DWF is a frequent port of call for many private banks, trustee companies and charitable trusts seeking legal advice on estate and asset disputes. The team is geared to act on the full array of contested issues including validity challenges, promissory estoppel claims, and allegations of breaches of duties. Head of dispute resolution Daniel Williams is noted for the impressive scale of his domestic and international mandates and is well-versed representing clients in the High Court and Court of Appeal. Christopher Noel leads the private client practice and is a go-to for complex estate and trust matters and routinely guides professional trustees through the inconsistencies within wills and the implications that may arise. Chris King leverages his litigious experience to competently handle inheritance act, professional negligence and undue influence claims, while Paul Maddock, who adopts a broad practice, has niche expertise advising charities on probate disputes.
Contentious trusts and probate in North West
Daniel Williams; Christopher Noel; Chris King
Other key lawyers:
Drawing considerable praise from a range of clients, JMW Solicitors LLP is home to a near-unrivalled sized bench of contested trusts and probate advisors, routinely working with domestic and international clients on complex estate and will disputes. Steered by the highly experienced and ‘exceptional’ Alison Parry, the firm are geared to act on the full range of private wealth disputes, with Allison gaining notable recognition for her impressive litigation expertise and skill in professional negligence claims. The ‘incredibly knowledgable’ Ben Wilson is a go-to for individuals deliberating over accounts and assets in multiple jurisdictions, while Ian Johnston leverages his previous non-contentious experience to provide a comprehensive understanding of wills and trusts to estate disputes. Claire Brierley is also active on standout practice matters, particularly in respect of Court of Protection.
Other key lawyers:
Ben Wilson; Ian Johnston; Claire Brierley
‘The largest specialist contentious probate team in Manchester, and probably in the North West. Market-leaders in the area, with strength at all levels’
‘Alison Parry leads the team by example. An exceptional litigator with a wealth of expertise in contested estates
‘Ian Johnston is a very bright solicitor. Marries intellect with pragmatism in achieving the best results for his clients.’
‘Ben Wilson is incredibly knowledgeable and personable. Well known for his work in 1975 Act cases’
‘Alison Parry is one of the best. Her thoughtful cost-effective advice is considered and thorough and she really goes the extra mile for her clients.’
‘I am very pleased with the work being done for me. The team seem to be very knowledgeable and are able to advise me on legal terms, as well as recommend barristers when I need more advice.’
‘The team is quite large so has capacity to respond quickly and they have a wide breadth of experience and knowledge between them.’
‘Alison Parry and Ben Wilson always respond quickly to queries and call clients referred to them, usually the same day and always within 24 working hours. Both are helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about contentious matters. Alison Parry has advised in connection with various matters for me over a number of years and has always backed her advice with appropriate action.’
Nicole Priel and Eli Glatt
Andreas Michli and Lillah Michli
Marc, Tara and James Child
Acting for high profile cases for a mix of high-net worth clients, Mills & Reeve LLP remain a market-leading firm advising on contentious private wealth matters. Steered by the highly experienced Simon Pedley, the ‘exceptionally strong firm‘ act on a range of mandates, including large dispute multi-jurisdictional estates, undue influence and lack of capacity claims, as well as allegations of impropriety and breach of duty. Pedley, one of ‘the best in his field’, leverages his significant experience in litigation to competently address disputes wills, estates and trusts, while the ‘excellent’ Ben Reeves has far-reaching expertise that is especially concentrated on the interpretation of wills, as well as undue influence and lack of capacity claims.
Other key lawyers:
‘Mills and Reeve are a rare commodity in that they have a specialist team dealing with contentious Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 claims. They are excellent; they work as a well-oiled team and offer first rate advice. Their strengths are: first rate legal knowledge, huge experience in the area, great teamwork to provide cost-effective advice and leadership of a national group of fellow professionals specialising in the field.’
‘Simon Pedley is, in my view, the best in his field nationally. His legal and technical knowledge is fantastic but his tactical and negotiating skills are exceptional. He has a very calm demeanour, but this is coupled with a backbone of steel. His drafting, client contact and attention to detail are exceptional. I could not recommend him more highly.’
