Contentious trusts and probate in East Anglia
The private wealth disputes practice at Birketts LLP handles contentious trusts and probate matters, which include actions under the Inheritance Act 1975, challenges to the validity of wills, the rights of adopted and illegitimate children, disputes arising from powers of attorney and financial abuse of the vulnerable, and TOLATA claims. Commercial litigation partner Paul Matthews leads the practice, in which ACTAPS member Bernadette Baker is a leading light.
Other key lawyers:
At Greene & Greene in Bury St Edmunds, two experienced litigation partners, Rob Adam and Michael Batty, lead the contentious trusts and probate practice. Much of the day-to-day work is done by rising star associate Ben Fox, who specialises in this area, and consultant and ACTAPS member Kate Chandler, who has 35 years' experience in matters such as breach of trust and Inheritance Act 1975 claims. Key areas of work are the removal of personal representatives and defence of personal representatives who are facing claims, and the firm has had successes in the Chancery Division of the High Court.
Michael Batty; Rob Adam
‘Kate Chandler and Ben Fox work very closely together and by doing so, are a very strong unit with an extensive knowledge of contentious litigation.’
‘Kate Chandler has a wealth of knowledge in this field. Her legal network meant I got a first-class barrister representing me in High Court thus achieving a very successful outcome.’
‘Ben Fox has a amazing attention to detail and depth of legal knowledge. He also possesses a rare quality in a lawyer, showing a degree of compassion when at times in contentious litigation it can become highly emotionally charged.’
‘Ben Fox always returned my emails or phone calls within 24 hours over a four-year case, which is no mean feat.’
‘Together they make a superb team and willing to rise to the challenge to represent their client in best possible way. I would not hesitate in recommending them.’
- Application by a cohabitee in the High Court, Family Division under Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 in a multimillion-pound estate.
- Advice given on the removal of an executor of a high-value estate and subsequent account on a wilful default basis.
- Advising a beneficiary of a life interest trust in relation to potential breaches of trust in an estate comprising assets held in offshore trusts.
- Advising on the challenge to the validity of a will on the basis of lack of testamentary capacity and want of knowledge and approval.
- Advising a trustee facing allegations of numerous breaches of trust.
Hewitsons is 'a very well-established private client firm, and a leading regional firm, particularly for the resolution of trusts and probate disputes'. Practice head Lucinda Brown is a full member of ACTAPS and solicitor Kate Harris is an associate member. They frequently handle high-value cases involving the validity of wills, breach of trust claims, Inheritance Act claims, rectification of wills and trust documents, contentious Court of Protection matters and financial abuse of vulnerable adults. The firm's strong private client, charity and agriculture practices are also brought to bear on contentious matters for high-net-worth individuals.
Other key lawyers:
‘Lucinda Brown is an extremely able lawyer and has a level of expertise and the sort of sound judgement one would expect to find in someone far more senior.’
‘Kate Harris is outstanding.’
- Representing a client as life tenant of a trust in their challenge to the exercise of trustees’ proposed appointment of shares in a farm business which are settled in trust.
- Acting for a high-net-worth individual resident in Malaysia in her claim for reasonable financial provision from her late husband’s estate.
- Acting for a widow in her claim for rectification of her late husband’s will.
- Acting for a charity in its claim for removal of the executor of an estate of which the charity is one of four residuary beneficiaries, and also in a potential breach of trust claim.
- Acting for a trustee of a family settlement in her defence to a claim for breach of trust.
Mills & Reeve LLP has the largest contentious trusts and probate team in East Anglia, in which all of the lawyers are ACTAPS members. The practice led by David Catchpole deals with disputes concerning the validity of wills, actions involving trustees and executors, Inheritance Act claims and related matters concerning lifetime transactions, as well as handling contested legacy matters for charities. The firm handles high-value matters involving estates with up to £50m in assets. Associate Lucy Mitchell is also recommended.
Other key lawyers:
Buckles Solicitors LLP saw its caseload grow in 2018 with Inheritance Act challenges by spouses, partners and children and a claim under s1(1)(e). It also successfully defended a claim that a will was fraudulently procured. Practice head and veteran litigator Paul Branch has a growing specialism in contentious trusts and probate, and Court of Protection work. 'Extremely hardworking and committed' associate Alex Burch plays a key role in the practice.
Other key lawyers:
Alex Burch; Lauren Godfrey
‘The fee earners consistently prepare clear and concise briefs, give measured and realistic advice, and are always prepared to consider other angles. They appear to genuinely want the best for the client.’
‘The individuals with whom I have worked have all been personable and courteous, and robust in their pursuit of their client’s claims or defences, but are willing to consider other angles or different approaches. They are driven by getting the best result for their client whilst always playing fair.’
‘The firm is very strong in the region in this quite specialised area of litigation. It has huge experience in relation to contentious estates and contested Court of Protection matters.’
‘The firm has a really good private client and tax team, too, which can be invaluable when a contentious matter has a tax angle.’
‘Paul Branch is a standout litigation partner. He has infinitely sound judgement and is a calm and reassuring presence in any stressful situation.’
- Represented client in a Court of Protection matter where an application was made for a statutory will for a woman who had lost capacity.
- Representing client in a hard-fought cohabitee Inheritance Act claim, involving a private company run by the deceased whose share was put in the thousands by the defendant and in the millions by Buckles.
