Personal tax, trusts and probate: Cambridge in East Anglia

Birketts LLP

Birketts LLP shows ‘a depth of technical ability and willingness to work together to meet the client needs and time frames‘. The firm handles the full range of private client work, including trust administration, succession planning, lifetime tax planning and employee ownership trusts, and its practice handles both domestic and international matters. Louise Long  in Ipswich is head of wills and advisory, working closely with key partner Caroline Stenner in Cambridge. Also in Cambridge, newly promoted partner Rachel Winter  is a key adviser to some of the firm’s biggest clients and senior associates Kimberly Sayward and James Marsh play pivotal roles in the practice. ‘They demonstrate a good level of personal service and ensure efficient and cost-effective resolutions‘, remarks one client.

Practice head(s):

Louise Long; Caroline Stenner

Other key lawyers:

Kimberly Sayward; Rachel Winter; James Marsh

Testimonials

‘Exceptionaly knowledgeable, thorough, understood the issues within a very short space of time, worked to pressing deadlines. Detailed knowledge of probate and inheritance tax law and process. Absolute transparency on costing.’

‘Kimberly Sayward dealt with the application for probate and inheritance tax/final tax on my late mother’s estate. With a firm of the quality of Birketts I would expect outstanding service. This was delivered with an absolutely exceptional level of personal care and regular communication such that I felt valued and confident at every stage.’

‘I moved to Birketts following issues with another firm in Cambridge. The difference is service has been astonishing. I was basically ignored by the other firm, who did nothing for three weeks. I asked a friend for a recommendation and she suggested James Marsh of Birketts. James had been brilliant so far and I have no reason to think this will not continue until the settlement of my grandmother’s estate. James is efficient, professional, friendly and inspires confidence.’

‘James Marsh has been such a help to me. He is extremely knowledgeable, updates you continually and keeps to his promises. He does not mind how many questions you ask, or how many emails you send. He gives you his time and is happy to chat anything through.’

‘Birketts LLP have served my clients to the highest of standards. They demonstrate a good level of personal service along with appropriate allocation of resources that ensures the efficient and cost effective resolutions.’

‘The individuals have a can do attitude to resolving a situation rather than presenting hurdles. Friendly, approachable and efficient.’

‘Birketts have a strong tax, trusts and probate team – Kimberly Sayward has strong technical ability, is clear and concise in her advice to clients and always willing to the extra mile.’

‘Kimberly Sayward has worked with many of my clients over the years and I’ve always had fantastic feedback. Kim stands out because she is highly responsive, thorough in her preparation and her technical expertise is very strong.’

HCR Hewitsons

HCR Hewitsons  in Cambridge has ‘strength in depth, with leaders in succession planning, wills, trusts, power of attorney, inheritance tax, and tax-efficient succession planning strategies‘. The firm has the  largest private wealth team in the region, with over £350m of trusts under management, and in 2021 advised on trusts with an additional value of £450m. Daniel Curtis (who is ‘unquestionably a leader in his field in this region and beyond‘) leads the practice and advises numerous clients with foreign property or who are domiciled abroad. ‘A consummate safe pair of hands‘, Bernadette O’Reilly focuses on on capital tax planning for individuals and trustees, including those with overseas assets. Elizabeth Davies acts as a trustee for trusts with diverse assets, including private company shares, development land and diversified landed estates. Senior associate Kelly Wardell also plays a key role in the practice.

Practice head(s):

Daniel Curtis

Other key lawyers:

Bernadette O’Reilly; Elizabeth Davies; Kelly Wardell

Testimonials

‘Strength in depth. Leaders in succession planning, wills, trusts, power of attorney and inheritance tax/tax efficient succession planning strategies.’

‘Daniel Curtis unquestionably a leader in his field in this region and beyond. He leads an outstanding private client team. He has unsurpassed knowledge and experience in complex will administration and associated tax issues.

‘Bernadette O’Reilly is a consummate safe pair of hands, knowledgeable and incredibly approachable. One of her main strengths is being able to explain complex legal issues in a succinct and digestible form.’

