Francis is a chancery practitioner with interests in the law of trusts, probate, tax, property, and insolvency. He has experience as sole counsel in the County Court and High Court, as well as in the First-Tier Tribunal tax and residential property chambers. He is also available to attend mediations.
Francis has a particular focus in private client work. He is a full member of STEP, a former consultant for the private client department at McDermott Will and Emery UK LLP, and taught trusts law to undergraduates for five years at UCL and Oxford (latterly as a lecturer at St Catherine’s College, Oxford).
Prior to joining chambers, Francis developed his advocacy skills working in HMRC’s insolvency technical team, appearing in bankruptcy petitions and other insolvency-related applications. He also spent three months seconded as the Judicial Assistant to Lady Justice
Arden (as she then was) in the Court of Appeal.
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 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 included the consequences of a testamentary gift to a non-existent NHS trust (raising issues of interpretation, rectification, cy-près, and the interaction of the doctrine of lapse with the legislation relating to foundation NHS trusts); claims under the 1975 Act; the content and timing of estate accounts; the validity of variations 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 advises and represents parties in respect of various issues arising in trusts law. Recent matters have included disputes over the validity of trusts, dispositions of subsisting equitable interests, 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 and proposed dispositions of equitable interests.
Equitable Principles and Remedies
Francis has advised and represented parties in relation to a range of 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.
Recent cases 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 by reason of 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)).