Firms To Watch: Personal tax, trusts and probate

Weightmans’ wills, trusts and estates team has gained a presence in the North with new hire Louise Miller from Mincoffs Solicitors LLP, a practitioner with established expertise and regional networks, who joined the firm’s Newcastle office in December 2021.
Wrigleys Solicitors LLP, which has a leading private client practice in Yorkshire, has been building up its presence in the North in recent years after opening a Newcastle office in 2019.

Personal tax, trusts and probate in North

EMG Solicitors

Continuing to demonstrate ‘a real dedication to excellent client care’ the team at EMG Solicitors has expanded its presence in the region with a new Penrith location in February 2022. Samantha Edward in Newcastle and Penrith leads the wills, trust and probate side of the practice which ranges from high value estate planning to inheritance tax questions for business owners. Jemma Morland in Durham leads the Court of Protection team, regularly acting for vulnerable clients in difficult situations. Managing director Emma Gaudern in Durham handles both high net worth private client work and is also a court of protection deputy. The team has gained several new associates and solicitors.

Practice head(s):

Jemma Morland; Samantha Edward

Other key lawyers:

Emma Gaudern; Claire French

Testimonials

‘Direct access to partners and associates working with clients Responsive service Excellent Cop knowledge and experience.’

‘Emma Gaudern is absolutely fantastic. She approaches difficult legal and practical situations with pragmatism and humour. She has brilliant problem solving abilities and, when required, can think outside the box. She works extremely hard for those she represents and is responsive and supportive to other professionals working with her.’

‘This is a niche Court of Protection legal business with a national profile. It punches well above its weight and is treated up and down England for its its skill and expertise.’

‘Jemma Morland is a fantastic private client lawyer, offering an excellent service to clients with energy and enthusiasm. Having been to client meetings with her, I have been impressed by her ability to manage a tricky situation with quick thinking and impressive professionalism.’

‘EMG offer a more personal service, they are patient, honest, understanding and have a common sense approach to their practice. Jemma Moreland is very easy to speak too, has excellent communication skills and has provided the best possible service on behalf of my son.’

‘Claire French has a keen attention to detail and is firm but firm with her clients. She ensures they understand her advice and feel comfortable in raising any queries they might have.’

‘This team stands out because they are experienced professionals who take responsibility for the work rather than delegating to very junior staff to save cost.’

‘I have worked mainly with Claire French and Emma Gaudern and would recommend both v highly. Claire French on specific Court of Protection matters has been compassionate, helpful and always quick to respond in challenging cases.’

Hay & Kilner

Clients praise the ‘expertise, knowledge and excellent customer service’ they receive at Hay & Kilner. The Newcastle-based practice stands with its team of highly qualified practitioners and its handling of clients with assets abroad, or with complex financial and business structures. Alison Hall  leads the practice, and is experienced in acting for farmers, business owners, trustees and charities among others. Alice Clewes is dual qualified as a solicitor and chartered tax adviser while Richard Marshall’s practice includes advising on lifetime gifts, estate and succession planning, and inheritance planning.

Practice head(s):

Alison Hall

Other key lawyers:

Alice Clewes; Richard Marshall; Joanne Milne

Testimonials

‘Good all round knowledge, very approachable, friendly practical advice, excellent client service.’

‘Alice Clewes -very knowledgeable, good all round legal advice and practical tax knowledge. Very thorough.’

‘Very personable, friendly and empathetic senior team.’

‘Expertise, knowledge and excellent customer service.’

‘The team is very strong technically and also with excellent people skills.’

‘Alison Hall is a really excellent private client lawyer. She is perceptive, knowledgeable, technically good and very good as explaining matters to clients.’

‘They are very good with clients technically and have a great ability to relate to individuals without being overbearing.’

‘Alison Hall good at client relations and most areas of private client work. Alice Clewes very able and technically very sound.’

