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Contentious trusts and probate in South East

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

The private wealth team Charles Russell Speechlys LLP provides expert advice on contentious trusts and estates, and works alongside strong landed estates and dispute resolution teams to provide full coverage for high-net-worth individuals. Having developed strong links with offshore trust jurisdictions, practice leader Duncan Elson is widely known for his work on  complex litigation. He is supported by senior associate Samantha Ewing, who advises on complex trusts, wills, and 1975 Act claims. Additionally, senior associate Rebecca Piper covers a range of matters, including will challenges, proprietary estoppel claims, and applications to remove executors, and Edward Birrell is another key contact.

Practice head(s):

Duncan Elson

Other key lawyers:

Samatha Ewing; Rebecca Piper; Edward Birrell

Testimonials

‘First class excellent legal advice as one would expect in a City law firm, but outside of London at a competitive price.’

‘The practice was able to gain my confidence very quickly and I soon learned to trust their advice and the firm’s diligence and rounded advice. I knew I was in good hands! I like to think that they valued my opinion and this led to a close and trusted collaboration. The firm was able to take on all aspects of the case at the highest level whether it be private client or property matters. The advice was honest and had my best intentions at the heart of any decision; this enabled me to trust the team and to therefore put my future and that of my family in their capable hands.’

‘Rebecca Piper has exceptional knowledge of the legal system and how to reach a successful outcome while working within the parameters of the law. She successfully balances a no-nonsense, yet approachable style, never losing sight of the end goal, she helped keep the issue sharply focused and pushed tirelessly on many different levels to reach a successful resolution.’ 

We are so grateful for Rebecca and her team. I dread to think what would have happened to my mother (especially during this pandemic) had we not been able to secure an independent deputy to oversee mum’s care.

‘Duncan Elson is an extremely experienced and thoughtful litigator, providing immense reassurance to his clients and his team. I have also been very impressed by Rebecca Piper both in terms of mastery of the issues and documents in the cases she handles, calmness under pressure and efficiency. ’

‘In my view, CRS Guildford is the only top tier firm in this area of practice with a full service offering outside London. Clients are therefore afforded the resources of a top London firm at modest prices.’

‘The team is very knowledgeable of the charity sector and its needs and challenges; they tailor their advice to take account of these aspects and the reputational issues which a charity often faces in a contentious trusts and probate matter while being bullish in protecting our Trustees’ position and statutory obligations.’

‘I have worked with Rebecca Piper and Samantha Ewing. Both are very approachable, efficient and extremely knowledgeable of their areas of expertise. They are happy to take the time to explain the legal complexities.’

Key clients

The Public Trustee of the Bailiwick of Guernsey

Work highlights

  • Acted for the Guernsey Public Trustee in relation to losses to five Guernsey pension schemes in a number of proceedings dealing with multi-jurisdictional asset bases, valued at more than £48m.

Cripps Pemberton Greenish

Cripps Pemberton Greenish advises both UK and overseas high-net-worth individuals on high value trust disputes involving assets across different jurisdictions, offering "a truly specialist service". 2020 saw the launch of Cripps Life, a legal management system for clients. Practice leader Myles McIntosh , who 'commands great respect for his considered and measured approach', heads up the team on major matters. 'Excellent litigation strategist' Philip Youdan specialises in trust and will disputes, while Russell Simpson deals with high value probate and inheritance and trust disputes. Additionally, senior associate Dino Sikkel specialises in dispute resolution on high value trust and estate matters.

Practice head(s):

Myles McIntosh

Other key lawyers:

Philip Youdan; Russell Simpson; Philip Youdan

Testimonials

‘They are very pragmatic and user-friendly. Good expertise across the range of trust and estate disputes.’

‘Phil Youdan has very impressive knowledge and experience in this area. An excellent litigation strategist.’

‘Cripps offer a truly specialist service. You get the impression that they stick to what they know.’

‘Myles McIntosh commands great respect for his considered and measured approach, becoming a senior figure in the region. Philip Youdan is making a name for himself.’

‘The team has a wealth of experience and depth. They are client focused and achieve results. The team is pleasant to deal with and although they will fight hard for their clients and their client’s position, they adopt a sensible approach. The team also embrace mediation where necessary and make full use of mediation in contentious trust and probate cases where mediation is regarded as a norm.’

‘Myles McIntosh is the head of the team and he is exceptionally pleasant to deal with. Philip Youdan is a very experienced practitioner who again is pleasant to deal with and does not adopt unnecessarily contentious positions. He gets to the meat of the matter and will endeavour to find constructive solutions.’

‘The contentious trusts and probate team is well set up to handle disputed estates and trust matters. They are experienced in what they do in what is a niche area.’

Freeths LLP

The Oxford-based team at Freeths LLP operates as part of a national practice, providing comprehensive coverage regarding contentious trusts and probate disputes to its clients, who include beneficiaries, executors, and trustees. It also advises on challenges to the validity of wills, family trusts, or claims for shares of estates. Practice leader Sarah Foster is an experienced and highly regarded litigator; she works with a team which includes Sally Goodger, who was promoted to director in October 2020. She deals with estate administration disputes, as well as acting on behalf of attorneys and court-appointed deputies.

