Personal tax, trusts and probate: Cambridge in East Anglia

Birketts LLP

Birketts LLP advises high-net-worth individuals, landowners, business executives and their beneficiaries on the whole range of private client matters, including trust administration, complex probate, lifetime planning, landed estates and employee ownership trusts. Louise Long, who leads the wills and advisory practice, is based in Ipswich but closely supports key Cambridge partners Caroline Stenner and Rachel Winter, who is 'very collaborative, extremely responsive'. Senior associates Kimberly Sayward and Robert Willoughby round out a deep bench of experienced practitioners.

Practice head(s):

Louise Long; Caroline Stenner

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Winter; Kimberly Sayward; Robert Willoughby

Testimonials

‘We appreciate the people, their knowledge of the subject, their teamwork and responsiveness.’

‘Rachel Winter – very collaborative, extremely responsive. Works as part of a team to get the best result for the client. Very good technically.’

HCR Hewitsons

'I find it difficult to believe that any other firm could provide a better service', says a client of HCR Hewitsons. The firm has experts in key areas of private client law, not least inheritance tax planning, probate and the administration of estates with international assets. Daniel Curtis is 'an expert in his field' and leads an a group of eight partners across the firm's office network, which has a core group of experienced practitioners in Cambridge. Among them are trusts expert Elizabeth Davies, 'imaginative and innovative thinkerBernadette O’Reilly, associate Kelly Wardell and legal director Katherine Hague.

Practice head(s):

Daniel Curtis

Other key lawyers:

Elizabeth Davies; Bernadette O’Reilly; Kelly Wardell; Alexandra Francis; Katherine Hague

Testimonials

‘The service provided by Alexandra Francis was outstanding in every way. I find it difficult to believe that any other firm could provide a better service. Although mine was a very straightforward minor matter which would have brought in a drop in the financial ocean to the firm, I was always made to feel that my concerns were being treated as if I were a major client worth many, many times more.’

‘Bernadette O’Reilly has depth and breadth of knowledge with interpersonal skills to match. An imaginative and innovative thinker. Daniel Curtis is an expert in his field, always happy to give informal advice and signpost. For all, if you refer a client or have a query there is a real sense of security that you will get the right advice/info, delivered in a friendly and efficient way.’

‘Very timely responses to all queries and clear pricing. Very impressed with the overall service that I received.’

‘Alexandra Francis was extremely efficient in the creation of my Will. I had not had any previous experience of working with a solicitor for such a document and at all times, I felt able to ask any question and receive a response in language that I could understand. Any technical terminology was well explained and there were no delays in the process. The video consultation was very helpful and Alexandra explained everything very well and was easy to talk to. She is a credit to her organisation and I would be happy to recommend her to any of my friends or family should they require any assistance.’

‘The team is highly skilled and professional, unstuffy and approachable, easy to work with and you have the security of knowing that you are in safe hands. Like us, they are always happy to deal at senior/partner level and clients don’t get passed down the food chain like they do in some more corporate firms. There are no obvious weaknesses.’

‘We like working with the team at HCR Hewitsons. they are very knowledgeable, professional and reactive to clients needs and questions. They are very good with clients at explaining complex scenarios and are not pushy or aggressive in terms of fees.’

‘My main contact is Elizabeth Davies. She is very good with all different types of clients and is very responsive and contactable which is key for me when referring professionals. All of the clients I have referred have been very positive with feedback.’

‘I worked with Elizabeth Davies to create my will and letter of intention for my executors. From the very first conversation I was impressed with Liz and how she worked with me. She got her measure of me quickly, understanding the speed and efficiency required to meet my needs. She was very proactive and made the process smooth and painless. In addition she responded to any questions and requests with clarity and speed. No request was too much. Some elements of inheritance law are complex and Liz explained them in a way that was clear and felt like she really did have my interests at heart. I would not hesitate to recommend Liz.’

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP provides 'excellent and attentive service' and clients describe the team as 'responsive, lovely to deal with and good at guiding clients through difficult conversations'. The firm frequently advises high-net-worth UK and international individuals and families on tax, trusts and estates matters including inheritance, capital gains tax planning and the protection of family assets. Chris Belcher leads the practice, in which 'extremely knowledgeable'principal associate Alex Hunt and senior associate Emma Watton (whose advice is 'clear and pitched at exactly the right level') are highly recommended.

