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Contentious trusts and probate in East Midlands

Freeths LLP

Freeths LLP is well-versed in all manner of contested estates work. Director Rachel Gaffney is involved in cases of financial abuse and undue influence, and disputes over lifetime transactions where someone is still alive but has lost capacity. Robert Hill handles lifetime disputes over assets and disputes in the Court of Protection. Mark Keeley is the joint national head of the private client practice and has over 25 years experience in contentious trust and probate disputes.

Practice head(s):

Mark Keeley

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Gaffney; Robert Hill


‘The team at Freeths are my go-to for this practice area. Always extremely knowledgeable and pragmatic in their approach and their client communication and flexibility in working with us and accommodating our clients’ needs has always been a cut above. The diversity of skills and experience within the team makes instructing them an easy choice as they can cover all bases on complex projects. Where there have been elements that are outside of their remit or jurisdictional capacities, they always have tried and tested recommendations/referrals for us which is greatly appreciated.’

‘The partner led approach is brilliant and service levels together with response times second to none.’

‘Very knowledgeable and willing to assist.’

Nelsons Solicitors Limited

With a dedicated specialism in contentious probate work and three offices across the East Midlands, Nelsons Solicitors Limited regularly handles a range of high value disputes in the sector. In addition to general civil litigation matters, Derby-based team head Kevin Modiri specialises in contentious probate matters and claims under the 1975 Inheritance Act. In Leicester, Lewis Addison handles trusts and probate litigation, frequently through alternative dispute resolution and mediation. Lewis Hastie moved to BRM Solicitors in August 2023.

Practice head(s):

Kevin Modiri

Other key lawyers:

Lewis Addison; Stuart Parris


‘The team has grown in recent years and there are now genuine specialists and strength in depth within this practice area.’

‘Kevin Modiri is a very client focused dispute resolution lawyer.’

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

Working closely with the firm’s wider private client team, the contentious probate team at Shakespeare Martineau LLP works on a range of complex and emotional disputes within the market. Particular areas of expertise for the firm are family provision claims, executor disputes, power of attorney disputes and Court of Protection applications. Andrew Wilkinson leads the team, specialising in high net worth trust disputes involving cross-border elements. Debra Burton is another key name, who specialises in complex inheritance act and trust disputes.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Wilkinson

Other key lawyers:

Debra Burton; Jonathan Stark; Catherine Rustomji; Gaynor Lanceley


‘The personal service is key – in particular I have worked closely with Andrew Wilkinson and Kuldeep Chauhan, and have found them to be very helpful and prompt with communications. They also provide meetings every couple of months to discuss the overall caseload, and provide ad hoc advice where asked for.’

‘The team at Shakespeare Martineau are incredibly knowledgeable about all aspects of contentious probate.’

‘Debra Burton is excellent on trusts and has a genuine interest in this area of law, and getting it right for her clients.’

‘Shakespeare Martineau have a very strong contentious trust and probate offering in the East Midlands. They act for a wide range of clients including a large number of big charities.’

‘Andrew Wilkinson heads the team and is very skilled litigator. He is uncompromising but always good to deal with when acting for an opponent. Debra Burton is certainly a rising star and very tenacious in looking to achieve the best outcomes for her clients.’

‘SM’s Contentious Trusts and Probate team has the rare balance of excellent client care together with a thorough knowledge of its practice area. The team is responsive and goes the extra mile in ensuring its clients are fully aware of the risks and benefits through the litigation process.’

‘Shakespeare Martineau is one of the biggest and best firms for trusts and probate work in the Midlands’

‘Debra Burton stands out for her sensible advice and her eye for litigation tactics.’

Gateley Legal

With support from the firm’s national private client team, Gateley Legal deals with a variety of contentious matters throughout the East Midlands market. This includes family provision claims, rectification matters and professional negligence claims arising from defective trust instruments. Claire Herbert leads the team from Nottingham, where she regularly works for beneficiaries, executors and professional trustees.

