Book review: Executors, Administrators and Probate

Monday, 01 July 2013

In this edition, John Ross Martyn and Nicholas Caddick QC, editors, acknowledge the help of their colleagues at New Square Chambers and Hogarth Chambers. Indeed, no one could update this substantial work single-handedly. Every private client department should have a copy. Can the sole practitioner justify the purchase? The normal cost is GBP275 but, I have negotiated a special price for STEP members of GBP233.75: not bad for more than 1,800 pages of scholarly work (and less than some subscriptions for loose-leaf volumes).

The coverage is impressive. No byway of the law is untrodden: a practitioner wanting to know about a writ ne exeat regno will find that the procedure is not obsolete, having been employed as recently as 1969.

No one could update this work single-handedly. Every private client department should have a copy

The section on taxation of personal representatives is, as you might expect of lawyers rather than accountants, a discussion of the principles rather than a compendium of examples, but that discussion is up to date, examining, for example, the estate of the late Bernard Matthews (in more sober terms than were exercised by the national press).

Are you up to speed with the European Certificate of Succession? Here you will learn that certificates are not mandatory even in member states (which do not include the UK) that have adopted the succession regulation, but that a European Certificate does involve presumptions that may assist personal representatives in the UK. However, even for EU member states that have adopted the regulation, the certificate is not an automatic document of title.

First-time buyers will want to know what this work covers. Part 1 deals with jurisdiction and capacity, action before a grant of representation and when such a grant is needed. Part 2 deals with getting a grant of probate, in its various forms, and matters (which no doubt trouble students on the STEP Advanced Certificate in Will Preparation) such as formal validity and substantial validity of wills, their revocation, revival, privileged wills and the like. There is a corresponding discussion of total or partial intestacy and the forms of grant available to administrators. The work then examines the whole of non-contentious probate practice and all the different applications and limited, special and discretionary grants that are available, as well as searches, caveats, applications and costs.

Next comes a review of contentious probate with a very detailed and helpful discussion of pre-trial procedure and case management leading to trial and the inevitable issue of costs.

The rest of the book reviews issues after grant, what property vests in the personal representative, how chattels and other assets are dealt with, and the many issues that arise in the administration of assets. Throughout there is appropriate reference to the foreign element. Sections deal with family provision practice, administration actions and claims, both by and against the personal representative. In the portion on administration and other actions, readers can refresh their knowledge of ademption, satisfaction, election, marshalling, abatement, etc. It is all here. There is a discussion of the rules of equitable apportionment, as well as a reminder of the rules of distribution on intestacy.

The appendices include many relevant statutes, rules and orders. One sets out means-tested benefits and tax credits, complementing the earlier  discussion of those benefits and tax credits that may affect the estate and family of a deceased person.

I found only one proofing error: paragraph 55-06 – impressive in such a large work. The 70-page index is fairly complete, though it helps to have an idea what you are looking for.

At the discounted price, this is good value. Buy it: you may well save the cost of instructing counsel!

Publisher: Sweet & Maxwell
ISBN: 978-04140-24342
Price: GBP275
STEP member price: GBP233.75 (go to and log in to receive your discount)

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Toby Harris

Toby Harris TEP is a member of STEP Norwich and Norfolk branch and represented the taxpayer before the Upper Tribunal.

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