Mills & Reeve LLP

The Cambridge office of Mills & Reeve LLP has ‘an international practice which would be the envy of many London-based firms‘, and one client remarks that it has ‘great intellectual depth of knowledge‘. Chris Belcher in Cambridge leads the firm’s national private client practice, and he specialises in advising wealthy UK and international individuals and families on tax, trusts and estates, including inheritance, capital gains tax planning and the protection of family assets. He ‘stands out not only for his huge expertise and outstanding technical knowledge but also for his ability to distill that knowledge to clients‘. Principal associate Alex Hunt and senior associate Emma Geale are also recommended for taxation and succession planning matters.

Practice head(s):

Chris Belcher

Other key lawyers:

Alex Hunt; Emma Geale

Testimonials

‘In-depth knowledge of trusts and advice for international clients.’

‘Very clear communication and clearly know their stuff. Alex Hunt is very knowledgeable on trusts and international clients.’

‘Mills & Reeve Cambridge has an international practice which would be the envy of many London-based firms. Their team have a great intellectual depth of knowledge and are accessible and a pleasure to deal with. We are always happy to recommend our clients to Mills & Reeve.’

‘Chris Belcher stands out not only for his huge expertise and outstanding technical knowledge but also for his ability to distill that knowledge to clients and colleagues alike.’

‘Alex Hunt is also one to watch – huge intellectual capacity matched by his personable and easy style.’

Taylor Vinters

Taylor Vinters in Cambridge is ‘able to provide advice on complex matters by breaking things down into bitesize pieces and using everyday language that is easily understood‘. The firm advises a large roster of high-net-worth clients, including entrepreneurs and senior professionals in the life sciences and banking sectors. Jackie Wells leads an entrepreneurial wealth practice that is ‘very proactive, offering an holistic review of the client’s affairs, planning and family dynamics‘. Jocelyn Fox is a specialist in trust, tax and probate law with particular expertise in capital taxes, estate planning, including trust creation and structuring, and a niche in advising on the use of trusts for vulnerable adults and children and those under a disability.  Partner James Packer focuses on multi-jurisdictional matters and senior counsel Fiona Lewsey is ‘an extremely accomplished practitioner who is wonderfully client-focused‘.

Practice head(s):

Jackie Wells

Other key lawyers:

Jocelyn Fox; Fiona Lewsey

Testimonials

‘Very good strength in depth in succession and trust matters.’

‘Fiona Lewsey is technically very strong, with excellent communication skills.’

‘Fiona Lewsey is a fantastic lawyer, and also a pleasure to work with. Her knowledge of the relevant law is excellent, she explains technical material very clearly, and she has a real empathy for me and my family.’

‘An incredibly responsive team that guides clients smoothly and efficiently through complex issues’

‘Fiona Lewsey is an extremely accomplished practitioner who is wonderfully client-focused.’

‘Able to provide advice on complex matters by breaking things down into bitesize pieces and using everyday language that is easily understood. Really slick take on procedures, thorough documentation and warm and friendly service.’

‘The team has strength in depth – whether dealing with the partner or another member of the team, the quality of service is excellent. With regard to costs, budgets are fair, and the team is effective at working within the budgets agreed.’

Ashtons Legal

Ashtons Legal has a strong regional agricultural and owner-managed business client base and also acts for many multi-generational families in Suffolk. The practice also has a niche in French law and handles French wills, cross-border IHT advice and probate support. Lynn Wicks in Cambridge, who is the key contact for lifetime planning, and Alan Brown in Bury St Edmunds, who is head of individual client services, are the lead partners. Jennie Pratt in Cambridge (who is 'a good communicator, personable, technically strong and has great attention to detail') has vast experience in wealth management and tax planning. Also in Cambridge, senior associate Christina Duck is 'sensitive and patient at a time of difficulty'.

Practice head(s):

Alan Brown; Lynn Wicks

Other key lawyers:

Jennie Pratt; Christina Duck

Testimonials

‘Christina Duck was easy to talk to. Supportive when explaining legal concepts.’

‘Lynn Wicks – her niche area of specialism is with vulnerable and elderly clients. She brings care and empathy to the role.’