Practice head(s):

Sarah Foster

Other key lawyers:

Sally Goodger

Irwin Mitchell

The Chichester-based contentious trust and probate team at Irwin Mitchell provides full geographic coverage to both local and national clients on high-value and complex litigation regarding the full range of matters, including advice on wills and trusts, professional negligence claims related to defective trusts and wills, and proprietary estoppel claims. Team head Paula James is an experienced litigator, focusing on complex probate and trust disputes, frequently relating to international matters, and Paula Myers is a key resource regarding contesting wills and estate disputes. Senior associates Stephen Ireland and Margaret Windram are both experienced contentious trust and probate practitioners.

Practice head(s):

Paula James

Other key lawyers:

Paula Myers; Stephen Ireland; Margaret Windram

Testimonials

‘An extremely strong team of litigators in the core areas of private client practice, but in particular their work in 1975 Act cases is particularly good/noteworthy. They have unique skill in client management (particularly vulnerable clients) and in delivering good results in difficult situations. In particular, they are very robust litigators with a ferocious approach to advancing the interests of their clients which frequently delivers very positive results.’

Paula James is a well known presence in the Southern region/Southampton, who is well known for skill and subject knowledge in traditional chancery areas.’

‘Part of the excellent Irwin Mitchell firm. The contentious team based in Chichester, have a good reputation. The team works very well as a cohesive unit, to the best advantage of the client. ’

‘Margaret Windram can always be relied upon to do an excellent job on behalf of her clients. Her presentation is extremely thorough and she steers many cases to a successful conclusion. She is a dedicated member of the profession with a deep commitment to this difficult area of work. Paula James is very well known in her field and brings wisdom and strategic thinking to a difficult problem. ’

‘Extremely strong team, outstanding technical knowledge giving them the ability to deal with complex contentious wills and probate matters and disputes relating to high value estates and complex assets.’

‘It has considerable expertise, strength in depth and a proven track record with dealing with complex cases.’

‘Margaret Windram leads a first class team from the firm’s Chichester office. She has built a very effective group.’

Moore Barlow

The team at Moore Barlow, fresh off the merger of Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins in 2020, continue to advise high-net-worth individuals on the full range of matters related to probate, landed estates and family trusts. Practice leader Scott Taylor leads on complex and high-value matters, while partner Thomas Middlehurst is experienced in a range of niche areas, including property-related trust disputes. Claire Haverfield is an expert litigator related to Inheritance 1975 Act claims, while senior associate Lisa Green focuses on trust claims and contested probate matters. Senior associate Graham McLean joined from Dutton Gregory LLP in September 2020, while associate Emily Travell joined from Wannops LLP in February 2020.

Practice head(s):

Scott Taylor

Other key lawyers:

Thomas Middlehurst; Claire Haverfield; Lisa Green; Graham McLean; Emily Travell

Testimonials

‘I have worked with and against Scott Taylor on a number of matters over the years. He is extremely professional, courteous, capable and commercial.’

‘Scott Taylor is enthusiastic and very client friendly, sensible and practical. Lisa Green is an experienced practitioner.’

‘Lisa Green is very pleasant and client focused. Good to work with. Tom Middlehurst and Scott Taylor also very able.’

‘A small but strong team of dedicated and experienced litigators.’

‘Moore Barlow is a standout firm for contentious trusts and probate work. Scott Taylor is an excellent litigator and manages a skilled, experienced team. The team works cohesively and offers top service to clients.’

Emily Travell is very personable and incredibly efficient.’

Work highlights

  • Advised claimant in a successful claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which concerned her father’s estate and in the ongoing appeal in relation to recovery of legal costs under a funding arrangement.
  • Advised lay and professional trustees on a TOLATA claim, and defence and counterclaim against a co-trustee for breach of duty and making a secret profit.

Shoosmiths LLP

The contentious wills and trusts team at Shoosmiths LLP covers the full range of trust and estate disputes for private high-net-worth clients involving landed estates, and is praised for providing ‘City-quality work and City-level services’ outside of London. Matters are frequently cross-jurisdictional and highly complex, and often touch on novel points of law. The national practice is led from Manchester by Adam Draper; in Reading, the ‘thoughtful but firmAngela Bowman is well-known for dealing with contested legacy issues for charities. The wider team has expanded over the past year with the arrivals of Court of Protection specialist Sue Bowler from Coffin Mew LLP, wealth protection lawyer Stephen Patch from Woodfines LLP, and principal associate Laura Abbott, who is based in the Midlands.

Practice head(s):

Adam Draper

Other key lawyers:

Angela Bowman; Tara McInnes; Mandeep Chima; Laura Abbott

Testimonials

‘Tara McInness is an absolute asset to the team. ’

‘Angela Bowman is well known for acting for charities; she is thoughtful but firm in her advice.’

‘City-quality work and City-level services, just out of London. Really growing in reputation.’

‘Excellent litigation team; impressive ability to turn around seemingly impossible situations to achieve a good commercial result for the client.’

Key clients

Blue Cross

Cancer Research UK

Cats Protection

Dogs Trust

Guide Dogs for the Blind

Help for Heroes

Macmillan Cancer Support

National Trust

Parkinson’s UK

RSPB

RSPCA

The Donkey Sanctuary

WWF-UK

Work highlights

  • Saved client £60m in inheritance tax through rectification and seeking redress from the negligent drafting firm.

Adams & Remers

The team at Adams & Remers advises high-net-worth individuals on matters relating to complex estates and trusts. It provides niche estate and trust work in financial abuse investigations by executors, remedying and investigating actions of trustees, and breach of trust claims. It frequently work with other practices to provide full coverage to clients. Practice leader Lloyd Junor focuses on trusts and estates litigation for trustees, beneficiaries, and fiduciaries. He is particularly experienced in mediation. Partner Ashton Davies advises on the validity of wills, 1975 Inheritance Act Claims, and financial abuse of the elderly and vulnerable.

