Personal tax, trusts and probate in Northern Ireland

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell's 'highly efficient, compassionate and highly motivated team' has particular strength in advising on high-value, complex estate planning and administration, and also handles contentious probate matters. In addition to high-net-worth individuals, the team acts for the trustees of several high-value trusts and regularly advises clients with assets in the Republic of Ireland and further abroad. Practice head Neil Bleakley and associate Fiona Kirkpatrick, who has expertise in trust administrations, are 'leaders in their field'.

Practice head(s):

Neil Bleakley

Other key lawyers:

Fiona Kirkpatrick; Oliver Tighe


The team has a considered approach plus attention to detail. They deliver work in a timely and efficient way and are proactive in easing the burden of personal estate administration. They have good client relationships.

The firm is uniquely placed due to the size and variety of its offering. Not only is there a very credible private client team, but private clients can also avail themselves of a wide variety of legal offerings in house.

Neil Bleakley and Fiona Kirkpatrick are first class in terms of their attention to probate files. All is dealt with extremely efficiently and in a timely manner.

Carson McDowell is a well-respected local firm. Both Neil Bleakley and Fiona Kirkpatrick are methodical, diligent and conscientious and clients are impressed with their approachable and professional manner.

Neil Bleakley surrounds himself with a quality team of high-calibre individuals. He is very knowledgeable and keeps the language simple when dealing with clients, who can typically be bombarded with jargon that means very little.

Carson McDowell offers an excellent service and can be relied upon to address matters in a timely fashion. The individual strengths of the firm’s staff include a proactive approach with a style that is professional but approachable.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is noted for advising on tax and estate planning for high-net-worth individuals and the administration of complex estates. The team acts for the trustees of large charitable trusts, and is also 'very well regarded in the charity legacy sector', assisting UK-based charities with the administration of Northern Irish estates. Practice head Michael Graham  has expertise in issues affecting elderly clients and Office of Care and Protection work. Managing director Jonathan Forrester handles contentious probate and trust litigation. Associate director Timothy Rankin stands out for his 'personal service' and 'specific specialist advice'.

Practice head(s):

Michael Graham

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Forrester; Timothy Rankin


Cleaver Fulton Rankin are consummate professionals. They are all very approachable, speak in plain English and respond promptly to enquires. The depth of knowledge which they are able to seamlessly draw upon between different specialist departments has proven to be invaluable.

I have full confidence in Michael Graham that his recommendations are without doubt and that he has the client’s best interests at heart.

Associate Paula Gibson is utterly professional and meticulous in her approach.

Michael Graham has built a strong and competent team of individuals. They are approachable, professional and diligent in their manner with clients.

Michael Graham is a strong leader and will be the main go-to person in the firm in respect of all private client matters. He is very professional, very good technically and instills confidence in his area of expertise.

The team is highly efficient and excellent at communicating. Nothing is too much trouble for them and they will react swiftly to requests. All of the individuals are extremely professional and highly capable.

The team’s engagement with clients is first class and they will go the extra mile for clients. They focus on the client, which makes working with them a pleasure. Stand-out individuals are associates Judith Jones and Paula Gibson.

Johnny Forrester is extremely approachable, knowledgeable about the charitable sector, and responds in a timely manner.

Tim Rankin is polite with a good sense of humour and can always answer any specialist queries on trusts, probate or personal taxation.

Key clients

The Esme Mitchell Trust

The Blackburn Trust

The Alzheimer’s Society

Bryson Charitable Group

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Focus

Age NI

Work highlights

  • Advising on the administration of the Esme Mitchell Trust, including grant administration.
  • Advising on the administration of the Blackburn Trust, including grant administration.
  • Advising on the administration of a high-value estate.
  • Advising a prominent Irish artist on estate planning.
  • Appointed by the court as independent administrator of a complex cross-border estate.

Elliott Duffy Garrett

Elliott Duffy Garrett's private client practice covers inheritance tax and estate planning, applications to the Office of Care and Protection, and the administration of trusts and estates, including disputed estates and those involving foreign assets. The team acts for a number of high-net-worth clients and major Northern Irish charities. Stewart Nash, whose 'property law expertise is much appreciated when dealing with trust funds', leads the team. Newly appointed partner Neil Mulholland regularly advises accountancy and financial sector firms on matters involving trusts, estate administration and vulnerable persons.

