Book Review: A Modern Approach to Wills, Administration and Estate Planning

 In Book Reviews for Private Client practitioners, Probate, Tax, Trusts, Wills

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A modern approach to wills A Modern Approach to Wills, Administration and Estate Planning (5th Edition) by Whitehouse and King, published by Lexis Nexis


The preface to the 5th edition zings with the voice of the authors “This edition, whilst taking into account the burgeoning case law and statutory changes of the last three years, is very much a statement of the law as at the end of July 2020 since predicting future developments is a mug’s game.” How true.

The book is a guide to the tax-efficient drafting of Wills, estate planning and administration. It provides practitioners with help and guidance on the typical problems and pitfalls arising in practice, such as on page 456 explaining how to structure a Will to enable business property relief to be obtained when it is uncertain whether 100% relief will apply. A common problem with business assets is to obtain a ruling from HMRC on the availability of the relief.


There are seven parts to this book which tackle different aspects of Wills, Estates, Trusts and Tax. It starts with a background to Wills and Trusts law, moving on to the essential tax law before considering drafting the Will. From there we move onto Settlements, Agriculture & Business Property before tackling administering the estate, including establishing and running Will trusts. The last part is a miscellaneous group of chapters on topics like the intestacy rules, international aspects and the DOTAS regime.

The text runs to 820 pages of commentary, worked examples and precedents. By chapter 6 we start to get some practical suggestions and precedents for the drafting of Wills.

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Structure & Layout

Within each part of the text are chapters on particular topics, which are divided along numbered paragraph lines. For example, the first part of the book on the essential law starts off with the first chapter on the essential Will law, which examines what is a Will, validity issues, appointment of executors and trustees, personal chattels, specific gifts, absolute pecuniary legacies, contingent pecuniary legacies, nil rate band legacies, residuary gifts, failure of gifts and miscellaneous matters such as foreign Wills and hotchpot.

There are footnotes to references supporting the text, which means the text flows and is easy to read. Throughout the text, current case law is discussed and put into context. Both authors are used to teaching and their ability to explain complex issues well is put to good use in this book. There is a pleasant balance between academic content and what this means in practice illustrated with a large number of examples and precedents.


Any practitioner needs in their toolbox a range of workable precedents to tackle common and not so common problems. This book contains over 50 precedents which can be adapted for use.

Not only do practitioners need to know the law they need to be able to apply it to a number of different situations. It is only when we try and apply the law that we perhaps realise we do not understand it as we first thought. The wonderful range of examples contained in this book really help to illustrate how the law works.

There are the usual Tables of Statutes, Statutory Instruments and Cases.

Clarity & readability

Both authors have written a large number of books and presented courses to practitioners over many years. They are experts at explaining complex issues in a most readable way. As we all know the law relating to Wills, settlements and tax is often demanding, dense and difficult but this book aids understanding and comprehension.

Relevance to practitioners

No practitioner worth their salt who drafts Wills, administers estates and trusts or recommends tax planning should be without this book. It will appeal to all those working in solicitor’s offices, practising at the Bar and in accountancy.

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