Avoiding the Costly Nonsense of Contentious Probate

My wages are paid by persons of all professions and vocations. A sizeable cohort of my clientele is in retirement.

The other day I delighted in the company of school teachers and education administrators. These folk were of talent and passion of the height and style that make them persons you’d want in charge of your children’s education and pastoral guidance.

Many had left the public sector. They left in a wave. Just like the moon causes the tides, this wave was birthed by one gentleman. He’d been promoted beyond his abilities. Shaking their heads in despair, they remarked it was the Peter Principle made flesh. This over-promoted fellow had been head honcho at the Department of Education. The tragedy is that this chap, like a fart trapped under a duvet, lingers in Her Majesty’s Government, albeit in another ministry. We’re doomed!

He still propagates his special brand of madcap notions, allied with scant planning and gilded with the style of execution one should expect if my cousin Bernhard cooked Christmas lunch. My cousin Bernhard is blind. He’s been so since birth.

This minister presides over all his ministries with the air of someone who, when their house is on fire, goes about casually re-arranging the bookshelves and adjusting the curtains. As the grand fromage at the education ministry, he displayed a feckless fondness for fondling the curriculum.

‘This is what I say to everybody: let the important people know there’s a will, let them know what’s in it, let them know where to find it.’


It would be to no profit to seek my opinion on the curriculum, but I’ve heard many say there’s a place for Dickens on the syllabus. I’ve no experience or training in pedagogy, so, I, not unlike you, wish no part of this narrow, specialist discussion.

It’s a thing of wisdom to leave such matters to experts. Like you, I ne’er tire of experts.

My Two Penn’orth

But it would be rude to fail to voice a view when asked. And mine is that Dickens is still most relevant.

There’s something about Charles Dickens’s ninth novel. You might recall the inheritance court case at its core, Jarndyce and Jarndyce. I, with swiftness, will enumerate a few of the broad range of characters, starting with Richard, whose frustration at his entanglement with the lawsuit wears him to death. We recall the pompous Sir Leicester Dedlock – I always found it remarkable his name was so spelt – and the coldly calculating lawyer Tulkinghorn. Finally, it would be neglectful, bordering on the criminal to omit Grindley and Miss Flite who are both ruined by the Court of Chancery. The case went on , and on, to the joy of the lawyers, who saw it a gift – to be grasped with both hands rather than examining the mouth of the horse bearing it. The words from the book are: ‘…the various solicitors in the cause, some two or three of whom have inherited it from their fathers, who made a good fortune by it…’

Had Charles JH Dickens, by some manner of magic awoken from some serious slumber and emerged in our times, he’d recognise all of which he wrote.

Bleak House Revisited

Meet my new friend Zoe Symonds. Zoe is Head of English at an independent school of which you’ve most certainly heard. She has a doctorate in the works of Dickens.

Most clients approach me with the object of prevention. They are aware of the possibility of anguish, distress and burdensome expense concomitant upon not treating their inheritance as if it were important. Most want to prevent this. Hence, most approach me for prophylaxis.

You know as I do, the superiority of prevention to cure.  Alas, the good doctor, in need of a cure, collapsed in my arms in despair. She’d been at the rough end of an inheritance dispute. The case had gone past two summers, and the health of all participants had been harmed by the farrago of the case. She totted up all the cash she’d shelled out on this misadventure. By her spreadsheet, she’d laid out as much as she took home in the last year.

Yet three hours past our introduction to each other, her face was wreathed in smiles. She no longer looked as if she were her mother’s twin. Now, she looked her tender years.  We’d cracked the case. Thirty-three days after our first meeting, all was done and dusted. Not to bang my own drum, but all parties got nearly, very nearly, all they wanted.

Dr Symonds enquired: ‘How could this mess, this mountain of costly nonsense have been avoided?’

For some reason I fail to recognise, I mustered a conspiratorial tone, and responded: ‘This is what I say to everybody: let the important people know there’s a will, let them know what’s in it, let them know where to find it.’