Hall Of Fame

Leading Individuals

Contentious trusts and probate in East Midlands

Freeths LLP

Freeths LLP is a ‘leading player’ in high value contentious trust and probate litigation, excelling in contested court of protection work, estoppel claims, Inheritance Act and removal applications. It is also increasingly sought after by farming clients on numerous high profile disputes involving large agricultural estates, and as part of the Baker Tilly network, is taking on more disputes with international elements. Mark Keeley and Rachel Gaffney have over 35 years’ of combined litigation experience. Director Robert Hill  has an interest in jointly owned property, particularly in claims under the Trusts of Land and Appointment Act.

Practice head(s):

Mark Keeley

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Gaffney; Robert Hill


‘Freeths are a leading player in the field of Contentious Trusts and Probate. The specialist team sits within an organisation that is very well resourced and which offers a full range of private client and litigation services to high net worth clients. Despite their heavyweight presence, leader Mark Keeley and his team are all very down to earth and approachable.’

‘Mark Keeley is rightly regarded as a leading figure in this sector. His knowledge his extensive and his judgment is impeccable. With his calm manner and skills honed as an experienced mediator, he is able to de-escalate even the most hostile situations, cutting through to find workable solutions for his clients.

‘Robert Hill is highly knowledgeable and pragmatic, providing a steady hand on the tiller. ’

‘The team is led by Mark Keeley who is a very experienced and knowledgeable specialist. He is ably assisted by Rachel Gaffney. Certainly one of the leading teams in the region.’

‘Good national coverage, large and experienced team of specialists who are all down to earth and approachable.’

‘Freeths are one of the heavyweights in contentious probate. Excellent across the board’

‘Mark Keeley knows his stuff. An excellent academic lawyer and mediator’.’

‘Mark Keeley has been a leading figure in contentious probate for many years both in practice and as a much sought after mediator – his skills are second to none.’

‘Rachel Gaffney and Robert Hill are both exceptionally skilled lawyers.’

Nelsons Solicitors Limited

Nelsons Solicitors Limited‘s robust contentious trusts and probate practice is regularly involved in disputes involving estates worth in excess of 7 figures. Kevin Modiri, based in Nottingham and Derby, is the firms’ main specialist for claims under the Inheritance Act, with associate Lewis Hastie primarily representing individual clients in contentious probate claims and Court of Protection cases. Mediator Lewis Addison leads the Leicester team.

Practice head(s):

Kevin Modiri

Other key lawyers:

Lewis Addison; Lewis Hastie


‘Lewis Addison and his team have significant experience of this area and their advice is always pragmatic and relevant. Good at negotiating settlements. Their profile should be higher given the quality of their work.’

‘Lewis Addison is very good at choosing the moment to negotiate, and always approaches a mediation with a well thought out strategy. His clients are always well prepared for a negotiation.’

‘The solicitors that work for Nelsons are all perfectionist who work hard to sort out your cases and are also caring people taking you through was is happening with everything.’

‘I would like to say that Mr. Modiri was one of the best solicitors I know he sorted my case out that was very difficult from the start to finish he kept me informed about everything and put my mind at rest.’

‘Lewis Hastie robust but considered and intelligent approach.’

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

Shakespeare Martineau LLP has ‘great depth of knowledge and real specialisation’ in contentious trusts, and continues to be a sought after counsel for complex contested Court of Protection applications, executor and will disputes. Andrew Wilkinson is one of the leading partners in the region’ and undertakes complex legacy and trusts disputes involving cross border elements, worth up to £200m. Debra Burton is another integral member of the team; she specialises in inheritance disputes. Both partners act for a significant number of local charitable organisations.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Wilkinson

Other key lawyers:

Debra Burton


‘Debra Burton has been friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and helpfully brings in other partners / solicitors where other expertise is needed. Responsive and quick to act.’

‘Debra Burton is extremely knowledgeable about trusts and probate matters. She has a commercial approach and always has her eye on driving the matter to a settlement in the best interests of her clients. She will always go the extra mile for her clients.’

‘The Shakespeare Martineau contentious trust and probate team are well-regarded amongst their peers and act for a number of charities and trust corporations.’

‘The team is led by the excellent Andrew Wilkinson who is one of the leading partners in the region, very ably assisted by Debra Burton who is a ferocious adversary.’

‘Great depth of knowledge and real specialisation. Attention to detail. Easy to work with and know how to cut through difficult issues, especially when facing aggressive opponents.’

‘Shakespeare Martineau have a large contentious probate team and accordingly offer varied skill set and strength in depth, together with appropriate levels of fee earner to ensure the cost-effectiveness of the work undertaken in each case. They are reputable as one of the leading expert firms in this practice area particularly in the local marketplace.’

‘Debra Burton is straight-talking and client-focussed. She is an excellent choice for partnership law matters in the succession context.

Roythornes Solicitors

Roythornes Solicitors routinely acts in multi-million-pound estate disputes in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, and is the go-to firm for litigation involving land and agricultural property, which is Tim Russ‘ area of expertise. Jak Ward is ‘tenacious at fighting his client’s corner’ and is instructed on disputes regarding the interpretation, construction or validity of a will, financial provision claims and disputes over co-owned property and trusts of land.

Practice head(s):

Tim Russ; Jak Ward


‘Jak Ward is an able litigation partner with good judgment.’

‘Roythornes are a well-respected outfit in this area. If Roythornes are on the other side you know the matter will be dealt with professionally and sensibly.’

‘Jak Ward has recently joined to boost their head count. Jak is tenacious at fighting his client’s corner and has a thorough understanding of the law. He is well respected by his peers.’

‘Jak Ward has recently joined. He is technically strong and a Partner to watch.’

‘Jak Ward is a new recruit to this team and is a fantastic, thorough lawyer. He really cares about his clients and develop excellent relationships with them.’

‘Roythornes is nationally well known for its expertise in agricultural law. Farms and farmers are often the source of probate and trust disputes, and Roythornes’ contentious trust and probate practice combines excellent legal analysis with a deep knowledge and understanding of the agricultural sector.’

‘Tim Russ is extremely able, commercial and energetic and gets on extremely well with his clients.’

Flint Bishop LLP

Flint Bishop LLP advises on all aspects of contentious probate for beneficiaries, trustees and executors. Senior associate Sundeep Sandhu is ‘one to watch’ and is the lead litigator for all-manner of complex and high-stakes disputes; she is also experienced in dealing with professional negligence relating to the drafting of wills and trusts matters.

Practice head(s):

Sundeep Sandhu


‘I have nothing but praise for this team. The people are friendly and helpful. They are extremely knowledgeable and have the capacity to use different team members to cover any base which saves trying to use different solicitors when other problems with our case arose. It was all kept in house which kept costs down and reduced timescales.’

‘Sundeep Sandhu has been invaluable to us in our recent dispute. She answered any queries very quickly and clearly. Sundeep timed her decisions over taking our case to court brilliantly. She is very thorough and we felt very safe under her guidance. We cannot recommend her highly enough.’

‘Sundeep Sandhu has been supportive, informative but made us feel important to her to resolve the concerns.’

‘Everyone has been very helpful especially Sundeep who, I feel, has gone above and beyond what I expected from her. Billing has always prompt’

‘I think Sundeep is a very good solicitor and one to watch as a potential star in the the next few years.’

‘Flint Bishop’s contentious trusts and probate practice is very highly respected in the industry. The team is responsive, experienced, analytical and able to distil even the most complicated advice into terms easily comprehended by lay clients.’

Work highlights

  • Acting for a client whose father had died years previously. The estate had never been administered as it consisted mainly of a large farm which the client and her sister (the only beneficiaries) shared amicably. The sisters fell out, and a dispute has arisen as to how the farm should be divided and where the monies in the estate have been spent.
  • Acting for an adult child of the deceased who left his entire farming estate worth c£2m+ to his widow excluding our client who had relied on promises made to him by the deceased. The matter involves issues of proprietory estoppel, trust arguments and financial provision.

Sills & Betteridge LLP

Sills & Betteridge LLP is one of Lincolnshire’s specialist contentious trusts and probate practices. Karen Bower-Brown has built up a strong contentious reputation in representing clients in disputes over validity of wills, financial provision claims, proprietary estoppel cases and property and trust litigation.

Practice head(s):

Karen Bower-Brown


‘Karen Bower-Brown impressed me with her logical and calm approach to our contentious issue with the validity of a will. I would readily recommend her.’

‘Karen Bower-Brown was an exceptional individual to work with. Karen made us feel that our case was important to her and that she would explore every potential route to help us win our case. We are without doubt that without her input and leadership, we would not have achieved the positive outcome that resulted.’

‘Karen Bower-Brown- her measured and knowledgeable approach led to a very satisfactory outcome when it was possible to have ended very poorly. Karen’s communication was excellent and responsive, while never unnecessary, such that legal bills accumulated appropriately and not excessively.’

‘Karen is an experienced Litigation Solicitor, and we found her knowledge to be of great value in dealing with our relations and securing a settlement quickly. She was kind and supportive and understood what I was going through, which helped me through this difficult process.’

Work highlights

  • Dispute relating to the validity of a Will that had not been properly executed in the presence of two witnesses. Now resolved. An application is being made for a Grant of Probate on the basis of an earlier properly executed Will.
  • Dispute relating to the validity of a homemade Will made from a document printed from the internet very shortly before the Deceased’s death from Covid.
  • Defended challenge to the validity of the Will and subsequently a financial provision claim which was settled.

Smith Partnership

Associate Victoria Townsend is the key figure at the contentious trusts team at Smith Partnership, where she takes ‘a sensible approach to litigation and settlement’; her fields of expertise; inheritance disputes, contested wills and claims involving property and estates.

Practice head(s):

Victoria Townsend


‘A small but dedicated practice with up-and-coming associates who are skilled beyond their PQE. Excellent value for money and with a can-do attitude.’

‘Friendly, professional, efficient and effective in accordance with stated expectations. Without hesitation, I’d recommend the legal services provided by Victoria Townsend.’

‘Made to feel like an old friend that’s reassuring and without hesitation I’d recommend the legal services provided by Victoria Townsend. Outstanding, what more can I say!’

‘Victoria Townsend is the leading individual within the practice area. Very knowledgeable and takes a sensible approach to litigation and settlement.’

‘Victoria Townsend is a pleasure to deal with. Calm and sensible. A future partner for sure.’

Work highlights

  • Acted on behalf of the Claimant in respect of the first judicial consideration of section 11 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 in relation to contracts to leave property by a Will. Obtained Judgment in favour of the Claimant with a costs order against the Defendant.
  • Acted on behalf of the Executors in defending a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 by a minor child, where the child had been left with substantial provision by way of a trust in his favour, which fell outside of the estate.
  • Acted on behalf of a Defendant in an application for an Urgent Injunction in the Business & Property Courts over funds held jointly with a Deceased friend, together with proceedings for a Declaration that the funds were held on trust for the benefit of the Deceased only.

Wilkin Chapman LLP

At Wilkin Chapman LLP, Katherine Marshall is a highly recommended counsel for claimants, defendants and estates in all kinds of disputes, ranging from claims under the Inheritance Act, those under the doctrine of estoppel, and the removal of trustees and executors.

Practice head(s):

Katherine Marshall


‘The team is focussed upon the Senior Associate Kate Marshall. A small team but adept at efficiently handling contested probate claims proportionate to value and complexity.’

‘Katherine Marshall is very experienced in contentious probate matters and will disputes. She has substantial experience at all levels and is very good at handling clients and difficult opponents. I can’t think of anyone with comparable ability in this area. She thinks of everything and goes the extra mile for her clients.’

‘Katherine Marshall has dealt with our case in not only a highly professional manner, using her knowledge in this sector to help us understand what we are faced with legally, but also with patience and compassion during a very difficult time for us.’

‘I highly recommend Wilkin & Chapman. They made the whole process less stressful with their professional conduct and friendly too. Especially with sensitive cases. Most of my case was conducted during lockdown yet we still had a successful outcome.’

‘Katherine Marshall was my solicitor, she took over the case as my original solicitor left the practice. Katherine , is very professional, friendly, calm. Katherine made a very stressful case much more smoother and was very understanding. All the team involved were lovely and professional.’

‘Personalised service. Strongly feel that the solicitor cares and wants to help to support with all aspects relating to the case.’

‘Katherine Marshall based at Lincoln has helped me to progress the case with as little upset as possible. She has at times contacted myself outside of office hours to help t settle me when i have been upset with letters/responses received.’

‘I felt the support I received concerning the family Will was extremely helpful, and timely. The advice given me by Katherine Marshall was clear, and compassionate, and saved me further costs. Katherine could have suggested further legal action by myself but said this should be avoided if possible. I very much appreciated her openness about this, and felt she worked in my best interests at all time.’

‘As above, I found Katherine to be professional but also kind and considerate in the help she offered me. I found her easy to relate to and she made a potentially complex situation much clearer and manageable. I felt Katherine grasped the particular situation I found myself in very quickly and the advice she gave me resolved this for me with a positive outcome.’

‘We have dealt with Wilkin Chapman over many years and wouldn’t go anywhere else. They are extremely professional and very well respected. They always make you feel valued and treat you with courtesy.’