Practice head(s):

Stewart Nash

Other key lawyers:

Neil Mulholland


Elliott Duffy Garrett has unsurpassed technical knowledge but, more importantly, it is a client-centred firm that delivers excellent service.

Neil Mulholland has the technical knowledge and eye for detail essential for drafting wills and trusts, no matter how complex. He also has great empathy when dealing with clients.

Naomi Lamont is an up-and-coming young solicitor who shows all the promise of being a future leader. She is diligent in her quest for knowledge and already has the edge over her contemporaries.

Millar McCall Wylie LLP

The team at Millar McCall Wylie LLP is noted for its 'extensive knowledge and experience', particularly in relation to trust and estate planning, including associated inheritance tax and capital gains tax issues, and the administration of estates including agricultural property. The team also handles contentious and high-value probate. Clients range from high-net-worth individuals to accountants and financial advisers. The 'straight-talking' and 'hardworking' Conor Wylie leads the practice; he is 'very knowledgeable in probate matters, particularly around the area of trusts'.

Practice head(s):

Conor Wylie


The team is hands on, no nonsense, and offers value for money.’

Conor Wylie and the rest of the team are extremely efficient and diligent and always provide excellent service.

Conor Wylie is very personable, thorough and professional.

The team stands out for its first-class knowledge and interpretation and ability to cut to the chase. Conor Wylie is utterly reliable and dependable.

The team at Miller McCall Wylie is not only outstanding in its professionalism, but is able to explain the most complicated of issues in an easy-to-digest manner.

Conor Wylie always makes clients feel valued. He assists them through challenging property and trust issues with tenacity and a personal touch.

Millar McCall Wylie is very efficient, competent and quick to respond to any queries.’

Conor Wylie is the most knowledgeable solicitor in his field that I have come across and his advice is excellent.’

Work highlights

  • Advised the trustees of a UK settlement on the gift of UK property for non-UK resident beneficiaries.
  • Acted for a solicitors firm in the Republic of Ireland on behalf of the executors of a non-UK deceased person to obtain a UK grant of probate (with the will annexed).
  • Advised on estate planning for an agricultural property.
  • Advised an accountancy firm on the appointment of shares out of an immediate post-death interest (IPDI) settlement.
  • Advising on constituting discretionary will settlements of two properties for a disabled beneficiary.

Arthur Cox Belfast

Arthur Cox Belfast is known for its expertise in advising high-net-worth individuals on estate and tax planning and handling complex, high-value probate matters. The team assists with succession planning and the creation of trusts, and regularly advises on cross-border matters for clients with interests in the Republic of Ireland and overseas. Firm chairman Alan Taylor leads the practice.

Practice head(s):

Alan Taylor


John McKee Solicitors acts for a number of high-net-worth individuals, and advises on a wide range of private client matters, including the drafting of wills and the administration of estates, the creation of trusts, inheritance tax planning, and elderly client care and protection work. Gerard Small leads the team.

Practice head(s):

Gerard Small

Mills Selig

Mills Selig has a strong track record of advising high-net-worth individuals on tax planning, as well as the drafting of wills and trusts and succession planning. The team also regularly acts for vulnerable individuals in Office of Care and Protection matters. Senior associate Fiona McFall leads the team; she is 'approachable' and 'very knowledgeable on private client matters', with particular expertise in disabled person's trusts and personal injury trusts.

Practice head(s):

Fiona McFall


The team has total commitment to client service and extremely efficient turnaround times, good interchangeability between team members to cover client requirements. There is a dedicated private client department, which is a rarity in most legal firms.

Fiona McFall is great with clients and has an excellent work ethic with quick turnaround times. She is always willing to go the extra mile to deliver client satisfaction, and is very easy to work with.

The level of expertise and understanding that Fiona McFall demonstrates is of the highest level. At all times her thoroughness and speed of response is exemplary.

Fiona McFall’s key strengths are her professionalism, openness and friendliness. She makes everything clear to the client and invites questions.