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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame Icon The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. In the United Kingdon, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for eight years. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.
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United Kingdom > East Anglia > Private client > Contentious trusts and probate > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Index of tables

  1. Contentious trusts and probate
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next generation lawyers

Leading individuals

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Next generation lawyers

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Who Represents Who

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The contentious trusts and probate practice at Birketts LLP is one of the few in the region to have a dedicated team of specialists working in this area of law. Commercial litigation partner Paul Matthews is the key contact and he draws on the 14 years' experience of ACTAPS member and senior associate Bernadette Baker who is recognised as a leader in her field. She recently advised the son of a deceased man who changed his will shortly before he died to change the division of property, which included a multimillion-pound farming business, between his children. Litigation associate Susannah Catchpole also plays a central role in the practice. She worked with Baker on a complex matter in which a firm of solicitors had failed to transfer a multimillion-pound property into a trust before the owner's death. The practice advised the deceased's daughter on tax mitigation strategies.

At Greene & Greene in Bury St Edmunds the advice is 'clear and concise'. 'The level of service is first-rate', according to one client who adds that 'the lawyers have a very thorough knowledge of litigation'. Another views the firm as having 'a standout East Anglian practice capable of carrying the fight to the best known London firms and winning'. In Michael Batty's litigation department the 'professional and diligent' Ben Fox  is a rising star who exhibits 'great attention to detail and is well organised, concerned for clients' welfare and shows considerable perseverance'. 'His strongest point is his determination to obtain an acceptable and satisfactory outcome for his client; he does not run out of steam', remarks one client. Consultant and ACTAPS member Kate Chandler 'has that instinctive insight into personalities that all top private client litigators need, along with a determination to see her clients through to the winning-post'. The recruitment of respected litigator Rob Adam from Ashtons Legal adds yet more experience to the practice. The firm recently advised on the removal of an executor from a multimillion-pound estate.

Hewitsons has 'a very competent team in this specialist area' and one barrister notes that 'the Cambridge office has a first-rate team that matches any specialist team in London'. Lucinda Brown, who leads the contentious trusts and probate practice and is a full member of ACTAPS, and senior solicitor and associate ACTAPS member Kate Harris are 'outstanding lawyers - efficient, knowledgeable and with a keen appreciation of an individual client’s problems in this difficult area of the law'. Brown's recent work included acting for private charitable trust in its defence of a claim under the Inheritance Act for reasonable financial provision brought by the widow of a deceased former Olympic rower. The case involved a property portfolio of farmland and residential property in Northamptonshire, and the practice secured a favourable settlement for the charity. Brown also acted for an adult child of a deceased man in her defence of a claim for reasonable financial provision from the estate by one of her sisters. The practice minimised the payment to the claimant.

Mills & Reeve LLP¬†is known for ‚Äėexcellent response times, in-depth knowledge of the UK legal system, timely advice and a pragmatic approach‚Äė. ACTAPS member¬†David Catchpole¬†leads the team from Norwich and concentrates purely on contentious trust and probate matters. Principal associate¬†Lucy Howard¬†is a rising star and clients comment on her 'excellent service, advice and attention to detail'. The practice¬†deals with disputes concerning the validity of wills, actions involving trustees and executors, claims under the Inheritance Act 1975 and related claims concerning lifetime transactions. Its clients consist of¬†high-net-worth individuals and estates, as well as¬†charities involved in contested legacy matters. Catchpole recently acted for the executors and trustees of a complex ¬£1m estate against which three claims were made.

Clients of¬†Buckles Solicitors LLP¬†report a ‚Äėdown-to-earth approach to giving legal advice‚Äė. The firm has ‚Äėa very substantive and multi-skilled practice that still maintains a friendly feel‚Äė. Mediator Paul Branch¬†has more than 30 years‚Äô litigation experience and is 'a highly effective lawyer who balances technical dispute resolution knowhow with pragmatic, sensitive realism; he can handle a highly emotional dispute with great care'. One barrister remarks that 'he¬†has an extremely sensible approach to litigation, he knows what arguments are going to impress judges, and he is a very calm and reassuring presence for clients'. ‚ÄėOpen and honest‚Äė senior solicitor Alex Burch¬†is 'a really sensible, hardworking and reliable operator, who is keen to achieve the best for the client'.

