Estate of Edith Mary French (died 1900), 1910

Law Reports (1910) P 169 (14 March 1910)

[Legal notes] The original administrator of a deceased intestate disappeared and could not be traced. Fresh assets having become payable to the legal personal representative of the deceased and the next of kin, other than the original administrator, declining either to renounce or to apply for a grant, the Court revoked the original letters of administration which had been granted to the deceased’s brother, and made a fresh grant at the instance of a creditor.

EDITH MARY FRENCH, late of the Stone Asylum, near Aylesbury, in the County of Buckingham, died on December 12, 1900, a spinster, without parent and intestate, leaving a brother and two sisters of the whole blood and three sisters of the half blood, these last being under the age of twenty one years.

On July 10, 1901, the brother took a grant of letters of administration, and the personal estate being sworn under value 400l. gross value.

Within a year after taking the grant the said administrator, William [=Henry] Lewin French, disappeared, and all efforts to trace him had failed.  The last communication said to have been received by any member of the family was in May, 1902, when he wrote from an address in Dudley, Worcestershire, telling one of his sisters that he was leaving there shortly and that she was not to write to him until she heard from him again. Letters since addressed to him had been returned through the dead letter office.

By two orders dated respectively December 7, 1907, and July 28, 1908, made in an action in the Chancery Division for the administration of the estate of William Henry French, deceased, the father of Edith Mary French, two sums of 402l.2s and 116l.3s.10d. were directed to be paid to Henry Lewin French, as administrator of the estate of Edith Mary French deceased.

The solicitors who acted for the said administrator in the said Chancery proceedings stated that they had heard nothing of him since April, 1903, and they had handed over to the solicitors for the present applicants the letters of administration granted on July 10, 1901, to be dealt with as this Court might think fit.

The guardians of the poor of the Winslow Union claimed against the estate of Edith Mary French for her maintenance at the lunatic asylum at Stone from November 4, 1899, till her death, the said claim amounting to 25l.14s.9d. The only estate unadministered consisted of the before-mentioned sums in the Chancery Division.

Mr. William Norris Midgley, the clerk to guardians of the poor of the Winslow Union, now applied that the grant to the brother should be revoked, and that a fresh grant should be made to himself as the nominee of the said guardians, as creditors of the deceased’s estate.

The next of kin had declined to move in the matter or to renounce, and the solicitors or agents for the two sisters and for the natural guardian of the half-sisters of the deceased had been served with a notice of motion and had verbally intimated to the solicitors for the applicant that it was not their intention to intervene in any way and that the guardians must be left to take whatever course they might be advised.

Le Bas, in support of the motion.

(SIR SAMUEL EVANS, PRESIDENT. Is the practice correctly stated in Tristram and Coote’s Probate Practice 14th Ed. (1906), p.81? “The Court cannot revoke at the application of a creditor, whatever may be the merits of the case, because such creditor cannot demand a grant to be made to himself of immediate right.” The case there cited in support of the statement does not appear to be an authority for it.)

The accuracy of that proposition is very doubtful, but no reported authority against it can be produced to the Court at the moment. The case there cited as an authority, In the Goods of Bergman (1), has nothing whatever to do with it. As the next of kin in the present case will not do anything – they will neither renounce nor take a grant – it would be tantamount to a denial of justice and would create a complete deadlock if, because the holder of the outstanding grant cannot be found, the Court were to hold that the grant could not be revoked at the instance of a creditor of the deceased. In the estate of Ellen Saker (2), may be said to furnish some precedent for the present application.

SIR SAMUEL EVANS, PRESIDENT I see no reason, in principle, why creditors should be precluded from applying to revoke an existing grant : otherwise, as in the present instance, a deadlock in the administration of an estate might occur. The letters of administration granted in 1901 to the deceased’s brother will be revoked, and, upon the applicant filing evidence to the satisfaction of the registrar that he has been duly nominated by the guardians to act for them in this matter, he may take a fresh grant, as the nominee of the guardians.

Solicitors : Geo. Reader & Co. 
(1) (1842) 2 Notes of Cases, 22.  (2) (1909) P.233


Edith Mary or Mary Edith French was the daughter of W.H. French (d.1899) and had previously been a teacher. The case was recorded in the Law Reports because it set a precedent. The brother (whose name was Henry not William) had actually emigrated to the USA.

Copyright 29 September, 2020