Practice head(s):

Lloyd Junor

Other key lawyers:

Ashton Davies

Testimonials

‘A first class practice providing the quality of service that one might expect from a City firm but with the approachability of a local practice.’

‘Ashton Davies is a very tough litigator but very client focussed and always looking for practical solutions to tough problems rather than always chasing a ‘win’ for the sake of it.’

‘Lloyd Junor and Ashton Davies are well established in the field. They are experienced knowledgeable and robust partners.’

‘I have been particularly impressed by Lloyd Junor. I found him to have real expertise in the subject matter of the disputes we worked on together coupled with a practical and client-focussed approach to litigation.’

‘The team has a great depth of experience that they draw on to do the best for their clients. Some of their clients have extremest long-standing relationships with the firm and it is always a pleasure to see how sensitively their affairs are managed. In addition to client management experience, the team is always on the ball with the law and strategy.’

‘Lloyd Junor and Ashton Davies are excellent lawyers with a great grasp of what is important and what is less pressing.’

‘Very experienced private client firm grounded in industry knowledge.’

‘Lloyd Junor is a very able, measured, technically accomplished practitioner and Ashton Davies is a very able colleague.’

B P Collins LLP

B P Collins LLP covers contest probate disputes, including administration of estates, validity of documents, breach of trust claims, and the Inheritance Act for high-net-worth individuals; the practice is praised for its 'truly collaborative' approach. The firm opened a London office in 2019 to enable easier client access, as well as proximity to the Royal Courts of Justice, although this was put on hold due to the pandemic. 'Exceptional' practice leader Craig Williams leads on contentious trusts and inheritance disputes. Leader of the dispute resolution team Matthew Brandis is highly experienced dealing with contentious trust and probate disputes.

Practice head(s):

Craig Williams

Other key lawyers:

Matthew Brandis

Testimonials

‘Matthew Brandis was efficient and knowledgeable of our circumstances. He was tenacious in dealing with other solicitors involved in getting the information we required. He made the whole process from our point of view easy and made us feel our goal was attainable. He kept in regular contact throughout the process. Overall all the members of the practice we came in contact with were pleasant, courteous and friendly. We would not hesitate to recommend the practice and Matthew Brandis in particular.’

‘The firm were proactive in becoming paper-light and ensuring all staff were remote working and set up with the correct technology. I know from speaking to various members of the BP Collins team that they were well looked after throughout the pandemic and I’m aware the firm arranged morale boosting activities ensuring the staff were motivated and in good mental health. ’

‘Craig Williams is fantastic – he is transparent, commercial and responsive. A real pleasure to deal with.’

‘The team is strong with excellent leadership from Craig Williams. Craig always carefully investigates any potential claim and helps clients explore the options which might be available to them. Craig is ably supported by others within the team by many others – from partner to trainee level.’

‘Craig Williams is an exceptional litigator. He is thoughtful and utterly conscientious. His support for clients is paramount and he is constantly thinking about how to protect their legal, financial and emotional interests. I would want him to represent me in any personal litigation.’

‘The team is really client focused and work in a truly collaborative way. Clear billing and accurate discussions about potential costs. They are technically very capable, but it is the collaboration and amazing relationships that really stand them apart from others. ’

‘The team as a whole are very experienced and are creative in their solutions to the problem. I felt they understand the need to balance emotions with commercial pragmatism in solving my particular issue. They are readily available to answer any queries and there is strength in depth.’

‘I was in very safe hands and felt that they came up with the best solution for my problem, being creative in their advice but also very practical and commercial. If I was ever in that situation again I would not hesitate to go back to them and am very happy to refer work to them.’

Work highlights

  • Advised client on allegations of wrongdoing in relation to an estate administration.
  • Advised client on two legal challenges related to wills made by a husband and wife where the wife changed her will after the husband’s death.
  • Instructed client regarding claims relating to payment from a particular pension fund establishing clear indication of the deceased’s intentions and a claim for proprietary estoppel.

Birkett Long LLP

Birkett Long LLP is well-regarded for its track record of work on inheritance disputes, including will disputes, estoppel and constructive trusts, and claims for breach of trust. The team frequently deals with applications to appoint deputies for property and health and welfare and with non-contentious Court of Protection work. The team represents some clients on a no-win, no-fee or deferred payment basis. Clients are both local and national, ranging from modest estates to high-value individuals. Practice leader and 'standout lawyerAmanda Smallcombe works with associate solicitor Rachel Leech, who was promoted to the position in December 2020.

Practice head(s):

Amanda Smallcombe

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Leech

Testimonials

‘Amanda Smallcombe is passionate about the field she works in, she is the strength behind the team, and is forever looking to expand her knowledge in this area.’

‘Amanda Smallcombe is a versatile partner who has excellent client care skills and a constructive approach with opposing lawyers. Whether working side by side on a multi handed case, or on the other side of a vociferous dispute, Amanda has the client at the heart of the situation and is always looking for the right solution.’

‘Amanda Smallcombe is the standout lawyer in the team. She deals with cases sensitively but robustly, always putting her clients first. Bearing in mind many of her clients are potentially vulnerable, she really makes the effort to not over-complicate or let cases run away. She is good at seeing the bigger picture to ensure a good result for her client.’