Practice head(s):

Chris Belcher

Other key lawyers:

Alex Hunt; Emma Watton

Testimonials

‘Excellent and attentive service.’

‘In-depth understanding of the complicated issues, but ability to communicate effectively to all parties involved.’

‘We worked remotely and had a number of meetings with Emma Watton for two different clients in respect of family succession planning. Her advice was clear and pitched at exactly the right level.’

‘Both Chris Belcher and Emma Watton were able to listen well and explain suitable solutions in a straightforward and easy to understand way. Although there was complex tax and legal implications and paperwork involved, the client was kept engaged and informed without being overwhelmed. The level of detail that was looked into behind the scenes to ensure a good client outcome was excellent. Emma in particular was able to communicate well to coordinate opinions and information from the client, accountant, and financial planner. From the outset, it was clear that we dealing with individuals who knew what they were talking about, and were able to steer our clients in the right direction, and know what pitfalls needed to be navigated along the way.’

‘Responsive, lovely to deal with and good at guiding clients through difficult conversations whilst ensuring no detail is overlooked. Safe pair of hands.’

‘Emma Watton – clear, good at keeping the ball rolling and efficient.’

‘An exceptionally knowledgeable locally based team. More in-depth knowledge on certain areas such as family investment companies and non-domiciled individuals. The team are very friendly at the same time as being professional so there are no qualms in putting them in front of clients.’

‘Alex Hunt and Chris Belcher are both extremely knowledgeable and present their advice in a clear fashion. I use them both if I have a complicated matter which needs legal support on the basis that it is my perception that they are the most able of the Cambridge firms to deal with such issues.’

Work highlights

  • Advising the executors of a local business owner, including dealing with a number of complexities such as the application of business relief and significant levels of lifetime gifting.
  • Reducing a wealthy non-resident family’s exposure to UK inheritance tax by restructuring the ownership and financing of their residential property portfolio.
  • Advising on a large-scale trust reorganisation to align the beneficial ownership with the heirship whilst implementing tax planning measures to preserve the long term integrity of the estate.

Taylor Vinters

Taylor Vinters acts for a diverse range of entrepreneurial and innovative companies and individuals, which sees its private client group act for high-net-worth clients and their families, whether in East Anglia, London or overseas. Among them are City of London professionals, owner-managers of large businesses, landed estate owners and the founders of fast-growth companies. Jackie Wells leads the entrepreneurial wealth practice, in which partners James Packer and Jocelyn Fox are the key practitioners. Associate Rhiannon Coleman, who joined from Roythornes Solicitors, and senior associate Kirsten Pettit are recommended for 'sensible, timely and practical advice'. Senior counsel Fiona Lewsey also plays a key role in the practice.

Practice head(s):

Jackie Wells

Other key lawyers:

James Packer; Jocelyn Fox; Fiona Lewsey; Kirsten Pettit; Rhiannon Coleman

Testimonials

‘Rhiannon Coleman has been able to offer sensible and timely advice with a lightness of touch that has made the role of an executor run smoothly. Kirsten Pettit was able to offer practical and pragmatic advice to us as executors especially during the early months of the pandemic. Both Rhiannon and Kirsten have treated us as individuals and respected our relationship with the deceased’s family and friends.

‘Taylor Vinters were drawing up my will which was done efficiently in three meetings via the internet. Was placed in contact with someone proficient – it was a pleasure to deal with someone intelligent and professional and to wrap up the business promptly.’

‘My contact was Fiona Lewsey. She stood out from most legal professionals as being right on top of her subject. This meant that she could give me a definitive answer immediately, over the ‘phone, rather than passing me to someone else or writing to me with a long and wordy opinion some weeks later. My discussion with her was much more interactive than typical, and my business was concluded promptly enough, but was not hurried – there was enough time for reflection on the issues and drafting proposed.’

‘Fiona Lewsey was exceptional in the advice and documents she provided for us.’

‘Fiona Lewsey was outstanding in providing a personal and professional commitment to our instruction.’

‘Local but with excellent international connections.’

‘Fiona Lewsey – approachable and very expert. Always gives sound advice and shows empathy to client situations.’

