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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

Editorial

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Index of tables

  1. Contentious trusts and probate
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Rising stars

Rising stars

  1. 1

Ashfords LLP assists with the challenging of wills, provides advice on mental capacity issues regarding the formulation of wills, and has expertise in implementing the removal and addition of executors and trustees. The practice is also experienced in cross-border disputes regarding the validity of marriages and wills. Senior associate Barny Croft, who joined from Michelmores LLP in May 2018, specialises in contentious trusts, probate and estates.

Practice head(s):Robert Horsey

Other key lawyers:Kerry Morgan-Gould; Barny Croft

Testimonials

'The team is pleasant and professional in its approach and focused on solutions that benefit the client'

'A great team to work with'

'Robert Horsey instils his ethos and professionalism through the team. He remains an excellent practitioner in this field'

Work highlights

  • Advising on the removal of executors in a dispute due to physical and mental acts of violence.
  • Advising on the nature and extent of beneficiaries’ interests under a will.
  • Advising on a cross-border claim including the interpretation of the will.
  • Challenging a will on grounds of lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence and fraudulent calumny.
  • Advising on a £600,000 dispute regarding property.

Burges Salmon LLP combines expertise in trusts and personal tax litigation with experience in pensions litigation. The practice advises on private wealth disputes with pension-related aspects, contentious estoppel arrangements, disputes between trustees and contentious questions concerning inheritance and succession planning. The client base of joint practice heads Kevin Kennedy and Justin Briggs includes high-net-worth individuals and owners of landed estates, including traditional farming families as well as members of the aristocracy and the landed gentry.

Practice head(s):Kevin Kennedy; Justin Briggs

Other key lawyers:Sian Edmunds; Caroline Emslie

Testimonials

'A team that has the qualities of the leading London firms, but less pricey and with more hands-on attention at partner level'

'Sian Edmunds is a really excellent litigator. She is tactically astute and prepared to have a scrap, but is also alive to the benefits of mediation and ADR'

Work highlights

  • Advises five adult siblings of deceased parents in the successful defence of their brother’s proprietary estoppel claim for ownership of a significant part of their parents' £10m estate.
  • Advising on the realisation of UK assets previously owned by a deceased individual, in the face of a claim for beneficial entitlement from the deceased’s former wife.
  • Advising a beneficiary of a trust in a claim against the trustee regarding funds allegedly paid away from the trust improperly.

Foot Anstey advises on a wide range of contentious trusts and probate matters, including claims relating to the construction and validity of wills and trust documents, inheritance act claims, disputes involving executors and trustees, as well as trust variation applications, proprietary estoppel and claims relating to disputed lifetime transactions that affect the value of the respective estate or trust. The practice’s client base involves high-net-worth individuals and families, trust corporations and charities.

Practice head(s):Lucy Gill

Other key lawyers:Alexandra Rogers; Emma Facey

Work highlights

  • Defending the validity of the last will of a high-net-worth individual.

Michelmores LLP advises high-net-worth individuals and wealthy family members as executors, beneficiaries and trustees on a wide range of disputes involving wills, trusts, probates and legacies. The firm’s work includes the assortment of will validity claims, administration disputes as well as estoppel claims. Practice had Tony Cockayne, who is 'recommended for his professionalism, vigour and integrity', is a charity expert and advises private clients on contentious trust matters with international connections.

Practice head(s):Tony Cockayne

Other key lawyers:Jennifer Ridgway; Sara Chisholm-Batten; Jane Swannell; Alice Daniels; Jasmine Davis

Testimonials

'The Michelmores team is thoughtful, responsive and spends time listening to what clients actually need and want before suggesting creative solutions. They also give good value'

'The team is hard-working and professional at all times. It focuses on executable strategies and is not distracted by manoeuvres of their opponents'

'The advice I received graduated towards an agreed solution - at no time did I feel that I was being led into an area that had not been discussed'

'Tony Cockayne is always strategically insightful and is one of those lawyers who makes himself available to clients rather than hiding behind layers of support staff'

'Disputed wills and trusts solicitor Jasmine Davis is enthusiastic and knowledgeable'