‘The Birkett Long team , led by Amanda Smallcombe, are certainly specialists in this area. They supported me in navigating my way through a potentially costly claim against my late father’s estate, reaching a reasonable outcome avoiding litigation.’

‘My experience with Rachel Leech has been very positive. Rachel Leech has won my confidence with her knowledge of the law and her ability to take the time to explain complicated matters in a way I have been able to understand fully.  I have total trust in Rachel and feel she is working hard on my behalf..’

‘Amanda Smallcombe and Rachel Leech are knowledgeable in the area of law, making any referral of client/conflict smooth and efficient. They have the ability to maintain a professional and good relationship with other firms to achieve progress is cases efficiently.’

Work highlights

  • Advised successful defendant in overturning two wills on the basis that the deceased lacked testamentary capacity.
  • Advised client in which client obtained a satisfactory order.

Birketts LLP

The team at Birketts LLP works on trust disputes, validity of wills, charitable legacy disputes, as well as cases concerning financial abuse of the vulnerable and powers of attorney, balancing 'a very strong corporate and professional approach with one of compassion and sensitivity'. The team is led by Bernadette Baker from Norwich. Key figures in Chelmsford include 'authoritative and sensitive' associate Jenny Howe and commercial litigator Daden Hunt.

Practice head(s):

Daden Hunt; Bernadette Baker

Other key lawyers:

Jenny Howe

Testimonials

‘Jenny Howe is obviously very knowledgeable but also proactive and flexible which I consider is essential with achieving a satisfactory outcome for a client in contentious probate matters.’

‘Jenny Howe took on my case during an extremely difficult time for all, during the pandemic. She has been extremely empathetic whilst remaining professional at all times. Her communication has been second to none, keeping me updated. I would not hesitate to recommend herself or perhaps the firm she works for to anyone. ’

‘The practice balances a very strong corporate and professional approach with one of compassion and sensitivity. That maybe sounds odd for a legal firm but when dealing with a difficult and delicate family trust issue this has been of huge importance to us, this is what differentiates the team. To find individuals who can balance this and deliver to the highest level is a huge achievement. The practice is diverse in terms of gender. During my 30 years of financial services experience, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of magic circle global law firms. My engagement with, support of and advice from Birketts has been at the same level I would expect to received from them.’

‘Jenny Howe has taken time to understand the complex reasons behind why we needed legal help with a fairly simple family trust and the dynamics that caused us to get to where we are. She did this to hone her approach to the situation and to give her a better chance to assist. Jenny has taken on board ideas and approaches from us and has coupled them with her tried and trust experience. Jenny has listened to us – not something many lawyers are good at. Jenny is firm and direct, authoritative but also understands the sensitivity with which family matters need to be dealt with.’

Brachers

Brachers primarily represents clients regarding disputes concerning the validity of wills, as well as advising on financial provisions for estates. In March 2020 it opened a new Canterbury office to provide coverage for clients from the farming community across a wider geographic area. Team head Deborah Cain is a highly experienced litigator and mediator on matters related to high-value estates, particularly concerning proprietary estoppel claims. Additionally, Jennifer Alderman is a key contact regarding contentious estates matters.

Practice head(s):

Deborah Cain

Other key lawyers:

Jennifer Alderman

Testimonials

I have referred contentious estates work to Deborah Cain. She is a very impressive contentious probate lawyer with a wealth of knowledge and experience. She is also popular with clients.

Key clients

Brachers Trust Corporation

Field Seymour Parkes LLP

Field Seymour Parkes LLP advises high-net-worth individuals, national charities, and professional indemnity insurers on a full range of contentious trust and probate matters, including challenges to the validity of wills, Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act claims, and contentious court of protection work. 2020 saw an increase in High Court litigation and complex cross-border work. Head of the team Katharine Riley is an expert on disputes concerning mutual wills, and disputes between executors and trustees, including regarding defective administration of estates and professional negligence claims concerning wills, trusts, and probate. In 2021, Sarah Sharpin joined the team as solicitor from Gardner Leader LLP.

Practice head(s):

Katharine Riley

Other key lawyers:

Sarah Sharpin

Testimonials

‘The integration of the private client and contentious probate team provides a valuable resource for all the team members to work together in pursuit of their client’s bests interests. This is a small firm that is well able to challenge the expertise of the bigger players in the market. ’

‘Katharine Riley in the contentious probate team is a dedicated litigator determined to get the best outcome for her clients.’

‘Notable individuals at FSP include Katharine Riley. Katharine is extremely capable, knowledgeable and personable, pre-Covid-19 she arranged talks for local firms to attend lectures given by various chambers, she also lectures and is always willing to assist fellow professionals with advice concerning complex dispute resolution with Wills, Trusts and/ or Inheritance Tax. We have had clients referred to us by her for independent advice and they all speak highly of her.’

‘The team is recognised in the area as a good and competent team and if ever we are in a conflict of interest position they are one of the first teams that we will consider recommending. The firm and the team are long experienced and we believe this gives them the necessary depth to deal most matters.’

‘In recent times the only member of the team with whom I have deal was Katherine Riley who became involved with a case where I believed there was a conflict on interest. The manner in which Katherine dealt with the matter was very thorough and highly professional.’

‘One of the most reliable firms in the Thames Valley, offering every bit as good a service as in London, but with far greater devotion to the client’s interests, and at a much more reasonable price.’

‘Director and head of department, Katharine Riley is a very firm and sure hand, with plenty of experience to go with her determination. She combines an excellent focus on the best outcome for the client, with a rare degree of sensitivity to the client’s individual circumstances.’