Ashtons Legal

Ashtons Legal is 'fast to reply, courteous and thoughtful', and one client remarks of the team 'their knowledge and experience make working with them a joy'. The 'supportive, creative, fair' Lynn Wicks, who leads the lifetime planning practice, focuses on the needs of elderly and vulnerable clients. Jennie Pratt provides 'succinct and practical advice' on wealth management and tax planning. Senior associate Christina Duck is also recommended for cross-border issues in will drafting and estates with substantial foreign assets.

Practice head(s):

Lynn Wicks

Other key lawyers:

Jennie Pratt; Christina Duck; Jack Burroughs

Testimonials

‘Ashtons Legal carried out probate for me; they could not have been more professional, caring or communicative. I always felt l could ask them whenever l had any queries by phone or email and they always responded straightaway. I really felt l was in safe and very personal hands. It was a fair fixed fee which I was very happy and relaxed with throughout the process.’

‘They make it possible to talk to any of the team at any time. There is always someone who knows your business with the team at the end of the telephone.’

‘Christina Duck gave us consistently clear advice and was instrumental in securing exemption from inheritance tax for one of the trusts.’

‘Lynn Wicks has been supportive, creative, fair and usually responsive.’

‘Their knowledge, clear thinking, problem solving, expertise in various fields and ability to communicate with clients in a friendly and effective manner.’

‘Jennie Pratt is first-rate: understood our needs and delivered clear, succinct and practical advice. Inspired complete confidence.’

‘Clear and informative when asked questions. Fast to reply. Courteous and thoughtful.’

Work highlights

  • Advising high net worth clients with overseas assets on a range of tax and estate planning matters. Particular emphasis on clients with French assets due to specialist French legal team.
  • Acting on behalf of the executors of a number of high value estates to ensure effective tax mitigation.
  • Advising the owners of local family businesses on tax-effective succession planning.

Barr Ellison LLP

Barr Ellison LLP joins the ranking due to the strength of its personal wealth practice, which acts for world-renowned academics, high-net-worth individuals and business owners, as well as advising Cambridge colleges on private client matters. The firm is 'extremely efficient and quick to deal with the work' and client enthusiastically recommend partners Emma Parsons, who shows 'professionalism, good humour and energy', and Francis Durrant. Associate Seema Solanki  has 'an excellent grasp of client/lawyer relations as well has excellent technical knowledge'.

Practice head(s):

Emma Parsons

Other key lawyers:

Francis Durrant; Seema Solanki; Chris Jones

Testimonials

‘This firm is friendly from the moment the phone is answered to speaking to the relevant solicitor. They are extremely efficient and professional, and quick to deal with the work I have had to ask them to do. This firm was recommended to me. I would recommend them to others.’

‘Chris Jones listened with empathy and understanding which I appreciated when trying to change my will on several occasions. once again it was dealt with efficiently and quickly.’

‘The team is very well resourced and provides a very high level of expertise.’

‘Seema Solanki has been my main contact. She is extremely professional and has an excellent grasp of client/lawyer relations as well has excellent technical knowledge.’

‘Barr Ellison has a “family feel” about its practice. It is very professional but at the same time is committed to tailoring its services for the needs of the individual client. Each matter is treated with the same respect and attention to detail. The last twelve months have been a test for everyone and Barr Ellison have still been able to deliver their product effectively to their clients.’

‘There is a real team ethos within Barr Ellison and this operates in a seamless manner for both clients and professional connections. There is a great depth of expertise that is nonetheless expressed in engaging and client-friendly terms, giving great confidence that objectives and priorities are completely understood, so that thorough advice across a wide variety of matters is effectively provided.’

‘We have worked with Emma Parsons for some years and the relationship is characterised by a professionalism, good humour and energy. She successfully expresses complex matters in terms that can be readily understood by non-legal professionals and clients alike, giving complete confidence that she has a full understanding of client priorities and any challenges they may face before providing appropriate and thorough advice.’

‘Francis Durrant has always dealt with our affairs diligently giving best up-to-date advice on all aspects of inheritance tax etc We have dealt in past with other firms who have been exceptionally slow when it comes to this subject and not always given best advice.’

Greenwoods GRM

Greenwoods GRM has a strong base of clients in the agriculture sector around Cambridge, as well as acting for high-net-worth individuals and entrepreneurs. Its work spans every aspect of private client law, including wills, trust administration and Court of Protection matters. Newly promoted Clare Harris is the lead partner in Cambridge and co-head of the firm-wide wealth preservation practice. 'She has been faultless in and her knowledge of the sector is first-class', says one of her clients.

