Contentious trusts and probate in East Midlands

Freeths LLP

Freeths LLP has a well-established presence in high-value contentious trust and probate litigation. The firm handles a wide range of work, including (but not limited to) claims under the Inheritance Act, will challenges and contested Court of Protection work. The firm continues to grow in the agriculture sector, where it handles disputes concerning farming estates. The team, which is led by Mark Keeley, garners praise for its 'friendly' and 'professional' approach. Clients note its 'genuine strength in depth'. Also noted is Rachel Gaffney, who specialises in contentious Court of Protection work.

Practice head(s):

Mark Keeley

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Gaffney


Very friendly and approachable yet thorough and professional. Excellent reputation and leadership with Mark Keeley a real star.’

Mark Keeley – excellent lawyer and mediator, good team leader, knowledgeable and professional but also a thoroughly nice chap.’

The team has genuine strength in depth. There are a number of firms that claim to be a specialist. Freeths are.’

Mark Keeley is very well known within the contentious probate field. Mark is an excellent mediator who genuinely enjoys the law. He is always on our list of mediators.’

Mark Keeley’s team is well known for this area of work. Mark is unique in also having a thriving mediation practice. The team are renowned for being able to handle all types of contentious trust and probate matters. It is wildly held as an exceptionally strong team with fee earners at all levels.’

Work highlights

  • Acting for the residuary beneficiaries of £33m estate which has thrown up various complex contentious issues.
  • Appointed by the High Court as a replacement administrator in a complex contested estate.
  • Representing the client in a £450,000 dispute concerning misuse of an EPA and an Inheritance Act claim.

Nelsons Solicitors Limited

Nelsons Solicitors Limited has a sizeable contentious trusts and probate team that frequently handles disputes concerning high value estates. The team displays strong expertise in Inheritance Act claims, complex challenges to wills, court of protection and defamation matters. Practice head Kevin Modiri and his team are 'sensible and pragmatic' and frequently deliver client training and CPD seminars. Lewis Addison and associate Lewis Hastie are noted.

Practice head(s):

Kevin Modiri

Other key lawyers:

Lewis Addison; Lewis Hastie


A large and very friendly team of experts.’

Kevin Modiri and Lewis Addison are a pleasure to work with/against. They’re both easy to discuss disputes with; they are sensible and pragmatic.’

My dealings with Nelson’s has been quite limited but I have been involved as mediator with Kevin Modiri, who has impressed me with his grasp of the relevant legal issues and more particularly his ability to help clients manage complex legal matters in a way that works for them.’

Roythornes Solicitors

Roythornes Solicitors is recognised for its 'breadth of knowledge' of contentious trusts and probates in relation to agricultural and rural matters. The team displays particular expertise in proprietary estoppel claims. Practice head Tim Russ is an experienced mediator and arbitrator, who adopts a 'sensible approach' to litigation, according to one client.

Practice head(s):

Tim Russ


I know Tim Russ in the CT&P team. He is very experienced and has a good reputation. He has a real depth of knowledge and adopts a sensible approach to litigation. I also know Paul Thompson in the private client team, he is also very experienced and sensible.’

Roythornes have a ‘city’ gravitas in a rural environment. They are treated with respect and credibility normally only afforded to much larger metropolitan firms. They have the ability to deal with matters of high value and complexity that one would normally not expect for a firm such as this. In particular strength and depth applies to agriculture and associated agribusiness.’

Tim Russ – Head of Department. Breadth of knowledge of Contentious trusts and probate and probably as good as it gets when dealing with agriculture and rural land issues.’

Work highlights

  • Successfully acted as executors of Earl Cowley concerning a claim made by eldest daughter Lady Tara Wellesley to challenge the will and for provision out of the estate.

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

Shakespeare Martineau LLP covers the full range of contentious trusts and probate work for clients, including disputes involving trusts, wills and power of attorney issues, as well as contested Court of Protection applications. Also notable is that the firm has a growing presence in charity work. It regularly advises and defends key client Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in legacy disputes. Practice head Andrew Wilkinson is 'a fantastic source of knowledge and expertise' and clients describe the wider team as 'a formidable force'. Legal director Debra Burton is also a key member of the team.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Wilkinson

Other key lawyers:

Debra Burton


Andrew Wilkinson – he heads up the CT&P and is good at driving forward and getting results.’

Ably headed by Andrew Wilkinson, the team is a formidable force and an undisputed leader in contentious trusts and probate in the Midlands.’

Andrew Wilkinson is a specialised litigator with extensive experience in the field. He is loved by clients for his excellent bedside manner, sound judgment and clear and pragmatic advice. Debra Burton is tenacious and unflappable and always puts her clients’ interests first.’

Andrew is a fantastic source of knowledge and expertise. Whilst I have not had the pleasure of his services personally he has given me significant help and assistance on a professional basis.’

The team lead by Andrew Wilkinson is extremely well regarded in the market place in the East Midlands and increasingly nationally. The firm is known for being innovative and forward-thinking. The team deal with the whole range of contentious trust and probate matters and are increasingly picking off national charities from the likes of Withers and Wilsons for legacy dispute work. The team is flexible and well resourced.’

Key clients

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Work highlights

  • Advising Battersea Dogs and Cats Home on a number of complex and varied legacy disputes.

Flint Bishop LLP

Flint Bishop LLP has a strong contentious trusts and probate practice, as is evidenced by the fact that it regularly advises clients on the validity of wills, as well as Inheritance Act issues and probate fraud claims. In addition, it also advises on professional negligence claims relating to wills. 'Tenacious and innovative' partner Lorna Trueman, who is the practice head, specialises in complex and high-value dispute resolution.

Practice head(s):

Lorna Trueman


Flint Bishop has a warm and welcoming approach on arrival in pleasant modern surroundings. My solicitor was very professional, knowledgeable and experienced in her field of expertise.’

My litigation solicitor Lorna Trueman is very professional. Nothing was too much trouble for her and she explained the situation in layman’s terms. She was tenacious and innovative in obtaining the right result.’

Work highlights

  • Advised a beneficiary and executor in respect of an Inheritance Act claim, which involved an estate worth in excess of £1m.
  • Successfully acted for an executor of an estate who was removed in consequence of a fraudulently created codicil.
  • Assisting with the division of assets of a farm in relation to a dispute between the beneficiaries

Gateley Plc

Gateley Plc has an experienced private client and litigation team that acts for high-net-worth individuals in complex, high-value trusts and probate disputes. The firm's workload regularly consists of inheritance claims, claims against executors, proprietary estoppel claims. The team has 'wide-ranging expertise' and offers 'top quality support'. Claire Herbert, Fiona Debney, and Chris Greenwell jointly lead the practice. Herbert is an 'excellent litigator' and 'a real client's champion'.


Claire Herbert is an excellent litigator with sound judgment and a good rapport with clients.’

The team has great strength and experience in valuable, complex and multi-party trusts and probate disputes. The firm has a fantastic private client team and is able to draw on top quality tax and trusts advice where needed. Its strong London presence and other regional offices means that the firm has wide-ranging expertise and is able to provide top quality support to its contentious trusts and probate team. That sets it apart from many of its regional competitors.’

Claire Herbert is a wonderful litigator: energetic, determined and a real client’s champion.’

Smith Partnership

Smith Partnership has a 'strong, robust team', which handles high-value cases for claimant individuals, executors of estates and groups of charities. The firm's workload includes contested probate cases, estate administration and transfers of estate property. The firm also has a wide network of barristers and expert witnesses. Practice head Jak Ward, who is a 'safe pair of hands', was promoted to partner in 2019. Ward is praised by clients for his 'good judgement'.

Practice head(s):

Jak Ward


Jak Ward is a very safe pair of hands – very responsive to client needs.’

This firm has a strong robust team who in my experience offer a personal approach that is underpinned by solid commercial pragmatism.’

Jak Ward is a very capable lawyer. He has good judgment and is firm in difficult circumstances.’

What will stick in my mind is the customer service you receive when using Smith Partnership. The service component that is fundamental to good business is communication and Smith Partnership excelled in this area. You never had to chase for updates, they would always contact you with overviews and next step actions.

The Contentious Trusts and Probate Team at Smith Partnership stands out from other firms in the attention to detail which is afforded to each client from the very start. The team is especially diligent and nothing is ever missed. Although it is small compared to other specialist teams in the sector, the advice and service given is absolutely first-rate. Each client receives pragmatic and detailed advice which cannot be faulted.’

Work highlights

  • Defending an estate in the Court of Appeal from an out of time application brought under section 4 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.
  • Achieving for a client the outright transfer of a property and lump sum for an individual, who was cohabiting with a deceased individual, whose estate devolved under the intestacy rules.
  • Achieving an order through the court for the repayment of a trust fund to a beneficiary, whose trustee had used the trust monies unlawfully and for herself.

Langleys Solicitors LLP

Langleys Solicitors LLP has a growing presence in contentious trusts and probates, as is reflected by its success in litigating cases involving high-value estates. Its work includes matters concerning fraudulent or invalid wills, power of attorney disputes, disputes over the administration of estates and disputes between beneficiaries. The firm also handles disputes involving charities. Practice head Richard Tomlinson and Adrian Lyon are names to note.

Practice head(s):

Richard Tomlinson

Other key lawyers:

Adrian Lyon

Work highlights

  • Defending a claim against the validity of a will brought by two national charities, leading to a satisfactory resolution at mediation.
  • Bringing a claim for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) 1975 in relation to a complex multi-million pound estate.
  • Assisting a client with issuing a claim for the removal of an executor who has failed in their duties as an executor an estate.

Sills & Betteridge LLP

Sills & Betteridge LLP, whose team garners praise for its 'excellent service', excels in wills and trusts disputes, proprietary estoppel cases, financial provision claims and applications relating to the removal of executors in cases of wrongdoing by those appointed. The practice is jointly led by Karen Bower-Brown and David John. Bower-Brown is described by clients as 'very experienced', 'down to earth and approachable'. Robert Pearson is another key figure.

Practice head(s):

Karen Bower-Brown; David John

Other key lawyers:

Robert Pearson


Karen Bower-Brown is very down to earth and approachable. She is very experienced and handles clients very well, and is always a pleasure to work with.’

Excellent service by all. Karen Bower-Brown is an excellent solicitor. She worked tirelessly on my case and showed great empathy and was my shoulder to cry on when things were getting too much for me. I would hugely recommend her for any case in her field of expertise. I felt like I had a friend in her.’

Sills & Betteridge would be my first port of call for contentious trusts and probate work in the Lincolnshire region.’

Work highlights

  • Advised beneficiary of £1m estate regarding complex estate issues including dealing with a family member who remained in the deceased’s property.
  • Acting for an adult child of the deceased regarding failure to progress the administration of an estate worth around £980,000 and a claim for beneficial interest in a property.
  • Advising the surviving executor in relation to her mother’s will in a dispute with a disappointed beneficiary over an estate worth around £800,000.