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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 > South West > 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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Burges Salmon LLP has β€˜very impressive resources’ and is β€˜highly competent, capable of dealing with large and complex cases’. The contentious trusts team, jointly led by Kevin Kennedy and Justin Briggs, advises a large number of individual and corporate trustees, trust managers and beneficiaries in contentious trusts matters. Recent instructions include advising on a multimillion-pound proprietary estoppel claim, and representing the trustees of a landed estate in a claim under the Inheritance Act, also handling the subsequent settlement arrangement. Kennedy is β€˜extremely efficient and is an excellent tactical thinker’; Briggs and Suzanne Padmore are highly regarded commercial trusts litigators, particularly in pension disputes; Sian Edmunds is a leading food, agriculture and agri-business specialist, and is β€˜particularly good at guiding clients through complex and difficult situations’; Maddie Dunn is β€˜intelligent and thorough’. All individuals from the team split their time between the Bristol and London offices.

Foot Anstey provides advice across the whole spectrum of private client issues for high-net-worth individuals, corporate trustees and national charities including Scope, Age UK and Dogs Trust. It regularly works with its real estate and private client groups, and leverages its expertise in the agriculture sector to handle complex disputes. The team recently handled a number of will validity claims, a proprietary estoppel claim, claims against executors as well as trustees, and a number of legacy disputes. Recently promoted partner Lucy Gill has a solid track record in advising charities in relation to legacy disputes. Senior associate Alex Rogers, associate Emma Facey and property litigator Edward Venmore are also recommended. Legacy specialist Helen Hoare joined as a consultant from Age UK in 2016.

Royds Withy King combines a β€˜proactive approach in seeking to resolve disputes’ with β€˜a high level of expertise’. The practice has strong expertise in handling will validity claims, trustee disputes, applications to the Court of Protection in mental capacity matters and Inheritance Act claims. Amanda Noyce is β€˜an extremely competent and dedicated lawyer who adopts a pragmatic approach to achieve great outcomes for her clients’. She is supported by Mike Muston, who β€˜gives excellent and fair advice’ and is β€˜very capable of mediating matters by himself without the input of counsel’.

Stephens Scown LLP is, according to one client, β€˜amongst the very best in the South West and compares favourably with similar national teams’. Its strength lies in the β€˜real specialist knowledge and strength in depth which it uses to good effect to get great results’. It has a long established contentious probate team (with offices in St Austell, Exeter and Truro) composed of β€˜well-respected, experienced and dedicated’ lawyers who β€˜provide an excellent service’. The group recently defended a challenge to the validity of a will on behalf of the executor and principal beneficiary, challenged a number of Inheritance Act claims, and acted in a Β£2m High Court proprietary estoppel case. Within the inheritance and trust disputes team, Phil Gregory is β€˜a big hitter who guides the larger cases’, β€˜a wonderful litigator who has a very tough approach, but never at the expense of appreciating the bigger picture’; newly promoted partner Charisse Crawford is β€˜very thoughtful about strategy and tactics for long running cases, both big and small’, and has β€˜experience, charm and excellent legal skills’; St Austell-based Davina Haydon β€˜works tirelessly for her clients’; senior associate James Burrows is β€˜a very sharp analyst and skilled litigator’; and Exeter-based Georgia Wookey has β€˜all the skills to be a future star’.

Combining β€˜a prompt service’ and β€˜excellent communication’ with a β€˜professional yet personal approach’, VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards) is noted for its ability at β€˜handling complex and high value cases’, including cross-border disputes as well as testamentary capacity and professional negligence claims. Michelle Rose heads the β€˜very strong’ team, which β€˜focuses on getting a resolution in a timely way’ and is β€˜just the sort of champion the client wants to resolve the dispute’. She was, alongside estate administration expert Mary McCrorie, appointed by the court as independent administrator in a complex and deadlocked estate dispute. The team also includes two highly recommended senior associates: Fiona Lawrence, who is β€˜able to clearly and succinctly define the boundaries of a problem, inspiring confidence in the accuracy of her conclusions’, and Marianne Nankervis, who is β€˜experienced and gives robust and practicable advice’. In 2016, the group represented a wealthy landowner in professional negligence proceedings against two legal service providers for the defective drafting of a deed, and handled several proprietary and multimillion-pound Inheritance Act claims.