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP’s private wealth team in Newcastle acts for high-net-worth private clients, trusts, wealthy entrepreneurs and landed estates. The team stands out with the breadth of its expertise which includes complex international cross-border tax know-how. Head of wealth David Dale, private capital lawyer Will Bonas, and Simon Kirkup, who acts as trustee for a number of significant landowning families, lead the practice. While renowned expert George Lyall retired in April 2022, the team boasts respected and experienced practitioners in Deborah Jude and Helen Tavroges. Managing associate Emily Pike has relocated to Edinburgh, but the Newcastle team has gained consultant Alison Bragg from Nicholson Portnell in July 2021.

Practice head(s):

David Dale; Will Bonas; Simon Kirkup

Other key lawyers:

Deborah Jude; Helen Tavroges; Alison Bragg

Testimonials

‘I think the most important aspect of the way WBD work is their attention to detail and in depth knowledge and understanding of their clients. They are extremely sensitive to family circumstances. They work in a transparent, empathetic way to deliver well informed and individually focussed services and solutions.’

‘Good range of skills across the team with good internal administrative support. my wife and i like the ability to have a highly skilled and capable team with support in wealth management as well as probate practice; we are pleased with fund performance and confident that they can support our family in the long term’

‘The team involved have been working with this family for 25 years. Their prime focus is understanding and responding to our changing needs. They are aware and responsive to new and proposed legislation and are always focused on the long term – as we ask them to be. Limited experience with other firms has felt “boom or bust” Despite being naturally skeptical we keep continue to trust and respect their always carefully considered advise.’

‘Main contact / partner is Helen Tavroges. We meet every 6 months and she continues to keep up to date with all the family members and issues. Her daughter is of similar age to our children and is empathetic to our issues she is always easy to reach. Her support team is excellent.’

‘The Northern powerhouse. Their size and experience makes them a match for any firm in the country.’

 

DWF

With a core client base of business owners, entrepreneurs, high net worth families and trusts, the team at DWF regularly handles high value and multi-jurisdictional matters, frequently alongside corporate colleagues. The Newcastle-based practice’s expertise extends from capital tax and pre-sale planning, over the preparation of wills, trusts and Lasting Powers of Attorney to estate and trust administration. Leading the practice together with Christopher Noel is Jon Gould , a practitioner who is technically exceptional’. He is ably supported by associate Laura Murphy.

Practice head(s):

Christopher Noel; Jon Gould

Other key lawyers:

Laura Murphy

Testimonials

‘Outside London, they are the best firm you’ve probably not heard of. They are discreet and don’t shout about it from their rooftops – they let their reputation and client relationships speak for themselves.’

‘Jon Gould is efficient, responsive, technically exceptional and a thoroughly nice person to deal with. He can be put in front of an aggressive entrepreneur or an elderly widow and has the skill set to mould himself to any situation.’

Latimer Hinks Solicitors

The Darlington-based practice at Latimer Hinks Solicitors handles a broad range of work, with key areas of focus on wealth protection, strategic planning and probate issues including complex estates and trusts. Its work for agricultural and business clients is particularly notable. The team is also well equipped to act for older and vulnerable individuals with co-head Natalie Palmer fielding expertise on court of protection and deputyship matters. Co-head Elizabeth Armstrong draws on in depth knowledge of estate, wealth and tax planning, praised as ‘fantastic with clients’.

Practice head(s):

Elizabeth Armstrong; Natalie Palmer

Other key lawyers:

Jennifer Quayle

Testimonials

‘Great team, collaborative work practises, always available if I have technical questions’

‘Liz Armstrong is very strong technically and also fantastic with clients’

‘The team are hardworking and very knowledgeable about all things probate and tax. They know their own limitations and seek external assistance where appropriate.’

‘Elizabeth Armstrong is great fun to work alongside and grasps the issues easily in even the most complex probates. Jennifer Quayle is an especially talented assistant who manages matters well and does not get intimidated by thorny issues.’

Sintons LLP

Sintons LLP fields a ‘full service team with highly qualified and skilled staff at all levels’, acting from the Newcastle office for a wide range of clients in the region and beyond. The practice’s expertise spans complex wills, tax planning, trusts and the administration of estates, including matters regarding assets abroad. The team also handles court of protection work, particularly for injured adults or children who lack capacity. Paul Nickalls  leads the practice, drawing on over two decades of experience while Paul Collingwood is an up-and-comer with a broad practice.

