Hall Of Fame

Firms To Watch: Personal tax, trusts and probate

Led by Andrea Jones, the team at Irwin Mitchell is entering the North with a strong team of established practitioners which provides a comprehensive private client offering with a niche specialism in setting up trusts and providing tax advice in relation to awards for congenital defects at birth.

Personal tax, trusts and probate in North

EMG Solicitors

EMG Solicitors’s ‘top of the league’ private client boutique continues to expand, currently operating from offices across the North East and Cumbria servicing clients regionally, nationally and abroad. Durham-based founders Emma Gaudern and Jemma Morland are handling the deputyship and court of protection side of the practice and jointly head the team together with Newcastle-based Samantha Edward who leads the wills, trusts and probate work, ranging from high value estate and inheritance tax planning to complex wills and trust matters. The team, praised by clients as ‘person-centred, unique and approachable’ fields a strong suit of specialists including dual-qualified solicitor and accountant Claire French, senior associate Stephanie Rodgers, experienced in capacity matters, and associate Gregory Philips.

Practice head(s):

Jemma Morland; Samantha Edward; Emma Gaudern

Other key lawyers:

Stephanie Rodgers; Gregory Philips; Claire French


‘EMG demonstrably put the client at the centre of everything they do. Directors are always quick to acknowledge emails and technology has enabled them to support clients during Covid and beyond.’

‘Sam Edward is a stand out member of the team and conducts herself personally and professionally. I consistently refer my private clients to them as I know that they will get an efficient service. Sam is also excellent at dealing with clients who are bereaved, and I have witnessed first-hand her sensitive handling of such situations.’

‘The Deputyship team at EMG are a standout team. Superb understanding of Traumatic Brain Injury. The team are often asked to be professional litigation friends. Great client handling skills. This firm is one to watch. It is really going places.’

‘Emma Gaudern – no better Deputy in the UK. Knows her subject backwards. Stands her ground and fights her client’s corner. Jemma Morland – rising star. Always available and ever approachable.’

‘I work very closely with partners Emma Gaudern and Jemma Morland who both very driven to provide excellent service and professional advice. This can be somewhat challenging with the type of clients that we deal with, but they always show great awareness of the situation and sympathy for the situation.’

‘Emma Gaudern and Jemma Morland have enormous experience. I trust their judgment and commercial acumen. I think they work hard for their clients. Rachael Stabler, Greg Phillips and Michael Costello all rate a mention.’

‘The team has good technical knowledge and work in a professional manner.’

‘Sam Edward has a professional yet approachable manner when working with clients. I have confidence in referring my clients to her.’

Hay & Kilner

Hay & Kilner‘s Newcastle-based team provides comprehensive advice on all aspects of private client work with an emphasis on assisting high net worth individuals with a host of complex affairs. Thanks to strong links to the firm’s commercial and clinical negligence departments, the team is particularly well-placed to handle tax and succession planning and continuing with court of protection work. While practice head Alison Hall has particular expertise in claiming agricultural and business property relief and the preparation of farming partnership agreements, Richard Marshall is a specialist in digital assets and crypto currencies. Key names include Joanne Milne and dual-qualified solicitor and chartered tax adviser Alice Clewes.

Practice head(s):

Alison Hall

Other key lawyers:

Richard Marshall; Joanne Milne; Alice Clewes


‘Personable, knowledgeable individuals who have a passion for what they do. They always take the time to get to know their clients and their individual needs. As an independent longstanding firm, they are well respected in the North East of England and beyond.’

‘Alice Clewes has an excellent all round knowledge and is always able to offer practical solutions. Her added tax knowledge makes her a good all round adviser.’

‘Attractive well located offices and support staff are pleasant and welcoming.’

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP‘s Newcastle-based private client team continues to advise many of the region’s wealthiest families on their wealth structuring and business or landed estate succession planning. One of the group’s forte, drawing on the firm’s national strength, is the provision of complex international cross-border tax advice. The team is led by David Dale, Simon Kirkup who acts as trustee for landowning families and Will Bonas who is particularly experienced in private capital matters. While senior counsel Helen Tavroges has a particular interest in end of life decision-making and succession as well as capacity issues, director Deborah Jude acts both as a trustee and advisor to trustees.

Practice head(s):

David Dale; Simon Kirkup; Will Bonas

Other key lawyers:

Deborah Jude; Helen Tavroges; Susan Maxey


Deborah Jude is the complete article, hugely experienced, eminently practical and client-sensitive. Susan Maxey is astonishingly bright and technically superb, but also tremendously easy to get on with. Helen Tavroges has the nous to avoid being dragged down by detail, focusing on the bigger picture and finding the solution.

Latimer Hinks Solicitors

Latimer Hinks Solicitors’ Darlington-based practice acts for individuals and business owners, most notably in the agricultural space, in trusts and probate issues including complex estates involving multijurisdictional elements, with wealth protection and strategic planning as core practice areas. Jointly headed by Elizabeth Armstrong and Natalie Palmer, the group comprises specialists with various memberships and accreditations. The group also advises upon court of protection matters including statutory wills, removal of trustees and gifting. Directors Gillian Ibbotson, Jennifer Quayle and Daniel Williams were promoted in January 2023.

Practice head(s):

Elizabeth Armstrong; Natalie Palmer


Other key lawyers:

Gillian Ibbotson; Jennifer Quayle; Daniel Williams


‘Professional and knowledgeable.’

‘Understanding, sympathetic and reasonable.’

‘Elizabeth Armstrong is exceptionally knowledgeable when it comes to trusts and estates. As a lawyer she is also competent on the tax issues involved when advising in such areas.’

Sintons LLP

Sintons LLP’s Newcastle-based private client practice stands out for ‘their passion’ and its ‘excellent client care.’ Led by Paul Nickalls, the department fields a strong team, including a specialist court of protection team. The group, including key partner Paul Collingwood, advises a diverse client base from large landowners, ecclesiastical bodies to medical professionals and high net worth individuals, on complex wills and trusts, tax planning, administration of estates, including those involving foreign assets and domicile issues. While senior associate Katie Gosling joined in October 2022 from Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, Sophie Moore was promoted to senior associate in March 2023.

Practice head(s):

Paul Nickalls

Other key lawyers:

Paul Collingwood; Sophie Moore; Katie Gosling; Caitlin Edwards


‘I deal with various people at the firm, but their passion for what they do stands out. You can tell they care for their clients and seem very accessible when you need to speak to them. They are thoroughly nice people and are good at rapport building, which goes a long way in the private client world.’

‘The team are professional, organised and person-centred at all times. They work incredibly hard to align themselves with therapists and clinicians to ensure the most effective support for clients and their families.’

‘Sophie Moore is an incredible professional. She is knowledgeable, professional, personable and completely committed to acting in the best interests of her clients. It is a pleasure to work with Sophie.’

Work highlights

Ward Hadaway LLP

The Newcastle-based private client team at Ward Hadaway LLP is led by highly esteemed Andrew Facer and continues to advise its diver client base on a range of issues from trust and wills matters, succession planning, inheritance tax and estate planning, including the administration of estates with foreign assets. Consultant Gaynor Jackson has particular expertise in advising charities in trust and estate matters of both a contentious and non-contentious nature, and is a recognised expert in advising the third sector, praised by clients as ‘a safe pair of hands with a wealth of experience.’ Associate Deborah Spence and solicitor Sarah Dove are also noted.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Facer

Other key lawyers:

Gaynor Jackson


‘Gaynor Jackson is one of the most experienced advisers I use. I trust her views wholly. Gaynor is always happy to give initial and sound advice, enabling my clients to make informed decisions.’

‘As above, Gaynor is both knowledgeable and personable. She always has time for a chat if matters aren’t clear. Gaynor is quick to respond and generous with her advice.’

‘Gaynor is very skilled in the area. A safe pair of hands with a wealth of experience. She is extremely efficient and using strong interpersonal skills to build long standing relationships with her clients’

‘We have used the firm of Ward Hadaway in the areas of contentious trusts and probate for a number of years. The firm’s overall level of service is outstanding and very competitively priced. They offer charity rates and we receive excellent value for money. Gaynor Jackson tends to be our ‘lead’ contact at Ward Hadaway and has a strong team who work with her.

‘Taking all matters into consideration, we feel that the service we receive, the depth of knowledge Gaynor and the team have and the fees they charge would be difficult to beat. When we are instructing solicitors on UK probate matters, Gaynor Jackson at Ward Hadaway is invariably at the top of our list!’