Key Clients

Cancer Research UK

Work highlights

  • Acting for one of two siblings in relation to a dispute regarding the validity of the late father’s will and conduct of one of the siblings as an executor.
  • Advising two charities on the disposal of a high-profile gift of land with development potential and national interest and significance.
  • Defending a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 worth in excess of £1.3m involving three generations and a portfolio of investment properties.
  • Advising on a dispute involving a family business with international assets worth over £10m, which is subject of two historic will trusts and an estate
  • Advising on a dispute centred around multiple conflicting claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Royds Withy King's practice covers a wide range of disputed wills and contentious trusts claims. 'Incredibly industrious' practice head Amanda Noyce handles tax disputes, negligence actions regarding tax advisers, proprietary estoppel claims, inheritance disputes and applications to the Court of Protection in mental capacity matters. Clients involve high-net-worth families and individuals, including farming families, trustees and elderly clients with decreasing mental capacity.

Practice head(s):Amanda Noyce

Other key lawyers:Calum Campbell; Mike Muston

Testimonials

'Royds Withy King has an unrivalled level of experience'

'Amanda Noyce has a wealth of experience in her field and adopts a pragmatic approach to litigation. She has an excellent manner with clients'

Work highlights

  • Defending a proprietary estoppel claim in relation to a farm valued at £8.5m.
  • Advising on the administration of the parents’ $100m estates.
  • Advising in relation to a family dispute concerning a gift purportedly made in 2010 by the mother.
  • Advising on the removal of executors and trustees concerning the estates of the grandmother.
  • Defending in proceedings against the client to recover inheritance tax and the value of assets allegedly misappropriated by the client from the deceased’s estate.

VWV has expertise in lifetime transaction disputes, disputes regarding the legal and financial duties of executors and trustees, and professional negligence claims in respect to will drafting. The firm’s client base includes high-net-worth individuals and business clients, wealthy families, charities and celebrities. The practice is led by Michelle Rose, who 'consistently searches for new ways to lead the legal battle', while senior associate Fiona Lawrence has experience of cross-border probate and trust litigation.

Practice head(s):Michelle Rose

Other key lawyers:Marianne Nankervis; Fiona Lawrence; Sally Rushton; Julia Hardy

Testimonials

'Enquiries are answered promptly and efficiently without the client being left in the dark'

'VWV is a market leader and competes on even terms with major London players in the marketplace'

'The firm is characterised by doggedness and efficiency'

'Michelle Rose is knowledgeable, competent and expresses a profound understanding towards financial and emotional hardships of the clients. She is also ready to make brave financial decisions in support of the client’s ends'

'Michelle Rose swiftly grabs any chance to turn the table in favour of the client and leads to a brilliant result of settlement'

Fiona Lawrence is able to run large high-value estate claims across multiple jurisdictions, which usually end in a very advantageous settlement in favour of the client'

Work highlights

  • Acting as court-appointed independent administrator in estates disputes.
  • Representing claimant in Inheritance Act claim against her late partner’s estate.
  • Representing in a will challenge on the basis of undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity.
  • Representing court-appointed deputy in High Court proceedings involving a £12m unlawful share transfer.
  • Representing in a claim against the client’s late husband’s estate under the Inheritance Act 1975.

Wilsons advises on contentious trust, probate and legacy administration problems as well as on proceedings in the Court of Protection including statutory will applications. The firm is also experienced in assisting with actions by or against trustees of landed estates and cross-border trust disputes. Practice head James Aspden covers claims concerning the validity and effect of wills, claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, and undue influence claims.

Practice head(s):James Aspden

Other key lawyers:Fiona Campbell-White; Peter Jeffrey; Charlotte Watts

Key Clients

RNLI

Blue Cross

Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

RNIB

PDSA

Macmillan Cancer Support

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

Work highlights

  • Advising on variation of trusts application for £50m settlement.
  • Advising on an estoppel and testamentary capacity claim involving assets of over £5m.
  • Advising on a £1.1m Inheritance Act claim.
  • Advising on company and trust interests in London property worth over £9m.
  • Advising on a spousal Inheritance Act claim involving a £10m estate.

Clarke Willmott LLP is experienced in handling proprietary estoppel claims, will disputes involving farm tenancies and partnerships, as well as disputes between trustees and beneficiaries amongst high-net-worth individuals and wealthy landed estate families. Senior associate Sarah O’Grady deals with a broad range of contentious trusts and probate matters, regularly defends proprietary estoppel claims and acts for executors and beneficiaries on estate claims.