Clapham & Collinge Solicitors has a highly experienced practice head in 'efficient, professional and knowledgeable' partner Tammy Parnell, who has been handling litigation and family law for 15 years and has more recently become an associate member of ACTAPS. Litigation partner and mediator Philip Lumb has a broad practice that encompasses personal injury and clinical negligence cases alongside a growing caseload of contentious trusts and probate matters. Consultant Michael Olmer, who has more than 35 years' experience in this niche area of law, is able to handle cross-border cases involving European law, as well as matters under English law. Parnell and Lumb recently advised the beneficiary of a contested will on their entitlement, including the occupation of a property.

Tees Law¬†has 'excellent knowledge and a good team with a balanced ¬†but firm approach and a realistic outlook on the prospect of success'. ‚ÄėI was highly impressed with the quality of the service‚Äô, remarks a client of senior associate, ACTAPS member and higher court advocate Sara Stabler, adding that ‚Äėthe speed of response to emails suggested that she had no other clients and that this matter had her undivided attention; she was proactive in her dealings with the other parties and appeared to have a very good grasp of the litigation processes involved'. Stabler has spent more than 20 years handling contentious trusts and probate matters, and regularly receives referrals from leading chambers and well-respected law firms when conflicts arise. Her recent highlights include a probate and constructive trust dispute between children of a deceased father and his second wife concerning a high-value estate in which the children have raised a challenge to the will and a proprietary estoppel matter in respect to the transfer of a property.

Ashtons Legal lost its key partner Rob Adam to Greene & Greene in Bury St Edmunds, but it retains expertise in the area of contentious trusts and probate thanks to partner Polly Stephenson in Ipswich. She advises executors and trustees, claimants and defendants in matters relating to both small and multimillion-pound estates. She is currently acting for an executor in a claim against a carer who stole almost £350,000 from the deceased prior to death in an estate with a value of more than £1m. She is also handling a claim against the solicitor of a deceased person who used the money from the estate for his own purposes. Solicitor Bee Belby handles cases involving clients in the agricultural sector.

At Fosters, experienced litigation partner Chris Fielding has more than ten years' experience in this area of law and works closely with the firm's highly-rated private client team to handle a growing caseload for personal representatives and beneficiaries, as well as other litigants pursuing action against estates. He secured a favourable settlement in an £80,000 claim under the Inheritance Act for a client who was written out of the deceased’s provisions upon death only days before passing away, and he settled a complex dispute at mediation involving an estate with assets valued in excess of £1.5m. Another case saw him act for beneficiaries in a claim based on disputed allegations that the testator lacked testamentary capacity and was subjected to undue influence.

Contentious trust and probate matters are a key element of the litigation practice at Fraser Dawbarns, where head of dispute resolution Neil John is recommended. Associate Janet Lane plays a key role in the practice and she recently acted for a client claiming as both beneficiary and executrix of her father's will in a case concerning whether a gift comprised both property and land. The case settled shortly before trial. Lane also acted for a client with a beneficial interest in a property who ultimately received full value after its sale.

Leathes Prior has both a strong private client department and a bench of talented litigators, which combine to create a highly respected contentious trusts and probate practice. The firm frequently handles lack of testamentary capacity claims, challenges to wills, inheritance claims, claims against executors and matters involving undue influence or lack of knowledge and approval. The practice, which is led by talented litigator Darren Bowen, handles cases through negotiation as well as litigation. Newly promoted associate Sabina Haag, whose experience in property disputes is greatly valued in contested wills and probate cases, and solicitor Calum Paterson also play key roles in the practice.

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