Practice head(s):

Clare Harris

Testimonials

‘I have no complaints with the advice I was given. As with many businesses in the service sector, it comes down to the personal attention provided by the lawyer you are working with. Clare Harris was exceptional.’

‘My sister and I employed Clare Harris and she has been faultless in everything she has done for us. Her knowledge of the sector is first class. She is friendly, understanding, responsive, tactful and delivers wonderful advice in a timely manner. She is very very good. I am very glad that we employed her and I would recommend her to anyone who needs advice in her sector.’

‘The new department of wealth preservation is excellent for our needs. It takes the private client platform to another level, it is not tax avoidance but optimising the value created and ensuring it is managed in a professional and ethical manner. The focus helps understand the options available and how to ensure everything is legally compliant. The team are all very supportive and responsive.’

‘We have worked with Clare Harris for several years and she strives to understand our needs of the wider family, to enable us to plan effectively and goes to he extra mile. This enables her to recommend options and suggest ideas which benefit the whole family.’

‘Whilst delivering a personal service from my own solicitor, the team is always able to handle any questions or documents. There is a real sense of a properly joined up approach across the team from admin to seniors who know what is going on.’

‘Clare Harris provides me with an excellent service. What makes it standout is the personal approach, she is always fully up to speed with what is going on and crucially, remembers everything from previous discussions. Her advice is always considered and well worth listening to. Her willingness to embrace video calls has made our meetings efficient and effective. An absolute delight to work with, I recommend her highly.’

Tees Law

'The service was excellent, very professional and polite', remarks a client of Tees Law. The firm acts for numerous high-net-worth individuals, academics, business owners, farmer and landowners in the Cambridge area. 'Efficient and helpful' lead partner Catherine Mowat has more than 20 years’ experience in complex estate administration and succession planning. Associates Heather Fuff, who moved to Cambridge from the firm's Saffron Walden office, and Chris Claxton-Shirley (who is 'cheerful, kind and caring'), along with senior associate James Marsh, play pivotal roles in the practice.

Practice head(s):

Catherine Mowat

Other key lawyers:

James Marsh; Heather Fuff; Chris Claxton-Shirley

Testimonials

‘The service was excellent, very professional and polite.’

‘Chris Claxton-Shirley helped me navigate my way through all the various tasks I had to carry out to administer my wife’s estate. He was flexible in his approach, and always kept me informed of his progress and likely costs. The billing for the work was always clear and never a surprise. I trust Chris professionally and I like him personally. When the need arises I will happily work with him again.’

‘Absolute professionals and experts in their field.’

‘Chris Claxton-Shirley of Tees Solicitors is professional, cheerful, kind and caring.’

‘The team led by James Marsh worked well together. There was good communication between team members, who were always polite and helpful.’

‘I worked with James Marsh for nearly a year on winding up my late father’s estate. At all times he was professional, dealt with matters in a timely manner and happy to take the time to explain complex legal and tax issues in a clear and concise fashion.’

‘I have used Tees Law to administer a eill of a recent relative who died last year. They were very efficient and thorough. I have been given help and advice with all the aspects that have needed attention. The work has been done as promptly as is possible in these cases.’

‘Catherine Mowat has been most efficient and helpful. I was not knowledgeable at all in these matters and have been guided most diligently through all the necessary aspects by Catherine.’

Work highlights

  • Advice on lifetime gifts of £6.8m, creation of trusts and subsequent administration of estate.
  • Advised on international estate, with assets based in the UK and Croatia and considering EU succession implications.
  • Advice on Court of Protection application to appoint trustee, to enable clients’ property sale to proceed where husband lacked mental capacity, and subsequent Deputyship application, together with associated protection and inheritance tax planning advice for the wife, including lifetime gifts and powers of attorney.

Woodfines LLP

Woodfines LLP frequently supports high-net worth clients in complex estate planning matters, including advice on inheritance tax, complex trusts and probate. The vastly experienced Tim Addinell, who has specialised in private client matters for more than 30 years, leads the firmwide practice from Cambridge. He is well regarded for his expertise in estate and succession planning for business owners and directors. Associate Jenny Barker is praised for her 'communication and efficiency'.

Practice head(s):

Tim Addinell

Other key lawyers:

Jenny Barker