Practice head(s):Esther Woolford; Bonita Walters

Other key lawyers:Sarah O’Grady; Daniel Gill

Key Clients

The National Farmers’ Union

The Countryside Alliance

St James’s Place Wealth Management

Work highlights

  • Representing on a £3.3 proprietary estoppel claim against the client’s parents in respect of the family farm
  • Defending a statutory claim for financial provision brought against a company’s estate.
  • Advising on a partnership dispute and proprietary estoppel action.
  • Defending a trust claim.
  • Acting in respect of an alleged breach of trust claim against former pension trustees.

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP focuses on contentious trusts and probate work, specialising in claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, disputes concerning the validity of claims on the basis of lacking testamentary capacity and undue influence claims, and trust, executor and proprietary estoppel disputes. The team is led by 'impressive' dispute resolution head Lauren Day, with important clients including high-net-worth individuals and families from the agricultural sector, beneficiaries and elderly individuals.

Practice head(s):Lauren Day

Other key lawyers:Victoria Riddleston

Testimonials

'All members of the team possess a wide range of expertise'

'The litigation team is highly professional and competent. It deals with all matters in a timely, effective and efficient manner'

'Lauren Day always provides concise and balanced judgements and advice'

Work highlights

  • Defending a £230,000 spousal claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 and a TOLATA claim.
  • Defending an adult child claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
  • Challenging the will of a deceased on grounds of lacking testamentary capacity, lack of knowledge and fraudulent calumny.
  • Advising on a contentious proprietary estoppel and estate administration claim.

Stephens Scown LLP handles a wide range of contentious probate work and is particularly experienced in assisting with disputes regarding the business succession planning and the transfer of estates to heirs. The firm also advises agricultural clients on issues involving contentious estoppel claims. The practice is equally involved in challenging the validity of claims on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.

Practice head(s):Phil Gregory

Other key lawyers:Charisse Crawford; Davina Haydon

Blanchards Bailey LLP advises on Court of Protection claims and contentious probate and trusts work. The firm is also experienced in handling matters relating to the validity of wills, deathbed gifts, undue influence on vulnerable and elderly clients, as well as on matters that involve breach of trust and inheritance act claims. Another focus is disputes affecting rural businesses, including property and contract disputes.

Practice head(s):Paul Dunlop

Other key lawyers:Lucy Mignot

Testimonials

'The team is always approachable, helpful and proactive. It prepares mediation bundles thoroughly and comprehensively. The practice is a pleasure to work with. Paul Dunlop reflects this approach'

Work highlights

  • Acting on the removal of another trustee and his eviction from a deteriorating property.
  • Advising against a reasonable provision claim brought by a spouse.
  • Advising on a £1m claim in relation to the administration of an estate, which involves professional negligence proceedings against the client’s former solicitors.
  • Advising on a proprietary estoppel claim and an Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claim.
  • Representing in a dispute against the validity of the client’s late mother’s will and a claim of undue influence.

Coodes Solicitors assists with the contesting of wills, advises on will construction and interpretation and acts for trustees and executors on disputes including breach of trust claims and applications to remove or replace executors. The firm is also experienced in handling equitable claims that involve proprietary estoppel and constructive trusts. The team acts for both claimants and defendants in claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Acts 1975.

Practice head(s):Colin Hunter

Other key lawyers:Melanie Grose; Ben Sidgwick; Darren Higginson

Testimonials

'An extremely professional, thoughtful and compassionate team'

'The firm is characterised by its ability to listen and give structured advice in a very calm manner'

'Coodes is a long-established firm, covering all aspects of law and is widely known and recognised throughout the South West. The team is professional, competent and approachable'

'Genuinely interested in applying its expertise to the matter in hand'

'Associate Ben Sidgwick impresses with his attention to detail, his highlighting of areas of possible concern, and his ability to understand and diagnose important issues'  

Work highlights

  • Advised on the interpretation of an ambiguous clause in the deceased’s will.
  • Advised on a proprietary estoppel claim in respect to a £2m estate.
  • Defended against an Inheritance Act claim brought by an estranged stepdaughter.
  • Advising on the refusal of a life tenant’s husband to vacate a property after the death of the life tenant.
  • Represented the husband of a deceased who was not considered in the will.

