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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 > Yorkshire and the Humber > 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

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Rising stars

  1. 1

Irwin Mitchell's will, trust and estate disputes department provides a comprehensive service on both a regional and national level. Litigators routinely work closely with non-contentious lawyers on will validity challenges, rectification and construction of wills claims, maladministration and breach of trust matters. There is a 'real focus on client care', with the firm's lawyers aiming to ensure that the client is involved and fully participating in decisions around all matters. This is underpinned by the 'great soft skills' of key figures within the team, such as national head of contentious probate Paula Myers , who is described as a 'strategic and brilliant' litigator and a 'patient and focused' negotiator.

Practice head(s):Paula Myers

Other key lawyers:James Laycock

Testimonials

'A very strong team.'

'The strongest team in the North of England with a real depth of experience.'

'A well-structured team which benefits from a robust leadership - they take a logical and practical approach to problem solving.'

'A sincere, experienced and highly educated team who are friendly and down to earth – which makes the client feel at ease and comfortable.'

'The quality and consistency of support is heart-warming.'

Key Clients

Viscount Jonathan Durival Rochdale

Louise Miller

Matthew and James Wills

Age UK Legal Services

Work highlights

  • Advised Viscount Jonathan Durival Rochdale on a high profile will validity challenge alongside various breach of trust allegations, all of which were successfully resolved at mediation.
  • Defended a will validity challenge involving an interim injunction application by the claimant.
  • Defended a proprietary estoppel claim brought by two brothers who had dedicated most of their working lives to a farm.
  • Representing a trust in a breach of trust claim pertaining to the trust’s shares in the multimillion-pound family business.
  • Representing a client in respect of two matters – a will validity challenge and a challenge to his beneficial entitlement to the proceeds of an investment bond.

At Andrew Jackson Solicitors LLP , partner Peter Duffus has recently begun to undertake more contentious trusts and probate work after a long career as a broad-based civil/commercial practitioner. Now, his team is especially involved in Inheritance Act cases (occasionally with an international element), disputed wills where medical issues arise, as well as cases involving estoppel arguments and contentious Court of Protection work.

Practice head(s):Peter Duffus

Testimonials

'Particularly helpful, readily available and pragmatic.'

'Excellent practical solutions.'

Bell & Buxton’s practice features the 'extremely efficient' Katie Winslow and 'clear-headed and conscientious' will, trust and inheritance disputes head John Breeze. The team, which has 'a deservedly strong reputation', deals with complex contentious probate claims, disputed Court of Protection applications and cases involving financial abuse of the elderly.

Other key lawyers:Katie Winslow; John Breeze

Testimonials

'In a competitive Sheffield market, Bell & Buxton have a deservedly strong reputation and good resources.'

'The team are genuine contentious trust and probate specialists.'

'The team adopts a practical and client-friendly approach to each case.'

Work highlights

  • Advising on a claim involving rectification of a will to save a gift of shares valued at £1.8m.
  • Defending a high value claim under the Inheritance Act in an estate complicated by construction issues.
  • Successfully represented GM in an application to remove theexecutor and trustee of a contentious family estate.
  • Acting as independent administrator to pursue claims against a former executor removed by the court and to conclude the administration of the estate.
  • Assisting professional executors with the contentious estate of a former National Lottery winner, involving English and French assets and a potential claim by the deceased’s widow under the Inheritance Act.

Clarion is known for having 'one of the best' specialist contentious probate and trust teams outside London. The firm's lawyers are 'genuine specialists' who deal with work at all levels of complexity, including high value claims. Contentious private client head Lynsey Harrison leads the team - she handles contentious aspects of wills, trusts and probate as well as Court of Protection cases and is described by clients as 'a class act - unflappable and determined'.

Practice head(s):Lynsey Harrison

Other key lawyers:Louise Dodds; Liam Brooke

Testimonials

'Clarion have been growing a fast rate and have now assembled a formidable team to rival any in the Leeds market.'

'Depth and scope of specialist knowledge across all members of the team.'

'Clarion has a strong, well-structured team, with genuine expertise. They are straightforward and easy to deal with.'

Work highlights

  • Represented Client A in a multi-million pound dispute against an heir-hunting firm.
  • Represented a well-known building society.
  • Represented professional executors and trustees in relation to a multi-million pound claim against an estate and some associated trusts.
  • Represented a spouse in relation to an Inheritance Act claim against her husband’s million-pound estate.
  • Advised an executor in relation to a claim against a beneficiary and her co-executor in relation to setting aside a gift of land worth approximately £3m.