Gardner Leader LLP

Gardner Leader LLP provides full contentious trusts coverage to clients, delivering 'honest and expert' advice on matters such as negligent professionals and executors. The team is lead by the 'brilliant' partner Alastair Goggins, who has been involved with a wide range of contentious matters, including high-value estates, Court of Protection matters, capacity issues, and negligent executors.

Practice head(s):

Alastair Goggins

Testimonials

‘The team were knowledgeable in my litigation case involving a claim against an estranged family member’s will. They took the case on when other firms had declined to, and they were able to get me to a positive conclusion. Their knowledge of the legal precedents in this field were really helpful. ’

‘Alastair Goggins was brilliant – he was the partner in my case and was so well informed and able to reassure me.’

‘They are very approachable and offer practical solutions. Alastair Goggins leads a very supportive team. ’

‘The team at Gardner Leader are extremely professional, dedicated and approachable; dispensing what seems to me, expert, truthful advice on matters which are not easily resolved. The team are completely honest on your chances of success and the costs involved.’

‘It is very apparent when visiting the offices of Gardner Leader (pre-pandemic) that the litigation team are very much that, i.e. a band of trustworthy professionals that believe in their abilities and have confidence in their colleagues.’

‘Alastair Goggins radiates experience, confidence and ability. He is closely involved in the running of all his cases and he brings to them a very effective combination of commercial acumen, sensible practical advice and first-rate legal knowledge. He has an excellent feel for litigation and negotiation tactics. He works hard for his clients.’

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP covers a range of complex trust and probate matters. The team is led by the widely respected Michael Cash; he splits his time between London and Basingstoke. Sarah Lee and Henrietta Mason are other key contacts.

Practice head(s):

Michael Cash

Other key lawyers:

Henrietta Mason; Sarah Lee

Stevens & Bolton LLP

The private wealth disputes team at Stevens & Bolton LLP offers advice to high-net-worth individuals, executors, and claimants regarding significant trust and estate work such as validity of wills, the administration of trusts, and Court of Protection disputes. The team is highly experienced dealing with multi-party disputes and disputes involving offshore jurisdictions, including Jersey and Guernsey. Practice leader James Lister is a 'tenacious litigator' and acts on significant and high-profile estates disputes. He is assisted by associate Brendan Udokoro, who is highly regarded. The team doubled in size in 2020, by bringing on senior associate Jack Bailey from Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP in November and associate Hayley Robinson from Moore Barlow in September.

Practice head(s):

James Lister

Other key lawyers:

Brendan Udokoro; Jack Bailey; Hayley Robinson

Testimonials

‘A small but very experienced team means a boutique offering that can rival the London and large regional firms in terms of quality and efficacy.’

‘James Lister is well-known within the sector as a tenacious litigator. He is very experienced for someone of his seniority and has excellent instincts. He doesn’t give an inch and really fights for his client.

‘Jack Bailey is a recent addition to the team and an excellent one – Jack understands private wealth litigation inside out and has common sense in spades. He is very good on the big picture.’

‘Brendan Udokoro and James Lister were always responsive, diligent and thorough. Brendan is particularly impressive for a young associate. Both demonstrate empathy and practical intelligence alongside their legal advice.’

‘James Lister is my go to lawyer out of London for contentious trusts and probate work. James has an encyclopedic knowledge of the contentious trusts and probate area combined with a charming and affable approach, but don’t be fooled – he is a fierce negotiator when he needs to be.’

‘This is a team that goes from strength to strength under the leadership of the highly-respected James Lister.’

‘Jack Bailey brings his substantial experience and knowledge of this area to every case. He is very charming and has a lovely way with clients. He is very accessible and gives excellent advice.’

Hayley Robinson’s client service is exceptional. She is down to earth and has an ability to put clients at ease. She provides advice in a clear, concise way that lay clients can understand. She has also accumulated a significant amount of experience in this area which shows through the way she manages her cases. One to watch. She is an absolute pleasure to work with.

Work highlights

  • Advised a representative beneficiary in a seven-party highly contested Public Trustee v Cooper trial, concerning the removal of the executors of the estate, and the proposed distribution of the estate between the beneficiaries.
  • Acted for a claimant beneficiary in his claim to receive increased provision from his offshore family trust.
  • Acted for the successful claimant spouse in her claim for proper financial provision from her husband’s multi-million pound estate.

TWM Solicitors LLP

TWM Solicitors LLP advises high-net-worth individuals based in the Thames Valley area and London and, in recent years, a growing client base of charities on inheritance claims, the validity and execution of wills, removal of executors and attorneys, and contested deputyships. Additionally, it can draw on talent from the wider firm's tax and private client teams to provide full coverage. Head of the team Candy Stockton dedicates her time exclusively to contentious probate and Court of Protection matters.

Practice head(s):

Candy Stockton

Testimonials

‘TWM has been a solid and ever-present firm in the southern counties for some time now. It is a firm of real people who can give sensible commercial advice while remaining relatable and friendly. They have strength in depth and can offer a rounded service to a client by virtue of having real expertise in a variety of areas.’

‘Throughout the few years in which I have been served by TWM, they have have kept me well informed in respect of the matters before them. They have willingly responded to my occasional requests for explanation or update.’

‘The firm was initially recommended to me by another firm. The firm has proven to be very professional, knowledgeable, experienced and transparent. The solicitors have been excellent, empathetic and very supportive. They have provided consistent clear communication. They have generously offered discounts to help me in my financial position and they have kindly entered me into a deferred payment scheme. I would highly recommend TWM.’

‘TWM is a growing South East law firm, with an excellent litigation team. Impressive, hard working, practical and commercial in their approach. They have a very strong team across a variety of practice areas, and are a pleasure to work with. ’

‘Candy Stockton is an extremely able, practical and no-nonsense litigator. She fights for her clients.’

‘Candy Stockton’s attention to detail and comprehensive analysis ensures that the client appreciates all options and is able to choose how to proceed with real confidence.’

BDB Pitmans

The well regarded wills and trusts disputes team at BDB Pitmans has begun to handle increasing volumes of work outside of London, with key figures including commercial litigator Tim Clark in Reading, and legal director Claire Collings in Southampton. Clark, who is praised for his 'knowledge, contacts and negotiating skills' has a growing focus on contentious probate work, while Collings regularly works in tandem with contentious insolvency lawyer Rick Munro on trusts and estates litigation.

Practice head(s):

Lucinda Brown (Cambridge and London)

Other key lawyers:

Tim Clark; Claire Collings

Testimonials

‘Tim Clark was really easy to deal with – he kept us informed, kept things straightforward, and was open and honest at all times.’

‘Very approachable and empathetic team at a very difficult and stressful time.’

‘Tim Clark is one of the most down-to-earth partners I have worked with, whilst also being highly professional and compassionate. His knowledge, contacts and negotiating skills are one of the best in his field.’

‘BDB Pitmans provide effective quality advice, making sure they do their utmost for their clients. They are very responsive and have strong professional knowledge and experience of litigation.’

Blake Morgan LLP

Blake Morgan LLP advises on estates and trusts relating to international issues, as well as on wills copying with Islamic law, high-value trust disputes, and contentious legacy matters relating to charities. Clients include universities, hospitals, and charities. Oxford-based practice leader Stephanie Walls is described as having 'a firm approach with  opponents and a good manner with clients' - she specialises in complex Inheritance Act claims and disputes related to discretionary trusts. In London, Arshoo Singh focuses on trusts and succession matters, will compliance with Islamic law, as well as mental capacity issues.

Practice head(s):

Stephanie Walls

Other key lawyers:

Arshoo Singh

Testimonials

‘I worked with this team on a difficult 1975 Act claim, with a difficult client and opponents. They handled the client well and were strong and forceful with the opponents.’

‘Stephanie Walls has a firm approach with the opponents and a good manner with the client.’

‘Blake Morgan have a useful position being the one of the main contentious probate teams in the Thames Valley/Oxford area, assisted through having merged with smaller local practices and therefore having access to to will banks etc.’

‘Stephanie Walls has very impressive technical knowledge.’

Giles Wilson LLP

Based in Leigh-on-Sea, the contentious trust and probate practice at Giles Wilson LLP covers litigation concerning issues such as invalid wills and mishanded estates. The team is lead by qualified mediator Philip Giles, who is described as 'really excellent litigator'. He is supported by Melinda Giles head of the private client team, who is also highly experienced in contentious probate and matters involving suspected financial abuse.

Practice head(s):

Philip Giles

Other key lawyers:

Melinda Giles

Testimonials

‘The team is very ably led by Philip Giles, who is a really excellent litigator. He combines common sense and incisive judgement with great expertise in this specialist and difficult area. His experience as a mediator gives him a good nose for a deal and his ability to explain and to relate to his clients’ position is second to none. The team is more than a match for any opponent and is one of my go-to recommendations for clients who want a specialist firm, but without paying London prices.’

‘Philip Giles handled my case personally from the outset. Philip grasped the central issues immediately and gave me great confidence in his ability to resolve things. It was Philip’s calmness combined with his quiet confidence that provided me with a reassuring start. Since then, Philip has demonstrated excellent knowledge of an inherited file and brought his undoubted legal skills and experience to the matter. Philip hasn’t pulled his punches; he has been very clear where the strengths and weaknesses of our case lie. That has been very helpful in assessing the risks attached to litigation.’

‘Giles Wilson is simply a league above other solicitors in the South East, and it provides more than a match for many of the City firms. The firm has functioned throughout lockdowns in an exemplary fashion.’

Neale Turk LLP

Operating out of Basingstoke, the team at Neale Turk LLP assists local, national, and international clients with lifetime trust arrangements and Court of Protection matters, as well as issues relating to powers of attorney on behalf of incapacitated individuals. Practice head Charlotte Searle is highly experienced in challenging the validity of wills, administering estates, and succession planning.

Practice head(s):

Charlotte Searle

Testimonials

‘Charlotte Searle is extremely responsive and has good strategic awareness. She has not been intimidated by the bullying tactics of those on the other side of my matter. She always makes me feel as though my matter is her priority and pulls out the stops to exeed any timescale expectations.’

‘During our ongoing case, I have been well advised and treated with great care and consideration for which is a complicated and frustrating case. Any issues, queries or advice needed have been dealt with either by telephone or e-mail and when it was possible in person. ’

‘I would like to mention our Solicitor, Charlotte Searle, as being compassionate and professional throughout. Nothing is too much trouble and always replies quickly to any issues we may have. I would, and do, recommend her and her team to anyone looking for a solicitor.’

‘I have always found everyone I have dealt with at the firm to be incredibly helpful and professional at all times. My case involving the death of my father has been very difficult and personally hard to cope with. I have always found Charlotte Searle to be very supportive, and helpful during difficult times for me, Her advice is always measured and practical and impartial. Her support has been invaluable. ’

‘All the staff I have met, have been extremely helpful and understanding and welcoming. As someone who has very little knowledge of the law, all explanations and questions have been answered in simple terms for me, also as my case has been during lockdown, all efforts were made to ensure I felt safe without affecting or delaying the case.’

Nockolds Solicitors

The team at Nockolds Solicitors advises high-net-worth individuals across Hertfordshire, Essex, and London on all contentious matters related to estates and will planning. The practice is led by commercial and property litigation head Daniel Winter, who litigates trusts and probate disputes on behalf of retired and elderly clients. He is assisted by associate Gemma Dudmish, who deals with matters such as financial fraud, breach of trust, and undue influence. They are joined by wills and probate team leader Peter King and Sarah Lockyer, who focuses on inheritance tax planning, trusts, and wills for elderly clients. Peter Dodd is an expert in co-habitee spousal claims under the Inheritance Act.

Practice head(s):

Daniel Winter

Other key lawyers:

Gemma Dudmish; Peter King; Sarah Lockyer; Peter Dodd

Testimonials

‘Daniel Winter is very sensitive to his client’s needs and is ready to work in close collaboration with counsel to maximise his client’s chances of success. He is happy to exchange ideas and tactics and is a pleasure for counsel to work with.’

‘This is a wonderful contentious trusts and probate team. They are experienced, knowledgable and work well together. ’

‘I have worked with Daniel Winter. He is very clever and has good attention to detail. I have also worked with Gemma Dudmish. She is smart, pragmatic and takes the time to understand the client’s objectives and concerns to best represent their interests.

Work highlights

  • Advised executors in respect of the administration of a £4.5m estate where there may be unascertained creditors with claims arising out of the deceased’s past misconduct.

Rix & Kay Solicitors LLP

Rix & Kay Solicitors LLP advises high-net-worth individuals with significant assets and estates on complex contentious trust and estates matters. The team is particularly well-regarded for its use of alternative dispute resolution. Practice leader Alan Foster leads on all relevant matters, including Inheritance Act claims, complex family trusts, and matters in family court. Private client department lead Max Wright is an expert in complex trust and estate issues with a cross-border element. Partner Alistair Rustemeyer focuses on claims regarding wills, estates, and trusts, and is particularly experienced in tracing and recovering trust assets in multiple jurisdictions.

Practice head(s):

Alan Foster

Other key lawyers:

Max Wright; Alistair Rustemeyer

Testimonials

‘Rix & Kay are specialists in the difficult and complex field of contentious trusts and estates. The team has a fantastic head in Alan Foster who is vastly experienced, unflappable and incisive. He guides his clients unerringly through very stressful periods in their lives and obtains some great results. I would want him to act for me if ever I had a contentious dispute. His knowledge of family and matrimonial law is a great benefit in dealing with claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.’

‘Alan Foster is vastly experienced, unflappable and incisive. He guides his clients unerringly through very stressful periods in their lives and obtains some great results. I would want him to act for me if ever I had a contentious dispute. His knowledge of family and matrimonial law is a great benefit in dealing with claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. I regularly recommend Alan for contentious trust and estate disputes, as he has the ability to calm even the most troubled waters.’

Spratt Endicott

Spratt Endicott advises clients on complex estates, will provisions, and trust-related disputes, including Inheritance Act claims, and proprietary estoppel. Team leader and associate Tom McInerney is an expert regarding complex and high-value estate disputes, often involving overseas assists. He is supported by director Shamsher Pangu, who deals with complex trust and contentious probate, including Inheritance Act claims. Founding partner and consultant David Endicott continues to advise on the full range of wills, trusts, and probate matters.

Practice head(s):

Tom McInerney

Other key lawyers:

Shamsher Pangu; David Endicott

Testimonials

‘All aspects of the team have proved over the years to be courteous and obliging. Emails and questions are answered quickly with no fuss and little delay.’

‘My dealings with this practice have been excellent in terms of communication, advice and subsequent meetings.’

‘Shamsher Pangu has instilled confidence and expertise and understanding in helping me with my case.’

Taylor Rose MW

Taylor Rose MW provides fixed fees and conditional fee arrangements for contentious trusts and probate work for all types of private clients across the economic spectrum. With specialist expertise advising not-for-profits and clients involved in Court of Protection matters, practice leader Sharon Bell 'combines technical expertise with an understanding approach', and is assisted by Georgia Langston, who joined the team from Hodders Law in October 2020.

Practice head(s):

Sharon Bell

Testimonials

‘Sharon Bell combines technical expertise with an understanding approach and is always willing to go the extra mile for her clients.’

‘Great team – even in the early stages of lockdown and with changes to personnel after the merger, the team were able to provide the same high level of service I had seen from them before. Adapted brilliantly to remote hearings, even over contentious matters or those which were document heavy.’

‘Sharon Bell is absolutely stand out – her client care is second to none. Not only does she have an amazing ability to put her clients at their ease, and draw out the pertinent facts (often over matters which are highly emotive), she can then apply her vast legal knowledge to those facts. She really fights the client’s corner, in pre-action negotiations and mediation, as well as in court. She goes that extra mile, whilst always being conscious of the costs and the burden falling on her client.’