Frettens LLP advises on the enforcement of trusts created under wills, defending claims under the Inheritance Act, and assists beneficiaries and executors with contentious matters regarding the assertion of undue influence on elderly and vulnerable clients with insufficient mental capacity. The firm is also experienced in handling professional negligence claims against solicitors advising on the drafting of wills.

Practice head(s):Michelle Hayter

Other key lawyers:Carl Geary; Sarah Nineham

Work highlights

  • Defending a claim under the Inheritance Act brought by the deceased’s daughters.
  • Claiming for undue influence and unlawful lifetime gifts taken from the deceased’s estate during the deceased’s lifetime by her son acting under power of attorney.
  • Enforcing provisions of a trust created under a will.
  • Defending a claim brought by siblings against a large estate, with factors allegedly including undue influence and insufficient mental capacity of the deceased.
  • Bringing a claim against the executor who failed to distribute the deceased’s assets.

Lester Aldridge LLP specialises in contested will, trust and probate cases, which regularly involve cross-border aspects. The firm represents charities, care homes, high-net-worth individuals and wealthy families in contentious estate administration disputes. The firm also specialises in acting for vulnerable clients and disputes concerning the mental capacity of elderly clients. The firm also handles sensitive Court of Protection cases.

Practice head(s):Victoria Jones

Work highlights

  • Managing a multi-million fund on behalf of an adult with severe brain injury who lacks the capacity to manage his own financial affairs.
  • Advice on a contested deputyship application.
  • Representing in a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, where proceedings have been issued.

Porter Dodson LLP covers a wide range of contentious trust probate matters with domestic and cross-border aspects, involving the contesting of the validity of wills, advising on claims against estates, claims in the agricultural sector pursuant to estoppels and assistance with disputes regarding the interpretation of wills. The firm is also experienced in advising trustees on the location of assets and beneficiaries.

Practice head(s):Stephen Wray; Cara Hough

Testimonials

Porter Dodson is professional, amenable and always sets clients at their ease'

'A responsive and capable team that provides an excellent service'

'Cara Hough is very helpful, understanding and supportive while remaining very professional'

'Cara Hough is knowledgeable and a competent practitioner who always provides balanced arguments'

'Cara Hough is proactive and pragmatic, providing sensible solutions to difficult and complex issues'

Work highlights

  • Advising on a £400,000 dispute involving an ex-partner’s claim pursuant to estoppel.
  • Representing a client in her claim against her deceased husband’s cross-jurisdiction estate.
  • Advising on a claim brought against the estate by the wife of the deceased.
  • Contesting the validity of a will.
  • Advising on a claim against the mother for promises made by the deceased father.

Steele Raymond LLP handles contested probate and trust disputes and Inheritance Act claims. The firm is experienced in handling disputes regarding offshore trusts and cross-border estates. Clients involve high-net-worth claimants and defendants as well as executors. Another key aspect of the work is advising contentious matters regarding wills constructed by or on behalf of elderly clients with insufficient mental capacity as well as disputes concerning undue influence asserted on vulnerable clients.

Practice head(s):John Andrews

Work highlights

  • Advising on a dispute regarding abuse and undue influence by the sister of the client on the elderly father.
  • Advising on a dispute regarding the validity of a will made by the father.
  • Advising on a dispute between two siblings in relation to welfare arrangements for vulnerable mother.
  • Advising on making claims against the estate of a deceased individual.

Thrings LLP's practice handles disputes over the validity of wills, claims on behalf of beneficiaries who have been left out of an estate, assistance with the removal of executors and trustee applications, as well as advice on proprietary estoppel claims. The team is also experienced in negotiating settlements with the aim of preserving estate and trust assets belonging to the client.

Practice head(s):Emily Prout

Other key lawyers:Robert James; Ramona Derbyshire

Work highlights

  • Acted for a farmer in a successful £8m proprietary estoppel case in the High Court.
  • Defending multiple claims by an estranged daughter in respect to her mother’s estate.
  • Acting for a family following the suspected suicide of a family member to bring an application for presumed death.
  • Defending multiple claims against an estate and in respect to the deceased’s lifetime transactions.
  • Acting for a litigation friend of an underage heir in relation to multiple claims against a £2m estate.