‘Strength and depth in terms of subject knowledge in core traditional Chancery areas. Highly specialised in all private client areas, combining high levels of technical knowledge with good litigious instincts.’
‘Ben Reeves is an excellent lawyer who is a very good litigator but also very good with clients. He never takes bad points. Simon Pedly has an enormous amount of experience.’
‘Act for a wide range of clients, from individuals to major charities. Provide a seamless service and are accessible from offices nationwide.’
‘Simon Pedley is a pleasure to work with. He is extremely bright and is always looking for practical solutions to his clients’ problems.’
‘Simon Pedley and Ben Reeves are excellent. Technically able, commercial and very pleasant to deal with. I would happily recommend them.’
‘I consider Mills & Reeve to be an exceptionally strong firm when dealing with trusts and probate (contentious or not) and associated tax issues. I work regularly with fee earners at all levels across multiple offices and am impressed with the uniformly high standards. My impression is that Mills & Reeve is a supportive and collegiate place to work and that feeds through into the provision of legal services in a highly effective, but calm, measured and practical way.’
Peter Christian Velarde
- Acted in the well reported, highly technical and difficult Equiom v Velarde claim, a substantial will interpretation claim on a highly valuable estate.
- Acting for the widow of a deceased businessman in 1975 Act proceedings in a £7M claim relating to a £15M estate, involving multiple jurisdictions.
- Continuing to act for the administrator of the highly contentious £13M estate.
A standout firm due to its highly regarded and deep bench of advisors, Myerson Solicitors LLP are ‘genuine specialists’ in matters concerning contested wills and probate, often acting on conflict referral work from peers in the market. The team is adept at handling Inheritance Act claims involving complex family structures and overseas assets, disputed will cases containing undue influence and lack of capacity claims, as well as propriety estoppel matters. Department head Helen Thompson draws praise for her considerable experience in this area of law and has notable expertise acting for both claimants and defendants in Inheritance Act claims, while co-head Adam Maher‘s eminent reputation continues to generate activity for the firm. Recently promoted partner Jennifer McGuinness is ‘brilliant with clients’ and has established strength in will validity claims, as well as the firm’s most complex cross border cases. Eleanor Clarke and Stephanie Ewan consistently garner positive recognition from clients due to their ‘exceptional’ legal advice. Alice Vale is consistently active on the full range of practice matters.
Helen Thompson; Adam Maher
Other key lawyers:
Jennifer McGuinness; Eleanor Clarke; Stephanie Ewan; Alice Vale
‘Myerson have set themselves apart from most every contentious probate practice in the North West. There is an exceptional level of talent at almost every level. Myerson deal with matters that are often fraught with complexity and emotion in a highly diligent and sensitive manner. When Myerson instruct me as counsel, their instructions are concise and well prepared.’
‘The team is led by Helen Thompson who is one of the most stand out partners in her area and includes exceptional talent at the junior end, most notably Stephanie Ewan.’
‘Helen Thompson is well regarded in the field of contentious probate. Stephanie Ewan is also gaining prominence.’
‘They are genuine specialists in this area, with many of the team having obtained or working towards full ACTAPS membership and have strength in depth. When they are on the other side of a matter we know that their client will be getting sensible, practical advice from a knowledgeable team. They are a top level firm in the North West in this area.’
‘Helen Thompson has a well-deserved superb reputation in this field and Eleanor Clarke should be seen as one to watch.’
‘The Myerson contentious trusts and probate team is the go-to team in the North of England, in my view. All its members who I have dealt with are superb – no weak link.’
‘I have 20 years plus experience of Jennifer McGuinness and she is in my view brilliant with clients, spot on in her judgment and right on the ball with the law.
‘I have worked with Stephanie Ewan who greatly impresses. It was an extremely fraught case which she completely took in her stride. She was focused in her advice, knew where the case needed to go and was sensitive and compassionate with the client.’
