Francesca’s practice relating to Wills and Estates has developed since the early 1990s when she resumed independent practice and was for a time based in Exeter as well as London. She had a good deal of experience at that time of assisting in the reduction of inheritance tax liabilities via deeds of variation, often but not necessarily involving charitable gifts and/or agricultural property. She has always preferred a plain drafting style and aims to ensure that wills, deeds and other documents should be capable of being understood by those asked to sign them. Over the years she has dealt with (and helped to settle) a number of claims for family provision, and contested charitable gifts. She has also frequently advised executors and potential beneficiaries on the interpretation of wills and trust deeds and from time to time advised or represented clients in matters involving the Court of Protection.
Whilst the great majority of her reported cases relate to charities, she acted for the husband in Fuller v Evans (2000).
In that case the court decided that it was in order for a divorcing husband to allow his discretionary trust to be used to meet his obligation to pay his children’s school fees under an order made in the Family Division even though the trust deed prevented the trust fund being applied for his benefit as settlor and it could be argued that technically the payment of the fees benefited the husband by relieving him of his obligation under the order.
Among her unreported cases involving litigation, matters of particular interest included a testamentary gift of a large sum of money to an Oxford College for a specific purpose which was initially thought to be impracticable, and the devolution of the estate of a successful milkman who had left his substantial estate on protective trusts to his reclusive progeny. In all these cases an application to the High Court was only required because one or more of the parties was unable to give consent to the agreement which had been negotiated.
A recent case which was eventually resolved satisfactorily without litigation concerned the gift by will of an undefined piece of farmland for use as a nature reserve where there was also a valuation question stemming from the occupation of the farmhouse rent free by the testatrix’s former companion.
Francesa is recommended by the directories as a leading barrister for Traditional Chancery and Education and as a Star Individual for Charity law. Editorial has included the following comments: