Probate Practitioner’s Handbook (9th edition)
£80, Law Society
The Probate Practitioner’s Handbook is now 30 years old and in its ninth edition. It is a mark of its utility that my copy is already home to a lot of sticky notes, flagging a useful section here or the answer to a particularly knotty problem there.
The handbook is helpfully divided into three principal sections (plus appendices), underlining how our work is very much a blend of the law, our professional obligations and day-to-day practicalities.
There are also key extracts from the Law Society Wills and Inheritance Protocol. In this age of specialisation, it is an important reminder that estate administration goes in tandem with the making of wills.
There are updated practice notes and invaluable checklists for the busy practitioner, together with updates on key changes affecting this area of practice. This includes new SRA rules and guidance, as well as the implications of the UK leaving the EU. Excellent use is made throughout of examples to elucidate points further.
The handbook is recent enough to contain advice for practitioners occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, including some of the nuances of the temporary permissions for remote witnessing of wills.
There is an illuminating appendix regarding the interaction of the ‘Golden Rule’ (which prioritises the assessment of mental capacity to make a will) with the solicitor’s duty to execute a will in a reasonable time. It is encouraging to see recognition of this tension and practical advice on navigating it delicately, amid the challenges of medical practitioners’ changing relations with their patients.
Clearly and concisely written with the realities of private client practice in mind, this is a valuable reference for solicitors’ firms undertaking probate and estate administration work.
Laura Pickett is a solicitor at Jeromes Solicitors, Sandown, Isle of Wight
Participation in Courts and Tribunals: Concepts, Realities and Aspirations
Jessica Jacobson and Penny Cooper
£40, Bristol University Press
This short book is a report on a research project into the effectiveness of participation by the public in judicial hearings. In this context participation means access to justice. The research involved 159 interviews and 300 hours of observation at criminal and family courts, and employment and immigration tribunals. I realise that the research could not cover all types of hearing venue but it is a shame that mental health and social entitlement tribunals were not included, as they deal with some of the most demanding cases.
It was not clear to me when the research was carried out, but it was probably before the pandemic. The conclusions from the research certainly do have considerable significance for the courts in the post-Covid world. As Sir Ernest Ryder states in his preface, the conclusions are central to any policy discussion or reform plans.
The book ends with the not entirely new point that effective participation by users is the essence of a fair and open system. This does not only refer to litigants and defendants but also to victims and witnesses.
The report has 10 pointers of what effective participation entails. Again, these may not be that surprising to practitioners. However what was revealed in the process of the research is interesting, as are comparisons with the approach of foreign jurisdictions to the issues.
Coronavirus forced everyone to review these matters in the context of a pre-Covid background of legal aid reductions and court closures. Virtual hearings were seen as part of the solution. There has been a varied response to use of technology and there are examples of excellent practice in effective participation.
David Pickup is a partner at Pickup & Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury