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Book Review: Seddon on Deeds Print E-mail

book_seddon_on_deeds_1.jpgAuthor: Nicholas Seddon

Publisher: The Federation Press

Reviewed by Dan Butler

‘“Get a life” responded some of my friends when I said I had embarked on a legal text on deeds.  In good humour, this is how the Preface to Seddon on Deeds begins.

However, textbooks dealing with this topic are few in number and well worn. Seddon on Deeds is, therefore, a welcome addition. It is clear, concise, as well as being well written and organised.

Rules surrounding deeds are intricate, with sometimes surprising results. The text explores the things that can, and do, go wrong when using a deed rather than a contract.

It is divided into seven chapters and begins by considering the use of deeds, including, perhaps most significantly, the circumstances in which a deed is required (the author’s conclusion: not often) (chapter 1). Chapter 2 is the largest chapter and addresses the intricate question of execution. Chapter 3 deals with the critical requirement of delivery which, as the author notes, is difficult because it involves ascertaining a state of mind, namely, an intention to be immediately bound. It also considers the delayed effect that can be given to a deed by escrow.

Alteration and variation is the focus of chapter 4. Not surprisingly, it discusses the rule in Pigot’s case - that an alteration by one party to the text of a deed, after it has been executed, renders the whole deed void. Interestingly, Pigot’s case celebrated its 400th birthday in 2014.

Chapter 5 then considers interpretation, including the special rules of construction that apply to deeds of release, and the important role played by recitals in that context. Who can enforce deeds, and the remedies available upon enforcement, are addressed in chapter 6. Finally, chapter 7 deals with discharge and, in particular, the various ways that a deed may cease to operate.

The Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG perhaps summed up the book best when he observed, in his foreword for the text:

“This book explores a little corner of our legal history. It demonstrates its continuing operation - popping up unexpectedly with unforeseen consequences. Every lawyer who uses the magic formulae “signed, sealed and delivered” (or their modern equivalents) needs to pause to reflect on the legal history that has endured for a millennium. It still has consequences. And every lawyer who uses a deed needs to know them and to weigh their advantages and dangers.”

Totalling 248 pages, Seddon on Deeds is available at $135 direct from the publisher. It would be a useful addition to any chambers’ library.

Dan Butler

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