Contentious trusts and probate in East Midlands

Freeths LLP

The 'experienced team of specialist contentious trust and probate lawyers' at Freeths LLP focus on high-value, complex litigation. Practice head Mark Keeley is considered to be 'one of the leading private client litigators in the country' and is qualified as a mediator and frequently acts as a replacement trustee. The 'exceptional team' represents clients in claims under the Inheritance Act, will challenges, estoppel claims, devastavit actions, trusts of land cases and trustee removal applications as well as contested court of protection cases. Rachel Gaffney is noted for her 'wealth of experience'. Robert Hill has been promoted to director.

Practice head(s):

Mark Keeley

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Gaffney; Robert Hill


‘Mark Keeley is one of the leading private client litigators in the country.’

‘Freeths are renowned for having an established and experienced team of specialist contentious trust and probate lawyers. They have the resources of a large regional firm to call on and excellent connections in the industry sector. The team members are knowledgeable and approachable.’

‘Mark Keeley leads by example and combines his excellent technical legal knowledge with emotional intelligence and common sense. His skills as a mediator enable him to carry his clients and opponents alike towards a negotiated outcome in even the most fraught family disputes. Robert Hill and Rachel Gaffney also have a wealth of experience and inspire confidence.’

‘Freeths are one of the leading teams in the Midlands. They have real expertise and always sensible and pragmatic to deal with.’

‘The team is well led by Mark Keeley, who is extremely knowledgeable and experienced.’

‘The team lead by the superb Mark Keeley has breadth and depth in offering from the East Midlands. Mark is known for his willingness to accept appointments as Independent Administrator on tricky matters.’

‘Mark Keeley is a top lawyer and mediator. He brings in-depth knowledge of all things contentious trust and probate, with experience and an excellent dose of common sense. All this coupled with good humour and warmth of personality makes him a delight to work with.’

‘Mark Keeley is excellent – both as a lawyer and as a mediator. He is calm, measured and unflappable while possessing detailed knowledge of the practice area.’

Nelsons Solicitors Limited

The 'sophisticated team of specialists' at Nelsons Solicitors Limited acts in all types of matters related to contentious trusts and probate, including Inheritance Act claims, as well as commercial disputes, defamation cases and  Court of Protection issues. Practice head Kevin Modiri is noted as an 'excellent client-focused solicitor' who is not only experienced in contentious trust and probate matters, but also specialises in general civil litigation and privacy claims. 'Excellent negotiator' Lewis Addison and Lewis Hastie are also recommended for their work on complex cases.

Practice head(s):

Kevin Modiri

Other key lawyers:

Lewis Addison; Lewis Hastie


‘They always kept me up to date and were knowledgeable. I have very little understanding about legal matters, but the staff always helped explain things thoroughly. They never did anything without clarifying it with me first.’

‘Kevin Modiri has gone above and beyond to help me with a situation I found myself in. Previous solicitors looked at the matter but didn’t seem to understand it, Kevin took it on and has helped resolve it.’

‘Kevin Modiri is an excellent client focused solicitor.’

‘Kevin Modiri is driven and achieves outstanding results for his clients. He manages associates and others working for him very effectively.’

‘Lewis Hastie is a really competent and reliable solicitor, who prepares his cases well and thinks about the strengths, weaknesses, desired outcomes, and pulls out the stops to achieve what the client wants. He does a range of legally complex cases.’

‘Nelsons have a large, sophisticated team of specialists. They are robust and knowledgeable litigators, and persuasive negotiators.’

‘Lewis Addison is an excellent negotiator. He understands the risks associated with litigation and is able to explain them to clients in a way that enables them to make balanced decisions.’

‘Lewis Addison is very level headed and fair in his approach.’

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

The 'very strong' team at Shakespeare Martineau LLP specialises in the resolution of complex disputes concerning contested wills and probate as well as contentious estate administration matters, including resulting professional negligence claims. In addition to advice for private individuals, the firm regularly acts for charities in matters concerning challenged wills. 'Outstanding private client litigator' Andrew Wilkinson heads the practice and focuses on high net-worth trust and complex legacy disputes. ACTAPS and STEP certified Debra Burton 'quickly gets to the bottom of complex legal problems'. Jonathan Stork joined from Wilkin Chapman LLP and works out of the firm's new Lincoln office.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Wilkinson

Other key lawyers:

Debra Burton; Jonathan Stork


‘Andrew Wilkinson and Debra Burton are two outstanding private client litigators.’

‘This is a very strong contentious probate team. They have a deep knowledge of the law and a good practical application of it.’

‘Debra Burton is very knowledgeable – she quickly gets to the bottom of complex legal problems. She is always prepared to go the extra mile for her clients.’

‘Debra Burton is very knowledgeable. Contentious probate can be a very tricky area for a charity to navigate and she is always available to give advice.’

‘Shakespeare Martineau’s contentious probate team were excellent over a long and complex case covering multiple areas. They provided good advice and solutions, were diligent in replying and always kept going with enthusiasm. They enjoy what they do, and are great people to work with under difficult circumstances. Every professional they put forward did their job well and could be totally relied on. We recommend them unreservedly.’

‘Andrew Wilkinson was a very fortunate recommendation. He clarified a really difficult situation with expert opinion, and was reassuring from the outset.’

‘Very detailed specialist knowledge. Vast experience. Imaginative approach to problem solving. Good communications with clients and counsel. Pragmatic and commercially aware advice. Fast and responsive.’

Key clients

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Gateley Plc

The contentious trusts and probate practice at Gateley Plc advises on all types of claims, including those concerns validity and rectification of wills, family provision and proprietary estoppel claims as well as professional negligence claims arising from poor investment or tax advice and defective trust and wills. The 'hugely experienced, utterly reliable' team, which includes 'excellent lawyer' Claire Herbert, Fiona Debney and 'highly professional' Chris Greenwell,  advises disappointed beneficiaries, trustees as well as executors and assists in Court of Protection matters concerning financial abuse cases. 'Unerringly good' Gavin Faber heads the practice from Birmingham.

Practice head(s):

Gavin Faber

Other key lawyers:

Claire Herbert; Fiona Debney; Chris Greenwell; Natalie Howes; Catriona Attride


‘Claire Herbert is approachable, confident, thorough and very much at the top of her game. An excellent lawyer who I would recommend to anyone. ’

‘They speak in a language I can understand ’

‘Chris Greenwell is highly professional andeasy to get on with.’

‘Claire Herbert and Natalie Howes are particularly good.’

‘I rate the team extremely highly; they are hugely experienced, utterly reliable and have great instincts for what points to push and what to concede. Catriona Attride is a first-class lawyer and is completely brilliant where contentious cases have a tax or trusts angle which others might miss. The team now benefits from the great presence of Gavin Faber who has unerringly good judgement about the shape and direction of a case and is a robust and dogged opponent.’

‘They are a friendly and approachable team. They have a large team, so they can assist in a wide variety of issues in a very knowledgeable way. They have specialists in this field that focus purely on this type of work. Generally many firms dabble in this area or it forms part of a wider offering. Having an expert is really helpful and you can feel confident with their advice. ’

‘Catriona Attride is a first-class lawyer and is completely brilliant where contentious cases have a tax or trusts angle which others might miss. She is fantastic with clients, giving clear and no-nonsense advice with great good humour. She is my go-to recommendation for any contentious trust or estate case, particularly ones with a tax angle. The team now benefits from the great presence of Gavin Faber who has unerringly good judgment about the shape and direction of a case and is a robust and dogged opponent. Hannah Turner is an absolutely excellent associate, who like Catriona, is able to straddle the non-contentious and contentious aspects of a case with consummate ease.’

Roythornes Solicitors

Roythornes Solicitors has a focus on the agriculture and food industries, matters concerning landed estates, and investment property advice, and as such, the contentious trusts and probate team frequently act in related matters, including claims involving proprietary estoppel, disputed wills and trusts of landed clients, variations of trusts and claims relating to the mismanagement of family trusts. Tim Russ, who heads the team, is an accredited mediator and ‘pure class as a litigator‘, and is a member of ACTAPS and the Agricultural Law Society. 'Able and resilient litigator' Jak Ward joined from the Smith Partnership in September 2021.

Practice head(s):

Tim Russ

Other key lawyers:

Jak Ward


‘A good strong team, with lots of agricultural experience, and sensible litigators. Good at managing client expectations and sorting the achievable from the fanciful.’

‘Tim Russ has a sensible head on his shoulders. He is able to see rational and achievable outcomes to disputes.’

‘Joseph Mitchell has great knowledge of law.’

‘Tim Russ is bright, experienced, and has good judgement and people skills.

‘Tim Russ is a very experienced practitioner who is great at handling difficult clients.’

‘Tim Russ is pure class as a litigator. He combines a razor sharp mind with years of experience in this area and is renowned for his success in agricultural will disputes. ’

‘Tim Russ is an excellent litigation solicitor. He is tenacious with opponents and understanding of clients.’

‘Jak Ward has strong expertise. He fights his clients’ corner but is always sensible and pragmatic.’

Flint Bishop LLP

Flint Bishop LLP's contentious probate practice gives 'realistic advice' to beneficiaries, trustees and executors on all aspects of contentious probate. The 'very friendly and helpful' team act in claims relating to contested validity of wills, probate fraud claims, proprietary claims, actions brought under the Inheritance Act 1975 as well as the removal and appointment of executors and trustees. Associate Sundeep Sandhu heads the department from Derby.

Practice head(s):

Sundeep Sandhu


‘The firm was very professional and supportive in a very sensitive issue.’

‘They gave realistic advice on what could be achieved.’

‘All the team have been very friendly and helpful whether it be face to face, by telephone or by email usually responding very quickly.’

‘Sundeep Sandhu has been a great support; when I have felt down she has listened to me.’

Work highlights

  • Advised a beneficiary and executor in respect of  Inheritance Act claim, which involved an estate worth in excess of £1m and involved an extremely difficult and complicated set of factual circumstances.
  • Acted for an executor of an estate who was removed in consequence of a fraudulently created codicil.
  • Acted 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 arose as to how the farm should be divided and where the monies in the estate have been spent.

Sills & Betteridge LLP

Sills & Betteridge LLP's 'very helpful and professional' contentious probate team has extensive experience of a wide variety of claims, such as defending executors and beneficiaries when wills are contested, Inheritance Act claims and negotiating terms of a deed of variation. The practice is headed by David John and 'very knowledgeable and professional' Karen Bower-Brown who also regularly acts in mediations as well as property and trust litigation.

Practice head(s):

Karen Bower-Brown; David John


‘Karen Bower-Brown is very sensible – clever and hugely empathetic ’

‘Karen Bower-Brown is very experienced in this area – she adopts a common sense approach to resolving disputes in the best interests of her clients.’

‘Karen Bower-Brown gave me sensible and very helpful advice and always answered any of my phonecalls and emails. She was patient and always had the right advice and would listen to my concerns and offer sensible solutions.’

‘Simple explanations to legal jargon. Calls always answered or returned, advice given and reasons explained. Karen Bower-Brown gave simple, understandable advice every time I asked for her help; she made what seemed like giant problems simple and straightforward. I have recommended Sills & Betteridge to family and friends knowing the personal attention given is priceless.’

‘Karen Bower-Brown always took time to explain details and offered good advice to problems all through the processes, Karen always took time to talk to me and always returned my calls when she had been unavailable to take my calls, very friendly and professional at all times,’

‘The team that I dealt with during the pandemic were very helpful and professional. Answers to my questions were dealt with promptly. I have always been satisfied with Sills & Betteridge.’

‘I found Karen Bower-Brown very knowledgeable and professional and I would like to extend my personal appreciation for her assistance.’

Work highlights

  • Acted for executors who are also beneficiaries with reference to litigation entered into by the deceased before her partner relating to a jointly owned property with her former partner.
  • Acted for a son who is a beneficiary of his late mother’s will the validity of which is being contested by his sister who is excluded from the deceased’s latest will. The will is challenged on the basis of alleged lack of testamentary capacity.
  • Advised a major beneficiary in the deceased’s will with particular reference to the executor’s wish that the beneficiary should accept less than her strict entitlement. Taking steps to protect her interests as necessary.

Smith Partnership

The ‘strong contentious trust and probate practice‘ at Smith Partnership acts for claimant individuals as well as groups of charities and defends executors of estates. Due to the full-service offering, the firm has the capacity to assist clients with further estate administration or transfers of property after a case has come to a close.


‘They are a key player in the region and well-respected. A real strength is their commercial prowess and negotiation skills.’

‘The Smith Partnership have a strong contentious trust and probate practice.’

‘The team are very professional and courteous at all times throughout dealing with my claim – an all-round good team of partners.’

‘They are very knowledgeable and offer good guidance and advice, they are very professional &and always polite & courteous, they keep you well informed.’

‘They take time to understand your situation and give honest advice. You don’t feel judged or insignificant.’

Work highlights

  • Successfully negotiated a settlement of a complex family trust concerning three farms worth a combined £4.3m.
  • Defended at trial a High Court a will challenge based on lack of testamentary capacity, to an estate worth £1m.
  • Successfully achieved a lump sum inheritance award of £100,000 for a child of a deceased who had not been provided for in a will.

Wilkin Chapman LLP

Wilkin Chapman LLP offers a 'friendly, prompt and knowlegable service' for all kinds of matters relating to contentious trusts and probate. The team acts on both the claimant and defendant side for beneficiaries or disappointed beneficiaries as well as executors, administrators and trustees on challenges to wills, claims brought under the Inheritance Act 1975 as well as disputes regarding the role of trustees and executors. 'Very sensible, skilled and diligent' Katherine Marshall heads the team.

Practice head(s):

Katherine Marshall


‘In this area geographically the team at Wilkin Chapman have good resources and key skills.’

‘Katherine Marshall is very sensible, skilled and diligent.’

‘I found it extremely helpful that when having to deal with various people in the firm, regardless of where their office is sited, this process is made easier through their communication between the different locations and departments. This is extremely helpful as I live abroad and I do not have to explain my details many times.’

‘They provided a friendly, prompt and knowledgable service.’

Work highlights

  • Representing an estate, involving farming assets amounting to £5m, in respect of a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.
  • Represented the trustee in bankruptcy of the executor and beneficiary of an estate in proceedings to remove and replace the executor.
  • Represented a claimant in proceedings for the removal and replacement of the executor of an estate and recovery of payments made by that executor to herself from the deceased under a lasting power of attorney. Estate valued at £1.3m and lifetime gifts recovered of £140,000.