Francis is a chancery barrister specialising in private client work. As of October 2020, he is the highest ranked barrister of his call in the Legal 500 for private client: trusts and probate. It is said of him that he ‘[h]as a very strategic mind which is very helpful in the lengthy and complex cases on which he is instructed. His advisory work is excellent and always very detailed – often raising issues which were not considered by the parties to date.’
Recent highlights from Francis’ practice include Clarke v Allen  EWHC 1193 (Ch) on rescission for equitable mistake and claims under the Inheritance Act, and re Cadogan  EWHC 1557 (Ch) on accounting on a footing of wilful default. He has a wide range of experience in both contentious and non-contentious private client matters as a former consultant to the private client department of McDermott Will & Emery UK LLP and having taught trusts law to undergraduates for five years (latterly as a college lecturer at St Catherine’s College, Oxford). He is a full member of STEP.
Francis is also experienced in tax, property and insolvency law. He has been appointed to the Attorney General’s C Panel of Junior Counsel to the Crown.
Trusts, Probate and Estates
Contentious and Non-Contentious Probate
Francis frequently represents parties in probate disputes. Recent matters have included trustee and executor removal, claims for accounts, disputes over will validity, and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Cases of note include:
- Re Magan  ChD unrep – application for interim account and interim injunction freezing the administration of an estate.
- Re Cadogan  EWHC 1577 (Ch) – a 3-day trial of a claim and counterclaim for accounts on a footing of wilful default between former administrators of an estate.
- Clarke v Allen and Smith  EWHC 1193 (Ch) and  EWHC 1994 (Ch)– a 3-day trial of claims to rescind a transfer for equitable mistake and for provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
- Thornton v Woodhouse  All ER (D) 114 (Apr),  EWHC 769 (Ch) (as junior counsel) – a 12-day probate trial in the High Court raising issues of knowledge and approval, probate undue influence, and executor-removal.
Francis’ advisory work has covered the law on interpreting wills, executorship de son tort, rectification of wills, charitable trusts and cy-près, directions under the Royal Sign Manual, the doctrine of lapse; claims under the 1975 Act; the content and timing of estate accounts; the effect of variations and disclaimers for IHT and CGT purposes; and the effect of grants of probate for the use and benefit of a minor.
Contentious and Non-Contentious Trusts
Francis has a wide range of experience on trusts matters. His advocacy and advisory work has included issues over the validity of trusts, rectification of trust instruments, validity and effects of dispositions of subsisting equitable interests, applications for re Benjamin orders, Public Trustee v Cooper applications, applications under TOLATA, trustee removal and replacement in and out of court, variations of trust, the duty to account, the proper allocation of income and capital to trust expenditure, and the proper interpretation of trusts deeds. He also advises on the tax treatment of trustees and beneficiaries. Cases of note include:
- Re Queenborough Club  ChD unrep – application by trustees for declarations that the club had dissolved and for re Benjamin orders authorising a scheme of distribution of assets.
- A v B  ChD unrep – application to replace a dissolved trustee company under s 41 Trustee Act 1925 and for an extra-territorial vesting order under s 56 Trustee Act 1925 raising issues over the law of bona vacantia in the British Virgin Islands.
Francis has advised and represented parties in a range of cases concerning equitable remedies including subrogation; resulting and constructive trusts; promissory estoppel; rescission for mistake, undue influence, and under the rule in re Hastings-Bass; proprietary estoppel; knowing receipt; and tracing. Cases of note include:
- Clarke v Allen and Smith  EWHC 1993 (Ch), in which Francis acted for the successful claimant in rescinding the voluntary transfer by the deceased of the £1.38m matrimonial home for mistake.
- Quay 430 Management Ltd v Li (FtT (PC) LON/00BG/LBC/2017/0014) in which Francis successfully argued that no declaration under s 168 Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 should be made in respect of breaches of covenant which were unactionable due to a promissory estoppel.
Francis completed his pupillage at a leading tax chambers and maintains an advisory and advocacy practice in those areas of taxation affecting his private client work. Recent cases include Yechiel v HMRC  All ER (D) 30 (Dec),  UKFTT 683 (TC), a case raising issues of main residence relief against capital gains tax, enhancement expenditure, and penalties for inaccurate returns.
Francis’ recent advisory work has covered the capital gains tax treatment of trusts and dispositions of equitable interests; the pre-owned assets tax and the gifts with reservation of benefit provisions; agricultural and business property reliefs; the application of the benefit-inkind rules to non-resident shadow directors; and the authorised surplus payments charge on pension trusts.
Francis regularly appears in bankruptcy and winding-up petitions. From his time with HMRC, he has particular experience in petitions raised by revenue authorities. Francis has also represented the National Crime Agency in numerous tax-related bankruptcy petitions.
Francis also acts and advises on insolvency-related applications. Recent cases have included applications for rescission; validation orders; claims under s 423 Insolvency Act 1986; and claims against directors for misfeasance under s 212 Insolvency Act 1986.
Francis is interested in all areas of real property, having taught the subject as a Teaching Fellow at UCL. He has acted in relation to boundary disputes, adverse possession, and disputes over rights of access and rights to light. He recently appeared in Bhardwaj v Royal Bank of Scotland plc  EWHC 340 (Ch), in which he advanced an argument that s 2 Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 rendered void a secured loan facility where the contract would have been void but-for an implied term. The judgment described Francis as having ‘presented it with great skill which I would like to acknowledge.’
Landlord and Tenant
Francis has appeared for and advised landlords and tenants in a wide variety of contentious and non-contentious matters. His experience covers assured and assured shorthold tenancies, secure tenancies, Rent Act 1977 protected tenancies, business and personal retail mortgages, Consumer Credit Act 1974 regulated mortgages, business tenancy renewal, and forfeiture of residential and business leases.
He has acted in cases raising various unusual issues in this area. These include Mussani v Brisset (2015 QB unrep) on whether a district judge purporting to set aside a High Court writ of possession was within the doctrine of de facto jurisdiction; Walcott v Jones  L&TR 11 on whether the rules in the Deregulation Act 2015 apply to contractual periodic tenancies originally established prior to 2015, and Quay 430 Management Ltd v Li (FtT (PC) LON/00BG/LBC/2017/0013 and 0014) on whether the FtT (PC) has jurisdiction to make a declaration of breach where an action for breach would have been time-barred or subject to a promissory estoppel.
Francis has also appeared in enfranchisement actions in the County Court and First-tier Tribunal. His cases have included Gregorio v Stacey (FtT (PC) LON/00AF/OCE/2015/0317), a two-day trial in which he successfully argued that one of two joint tenants could not unilaterally serve a valid notice under s 166 Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002.
‘“Common intention” constructive trusts arising from informal agreements to dispose of land’  Conveyancer and Property Lawyer 146 (with Toby Boncey).
‘Property Realised after Completion of an Individual Voluntary Arrangement’ (2016) 29(6) Insolvency Intelligence 92 (with Simon Jones).
‘Case Comment: re St Andrew’s (Cheam) Lawn Tennis Club Trust’  Trusts and Trustees 287 (with Toby Boncey).
‘The rule in Hastings-Bass, Mistake, and Tax Avoidance: Pitt v Holt and Futter v Futter’  British Tax Review 566.
‘HMRC’s Relationship with Business’ (2013) (a report produced by the Oxford Centre for Business Taxation (with Prof Judith Freedman and Dr John Vella)).