‘Jennie Pratt is very capable. She is a good communicator, personable, technically strong and has great attention to detail.’

‘I have used the practice for over 20 years now for a variety of work. Most recently rewriting my will and LPAs. In respect of the most recent transactions my solicitor has been invaluable in helping me at a difficult time in terms of writing the documents to truly reflect my wishes. The solicitor was sensitive and responsive. The use of technology was excellent and meant that all our business could be conducted remotely.’

‘Christina Duck has been the person I have had most contact with over the years. Most recently her experience has been invaluable and she has helped me draft my will in a way that is appropriate and is a true reflection of my wishes. She has been sensitive and patient at a time of difficulty.’

‘Clients whom have difficulty managing their finances and have court appointed deputyships should feel confident that their deputy with Ashtons Legal will communicate effectively with the relevant team members to ensure that their money is efficiently and appropriately spent and that they are involved in the processes as much as possible.’

‘Ashtons Legal recognise that it is not about getting things done cheaply, but that in some instances spending more for quality kit pays dividends in the end and can facilitate positive change for people with catastrophic injuries/lifelong conditions.’

‘Being able to have conversations with solicitors to be able to explain the thinking processes behind decisions for purchases is helpful so that collaborative decisions can be made int he client’s best interests.’

Work highlights

  • Advising the client on the impact of a possible move from the US to the UK in relation to the IHT steps that could be taken in advance of such a decision to mitigate those consequences. Assessing and advising on domicile including Formerly Domiciled Resident status. Assets in the region of £6m.
  • Advised a major shareholder in a company with shareholding worth circa £12 million who held land in the UK and Philippines.

Barr Ellison LLP

The personal wealth practice at Barr Ellison LLP guides clients ‘through all the complexities of probate and existing trusts in a way that is efficient, sympathetic, and speedy‘. The firm handles a large volume of private client work for academics and, through its office in Addenbrookes Hospital, doctors and consultants. Lead partner Emma Parsons assists numerous high-net-worth individuals and entrepreneurs with wills, trusts and estate planning. Partner Francis Durrant also has vast experience in this area and is ‘extremely prompt in acting on requests for advice and action‘. ‘I found the service to be first-class‘, remarks one client.

Practice head(s):

Emma Parsons

Other key lawyers:

Frances Durrant; Chris Jones

Testimonials

‘I moved to Barr Ellison four and a half years ago on the death of my husband and they have seen me through all the complexities of probate and existing trusts in a way that was efficient, sympathetic, and speedy. Barr Ellison have given good advice and are diligent in helping me to obey all legal requirements’

‘Francis Durrant is extremely prompt in acting on requests for advice and action. I feel I can rely on him to deal with complex matters on my behalf. He has pursued matters to do with properties, inheritance, and wills, as well as my personal affairs.’

‘I have used this firm on two occasions. I found the service to be first-class with rapid delivery and no unnecessary or unclear charges. Solicitors were always available by telephone.’

‘Chris Jones was our primary contact. Efficient and approachable . Went the extra mile to provide an excellent service.’

‘This professional practice in the heart of Cambridge provides personal attention for the private client with expertise across a range of areas.’

Greenwoods Legal

Clients of Greenwoods Legal note praise ‘the care in understanding client needs and researching appropriate recommendations‘, noting that the service ‘always feels personal‘. One notes that ‘it’s about the client and not some off-the-shelf solution‘. The firm has a diverse client base around Cambridge, ranging from the agricultural sector through to successful entrepreneurs. Clare Harris in Cambridge, who is a Fellow of the Agricultural Law Association (ALA) leads the practice. She also has a STEP Diploma in Trusts and Estates.

Practice head(s):

Clare Harris

Testimonials

‘The care in understanding client needs and researching appropriate recommendations. It always feels personal.’

‘It’s about the client and not some off the shelf solution.’

Tees Law

'The entire team have such a wide range of expertise and knowledge, and I felt as though they were always working with my best interests in mind', remarks a client of Tees Law. The firm has a diverse client base that includes high-net-worth individuals, members of the House of Lords, academics, business owners, farmers and landowners. Practice head and senior partner Catherine Mowat is 'very knowledgeable and able to deal with complicated issues'. Associates Chris Claxton-Shirley (who is 'highly efficient, thoughtful, humane and extremely good at what he does') and STEP member Heather Fuff also play central roles in the practice.