A ‘superb team‘ in the private wealth sphere, Pannone Corporate LLP continues to act in disputes between trustees and beneficiaries for an impressive range of complex and high-value estates. The firm is increasingly involved with multi-layered Inheritance Act cases featuring lack of capacity and propriety estoppel claims, with group head Nicola Marchant‘s extensive mediation experience and credentials facilitating amicable settlements for the many clients seeking legal counsel. Marchant has a broad private wealth practice and is routinely supported by Elizabeth Walsh who has quickly built expertise in disputed wills and contested estate administration issues. Jonny Scholes provides ‘exceptional advice’ to clients, especially regarding financial abuse claims, and was made partner in February 2023.
Other key lawyers:
Jonny Scholes; Elizabeth Walsh
‘Overall, the company provides clear and concise information and advice.’
‘Nicola Marchant has given sound, intelligent advice and support throughout the three years that we dealt we her.’
‘They provide expert knowledge in various different aspects of the law. They all work very closely so different specialties can all liaise with each other to provide a comprehensive service.’
‘Jonny Scholes in contentious probate gave me exceptional advice and persuaded me to agree to mediation. This proved to be excellent advice and helped achieve a fantastic result, avoiding court costs.’
‘Commercial and pragmatic advice Paul Jonson and Nicola Marchant are client focused and provide realistic straight talking advice in a manner clients can easily understand. They are very experienced around the legal issues but also have their eye on costs.’
‘Pannone Corporate has a superb niche team in this area. All its members who I have worked with are true specialists, who are spot on with their advice and sensitive and supportive of their clients.’
‘The team at Pannone Corporate are always extremely responsive to our requirements and quick to grasp the essence of our issue. The team have a broad experience of all commercial legal issues and have always had a resident expert to provide sound advice regardless of the situation we have presented them with. They are proactive in dealing with all actors during their work and give their clients comfort that they are constantly up to date with the latest information.
‘With regard to our contentious trust case specifically, we were particularly well represented by Jonny Scholes of Pannone Corporate. The case was complex but Jonny took it in his stride and gave us total comfort that our case would be made firmly but professionally. He kept us up to date with the case progression at all appropriate points and was able to present the risks and likely outcomes clearly.’
A strong twelve months has seen Aaron & Partners LLP bolster its contentious trusts and probate offering with the arrival of several solicitors from market competitors. Whilst possessing numerous offices in the region, the firm’s Chester offering allows the team to be well-placed to act on complex and high-value agricultural estate disputes, boasting a diverse range of clients spanning the local area, Shropshire and North Wales. Steered by the ‘wonderful’ James Wallace, who is highly regarded for his proficiency handling claims with an international element, as well as Court of Protection work, the team excels in Inheritance Act disputes, propriety estoppel claims, and cases involving capital gains and inheritance tax aspects. Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu has ‘developed a thriving contentious practice’, with a litany of Wales-based clients seeking his counsel on Inheritance Act and Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act proceedings. Rebecca Beaman has been increasingly active in matters since joining from Hatchers Solicitors LLP in 2022.
Other key lawyers:
Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu; Rebecca Beaman
‘Aaron and Partners are very professional, competent and knowledgeable, and so far, I am very impressed with their performance.’
‘Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu is very professional; he inspires confidence and trust in his abilities. He has the patience to explain legal terms.’
‘An experienced and knowledgeable team. The team was responsive and accommodating in talking through the relevant issues when matters arose. When new Associates were brought into matters, they were well briefed. The Partner lead was very competent.’
‘James Wallace (partner) was responsive and helpful in mapping out the strategy of the litigation. He flagged issues of concern from an early stage and could call upon his personal experience and that of his team.’
‘Excellent, efficient team who care for their clients and serve counsel well.’
‘James Wallace and Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu both stand out as extremely conscientious and efficient litigators with clients’ interests very much at heart.’
‘A very impressive team with strength in depth and genuine expertise in contentious trusts and probate.’
‘James Wallace is a wonderful lawyer with real expertise in this area of the law and develops a great rapport with clients. Vlad has quickly developed a thriving contentious probate practice and is attracting some top-notch work. A delight to work with, and a very bright cookie.’
Brabners LLP is sought out by numerous trustees and beneficiaries disputing wills and estates, many of which have multi-jurisdictional components. The department - which is now led by Nicola Turner, a recent hire from Napthens LLP - handles lack of capacity and undue influence claims, contested Court of Protection proceedings, and the removal and replacement of executors. Beth Middleton has a ‘growing profile‘ in contentious trusts and probate, with a broad practice which is particularly focused on claims pertaining to Trusts of Land, the Appointment of Trustees Act and the Inheritance Act, while the wider team also includes Tom Smith, who has considerable litigation experience.
Other key lawyers:
Beth Middleton; Tom Smith
‘The team offer very clear thinking, are straight to the point, and possess very sound legal knowledge. They are always approachable and courteous.’
‘From my first conversation with Beth Middleton, it was very clear she was the solicitor for me. She was so clear and confident in her approach; she understood completely the issues I was facing. I had every confidence that Beth would have an excellent chance of a successful outcome, give the very sensitive nature of this complex family matter.
‘Beth Middleton is a very capable, junior solicitor, with a growing profile in the contentious trusts and probate market in the North West.’
North West Cancer Research (inc CCR)
Manchester United Foundation
North West Air Ambulance
- Acting for a number of high-profile regional charities in relation to contentious probate matters, particularly in relation to the interpretation of wills.
- Successfully representing the Defendant in a claim with multiple heads of claim including interference with goods, occupational rent, diminution in value and failure to account for an estate, all of which were dismissed by the trial judge.
- Acting for an executor in which a beneficiary is challenging a valuation of the estate assets, with complex matters such as overage, chattels and a separate parcel of land out of the jurisdiction.
Forbes Solicitors has marked the start of 2023 by implementing significant departmental restructuring, altering the previous contentious trusts and probate offering that was an offshoot of the dispute resolution team to a now exclusive body focusing on contested personal wealth matters. Directing this new group from Preston and Manchester respectively, Tom Howcroft and John Lambe boast a strong track record handling disputed complex wills and estates which often contain multi-jurisdictional elements. Howcroft’s practice is concentrated on Trusts of Land and Inheritance Act claims, while Lambe is singled out for his expertise in propriety estoppel and Court of Protection matters. The depth of the firm’s services was bolstered by the arrival of the ‘fantastic’ Rebecca Beaumont in March 2022, as well as Nicola Laurie who joined the team last December.
Tom Howcroft; John Lambe
Other key lawyers:
Rebecca Beaumont; Nicola Laurie
‘Great team, work together very well, resourced, knowledgeable, they have extremely good relationships with counsel.’
‘Rebecca Beaumont is fantastic; she is exceptionally empathetic and cares deeply about the outcome for her clients.’
‘Tom Howcroft is fantastic to work with, focused, and has a very commercial approach which is not easy to find in this area of law.’
- Represented a claimant in a claim against her late husband’s estate pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, where we achieved a settlement of £3million in favour of our client.
Gorvins Solicitors possesses impressive corporate, commercial and litigation departments who collaborate with the three-partner strong contentious trusts and probate team to deliver a comprehensive service to trustees and beneficiaries. Under the leadership of Michael Smoult, whose recent work highlights included the disputed estates of high-profile sport and media individuals, the firm engage with contested and fraudulent wills, the removal and replacement of trustees, and complex Inheritance Act claims. Julie Burgess specialises in matters that concern foreign property and agricultural elements, while Danielle Clements, who was promoted to partner last year, advises on the full range of practice matters, with a notable track record on coercive behaviour and undue influence-based claims.
Other key lawyers:
Julie Burgess; Danielle Clements
‘Efficient, friendly, professional service.’
Kuit Steinart Levy LLP‘s ability ‘to deal with technical issues relating to trusts and estate management’ makes it a strong choice for UK and non-domicile clients seeking legal counsel. A team with specialists from contentious, non-contentious, and family law backgrounds, the practice is equipped to handle complex validity of wills cases, Inheritance Act claims, and lack of capacity and undue influence issues. Helming high-value disputes for a range of clients, group head Peter Kaye is noted for his expertise handling shareholder and partnership arguments and professional negligence claims, while Graham Wood specialises in issues grounded with tax and trusts complications. Paul Bricknell is an expert in mental capacity cases, whereas Richard Wilson focuses his practice on Inheritance Act and Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act claims.
