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.

Francis has a particular interest in private client work. He is a full member of STEP, a former consultant in the private client department at McDermott Will and Emery UK LLP, and has previously been seconded to the private client department of William Sturges LLP. He also spent five years teaching trusts law to undergraduates 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 as a Judicial Assistant to Lady Justice Arden in the Court of Appeal.

  • Trusts, Probate and Estates

    Francis advise and represents on various issues arising in trusts law, including the validity of dispositions of subsisting equitable interests, 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 and validity of trust deeds and instruments. He also advises on the tax treatment of trustees and beneficiaries.

     

    Francis also frequently advises and acts on probate matters. He recently appeared as junior counsel in Thornton v Woodhouse [2017] EWHC 769 (Ch), a twelve-day probate trial in the High Court raising issues of knowledge and approval, probate undue influence, and executor-removal. He is currently instructed on his own in Clarke v Allen and Smith, a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 raising issues over the anti-avoidance provisions and their interaction with the equitable doctrine of mistake currently listed for a five-day trial in the High Court. Francis has also been instructed in High Court applications for an executors’ inventory and account, applications to remove executors, and applications concerning executors de son tort.

    Francis’ recent 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; the effect of grants of probate for the use and benefit of a minor; and beneficiaries’ rights against an executor de son tort.

    Francis has also 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.

  • Tax

    Having completed his pupillage at a leading tax chambers and previously worked as a research assistant in the Oxford Centre for Business Taxation, Francis maintains an advisory and advocacy practice in all areas of taxation, with an emphasis on private client work. His 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-in-kind rules to non-resident shadow directors; and the income tax treatment of pension trusts. He recently appeared in Yechiel v HMRC, an appeal in the First-tier Tribunal concerning the availability of main residence relief against capital gains tax, enhancement expenditure, and penalties for inaccurate returns.

  • Insolvency

    Francis regularly appears for parties in bankruptcy and winding-up petitions. From his time working in HMRC’s insolvency technical team, 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.

  • Real Property

    Francis is interested in all areas of real property, having taught the subject as a Teaching Fellow at University College London. He has acted in relation to boundary disputes, adverse possession, and disputes over rights of access and rights to light. He recently appeared in the High Court in Bhardwaj v Royal Bank of Scotland plc [2017] 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 [2018] 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.

     

  • Notable Cases

    Probate

    Re Cadogan [2019] EWHC 1577 (Ch) – 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 [2019] EWHC 1193 (Ch) and [2019] EWHC 1994 (Ch) – 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 [2017] All ER (D) 114 (Apr), [2017] EWHC 769 (Ch) (as junior counsel) – 12-day probate trial in the High Court raising issues of knowledge and approval, probate undue influence, and executor-removal.

    Property

    Bhardwaj v Royal Bank of Scotland plc [2017] EWHC 340 (Ch) (as junior counsel) –appeal concerning the validity of an agreement to enter into loan facilities secured on residential property. Francis argued that the agreements were void for uncertainty due to lack of a repayment date and that no date could be implied because the contract would then not be ‘made in writing’ within the meaning of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989.

    Tax

    Yechiel v HMRC [2018] All ER (D) 30 (Dec), [2018] UKFTT 683 (TC), a case raising issues of main residence relief against capital gains tax, enhancement expenditure, and penalties for inaccurate returns

    Insolvency

    National Crime Agency v Lynch (ChD, unrep 2016) – case concerning whether the National Crime Agency could forfeit criminal property and later present a bankruptcy petition in respect of tax on the income represented by that property.

    Landlord and Tenant

    Walcott v Jones [2018] L&TR 11 – case concerning whether a contractual periodic tenancy starting in 2007 could nevertheless come within the new rules relating to s 21 notices introduced under the Deregulation Act 2015.

    Quay 420 Freehold Ltd v Li (FtT (PC), LON/00BG/LBC/2017/0013 & 0014) – trial of an application for declarations of breach under s 168 CLRA 2002, raising legal issues over the interaction of that provision with the Limitation Act 1980 and the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

    Gregorio v Stacey (FtT (PC), LON/00AF/OCE/2015/0317) –  two-day enfranchisement trial involving expert valuation evidence, and numerous legal issues including whether a single joint tenant could unilaterally serve a valid notice under s.166 CLRA 2002.

  • Publications

    ‘“Common intention” constructive trusts arising from informal agreements to dispose of land’ [2017] 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’ [2014] Trusts and Trustees 287 (with Toby Boncey).

    ‘The rule in Hastings-Bass, Mistake, and Tax Avoidance: Pitt v Holt and Futter v Futter’ [2013] 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)).