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United Kingdom > Yorkshire and the Humber > Private client > Contentious trusts and probate > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

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  1. Contentious trusts and probate
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According to some, Irwin Mitchell’s contentious probate team is ‘head and shoulders above any other firm outside London’, as well as being ‘a colossus in the Yorkshire and Humber region; this is the firm that no other firm in the country wants to see on the other side’. Leeds-based practice head Paula Myers is singled out for her ‘remarkable levels of client loyalty and satisfaction; she is not just tactically astute, with an almost unerring instinct for the opposition’s weakness, but is a rock of confidence to her clients’. The practice carries out work nationally for individuals, banks, executors, trustees and beneficiaries, handling the full range of contentious trust matters, including claims involving issues of validity, testamentary capacity and undue influence; claims where rectification of wills or trusts is required; and family provision claims for spouses, cohabitees, dependants and children. Recent work includes advising Viscount Rochdale and other family members in an undue influence claim, a will forgery claim and several Inheritance Act claims.

Andrew Jackson Solicitors LLP fields a ‘highly experienced and effective’ team of lawyers led by Peter Duffus, ‘a tenacious litigator who presses the client’s case to the best advantage’. The practice’s workload runs the gamut of contentious trust and probate matters, from cases involving disputed wills, to cases involving multi-jurisdictional issues and estoppel arguments. Duffus works closely with the firm’s non-contentious private client practice to provide a holistic coverage of issues arising from contentious matters, including tax and estate administration issues.

Bell & Buxton attracts praise for its ‘no-nonsense, get-it-sorted approach, which is refreshing and effective’. Mary Butler heads the practice and is ‘forthright but also pragmatic and approachable; her appreciation of the private client aspects as well as litigation adds real value’. She is assisted by John Breeze, and new arrivals Rachel Valentine and Katie Winslow, who joined from Taylor & Emmet LLP and Irwin Mitchell, respectively. Breeze recently acted in a matter arising from the contested estate of the mother of a longstanding client, which involved allegations that the client’s sister had misappropriated the mother’s life savings to purchase a property using the name of their dead grandmother as an alias.

Clarion’s clients rate the contentious probate team for providing ‘genuinely specialist expertise, and a focused and cost-effective service’. The practice regularly acts for high-net-worth clients on high-value multi-jurisdictional disputes, and has an extensive track record in Court of Protection disputes. Lynsey Harrison heads the team; she has ‘an exceptional manner with clients, who feel the utmost confidence in her’. She is assisted by Louise Dodds, who is ‘very clever in her approach and works very hard for the client’. Harrison’s expertise includes disputes involving the validity of wills, administrative claims relating to deceased estates, breach of trust actions concerning both UK and Jersey trusts, and probate-related professional negligence disputes.

Jones Myers LLP’s ‘knowledge is of the highest standard; clients are treated with respect and offered good advice for the right reasons’. The firm regularly handles multi-jurisdictional probate disputes. Martin Holdsworth is the key contact.

Lupton Fawcett LLP’s practice is headed by Howard Rutter, who is ‘very good at getting to the heart of a problem, working out what really matters, and finding a common-sense way of dealing with it’. He leads a team that advises individuals, trustees and professionals on disputes concerning trusts, will and estates. Other key figures include recently promoted senior associate Matthew Morton, who is noted for his ability to ‘straddle several areas of law and effectively provide an overview of the whole case’.

For some, Taylor & Emmet LLP has quickly established itself as ‘the best firm in Sheffield’ for contentious probate matters, thanks in no small part to the ‘exceptional’ Alex Watkinson, who is singled out for his ‘lovely bedside manner’. Watkinson is highly regarded for his track record in high-profile Inheritance Act claims and disputes concerning testamentary capacity; he leads a team that regularly handles work for local, national and international clients, often with a cross-border element. Recent work includes acting for the nephew of the deceased, whose estate comprises assets in the UK, Iran, Panama, Switzerland and Bahrain, in relation to issues concerning the validity of the deceased’s will, Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act claims on behalf of siblings and nephews, and investigations into the beneficial ownership of various joint accounts.

Under the leadership of James Laycock, Gordons LLP is developing its profile in the contentious trust arena. His expertise encompasses disputes concerning testamentary capacity; claims on behalf of partners, widowed spouses and residuary beneficiaries for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975; Court of Protection proceedings; variation of trust applications; applications to remove trustees and executors; and family farming disputes involving will disputes and proprietary estoppel claims. Recent work includes acting for the beneficiary in breach of trust proceedings and acting for the partner and cohabitee in proceedings for financial provision from her deceased partner’s estate.

According to some, LCF Lawhas the Bradford market sewn up in this practice area; no other firm in the area has a comparable client-friendly setup’. Headed by Ragan Montgomery (‘very good legally, with a great bedside manner’), the practice handles a range of matters, including capacity issues, Inheritance Act claims, disputes between trustees and beneficiaries, and disputes involving failed gifts and will construction. Recent matters include acting on behalf of an adult child in an Inheritance Act claim involving 93 defendants, and acting for a widow in a contentious probate action involving issues of lack of capacity and undue influence.

McCormicks is particularly well regarded for providing assistance to executors, trustees and beneficiaries of sizeable family estates and trusts. Litigation head Philip Edmondson handles a variety of contentious probate matters, including TLATA claims and claims to overturn wills on the grounds of capacity and duress, and private client head Elaine Lightfoot regularly handles cases involving testamentary capacity, joint ownership issues and disputes between executors and trustees.

Ridley & Hall has a ‘very knowledgeable’ team that many view as providing ‘a boutique service for contentious probate matters’. Headed by Sarah Young (who has ‘an excellent client manner and is very commercial’), and featuring Helen Dandridge (who is ‘very switched on legally’), the practice handles an array of contentious probate matters, with a particular niche in cases involving missing persons; in an illustration of its expertise in this arena, the firm recently acted in an application for declaration of presumed death by a missing person’s cohabitee, which was opposed by his family alleging that the missing person was still alive. Other recent work includes defending repossession proceedings brought by the deputy of the deceased mother’s mentally incapacitated daughter.

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