Wilsons has substantial experience in the charity sector, acting for household names and smaller local concerns alike. James Aspden specialises in trust and probate disputes including those pertaining to the Inheritance Act, international trusts, undue influence, the validity and effect of wills, and actions by or against trustees of landed estates. Aspden regularly acts for clients in mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Recent highlights include assisting with an application to remove and replace the trustees of a landed estate and challenging the validity of a will on the basis of the testator having lost mental capacity. The eight-strong team is spread across Salisbury and London and includes Fiona Campbell-White, who specialises in disputes arising during the course of the administration of trusts and estates, Peter Jeffreys, who has particular expertise in dealing with cases of probate fraud for charities, and Charlotte Watts, who is noted for her experience in handling proceedings in the Court of Protection including statutory will applications.

Ashfords LLP’s Tiverton-based contentious trusts and probate team β€˜competes on a national level’ and is β€˜particularly strong in farming disputes’. It advises a broad range of clients including trust corporations, charities and high-net-worth individuals. Practice head Robert Horsey is β€˜an authoritative and experienced lawyer’ who has β€˜excellent client management skills’, β€˜acting constructively and powerfully for his clients’. Kerry Morgan-Gould is β€˜an experienced, pro-active, detail-orientated and tenacious litigator’ who is particularly experienced in capacity issues and in representing national charities in relation to legacy disputes. The team recently acted for the executors of a substantial estate in claims made against it, and advised the son and granddaughter of the deceased in a claim against the deceased’s daughter challenging the validity of the deceased’s last will. It also regularly represents claimants and defendants in high value Inheritance Act claims. Other areas of expertise include acting on professional negligence claims relating to estates and trusts, and handling contentious Court of Protection matters.

Clarke Willmott LLP has considerable clout in trusts disputes with particular strengths in representing agricultural and landed estate clients in proprietary estoppel claims as well as acting for vulnerable adults. Taunton-based Esther Woolford heads the seven-strong team, and specialises in agricultural and contentious probate matters. Senior associate Daniel Gill is recommended for his ability to provide β€˜pragmatic and focussed advice that always serves the specific needs of each client well’. Associate Sarah O’Grady is β€˜a standout’, noted for her β€˜good legal analysis and negotiation skills’ as well as her β€˜ability to deal with and defuse fraught situations, showcasing real grit and determination in progressing litigation against uncooperative opponents’. Recent highlights include acting for a surviving spouse in a mutual wills dispute concerning a multimillion-pound estate and representing the executors of an estate facing three Inheritance Act claims, the latter case also involving allegations of maladministration.

Lester Aldridge LLP has a strong profile representing charities, care homes, families and private clients in contentious estate administrations, will as well as trust disputes, and, increasingly, contentious Court of Protection matters. Practice head Victoria Jones specialises in handling charity legacy protection issues, cases involving vulnerable adults and matters relating to the Mental Capacity Act. Oliver Phipps specialises in probate with a particular focus on the administration of estates with assets located in multiple jurisdictions. Charities including the British Heart Foundation and the Stroke Association are also clients. Geoff Thomas retired in April 2017.

Michelmores LLP’s value for money is β€˜excellent’; it advises across the entire spectrum of private client issues and acts for a broad range of clients including executors, beneficiaries, claimants, defendants and charities. β€˜The firm keeps you involved in determining the strategy and never overreaches itself, recognising where it is appropriate for it to step back and allow the client to retake control of matters’. Clients also choose the firm because of its β€˜understanding of the client’s needs and its capability of providing strategic guidance’. Group head Tony Cockayne β€˜works really hard for his clients’ – β€˜he tries to cover all angles, the legal and the practical’, β€˜seeks feedback during negotiations to make sure of client satisfaction and engagement throughout’, β€˜gives pragmatic advice’ and β€˜really goes into battle to get the best outcome’. Senior associate Barny Croft is β€˜well experienced and sensitive where dealing with a vulnerable client’, drawing on his β€˜depth of knowledge’ to β€˜provide a superb all round level of service’. Bristol-based Miles Farren focuses on advising agriculture sector clients while recently promoted partner Jennifer Ridgway is recommended for trust disputes.

Devon and Cornwall-based firm Coodes Solicitors is experienced in will and inheritance disputes and challenging the validity of wills. Colin Hunter heads the personal disputes team from its St Austell office, handling a wide range of contentious trusts and probate disputes including acting on behalf of either claimants or defendants in Inheritance Act claims, professional negligence claims relating to contentious probate matters, proprietary estoppel claims, undue influence cases and all manner of contentious issues surrounding estate administration. Truro-based Melanie Grose and Penzance-based associate Ben Sidgwick are also key contacts.