IDR Law, which was set up in 2017, claims to be the first UK law firm created solely to deal with inheritance disputes. The firm was founded by former Jones Myers LLP lawyer Martin P Holdsworth , who 'has a great knack of getting to the root of the problem' and 'knows the law inside and out'. The firm purely focuses on contentious work, with all of its disputes – which range in value from £100,000 to £60m – coming from referrals from other law firms, probate administrators and will writers.

Practice head(s):Martin Holdsworth

Testimonials

'Excellent expertise.'

'Very approachable and down to earth. Easy to get on with and fabulous at communicating in non-legal jargon.'

'Excellent niche firm with very strong knowledge in contentious private client matters.'

Work highlights

  • Represented a respondent to an Inheritance Act claim relating to £35m farming estate dispute.
  • Defending a probate claim by seeking declaratory relief of a will being valid despite being physically reconstructed after execution.
  • Defence of an Inheritance Act claim brought by a widow on the grounds that reasonable financial provision was provided by a will.
  • Defended an allegation of sham marriage and then defended an Inheritance Act claim.
  • Resolving a dispute between sibling beneficiaries to a farming estate will.

Lupton Fawcett has a strong presence in the contentious trusts and probate market, dealing with heavyweight and complex litigation. The firm's team - which is particularly skilled in cases involving proprietary estoppel in relation to family homes and farms - acts for individuals, trustees, professionals and other law firms under the leadership of Howard Rutter  - a 'tough negotiator' and a 'very practical' lawyer.

Practice head(s):Howard Rutter

Other key lawyers:Jonathan Cripwell

Testimonials

'A team that works together extremely well and has considerable depth.'

'They handle terrific work and it is a joy to be working on a case when the whole team is working together to achieve superb results.'

Work highlights

  • Acting for a widow seeking a share of an estate worth in excess of £10m.
  • Advising in an unusual case on a complex estate involving assets in France and the UK, and involving a lottery winner who separated from his wife without divorcing her.
  • Acted on a cross-jurisdictional matter concerning a conflict between a will made in Spain, and another made in England.
  • A high value Inheritance Act case involving five different sets of solicitors, and potentially as many as 15 different parties to the proceedings.
  • Acted on a high value and technical case involving multiple claims and applications under the Variations of Trusts Act.

Taylor & Emmet LLP’s specialist team acts for individuals and professionals on the full range of matters relating to contentious trusts, wills and probate, tax disputes and complex estates – often involving cross-jurisdictional elements and multiple beneficiaries. The departments attracts work from clients both in the local region and from London and further afield. Practice head Alexander Watkinson is able to draw on his previous experience of having worked in the courts and in family law.

Practice head(s):Alexander Watkinson

Work highlights

  • Advised on summons for discontinuance of a caveat owing to forgery or lack of formalities, where competing evidence as to the witness’ attendance on the deceased.
  • Acted for the cohabiting partner of a man who died having made no will, leaving two minor children from a previous relationship. The deceased’s net estate comprised only a property held as joint tenants with the client, which passed to her by survivorship. There was also a life insurance policy and pensions held in trust.
  • Advised a client in relation to a claim of beneficial ownership of a bank account containing more than £1m.
  • Representing two trustees of land owned by a club in a dispute as to who is entitled to the proceeds of its sale.
  • Successfully overturned the validity of a will based on forgery at trial.

Blacks Solicitors LLP’s wills and probate department is led by Nick Rhodes, who was promoted to the partnership in 2016. Associate solicitor Nicola White provides a specialised contentious probate service, and is exclusively dedicated to this area of practice. She is recognised as a 'thorough, methodical and measured' lawyer who acts in all matters of contentious trusts and probate and property related trusts, and is praised by clients for her 'gentle but firm' approach to technical issues.

Practice head(s):Nick Rhodes

Other key lawyers:Nicola White

Testimonials

'A close knit and supportive team.

'A strong team, with someone always able to deal with your matters.

'Nicola White has a gentle but firm approach to technical issues which makes her perfect to instruct in an area where emotions can often run high. She is not afraid to give unwelcome advice if the case so justifies this. She is certainly a safe pair of hands.

Nicola White handled our very complex case with sincere empathy and professionalism. She was approachable and her advice was always thorough. She was patient with us and always prepared. Nicola was able to hone her communication skills effectively and understood the family dynamics without explanation. We felt that someone was always on our side, respected us and listened carefully to our instructions. We were able to have full confidence in Nicola from the start to the very end of our litigation and it never faltered.'

Work highlights

  • Representing a client in the break-up of various family trusts worth in the region of £50m.
  • Represented the beneficiaries of an estate in defending a claim brought by another beneficiary for an alleged loan by the deceased to be held as a gift.
  • Advised on a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.
  • Representing the client in relation to a claim against trustees of a will trust, for breach of trust and failure to account
  • Representing a client in relation to a claim of breach of duty as executor.