Practice head(s):

Catherine Mowat

Other key lawyers:

Chris Claxton-Shirley; Heather Fuff

Testimonials

‘Catherine Mowat is very knowledgeable and able to deal with complicated issues.’

‘Always a responsive team to any general enquiries – they ensured good continuity of service during the lockdown restrictions. I would recommend them to others.’

‘I value the advice I have received for many years from Catherine Mowat. She replies promptly to enquiries and her advice is clear and concise. The detail she provides in her follow-up letters is always a useful reminder of our discussions.’

‘The size of Tees Law helps it to give a very broad expertise across the whole legal spectrum. Also this size means that they can advise and help with other matters from their own in-house experts. Yes, despite their size, Tees Law remains very approachable and friendly.’

‘Everyone that I have dealt with at Tees Law has been efficient, fast and personally engaging with a very good understanding of my requirements.’

‘The entire team have such a wide range of expertise and knowledge and I felt as though they were always working with my best interests in mind. They took time to determine my needs and who on their team would be best suited to help. The team consistently work fluidly and efficiently and I have never once has to chase them for anything. All of their work is completed to the highest standard and is always completed well within their given time ranges.’

‘Chris Claxton-Shirley stands out in my mind, he is an excellent member of the Tees Law team. He is incredibly easy to get along with and I felt incredibly comfortable talking to him about my personal matters.’

‘My dealings were with Catherine Mowatt who thorough, pleasant and she explained everything in great detail. I did not feel rushed at any time. Her colleagues who we met in both Cambridge and Saffron Walden were also very efficient and friendly.’

Work highlights

  • Succession planning for a client worth circa £5m including advice on their Will, Lasting Powers of Attorney, lifetime gifts and trusts, with a view to mitigation of IHT.
  • Advising on a specialist application for court approval for a personal injury trust to hold a multi-million-pound compensation payment on behalf of a minor who sustained life changing injuries because of medical negligence.
  • Advice on the administration of an estate with international assets, based in the UK and Hong Kong.

Woodfines LLP

The private client practice at Woodfines LLP is ‘approachable and courteous – the pure embodiment of a professional firm of solicitors‘. The wills and probate team has many STEP-qualified members and is led by the vastly experienced Tim Addinell, who holds a number of executorships and trusteeships for clients. Senior associate John Wright is ‘an outstanding individual who has no weaknesses‘, and one client describes him as ‘knowledgeable solicitor who takes the responsibility of his role very seriously‘. ‘The team delivers a fresh approach to complex issues and the options for advice are delivered with great clarity‘, remarks another.

Practice head(s):

Tim Addinell

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Dattani; John Wright; Thomas Hale

Testimonials

‘I have been lucky enough to be advised by Tim Addinell and Jonathan Dattani. They were both so kind and helpful when my husband passed away. Nothing was too much trouble for them.’

‘Woodfines LLP are a very well run organization that is the pure embodiment of a professional firm of solicitors. There terms of business are well documented and clearly stated. Their staff are always approachable and courteous, I always feel special when dealing with Woodfines. I would be very happy to recommend them to my family/friends which is the highest compliment I could give.’

‘John Wright – a very professional and knowledgeable solicitor who takes the responsibility of his role very seriously. John is very approachable and forges excellent relationships with his customers. His support on all areas of probate have been invaluable on two estates I have acted on as an executor on. One of the estates John dealt with had some significant complexities and John was able to resolve all matters to the executors full satisfaction. An outstanding individual who has no weaknesses.’

‘Thomas Hale is responsive and efficient in communication when working on matters for mutual clients.’

‘A high level of knowledge and expertise in the areas of advice.’

‘The team delivers a fresh approach to complex issues. The options for advice are delivered with great clarity.’

‘As above I have dealt with a complex estate account with several beneficiaries referred by John Wright who dealt with the many aspects in a level headed and efficient way.’

‘I have found Woodfines to be very professional in all aspects of legal advice.’