Personal tax, trusts and probate in Northern Ireland

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell is known for its work on high-value estate planning and administration. The practice has a track record of advising on wills and trusts and is increasingly active in multi-jurisdictional matters. Private client specialist and practice head Neil Bleakley has more than twenty years experience in the practice area. Bleakley is supported by a team of associates, including Andrew Davidson and Naomi Lamont.

Practice head(s):

Neil Bleakley

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Davidson; Naomi Lamont


‘Very good team and always available.’

‘The Carson McDowell private client practice is run well by Neil Bleakley. Both he and his staff are very knowledgeable and personable and they are the largest independent firm in Northern Ireland that can provide for all potential legal needs that our clients may have.’

‘Neil Bleakley is a consummate professional. His attention to detail, knowledge, and experience, and his personable nature means that clients are confident in both him and his team to do what they say to a very high standard.’

‘In my view Carson McDowell offers an excellent service and can be relied on upon to address matters in a timely fashion.’

‘The Carson McDowell private client team in Northern Ireland stand out from their peers due to their extensive technical knowledge combined with a very personal approach in dealing with delicate and technical client matters.’

‘It is led by Neill Bleakley who has a extensive track record of working closely with clients, and consistently delivers high quality client outcomes.’

‘They are primarily excellent listeners and then provide wholly appropriate legal advice.’

Work highlights

    Cleaver Fulton Rankin

    Cleaver Fulton Rankin fields a team with expertise across the full scope of personal legal matters, with particular aptitude for the administration of private and charitable trusts. Michael Graham has been department head since 2013 and specialises in trusts, tax, the administration of estates, and issues affecting the elderly. Managing Director Jonathan Forrester is singled out for contentious probate and trust litigation. Director Timothy Rankin has significant expertise in trust management.

    Practice head(s):

    Michael Graham

    Other key lawyers:

    Jonathan Forrester; Timothy Rankin; Brid McColgan


    ‘Michael and his team are both experienced and at the leading edge of their work.’

    ‘They are always courteous and professional in a good mix. When dealing with family affairs there are often soft issues to be dealt with which are as important as the cold facts of the case.’

    ‘Michael Graham is an urbane, charming man who has the ability immediately to grasp a problem and provide a solution.’

    ‘Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s private client department has a strength and depth of knowledge which I have found to be second to none. They are thorough and professional.’

    ‘Michael Graham, Timothy Rankin and Brid McColgan are personable, knowledgeable and professional.’

    ‘Renowned for providing excellent advice in a professional manner they have the strength to provide expert legal advice across all aspects of law.’

    ‘Tim is professional, pleasant to deal with and clients appreciate his natural friendly manner with them.’

    ‘Well-diversified team with proficient knowledge in the private client arena.’

    Key clients

    The Esme Mitchell Trust

    The Blackburn Trust

    Work highlights

      Elliott Duffy Garrett

      Elliott Duffy Garrett‘s team is known for its work with trusts and estate administration, and is experienced in the drafting of bespoke wills. The practice offers particular experience in the charity sector. Neil Mulholland, who has ‘an eye for detail and the experience to foretell and forestall future problems‘ advises on wills, inheritance tax, and enduring powers of attorney. Former department head Stewart Nash continues to lend support, bringing expertise in property. Associate Zandra Gamble is also noted.

      Practice head(s):

      Neil Mulholland

      Other key lawyers:

      Stewart Nash; Zandra Gamble


      ‘The private client team in Elliott Duffy Garrett leads the field in its unique combination of exceptional legal expertise combined with in-depth local knowledge and high levels of client service.’

      ‘I use Neil Mulholland for will and trust drafting because he has an eye for detail and the experience to foretell and forestall future problems with clauses requested by clients. He has empathy and and patience and tirelessly works to bring satisfactory outcomes for clients.’

      Work highlights

        Millar McCall Wylie LLP

        Millar McCall Wylie LLP fields a team with experience in advising high-net-worth individuals on wills, estate planning, and property relief. Founding partner and practice head Conor Wylie is dual-qualified as a chartered tax advisor, resulting in an ‘unsurpassed knowledge of tax and trust‘. In addition to working within Northern Ireland, Wylie covers the Republic of Ireland and other international jurisdictions. Chief operating officer Christopher McCandless is a tax professional with an accountancy background and acts as a key team member in matters involving tax issues.

        Practice head(s):

        Conor Wylie


        ‘Commercial with excellent technical knowledge.’

        ‘Conor Wylie is the most technically aware partner within this sector in Northern Ireland.’

        ‘Conor Wylie has an exceptional all-round ability to advise on complex matters.’

        ‘Conor Wylie and Peter McCall are very good.’

        ‘Professional, effective, high level of client service.’

        ‘Conor Wylie is extremely professional, has an unsurpassed knowledge of tax and trust and always meets any target date.’

        ‘I found Conor Wylie to have a wide breadth of knowledge in inheritance law and tax and he was particularly innovative in dealing with some unique challenges and circumstances. He thought outside the box.’

        Work highlights

          Mills Selig

          In addition to domestic Northern Irish work, Mills Selig is active across England and the Republic of Ireland on the administration of complex and high-value estates. The team has experience in trusts, wills, and charity law, and acts on contentious and non-contentious matters. Fiona McFall leads the department and impresses with her experience in all matters of wealth management, particularly estate and succession planning. Associate Paula Gibson covers mental capacity, controllership, and enduring powers of attorney.

          Practice head(s):

          Fiona McFall

          Other key lawyers:

          Paula Gibson


          ‘Fiona and Paula provide a first class personal service to each of their clients. Clients appreciate their valuable advice delivered in a timely manner.’

          Work highlights

            Arthur Cox Belfast

            Arthur Cox Belfast acts for extremely high-net-worth individuals across international jurisdictions, and is particularly active on probate, trusts, and estate planning. Firm chairman Alan Taylor leads the team, and has a strong record of advising on complex matters with high values. Property specialist Rowan White is also active in the department as a consultant.

            Practice head(s):

            Alan Taylor

            Other key lawyers:

            Rowan White

            Work highlights


              Tughans focuses on estate planning and acts in matters involving complex elements such as cross-border assets and inter-generational issues. Practice head Fiona Kirkpatrick is experienced in advisory and contentious matters.

              Practice head(s):

              Fiona Kirkpatrick


              ‘Fiona listens carefully, takes in all the relevant information, analyses it and has a plan of action. She has a keen eye for detail, is organised and thorough.’

              ‘Fiona is second to none as someone who is hardworking, confident and totally positive.’

              ‘I have found the practice to have a broad spectrum of expertise which is very helpful when dealing with complex legal and financial matters.’

              ‘My main dealings have been with Fiona Kirkpatrick who is a Director at Tughans. I have found her to be friendly, knowledgeable, flexible, highly responsive and professional.’

              ‘Fiona is developing a team at Tughans and is a fantastic ambassador for the firm. She is knowledgeable, skilled and really great with clients. She makes people feel at ease and is an asset to the firm.’

              ‘Fiona always goes the extra mile for clients and is always available to help. She is very knowledgeable in her field and I would highly recommend her services.’

              ‘The private client team at Tughans is insightful, responsive and practical when it comes to complex matters of estate planning.’

              ‘Fiona was extremely responsive and knowledgable, able to work with family members as well as external partners in Northern Ireland and Ireland.’

              Work highlights

                Wilson Nesbitt

                Wilson Nesbitt fields a team experienced in complex estate administration and all aspects of wills, with an additional record of contentious work. Team head Lenore Rice covers the full spectrum of private client work, including wealth and succession planning, asset protection, and trusts.

                Practice head(s):

                Lenore Rice

                Work highlights

                  Shoosmiths LLP

                  Shoosmiths LLP focus on contentious matters, with a particularly busy practice in trust disputes and contested wills. Gillian Crotty heads the department and is a specialist in all areas of commercial litigation. Lead associate Stuart Nevin, who joined the firm from A&L Goodbody in July 2021, leads on multiple complex and high-value disputes.

                  Practice head(s):

                  Gillian Crotty

                  Other key lawyers:

                  Stuart Nevin; Rebecca Walker


                  ‘This is a small but well regarded team.’

                  ‘Stuart Nevin has been developing a strong reputation in this area.’

                  ‘Stuart Nevin is calm under pressure and has excellent rapport with clients.’

                  ‘Good team of people offering a good diversity of knowledge.’

                  Key clients

                  NatWest Group

                  Subway plc

                  Boots UK

                  Northern Ireland Housing Executive

                  Volkswagen Group UK plc

                  Santander UK plc

                  Ulster Bank Limited

                  ABO Wind NI

                  Northern Bank Ltd t/a Danske Bank

                  Leeds Building Society

                  Work highlights

                  • Advising NatWest Group in relation to multiple High Court claims against individuals in relation to mortgage litigation and professional negligence.
                  • Acting for a high-net-worth individual in 4 sets of connected High Court proceedings relating to a wealthy family probate and trust dispute worth £8m.
                  • Advising a majority shareholder in relation to an unfair prejudice and intellectual property dispute involving several private and public body counterparties.