Book review: A Practitioner’s Guide to Inheritance Act Claims – 3rd Ed
By Nasreen Pearce | Published by Wildy Simmonds & Hill Publishing ISBN: 9780854902224
This book aims to give the practitioner a clear guide to the legislation, procedure and case law when dealing with claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The author is a retired circuit judge and formerly district judge in the Principal Registry of the Family Division.
As the introductory chapter explains this is an area of the law which has seen many developments since the last edition was published in 2011. It brings us up to date with consideration of the ramifications of the case of Illott v The Blue Cross and Others  UKSC17. Surprisingly, I could not find a statement in the book of the exact date in 2017 at which the law is stated.
The author also points out that it is an area which is urgently in need of law reform as we await reform recommended by the Law Commission in the law relating to opposite sex (heterosexual) cohabiting couples in 2006.
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The Guide contains consideration of the grounds for claims, the different classes of claimant and the distinctions between claims by spouses/civil partners and other types of claimant with detailed analysis of the relevant case law in each section. It also goes over in detail the matters to which the court is to have regard, what is comprised in the net estate on which an order can bite, the type of orders which can be made and consequential aspects such as the effect on and position of personal representatives, and the court procedure and appeals.
Structure & Layout
The book comprises 13 chapters:
An introduction, a chapter explaining domicile which determines whether a claim made be made in this country, a chapter on forfeiture in cases of unlawful killing, one on dispositions intended to defeat financial provision claims and one on the position of personal representatives and trustees.
The other chapters take us through the matters to be considered when a claim is made in logical order: time limits, the different types of claimants, the basis of the claim, the matters to which the court is to have regard, the power of the court to make orders and the different types of orders, the net estate against which a claim is made, the procedure and finally, appeals.
The Appendices contain precedents including a draft order, draft claims to be included in the Part 8 claim form and various precedent witness statements by the different classes of claimant. The Appendices also contain for easy reference the Act itself and various extracts of the relevant Practice Directions made under the Civil Procedure Rules together with the ACTAPS Practice Guidance for the Resolution of Probate and Trust Disputes (ACTAPS Code). In the chapters on Procedure and Appeals there are also useful procedural tables to guide you through the court process and refer you to the appropriate Civil Procedure Rules and Supreme Court Rules.
There are also tables at the front of the book of cases, statutes, statutory instruments and international materials referred to in the book.
The book will be a good starting point with any Inheritance Act claim and is portable enough to be easily carried around and will in fact deal with most queries as it seems thorough in its approach. Inevitably, it will probably be out of date in a very few years but so will any other text book in this area of law.
In the introduction to the book it was suggested that there was likely to be an appeal to the Supreme Court in the case of Steinfeld & Keidan v Secretary of State for Education  EWCA Civ 81 where a couple of opposite sex wanted the right to enter into a civil partnership and were pursuing an appeal against the dismissal of their case for judicial review. This case was heard in November and the Court did not find in favour of the claimants.
Clarity & readability
The book is clear and easy to read. The facts of the various cases discussed are set out succinctly and on the whole briefly but sufficient to point the practitioner to which case reports might be relevant to his client’s case.
For the less experienced practitioner, there are explanations of ancillary matters without assuming a detailed knowledge by the reader e.g. explanations of what mutual wills, donationes mortis causa and domicile are and discussion of when jointly owned property can be dealt with by the court.
Relevance to practitioners
I believe this Guide will be useful to both non-contentious and contentious practitioners. It will be a good starting point for both procedure on pursuing a claim and for research on the merits of a claim or likelihood of succeeding with a claim in the light of recent cases. It contains the legislation and court rules for reference too.
It covers up-to-date developments including sections on foreign property (the effect of the EU Succession Regulation 650/2012 and European Certificates of Succession) and changes made to the intestacy rules in the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 and The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.
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