Practice head(s):

Claire Herbert


‘Very skilled litigators who coduct contentious probate and trusts work with real expertise and with a real eye on the commercial. they are formidable opponents as well as being excellent instructing solicitors.’

‘Claire Herbert combines being very good with clients and an excellent lawyer with being a formidable litigator always with an eye on the best result for her client.’

Roythornes Solicitors

Roythornes works closely with various farms and estates on a range of disputes, including those concerning propriety estoppel and disputes about wills and trusts from landed clients. The agriculture and food industries are particular focus areas for the team. Tim Russ is an expert in litigation involving land and agricultural property, while Jak Ward focuses on disputes regarding the interpretation, construction and validity of a will. Gavin Faber joined the team from Gateley Legal in April 2023.

Practice head(s):

Tim Russ; Jak Ward

Other key lawyers:

Gavin Faber


‘Jak Ward is a tough and knowledgeable litigator. He’s a safe pair of hands in estates and trusts disputes.’

‘Roythornes are undoubtedly one of the leading agricultural practices and this features high in their contentious trusts and probate specialism. They strive to achieve the very best results for their clients and feedback is always extremely positive.’

‘Tim Russ is a very experienced partner and is rightly described as a leading individual. Jak is a gifted young partner who fights tenaciously for his clients to get the very best results.’

‘We regularly have Roythornes as opposition on contentious probate matters and actively refer conflict matters to them. The reason for this is simple: Jak Ward is easy to deal with as an opponent. That is not to say he is a push over because he will fight his client’s corner to the best of his ability. We have the confidence that he will be advising his client fully, properly and appropriately. In the contentious probate world, where there are a lot of dabblers, that is the most important thing. Jak is not a dabbler, he is an expert in this field.’

‘The firm are well regarded and well led by Jak Ward. They have a growing presence for this work in the local area.’

‘Jak Ward is a fantastic lawyer and a great person to work with. He has a sense of humour and a realistic attitude, but will fight diligently for his clients. He is clever, always well prepared and on top of his cases. You couldn’t ask for a better solicitor and he has a great and growing reputation.’

‘Roythornes as a firm has a particular focus on agricultural and rural matters, and the contentious trust and probate team brings real understanding of that background to what are often very contentious matters indeed.’

‘Tim Russ, who leads the team, is an excellent litigator with a practical and effective approach to dispute resolution.’

Flint Bishop LLP

The contentious trusts and probate group at Flint Bishop LLP advises on all aspects of contentious probate for beneficiaries, trustees and executors, particularly on disputes concerning the validity of wills and probate fraud claims. The team is headed by Sundeep Sandhu, who works on a range of high value, complex disputes, with strong experience in professional negligence claims relating to the drafting of wills and trusts.

Practice head(s):

Sundeep Sandhu


‘They are extremely knowledgeable. Friendly and approachable. They always have your best interests at heart . They will look to save costs where they can. They strive for the best outcome for you’

‘Sundeep Sandhu was amazing. She took control of our case and negotiated costs for us. She was always quick to respond and explained everything really well. The whole process was made easy by Sundeep. She understood our requirements and got us the best result. We felt that she really cared about our case’

‘Sundeep Sandhu always makes me feel important and replies to any queries promptly’

Work highlights

  • Acting for an adult child of the deceased who left his entire farming estate worth c£2m+ to his widow excluding the client who had relied on promises made to him by the deceased.
  • Acting for a client whose nephew died unexpectly and successfully challenging the validity of his will.
  • Acting for a client to successfully seek the removal of executors following dailure to complete an estate administration for the client’s father who had deied several years previously.

Howes Percival LLP

Howes Percival LLP is regularly instructed in multi-million pound disputes stemming from the administration of estates and trusts. Jennifer Laskey leads the contentious trusts and probate team, where she handles trust disputes and dispute concerning the validity of wills. She works closely with members of the firm’s dispute resolution team, including Geraint Davies and Satnam Chayra.