Practice head(s):

Paul Nickalls

Other key lawyers:

Paul Collingwood; Sophie Moore

Testimonials

‘The practice has adapted to the difficulties of the pandemic and delivered a quality service in a highly professional manner whilst maintaining the friendly contact that is so vital to good legal work.’

‘Full service team with highly qualified and skilled staff at all levels. Approachable and professional, with the ability to meet needs of clients with similar levels of care regardless of value or complexity.’

‘Paul Nickalls – well deserved strong reputation as both a practitioner and leader. Empowers team members to manage client relationships directly.’

‘Paul Collingwood – all too rare combination of high level of technical and empathic skills. Very easy to work with collaboratively and high standard of professionalism in delivery.’

‘The team are very proactive and forwards thinking, they take a person centred approach when dealing with vulnerable adults. I have found the team to be very organised and thorough. Compared to other firms, this team are far more involved with the clinical team to ensure they are fully aware of client individual needs.’

‘Staff are dilligent and always have the client’s best interest at heart. The team is always availble when wanted and have a pro-active approach to solving any outstanding issues.’

‘Sophie Moore is always extremely helpful and handles client matters very well.’

‘Sintons are a full service law firm who specialise in owner- managed businesses. The individual teams are strong and collectively they work together to provide a full and excellent service. They work well with local accounting and Financial Advisor firms and have hosted joint seminars for the general public with a number of them to show how law, tax and financial matters are interlinked.’

Ward Hadaway LLP

The ‘extremely knowledgeable’ team at Ward Hadaway LLP advises on an array of issues, from succession planning, to complex wills, inheritance tax planning, trusts and estate administrations. Andrew Facer leads the team, and has experience in acting for landed and entrepreneurial clients. Consultant Gaynor Jackson supports clients on various inheritance issues, with particular expertise in charity clients and is ‘sensible in her advice‘. Both practitioners are based in Newcastle.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Facer

Other key lawyers:

Gaynor Jackson

Testimonials

‘The team are always approachable and available. Advice is given on an initial basis, with clear costs estimates for taking matters forward.’

‘I have worked with Gaynor Jackson for over 10 years and I trust her wholeheartedly. Gaynor is always quick to respond, and sensible in her advice, which is needed when feeding back to charities.’

‘The go to team for excellent technical ability and the experience needed to advise on more complex affairs.’

‘Andrew Facer in my opinion clearly one of the stand out lawyers in the North of England on tax and trust work.’

BHP Law

A firm with deep roots in the North, BHP Law fields both an active Court of Protection team and a wills, trust and probate department. ‘SuperbHelen Biglin leads the latter side of the practice. Court of Protection property and affairs issues are led by Karen Pratt while Sapna Tugby  is a key practitioner handling health and welfare cases. All three are based in Darlington. Stephen Williams departed in December 2021.

Practice head(s):

Helen Biglin; Karen Pratt; Sapna Tugby

Other key lawyers:

Melanie Morley

Testimonials

‘The team were extremely professional, knowledgable, efficient and extremely supportive at all times.’

‘Helen Biglin – approachable and reassuring, expertise, very prompt responses and clear communications, frequent up dating as appropriate. Always helpful responses, very prompt to take on board my queries and to get back to me or pass on my messages to Helen, and to relay answers and information to me.’

‘I happened to meet BHP LAW in a very difficult time of my life having just lost suddenly my 20year partner and I have found in them the care, attention and kindness I really needed in that moment. They have since followed every single detail of the probate with great professionality but still with the personal touch which in some cases can make the difference.’

‘All members of the team are incredibly friendly, professional and helpful. They respond and carry out the work within the timeframe they set out and their fees offer great value for money. The process is always explained clearly and all questions answered.’

‘I have worked closely with both Melanie Morley and Sapna Tugby. They are both outstanding solicitors who really care about their clients.’

‘Very responsive, clear, concise, information delivered in plain English and addressing the task in hand with a solution orientated approach.’

‘We deal principally with Helen Biglin in the immediate members of her team what makes her stand out is the ability to assimilate information quickly and produce considered legal solutions/documentation in a timely manner.’

Gibson & Co Solicitors Ltd

Highly experienced in agricultural issues, Gibson & Co Solicitors Ltd has acted for a number of landowning and farming families. The team. based in Hexham and Newcastle handle trust matters, deal with large settlements or estates, as well as estate tax planning and aid clients with intestate situations. Derwent Gibson  heads the team while Christopher Sheppard is described as ‘patient, respectful, knowledgeable’. Kath Monteith departed for Yarwood Stimpson in May 2021.

Practice head(s):

Derwent Gibson

Other key lawyers:

Chris Sheppard

Testimonials

‘Great for will making.’

‘Chris Shepherd, very approachable, friendly and professional.’

‘A small but friendly team who are always helpful.’

‘Chris Sheppard has been very helpful in dealing with my late mothers estate, giving me invaluable advice and leading us through the process.’

‘Very prompt, clear and precise advice. Clarity in explanation and efficient service’

‘Chris Sheppard was engaging, efficient but with a calm and precise manner. Always superb service and advice.’

‘Great collaboration and personal service.’

‘Chris Sheppard is wonderful with clients. Patient, respectful, knowledgeable and easy to deal with.’

Key clients

M R Finn Will Trust

Swinburne Maddison LLP

The team at Swinburne Maddison LLP is often praised for its personal touch’ as they support clients with various matters such as the administration of estates following a death, lifetime planning, all aspects of trusts and lasting powers of attorney. Anna Stephenson, who was promoted to partner in December 2021, leads the practice, with areas of focus including estate planning, inheritance tax advice and the preparation and administration. John Davison retired in May 2021.

Practice head(s):

Anna Stephenson

Other key lawyers:

Nadine Walton; Jennifer Purvis

Testimonials

‘I am a private individual and I have had no dealings with other firms so am unable to make any comparisons. However, I have used this firm for other matters than Personal Tax, trusts and probate, and have always been happy with their service. I have found that in all my dealings with the firm I have been treated with respect and all members of staff from receptionist to partner that I have been in contact with are approachable, helpful and professional. I have recommended this firm to others.’

‘I approached Swinburne Maddison as they have a strong local reputation for technical knowledge and excellent service.’

‘Jennifer Purvis – In the Wills and Probate Team – she was exceptionally helpful. She kept me informed at regular intervals even when there was no significant progress to report. She took her time to explain matters clearly and concisely and responded promptly to queries. Jennifer helped to make an upsetting time less stressful and I can highly recommend her to anyone who needs help and advice with a will or administering an estate.’

‘Treats clients as individuals and supports vulnerable people with special needs. Support in using technology unfamiliar to client (Zoom during covid lockdowns. Billing seamless and explained in detail prior to actions. Rapid response to queries. Clear explanation of complex situations.’

‘Jennifer Purvis exceptional at putting people at ease. Friendly and approachable whilst remaining professionalism. Good supportive admin staff.’

‘This practice makes you feel very comfortable and has a personal touch from the moment you walk into the building. I can’t really compare with any other firms as I have never actually needed a solicitor to deal with the death of a relative and their estate which requires probate. As a family we have already used Nadine Walton for a Will.’

‘I can highly recommend Nadine Walton from Swinburne at the Durham Branch. During our very difficult time when my brother passed, Nadine was always there to guide and help us with legal matters and showed empathy towards our family during this time. Nadine explained each process and was always there for us answering any questions we had with a high level of professionalism. Great customer service and I would definitely use Nadine / Swinburne again.’

‘They were very efficient and pleasant to deal with.’

Work highlights

  • Acting in the preparation of Wills for three family members who each owned assets in various foreign jurisdictions, requiring careful consideration of the different rules which would be applied when determining the IHT payable upon their respective estates on death.
  • Assisting with the administration of a complex, high value estate, which includes multiple properties and business premises.