- Representing client to ensure appropriate division of assets held in five different jurisdictions.
- Representing executors and trustees in a claim over a £2.8m estate attempting to ensure that tax planning is not undone to the detriment of all.
- Representing executors in a £1.9m estate.
Gotelee Solicitors joins the ranking this year thanks to the growing workload of Peter Crix's private client practice. Associate Kay Baker in Hadleigh is the standout practitioner and clients remark that she is 'an excellent lawyer combining legal expertise with empathy to achieve a solution to some of the most complicated scenarios'. Experienced litigator Rachel Cronin in Felixstowe is also recommended for disputes involving wills and probate. The firm acts for both claimants and defendants, and frequently advises executors in contentious matters.
‘The team has expertise in both contentious and non-contentious matters, thus providing a comprehensive service to clients.’
‘Within the team are individuals who excel in their fields, thus elevating this firm above others.’
‘Kay Baker always has a practical approach to the legal issues arising whilst still being mindful of the emotional background to such disputes.’
‘Kay Baker is acting as a Court appointed Administrator for the estate of a landlord and this has been an incredibly complex and difficult matter but Kay and her team have dealt with it in an exceptionally professional and calm manner.’
‘Kay Baker is professional, courteous and calm in all matters.’
‘Gotelee has consistently been there whenever I have had a query or problem; they are polite and very helpful, going that one bit further than some other firms.’
‘Kay Baker has been outstanding in her assistance, advice and the general handling of what is proving to be a difficult case. Her knowledge of the correct procedure in my particular instance has been invaluable, and she is always able to answer my queries.’
- Advised on a disputed deputyship application.
- Advised on an estate subject to multiple claims.
- Represented claimant in connection with an Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claim.
- Advised on a complex estate with various contentious aspects.
Established in 2012, the Cambridge contentious trusts and probate practice at Tees Law is led by ACTAPS member and highly respected litigator Sara Stabler , who has 20 years' experience in this field and is a Higher Court Advocate who regularly progresses claims without input from counsel. Her caseload frequently includes multi-party actions and claims involving several different disciplines, including a recent inheritance claim against an estate where one of the parties is a company, which involved issues relating to trusts, contentious probate claims, company law, constitution issues and tax.
Other key lawyers:
‘From the mediation I conducted for this firm’s client I found the lawyer handling the matter to be very competent and professional.’
‘I worked with Sara Stabler in a difficult probate mediation. I found her sensitive to her clients’ needs, focused and alert to the difficulties in managing the dispute.’
‘Sara Stabler worked hard to reach a conclusion for her client’s benefit and had a good professional relationship with the other lawyers involved.’
- A multi-party, multi-discipline case involving a claim issued by the deceased’s first wife, on behalf of their disabled child.
- Acting for a son who had been excluded from his mother’s estate by his brother.
- A complicated constructive trust dispute between children of the deceased and deceased’s widow in respect of a high-value estate.
- Advising an estate which had been administered as an intestate estate, but where subsequently a will was discovered.
- TLATA claim to determine the beneficial interests in two properties.
Partner and ACTAPS member Polly Stephenson leads the inheritance disputes practice at Ashtons Legal in Ipswich, which handles contentious trusts, Inheritance Act 1975 claims, wills and probate disputes, kin enquiries and related professional negligence claims on behalf of executors and trustees, claimants and defendants. The firm's caseload ranges from small to multimillion-pound estates. Solicitor Bee Belby has a particular focus on cases for clients in the agricultural sector.
Other key lawyers:
Bee Belby; Sam Lees
Clapham & Collinge Solicitors
The practice at Clapham & Collinge Solicitors is now led by head of litigation Philip Lumb who works alongside consultant Michael Olmer, following the departure of Tammy Parnell to run a property company. The firm took on 21 contentious probate cases in 2018, up from 11 the previous year, and the practice calls upon Olmer's private client expertise to handle tax and family issues, often with an international element.
Other key lawyers:
The practice at Fosters is led by experienced litigation partner Chris Fielding, who has more than ten years' experience in this niche area of law. He frequently acts for personal representatives and beneficiaries, as well as other litigants pursuing action against estates. Delivering services through its Norwich, Wymondham and Lowestoft offices, the firm is a key player in the Norfolk market.
- Advising on a complex Inheritance Act claim involving trust provisions for a minor; litigation to trial was avoided through effective mediation.
- Settling a claim on behalf of a separated spouse within a valuable Inheritance Act claim brought out of time.
- Advising the personal representative of the estate of a deceased partner in relation to a complex dispute over the division of partnership assets including considerable real estate with development potential, valued in excess of £1m.
- Advising family members in relation to the failure on the part of executors to take into account a mutual will, in circumstances in which the clients are also relying on arguments over the deceased’s capacity and evidence of undue influence.
At Fraser Dawbarns in King's Lynn, associate and ACTAPS member Janet Lane is the key practitioner. She is a contentious probate and licensing specialist who also focuses on Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. One client remarks that 'the firm provides consistently good service' and that Lane is 'sympathetic and always helpful'.
Other key lawyers:
- Defending a client in a claim from her son against his father’s will.
- Handling a claim against an estate where a husband failed to make adequate provision for his wife in his will.
- Advising on a challenge to a homemade will of which the client was executor.