Practice head(s):

Jennifer Laskey

Other key lawyers:

Michael Green; Geraint Davies; Satnam Chayra; Victoria Sandell


‘All contacts I have with anyone from this practice are consistently professional and efficient. My family and I are treated with respect and all of our needs are met without ever being made to feel confused or overwhelmed by difficult situations.’

‘Jennifer Laskey treated me with respect and compassion throughout, she was concise and accurate with all advice and explained the processes we needed to go through as well as the areas that would be risky and expensive to pursue. She was kind beyond measure.’

‘Solid contentious estates and trusts team in the East Midlands, led by Jennifer Laskey.’

‘Jennifer Laskey has a natural charm, excellent knowledge and good litigation judgment. She is a pleasure to work with. The kind of estates and trust litigator you’d recommend to a friend.’

Sills & Betteridge LLP

The contentious probate team at Sills & Betteridge LLP is best known for its work surrounding will disputes, proprietary estoppel cases and financial provision claims. Karen Bower-Brown is a specialist in contentious work, such as disputes concerning the validity of wills and financial provision claims. Robert Pearson is another important name, handling claims concerning the Inheritance Act.

Practice head(s):

Karen Bower-Brown

Other key lawyers:

Robert Pearson


‘I was so impressed with Karen Bower-Brown. The legal position was explained clearly and I received a very good level of support, with every stage being explained along the way in layman’s terms.’

‘Sills & Betteridge are outstanding could not have chosen a better firm to assist me in my Contentious Probate matter.’

‘Karen Bower-Brown has been amazing, since my first consultation she has been supportive and helped me make important decisions. It has been a mentally draining position that i was in and Karen was there for support personally and professionally.

‘Karen Bower-Brown is very effective, and exhaustive in explaining risks. She does try to keep the focus on the particular core job in hand, even if I might request additional information for my own understanding and appreciation of the situation’

Work highlights

  • Advised an individual with reference to a dispute with trustees over her occupation of a trust property in circumstances where the trustees were considering bringing the trust to an end which would have rendered the client homeless.
  • Advised an individual with reference to a dispute with the trustees of her late grandfather’s Will following their failure to safeguard her inheritance which was due to her when she reached the age of 18.
  • Advised an individual with reference to issues arising in relation to Mutual Wills and the impact on the administration of a deceased’s estate.

Smith Partnership

Acting alongside the firm’s wider dispute resolution team, Smith Partnership handles complex and high value disputes before both regional courts and the High Court concerning contentious probate matters. Victoria Townsend leads the team with a particular focus on Inheritance Act claims on behalf of both claimants and defendants.

Other key lawyers:

Victoria Townsend


‘The team were friendly, knowledgeable and you felt you could trust them and know they would do their best to support’

‘Smith Partnership have a solid and well rounded team in Contentious Trusts & Probate matters.’

‘Victoria Townsend has a sharp legal mind, and has a clear sense of where a matter needs to go and how to get there.’

Work highlights

  • Acted on behalf of a claimant in a disputed proprietary estoppel claim issued in October 2021.
  • Issued a claim on behalf of a Claimant under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 against her late partner’s estate.
  • Successfully negotiated a claim for a beneficial interest in a property to the value of £100,000.

Wilkin Chapman LLP

Acting for both claimants and defendants, Wilkin Chapman LLP handles complex disputes relating to challenges to wills, undue influence and claims brought under the Inheritance Act. In addition, the team handles disputes regarding the role of executors and trustees. Katherine Marshall leads the team, where she handles all forms of disputes, including professional negligence work concerning wills and probate.

Practice head(s):

Katherine Marshall

Other key lawyers:

Sam Sleight


‘We felt very safe with the advice we were given and protected as clients by Katherine Marshall, a senior solicitor in this department.’

‘Katherine Marshall, senior solicitor gave sound advice and acted promptly with responses. She is readily available, if not her colleague Laura Campbell helped where she could and readily relayed messages.’

‘Knowledge, experience and skill in dealing with our challenging probate situation. Kept up to date and queries responded to quickly.’

Work highlights

  • Advising and representing client in a successful action for removal of an Executor which was determined at a final hearing with an order for costs against the Executor personally.