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP acts for individuals and executors as well as a number of local charities. The team is led by the β€˜very commercial and pragmatic’ Lauren Day and also includes Victoria Riddleston, who is β€˜an excellent, clear-thinking litigator whose advice to clients is thorough but readily intelligible’. The group has notable experience in advising on Inheritance Act claims, professional negligence claims, proprietary estoppel claims, will validity disputes and, increasingly, Court of Protection matters.

Humphreys & Co. is β€˜a small but highly effective’ firm that is β€˜a real player in Bristol and punches above its weight beyond’. The β€˜vastly experienced’ Philip Siddons β€˜gets to the nub of the case fast, adopting a pragmatic and commercial approach’. He recently acted for a trustee in the investigation of potential negligence and Inheritance Act claims, also handling in this matter the investigation of claims of misconduct and devastavit by trustees.

Porter Dodson LLP’s contentious probate team is based in its Taunton office but acts for a regional client base that covers Somerset and Dorset, counties across which the firm has eight offices. It represents individuals and executors on contentious trust and probate matters. β€˜Excellent problem solver’ Stephen Wray is β€˜an experienced commercial and private client litigator’ who β€˜understands the law but also appreciates the client’s needs’, β€˜bringing a commercial eye to complicated trusts and probate disputes’. Solicitor Cara Hough is β€˜an extremely thorough, competent and practical practitioner’ who β€˜goes the extra mile to achieve the best result’. The team’s recent instructions include handling disputes over the validity of lifetime gifts, financial provision claims under the Inheritance Act, undue influence claims, and acting for the executors in respect of claims against an estate.

Slee Blackwell’s team mainly acts for individuals on disputes concerning the validity of wills, claims under the Inheritance Act and disputes involving beneficiaries and executors, with 2016 seeing the group acting in a number of mediated settlements. Newly promoted partner Naomi Ireson is β€˜knowledgeable, experienced and thorough’, also noted for her β€˜exemplary’ attention to detail. Her areas of expertise also include beneficial interest claims involving estoppel and constructive trusts. Lee Dawkins, who has notable experience in handling inheritance disputes and professional negligence claims, is a further name to note.

At Dorset-based firm Steele Raymond LLP, John Andrews has notable experience in dealing with contentious trust and probate matters and related professional negligence claims, as well as Inheritance Act claims. He also has solid expertise in acting in proceedings before the Court of Protection. Sue Adams, who handles both contentious and non-contentious trust and probate issues, is another name to note.

Trowers & Hamlins LLP’s Exeter office handles the whole spectrum of contentious private clients matters. It leverages its strong real estate sector expertise, acting in claims against solicitors arising out of the negligent transfer of property and representing claimants against surveyors in negligent survey disputes. Recent instructions also include disputes relating to the Inheritance Act, professional negligence, challenges to executors, removal of executors and trustees, proprietary estoppel, and the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act. Paul Keeling is an established litigation practitioner who advises clients with substantial estates, also handling disputes involving joint ownership of land. His deep experience β€˜gives him a balanced judgment and assured manner’. Court of Protection expert Maria Dunn is another name to note.

Wards Solicitors is singled out for its β€˜excellent service’ and its β€˜extremely diligent team’, which displays β€˜a firm but unaggressive style’ and demonstrates β€˜willingness to find solutions through alternative dispute resolution when it is possible to do so’. Practice head Elizabeth Fry is β€˜very thorough and always keeps the client informed as to what is going on’. She acts in contested Court of Protection applications and Inheritance Act disputes. Her recent highlights include acting for a client on both a claim relating to a constructive trust under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 and a proprietary estoppel claim. Within the five-strong team, Ian Williamson is β€˜a very astute lawyer and litigator’ who β€˜genuinely invests his efforts in trying to get the best results for clients over and above generating fees’, and associate solicitor Emma Kerry is β€˜very good with clients and prepares clear and concise instructions’. Kerry has experience in handling undue influence challenges to the validity of wills.

Willans LLP has a well-established private client team which is praised for its β€˜personable and friendly approach’. It advises individuals, executors and beneficiaries, including landed estate clients and high-net-worth individuals, and is noted for its judicious use of alternative dispute resolution. It acted for a potential beneficiary in a challenge to the validity of the will of his deceased mother on the basis of capacity, lack of knowledge and approval and possible undue influence, also acting in several Inheritance Act claims. Paul Gordon is β€˜a proper hard-nosed litigator’ who is β€˜very good at the details and managing client expectations’. Senior associate Nick Southwell is a recommended mediator.

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