‘Gaynor’s knowledge in all areas of contentious probate, estate administration and taxation is outstanding and we are confident that we receive the best and most appropriate advice from her and from the team who support her. Gaynor is an excellent communicator, intuitive and incredibly ‘user friendly’. She thinks ‘out of the box’ and gets results by being thorough in her research and determined yet fair in her approach to resolving difficult issues. She is also skilled in being able to explain even the most complicated points of tax law to her clients in layman’s terms!’

Gibson & Co Solicitors Ltd

With offices in Hexham and Newcastle, the non-contentious private client department at Gibson & Co Solicitors Ltd maintains a strong agricultural practice acting for some families for many generations. The team, jointly headed by Newcastle-based Christopher Sheppard and Hexham-based Derwent Gibson, handle trust and probate matters, large settlements, estates, and are adept in providing estate tax planning advice as well as support clients with intestate situations.

Practice head(s):

Derwent Gibson; Christopher Sheppard

Other key lawyers:

Tony Gibson


‘Very effective and managed to sort out my complex affairs.’

‘Chris Sheppard was excellent and very communicative.’

‘The team that we work with are approachable and easy to communicate with. Gibson & Co run a Charity Will writing service for Tynedale Hospice at Home which is well attended due to the company donating thier discounrted fee directly to the charity. Gibson & Co have also sponsored Light up a Life, a key anual event. They are responsive and well respected in our community and as such we are delighted to be assiciated with them.’

Swinburne Maddison LLP

The Durham-based private client team at Swinburne Maddison LLP is led by estate planning expert Anna Stephenson. The team includes associate Jennifer Purvis and frequently advises clients on lifetime planning and all aspects of trusts and lasting powers of attorney. As part of a full-service firm, the group regularly handles a broad range of complex high value instructions, including cross-jurisdictional matters and counts some of the region’s leading businesses and high-profile individuals amongst its clients.

Practice head(s):

Anna Stephenson

Other key lawyers:

Jennifer Purvis


‘Straightforward service with clear advice at each stage in process.’

‘Anna Stephenson has been incredibly supportive, helpful, professional and efficient throughout. I trust her judgement completely and she has provided excellent and timely advice throughout the process.’

‘In addition to obvious professional knowledge and ability, I particularly value the patience, clear explanation and understanding provided. Listening skills, patience and tolerance are vital when dealing with laymen such as myself trying to get to terms with emotive issues in order to reach the correct outcomes. I would especially cite Jennifer Purvis in this regard.’

‘The team are friendly, approachable, helpful and very knowledgable. The team are very caring and considerate under the circumstances.’

‘Swinburne Maddison provide a service that combines good technical knowledge with a common sense approach. A client can know that they will get advice that works for them and not just the application of a generic structure.’

‘Anna Stephenson, Partner – gives exceptional service. Knows exactly what we require regarding Trust set up and guiding us gently through the process.’

‘The team have a very professional yet personable approach which immediately places you at ease. Their warmth and friendliness shines through accompanied by a steely determination to deal with matters professionally and proficiently.’

‘Anna Stephenson acts with probity and is attentive, considerate, careful and professional. She is a delight to work with and she provides assurance that matters are dealt with correctly. I cannot recommend Anna highly enough.’

Work highlights

  • Continuing to act on behalf of a longstanding family of clients – whose assets include a £40m business – in connection with their estate planning.
  • Working alongside external tax advisors and colleagues in the firm’s corporate team to complete a complex IHT planning exercise which included the careful drafting of a Trust instrument to achieve the client’s aims.
  • Acting in the administration of various estates which have included overseas property interests.

Tilly Bailey & Irvine

The non-contentious private client team at Tilly Bailey & Irvine specialises in trusts, court of protection work, providing advice to elderly clients, and handling agricultural matters and wills and related commercial matters. Key partner Nicola Dalzell who has particular expertise in lifetime planning, leads the practice from Stockton on Tees. Managing partner Carolyn Tilly draws on a wealth of experience in wills, probate, trusts and tax and has a particular interest in elderly client matters. Senior associate James McMillan handles complex estate and succession planning matters.

Practice head(s):

Nicola Dalzell

Other key lawyers:

Carlyn Tilly; Helen Dexter; James McMillan; Laura Nomaz; Jessica Morton


‘Very approachable and friendly team, highly skilled and knowledgeable at what they so.’

‘Nicola Dalzell is a stand-out partner, great to work with.’