Other key lawyers:
Graham Wood; Paul Bricknell; Richard Wilson
‘Kuits has been my solicitor and I don’t use anyone else. In my litigation case Peter Kaye was brilliant. Any questions I didn’t understand he explained clearly. All correspondence is very thorough, no need to alter anything.’
‘Peter Kaye is very friendly, very thorough with questions, and showed a great interest in the family’s affairs so he had a good understanding of the matter and what was actually happening.’
‘Kuits have a strong reputation in the North West, well-earned.’
‘Peter Kaye is an impressive and experienced lawyer. Richard Wilson is a pleasure to work for.’
‘The availability to talk is the greatest of relationship builders and is what I believe delivers great outcomes for our clients. this is backed up with a strong multi disciplinary practice that has both breadth and depth to knowledge and can support clients throughout their lifetime needs.’
‘ Incredible support was provided to both us as advisers and our clients to deal with technical issues relating to trusts and estate management.’
‘Graham Wood as partner is exceptionally knowledgeable and professional and able to explain complex matters with ease for all clients. His client care is second to none.’
Comprised of ‘experts in their field’ who ‘advise solely on this niche area of law’, Rothley Law (formerly Shoosmiths LLP) has an impressive track record advising on contested estates with significant business assets attached. Recent key highlights include complex probate claims, settling disputes between co-trustees, and high-value inheritance act claims. The depth of the Manchester office also helps the practice tackle complicated estate issues, with ‘highly experienced’ team head Adam Draper routinely calling upon colleagues in the tax and pensions department to handle technical cross-border matters. Andrew Bishop stands out for his strength in reaching settlements through mediation.
Other key lawyers:
‘Unique to have a whole team dedicated to probate and trust disputes rather than this work being undertaken by a team that deals with general litigation.’
‘They are experts in their field and advise solely on the niche area of contested trusts and probate.’
‘Adam Draper and Andrew Bishop are a very good team – they are always near the top of our list when we have a referral to make when we are unable to act on a matter. Knowledgeable and pleasant to deal with.’
- Acted for the Second Defendant in Antonio v Williams & Anor  EWHC 2383 (Ch). This authority clarified and confirmed for this first time that applications under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 can be made pre-grant of representation.
- In Lumb v Lumb , the firm acted for the Claimant in obtaining Summary Judgment, which are rarely granted in probate claims. Despite summary Judgment being granted, the Court did not award the Claimant his costs. Permission to appeal the costs decision was granted.
- In Feijoo Lewis v Lewis, the firm acted for the mother of her disabled child in a claim against his father’s estate. The claim was successfully resolved and a personal costs order made against the Defendants.
Butcher & Barlow LLP
Butcher & Barlow LLP‘s eleven offices spanning the North West is a key point of differentiation for the group, with the large regional footprint providing clients with rural and urban estates a plethora of local contact points. Regularly working alongside the Agricultural and Commercial department, the contentious private wealth group have established strength in complex Inheritance Act and will disputes, propriety estoppel claims, and complex cases where business assets are contested. Team head Samuel Dale leverages significant expertise regarding trusts, regularly acting in matters involving disputes between co-trustees and trust administration. Greg Porter is chiefly recognised for his dispute resolution skill, with demonstrable expertise representing claimants and defendents in Inheritance Act court proceedings.
Other key lawyers:
‘I have had several dealings with Butcher and Barlow and they have always been excellent. The firm is local to me and has an excellent reputation which is why I originally chose to engage them. The solicitors and support staff who I have had contact with are all friendly and knowledgeable and do an excellent job of representing the firms values.’
