary legacy index linked so it increases automatically without having to amend the Will later to substitute a different legacy.

I did not find either clause (or something similar) in this book .

In summary, this is a useful book if one is looking for standard clauses when drafting fairly straightforward Wills particularly for the newcomer to the profession.  It is useful for drafting emergency Wills as it will have most of what is needed and, thankfully, is not too large or heavy to carry around.

But one word of warning – you may like to check any technical or unusual points elsewhere as it seems one or two errors in stating the current law have crept through the proof reading!

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