Tilly Bailey & Irvine

Clients note that practitioners at Tilly Bailey Irvine ‘provide an excellent level of customer service’. Nicola Dalzell leads the practice from Stockton on Tees, drawing on broad expertise. Carolyn Tilly in Hartlepool acts as trustee, deputy and attorney on the majority of the trusts the team administers. Following Martin Brown ’s retirement in May 2021, the firm has gained senior associate James McMillan in July 2021 from Sintons LLP, praised as a ‘knowledgeable, approachable professional’.

Practice head(s):

Nicola Dalzell

Other key lawyers:

Helen Dexter; Carolyn Tilly; James McMillan

Testimonials

‘Single point of contact at a high level with complete understanding of the scenario and plan for execution.’

‘Extremely helpful and knowledgable of the subject matter, made available out of hours at convenient times for full time worker.’

‘The ability to provide and excellent and effective Service to our Membership specifically in the areas of Wills, Probate and Power of Attorney. They are very approachable and provide our Members needs at a most reasonable cost.’

‘James McMillan, the main person we deal with, is the Associate Solicitor who is a true knowledgeable, approachable professional. Nothing is too much trouble for him and he is well respected by our Membership.’

‘We work regularly with their private client team and have done for many years. They are efficient and highly responsive and provide and excellent level of customer service.’

Burnetts

Rachael Stephenson leads the practice at Burnetts, with experience in complex succession planning including cross-jurisdictional estates, vulnerable beneficiaries and high-net-worth individuals. Also on the team is Mike Nicholls, who has a particular interest in tax and estate planning.

Practice head(s):

Rachael Stephenson

Other key lawyers:

Mike Nicholls

Iain Nicholson & Co

Iain Nicholson & Co in Newcastle is a dedicated private client firm with deep experience in the North East. The practice ranges from estate planning and estate administration over wills and probate issues to tax advice. Practice head Iain Nicholson is a respected practitioner equipped to deal with complex estates. Victoria Stevenson and Peter Dakin are key lawyers in the team.

Practice head(s):

Iain Nicholson

Other key lawyers:

Peter Dakin; Victoria Stevenson

Testimonials

‘Personal service. Balanced opinions. Good judgment. Proactive management of the case.’

‘I have been extremely well taken care of especially handling the probate situation.’

‘Friendly, helpful keeping in contact.’

‘Excellent personal services.’

‘I have dealt with Ian Nicholson for over 20 years- he always efficient reliable and always returns calls his advise is always very helpful.’

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP

Following the departure of Louise Miller to Weightmans in November 2021, associate solicitor Lydia McCaslin has taken over as department head for the Mincoffs Solicitors LLP practice in Newcastle. McCaslin is experienced in estate administration and is accredited to work with elderly clients. Associate Victoria Richer is a key lawyer in the team as is new hire associate Janine Kennedy, who joined from Hadaway & Hadaway in December 2021.

Practice head(s):

Lydia McCaslin

Other key lawyers:

Victoria Richer; Janine Kennedy

Muckle LLP

The practice at Muckle LLP offers expertise in advising on and preparing different wills, the administration of estates after death as well as inheritance tax and succession planning. Keith Hateley in Newcastle heads up the practice, experienced in all aspects of personal estate planning and is specialised in advising business owners, often working side by side with commercial colleagues. Julie Garbutt is also noted, with a similarly broad base of expertise.

Practice head(s):

Keith Hately

Other key lawyers:

Julie Garbutt

Testimonials

‘Excellent depth of technical expertise combined with good practical application. Very well connected with other parts of their practice (i.e corporate).’

‘Strong technical knowledge and good client handling skills.’

‘The team works well with all legal disciplines in their wider business and they have a very strong trust advisory capability.’

‘Keith Hatley and Julie Garbutt are excellent solicitors, they are two of the most capable individuals I have worked with in the North East. They have both gone the extra mile in client service and advised on technical legal issues to assist with complex tax problems.’

‘Private client legal work is a specialist area which can be underserviced by a number of local firms. Muckle do however provide a great service ensuring that their clients receive great advice and that the team become trusted advisors to their clients.’

‘Projects frequently involve Keith Hatley and Julie Garbutt. They have great experience and are willing to work as a professional team to ensure that the client gets the right advice.’