‘I engaged the firm for my most recent dealings which included writing wills, probate and estate queries and also a settlement deed for which Samuel Dale undertook all activity. Samuel is extremely professional, knowledgeable and efficient. He carried out all works to an extremely high standard, was easily contactable and provided impartial advice and guidance to me during an extremely difficult time.’
‘Sam Dale was compassionate, understanding, knowledgeable and professional from the outset. I could not recommend Sam Dale and his team highly enough and would have no hesitation in using Sam or Butcher & Barlow again in the future.’
- An unusual claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 which required sensitive handling given the emotional impact upon the client.
- The defence of a high value claim against an estate by an estranged wife pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 which is likely to result in only a modest settlement.
- A very high value claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 by the former partner of the deceased who died intestate.
DTM Legal LLP
DTM Legal LLP attracts instructions from individuals with business and agricultural-based assets, often acting in matters which span beyond the northwest into the international sphere. Over the past twelve months, the group has advised on contested wills, some of which contain overseas assets, breach of trust claims, and the removal and replacement of executors in disputed estate administration matters. Spearheading the team’s offering is Richard Thomas, a Chester-based practitioner whose wealth of experience in commercial litigation allows him to competently handle contested cases in the High Court, as well as boasting an impressive record in achieving alternative dispute resolution. Heather Lally is also active on client issues and is chiefly recognised for her ability resolve complex multi-jurisdictional estate disputes.
Other key lawyers:
A firm revered for its litigation capabilities, Slater Heelis has a series of experienced practitioners who act on a range of wills, estates and Court of Protection disputes. Steered by Elizabeth Wilkinson, the team advises on professional negligence claims, undue influence issues, and complex probate proceedings. John Gorner‘s far-reaching expertise is especially concentrated in Court of Protection matters, and he regularly works alongside Chris Bishop who lends vast litigation proficiency. The arrival of Veronica Howley from HM3 Legal in July 2022 has bolstered the practice's strength and adds additional knowledge of trusts, land and property disputes.
Other key lawyers:
John Gorner; Chris Bishop; Veronica Howley
‘Veronica Howley is an extremely hard-working and able solicitor. Nothing gets past her. Her attention to detail is first rate and she takes no short cuts.’
Philip Andrew Stevens
Gillian Victoria Evans
Peter Aksiuk & Leslie Slawco Aksiuk
Alison Ruth Ferrier
The ‘very efficient and professional’ team at Weightmans LLP works in synergy with the non-contentious private wealth and family departments to provide a holistic service to clients. As such, the firm is geared to act for clients with considerable foreign, business and charitable assets. The contentious department, led by national head Matthew Morton, has seen an uptick in work such as propriety estoppel and professional negligence claims, as well as being routinely involved in disagreements between executors and trustees. A reputed practitioner in the dispute resolution sphere, Robert Jones continues to build an impressive portfolio of high value Inheritance Act claims and will challenges on the grounds of capacity and fraud, while ‘personable and effective’ David McGuire has been highly active in department matters, including complex trust work and highly contested Court of Protection cases.
Other key lawyers:
Robert Jones; David McGuire
‘I work with Weightmans and rate them highly as a firm in the region. They have great strength in the practice area.’
‘I have worked with David McGuire. I consider him to be excellent solicitors. David has sound judgment and is very competent and efficient.’
‘I have worked with David McGuire on a contentious probate matter (acting for different parties). The matter involved acrimonious disputes with very difficult executors, including a professional executor. David worked very hard and showed great professionalism and patience to secure a settlement and distribution of the estate to our respective clients.’
‘The speed of response has been exceptional. Litigant correspondence is reviewed and provided to us along with draft responses in timescales that have consistently exceeded my expectations over a period of many months. There is a willingness to take feedback and make modifications which serves to create a strong sense of teamwork between client and advisor. David McGuire deserves specific note in this regard.’
‘David McGuire is both personable and effective. A steady pair of hands and a pleasure to work with.’
‘I have been instructed as a barrister by Weightmans on one matter, a complex will construction dispute. I have found the team to be very efficient and professional. My instructions were provided by David McGuire who has shown excellent technical understanding and an appreciation of the tactical considerations affecting the client’s position.’