Wards Solicitors LLP has a track record of work on high-value disputes over wills, trusts and probate. Practice head Elizabeth Fry regularly represents private and business clients on disputes relating to the Inheritance Act; the practice also handles cross-jurisdictional issues, including the assessment of the validity of wills, the sale of property belonging to deceased family members, and property transaction reviews.

Practice head(s):Elizabeth Fry

Other key lawyers:Ian Williamson

Testimonials

'Wards have a unique network of small local offices around Bristol and the West, from which they attract a large amount of private client work of good quality. They have specialists in property and wills/probate litigation who are very good at handling this work.'

'Over the years I have needed legal advice on a range of matters and have never hesitated to use Wards. Every team member in whichever discipline has always proved to be not only an expert in their field but very reactive to the exact needs of the client.'

'Quick to respond and always available in times of need. In addition I am constantly impressed by the standard of service provided by the secretarial team. Always responsive and aware of the subject matter. Although the firm has grown in size over the years and expanded across the region the service provided still has the feel of being unique to the individual who is in need of their help.

'Legal advice with just the right amount of empathy for the client.'

'Extremely empathetic, professional and very approachable.'

'This team at Wards immediately gave me a high level of confidence and demonstrated that they were the right people to deal with my contentious probate case. The team lead listened carefully to my needs and thoroughly assessed the case and identified the issues to be addressed and developed a strategy to move forward. Actions taken are swift and produce results in a timely way. Advice is well balanced with risk assessment and options costed and clearly presented. The team are all committed to providing a very high standard and focus to the customer needs.'

'From the date of our initial meeting until our case was settled the team always showed real empathy with our situation and were able to cut through the emotions we often showed to get at the real facts behind the case. We were always treated with the utmost honesty and were able to make good decisions following their advice. They were able to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion for us at a reasonable cost and we are very grateful for this.'

'Elizabeth Fry and Ian Williamson are both very experienced and knowledgeable in private client and estates matters, very good at identifying issues and conducting cases.'

'Ian Williamson was calm personified when dealing with me , a client who was at times, overwrought with the emotion of the situation. He was patient and kind and was always able to remove the emotion from the dialogue so as to provide the most cost-effective way of resolving the situation. He has clearly honed his skills over many years of practice and I was astounded by the level of his pragmatism.

'Ian Williamson and calm and unflappable and gives you his best advice even if you cannot always see it straight off through the emotional fog.'

'Elizabeth Fry is a very compassionate, understanding and non judgemental person.'

'The experience is personal, professional and responses to my requests have been swiftly dealt with. There is clearly a stong well motivated team here.'

'Both Elizabeth Fry and Ian Williamson are outstanding in their area of expertise, a privilege and pleasure to work with and give me absolute confidence they are the right people to advise and help me deal with my difficult case.' 

Work highlights

  • Advising on claims relating to the validity of the last will of the deceased and reviewing all previous property transactions of the deceased to assess composition of the estate
  • Advising on a claim relating to the validity of the client's late mother's last will relating to an estate worth over £2m.
  • Advising on a dispute regarding an estate with multiple land holdings held on very difficult trusts with overlapping ownerships with assets worth about £800,000.
  • Defending the client's claims brought against the estate by step=children under the Inheritance Act.
  • Represented a client in a dispute regarding a jointly owned property following separation over ten years ago.

Willans LLP handles claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, challenges the validity of wills, represents in claims for the removal of executors, personal representatives and trustees, and assists with applications to the Court of Protection. The practice, which is led by the 'incredibly professional' Paul Gordon, is also experienced in challenging the administration of estates. Another focus is handling proprietary estoppel claims on behalf of agricultural clients.

Practice head(s):Paul Gordon

Other key lawyers:Nick Southwell

Testimonials

'The firm acted very efficiently and professionally. The communication process was swift throughout'

'Paul Gordon shows sensitivity and guides the case to the outcome the client hopes for. The service he provides is exceptional'

Work highlights

  • Challenging the administration of a late father’s estate.
  • Advising on bringing a counterclaim to challenge the will on basis of a proprietary estoppel.
  • Defending six beneficiaries from an excluded nephew's £250,000 claim to rectify the deceased’s will.
  • Assisting with winding up a family trust and applying the most tax-saving structure for the beneficiaries worth £1m.
  • Acting in a claim for wrongful distribution of assets against the executors.

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