Iain Nicholson & Co

With a lengthy track record in the Newcastle area, Iain Nicholson & Co is a dedicated private client firm. Well-respected private client practitioner Iain Nicholson has a vast wealth of knowledge dealing with complex wills and probate matters and heads up the team including Victoria Stevenson and Peter Dakin. The group’s offering ranges from estate planning and estate administration over wills and probate issues to tax advice.

Practice head(s):

Iain Nicholson

Other key lawyers:

Victoria Stevenson; Peter Dakin


‘The practice has been long established in the village of Ponteland where I grew up and is used by many people who live there for probate, conveyancing etc. It is convenient for people living there and is an important part of the local fabric.’

‘My main contact has always been with Iain Nicholson himself who has been the family solicitor for local matters such as wills, probate and conveyancing. He is very much trusted and has always gone the extra mile to help us during difficult times. It seems a very well run client focused business. Iain has built up an excellent team around him.’

‘Small family solicitors firm providing strong personal service’

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP

The Newcastle-based personal tax, trusts and probate team at full-service firm Mincoffs Solicitors LLP are well-placed to provide a broad non-contentious offering to private clients drawing on expertise of the firm’s corporate and commercial departments. Experienced associate solicitor Lydia McCaslin heads up the ‘friendly and approachable’ team including associates Victoria Richer and Janine Kennedy who ‘has a wealth of experience and is great building client rapport.’ The team is frequently called upon to handle complex trust and estate matters, including cross-border issues and agricultural matters.

Practice head(s):

Lydia McCaslin

Other key lawyers:

Victoria Richer; Janine Kennedy


‘I have been a client to Mincoffs for many years, my family lawyers going back generations. I think new customers would be happy to know they have been successful compassionate lawyers, they get the job done as fast and professionally as possible.’

‘They are a very compassionate team, take time to listen and give advice where necessary. Victoria Richer and team have acted on my behalf in the process of probate which has not been easy on occasions, they have kept me well informed and organized everything they possibly could under the difficult and sensitive circumstances.’

‘My husband and I used this firm for years and I have dealth with them ever since he passed away. Theyr are exceptionally professional and extremely helpful as well as friendly.’

Muckle LLP

Muckle LLP’s personal tax, trusts and probate team deal with the higher-level succession planning needs associated with complex family arrangements in particular high net worth clients. Newcastle-based Julie Garbutt heads up the team, with particular expertise in all estate planning aspects. The team was joined by the experienced Tim Boardman and Rachel Stephenson who handles cases of vulnerable beneficiaries and second marriages, both joining from Burnetts, in June and September 2022, respectively. Former practice head Keith Hateley retired in December 2022.

Practice head(s):

Julie Garbutt

Other key lawyers:

Tim Boardman; Rachael Stephenson


‘Rachael’s team is proactive in client care, and always go the extra mile to deliver on exceptional client service. The team is well run and second to none when it comes to dealing with technically complex issues. It has a range of private client specialists who work effortlessly and seamlessly together, complement each other effectively. As a client you are assured and comprehensively advised; as an intermediary you know you can trust that your clients will be understood, looked after and, very importantly, charged fairly.’

‘Rachael herself stands out to be an absolutely pragmatic and strategic lawyer. She possesses unrivalled talent in handling the most complex situations with utmost ease, humanity and skill. She is very approachable and provides excellent, timely service- very client focused and exceptional on detail. By illustration perhaps, I have noticed how Rachael treats each client as if she’s known them their whole lifetime – they trust her to the hilt, no stone goes unturned and the result is robust, pragmatic advice, leading to comprehensive but workable solutions. She instils confidence and reassurance in her clients without leading them to the obvious.’

‘The individuals get to know their clients fully and ensure that they are looking at their circumstances holistically as opposed to just considering any one particular area. They are friendly and approachable and clients are always comfortable dealing with them. Both Rachael Stephenson and Tim Boardman have been introduced to some of my clients and both have provided excellent service which has also been commented on by my clients.’


Louise Miller leads the team at Weightmans, with a wealth of experience in estate and succession planning, trusts and wills. The team provides a comprehensive offering for a diverse client base, ranging from ultra-high net worth individuals, companies, trusts, charities and foundations.

Practice head(s):

Louise Miller


‘The initial process of engagement through Duncan Reid via personal friend was instantaneous. All subsequent contacts and engagement were consistently of the highest standards.’

‘Louise Miller is impeccably mannered, blisteringly efficient, expertly knowledgable, utterly engaging, entirely trustworthy and disarmingly kind.’

‘Louise Miller was very professional, organised and approachable.’