LCF Law deals with heavyweight trust and probate work including complex trust applications, breach of trust disputes, validity claims, Inheritance Act claims and Court of Protection cases. Ragan Montgomery, who leads the department, is an experienced solicitor with a 'wealth of experience' who builds 'excellent relationships' with clients and is a 'well-regarded' mediator dealing with probate disputes. The firm takes a distinctive approach in the early stages of any dispute, compiling a report which presents a snapshot evaluation of the case, setting out the legal position, strategy and costs.

Practice head(s):Ragan Montgomery

Work highlights

  • Represented a widow in a validity claim against deceased husband’s will.
  • Representing beneficiaries of a trust in a claim for breach of trust against trustees.
  • Defended a spousal claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.
  • Represented beneficiaries of an estate in which a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 had been brought out of time and the claimant had stolen from the deceased’s estate.
  • Acting on behalf of a client who is a trustee of a discretionary settlement and a director in in a company. The trust owns shares in the company.

McCormicks’ private client offering encompasses wealth disputes, which are dealt with under the leadership of commercial litigation head Philip Edmondson. Yorkshire families, businesspeople and organisations turn to the firm for advice on the Inheritance Act, attempts to overturn wills on the grounds of capacity and duress and disputes between executors and trustees. The firm also advises on cases with cross jurisdictional elements, as well as handling more modest family cases for local clients which require rapid settlement at proportionate costs.

Practice head(s):Peter McCormick

Other key lawyers:Elaine Lightfoot

Key Clients

Strutt Family Trusts

Work highlights

  • Advised on complex trust litigation relating to historical mis-management by trustees.
  • Advised on Inheritance Act claim by the deceased’s widow over a substantial estate.
  • Advised on application to court to sell co-owned property on behalf of estate’s executor.
  • Advised on complex, longstanding trust administration.

Ramsdens has fourteen offices in Yorkshire, and gained two more in York through the acquisition of Burn & Company in March 2018. The Huddersfield-based contentious probate litigation team sits within the firm's nine-strong private client practice. Under partner Steven Singh, it deals with matters regarding disputed wills, the Inheritance Act, estates, undue influence, duress or fraud and trust disputes between trustees and beneficiaries.

Practice head(s):Steven Singh

Ridley & Hall’s practice includes a traditional contentious probate and trusts offering, which handles Inheritance Act claims and executor/beneficiary disputes; but in addition, since 2018, the team has developed a growing niche in acting on cases of financial abuse and, more specifically, predatory marriage. Practice head Sarah Young is taking an innovative approach to the growing problem of the financial abuse of the elderly, and has aimed to raise awareness of the issues and provide training about the remedies available to recover assets.

Practice head(s):Sarah Young

Other key lawyers:Helen Dandridge

Key Clients

Samir Tabla

Lynsey Delaforte

Jill Mcshane

Barbara Hegglin

Work highlights

  • Acting for the claimant in a property dispute.
  • Acting for the claimant in an Inheritance Act claim brought by a granddaughter against her late grandmother’s estate, on the grounds of financial dependency.
  • Acting for a client in relation to an executor/beneficiary dispute over the estate of the client's late mother, her will having been made in Switzerland, where she was domiciled.
  • Acting for the claimant in proceedings that were issued in relation to a long running dispute between two sisters.

While the Shulmans LLP’s contentious trusts and estates team does act for corporates and charitable organisations, the practice primarily focuses on individuals – both living in the UK or expats abroad. Key lawyers Paul Lewis and Eleanor Stenson are both ACTAPS accredited; Lewis acts as a professional deputy for individuals who have lost capacity, while Stenson draws on her experience of complex and high value commercial litigation. The firm also handles volume instructions from probate management company Chorus Law.

Practice head(s):Eleanor Stenson

Testimonials

'Shulmans always enables clients to navigate legal obstacles that may arise. The team is always available and makes you feel supported.'

Weightmans has put together a 'very good team' in Leeds on the back of the hire of principal associate Matthew Morton from Lupton Fawcett in 2018. He acts for high-profile clients including several national charities and receives instructions from financial advisers, professional deputies, accountants, and other lawyers and solicitors. He works alongside the firm's other Leeds-based lawyer Hollie Marcham, as well as other probate litigators from the national firm’s Manchester, Liverpool, London and Birmingham offices.

Practice head(s):Matthew Morton

Work highlights

  • Acted for the claimant in a claim against her estranged father’s estate under the provisions of the Inheritance Act 1975.

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