‘The service I received from the firm was very considerate of the emotional and personal content of the matter we were dealing with. This was not only supportive but also I think very effective as it helped us to focus on the important legal matters effectively when the emotional aspects could easily derail the process. I always felt that I was given a considered warning when communications from the other side were likely to be upsetting and offensive which helped prepare for them. I cannot compare to other services as this is the only experience I have of working with a solicitor in these matters.’

‘Our relationship with the solicitor was always very supportive which helped a great deal in a very emotional and upsetting matter.’

‘Sharon Bell has been extremely helpful with professional advice and has a very good understanding of how best to approach this case. Sharon has continued to provide me with regular updates and has followed up any of our inquiries. She has given us the confidence to continue with this case when we felt we was in a poor position. I have no doubt that Sharon and her team are giving us an outstanding service.’

Tees Law

Operating out of Bishop's Stortford, Chelmsford and Cambridge, Tees Law advises clients on the full range of relevant matters concerning contentious trusts and probate, such as challenges to the validity of wills and claims for reasonable provision from estates, as well as investigations into mental capacity in the making of wills and advising on inheritance issues related to blended families. Additionally, clients have access to its sister company, Tees Weath, to provide systematic financial planning. Practice head Caroline Metcalf specialises in highly complex trusts and probate cases.

Practice head(s):

Caroline Metcalf

Other key lawyers:

Jason Torrance; Emily Jones

Testimonials

‘I often recommend Caroline Metcalf to anyone seeking advice and representation in contentious probate and trust matters. She is incredibly industrious and very focused on looking after the best interests of the client in a pragmatic fashion. She has also had a lot of experience of contentious private client matters.’

‘Total empathy and understanding.’

Thomson Snell & Passmore

The Kent-based team at Thomson Snell & Passmore focuses on advising high-net-worth individuals, executors, and administrators concerning disputes over the validity of wills and claims against executors and trustees involving breach of fiduciary duty. Practice leader Monika Byrska is an expert litigator specialising in contentious trust and probate, with experience in promissory estoppel claims, trust disputes, and disputes relating to administration of trusts and estates.

Practice head(s):

Monika Byrska

Testimonials

‘Monika Byrska is highly effective and driven, while remaining amiable.’

‘TSP’s private client team works collaboratively with its well-established family, tax, probate and conveyancing teams to provide a full-service offering.’

‘Monika Byrska is creating a name for herself as an approachable but tough negotiator.’

‘My view is that they are an approachable, level-headed and capable team who are always willing to assist their clients and go the extra mile for them. They have a strong connection to the local community and region and a very good reputation.’

‘A very-long established firm that does not allow its history to get in the way of sensible, client-oriented, service at reasonable rates.’

‘This is a highly experienced team in contentious trusts and probate work. Each member has a wealth of experience and expertise, making them a strong, skilled team across the board. ’

‘This is a very good firm that competes with the London firm for the size and quality of the cases it is involved in.’

‘Monika Byrska is vey good, she approaches everything with good humour and a can-do approach. She is developing a strong team at TSP and I am sure they will go from strength to strength.’

Blandy & Blandy LLP

Blandy & Blandy LLP's clients include high-net-worth individuals seeking representation regarding contested estates and high-value trusts. Practice head Philip D’Arcy is 'amiable, pragmatic and extremely good'; he represents clients in disputes relating to inheritance, trust and probate matters, including disputed wills and claims to remove executors or trustees.

Practice head(s):

Philip D’Arcy

Testimonials

‘An excellent and reliable firm.’

‘Philip D’Arcy is amiable, pragmatic and extremely good at what he does.’

Debenhams Ottaway

Debenhams Ottaway deals with wills, trusts, and inheritance disputes involving complex and high-value estates. Practice leader Michael Henry focuses on Inheritance Act claims, professional negligence, and disputes involving executors and beneficiaries.

Practice head(s):

Michael Henry

Testimonials

‘Michael Henry is very likeable and knowledgeable. He is always willing to talk through issues, which is helpful.’

‘The team’s in-depth knowledge and experience is comparable to a London City firm.’

‘Michael Henry is very good; his client care is outstanding in my opinion. His knowledge and interest in the subject area is vast and he cares about his work and his clients.’

‘Debenhams Ottaway are a very professional and long established firm.’

‘Michael Henry is an excellent solicitor – he explains everything very clearly; gives you the best advice he on various situations and possible outcomes, and gives you a very clear picture of how to deal with these situations in the most amicable way. He has a very pleasant manner and has a very calming way about him. He has always tries to apply logic and common sense to my problems, giving me many options to consider, and will always try to diffuse any hostile situations if at all possible.’

‘Michael Henry was the best possible person I could have had for my very upsetting situation I was having to deal with. His whole persona is amazing. Empathy with my situation, made me feel at ease. The manner in which he went about getting results and information was very impressive and utilising the time I paid for efficiently always aware that I was a person with limited funds but not in a way that made me feel uncomfortable.’

Duncan Lewis Solicitors

Duncan Lewis Solicitors advises on the full range of contentious trust and probate matters, including probate disputes, claims concerning the transfer of property, proprietary estoppel, and estate distribution. The team speaks a combined a total of seven languages and if, required, can draw on talent from its network of office across the UK to provide additional geographic coverage. Director of the department Caroline Roche leads on contentious probate matters and specialises in handling Powers of Attorney and proprietary estoppel claims. Associate solicitor Samantha Fennah joined the team in September 2020 from Taylor Rose MW.

Practice head(s):

Caroline Roche

Other key lawyers:

Samantha Fennah

Testimonials

‘Duncan Lewis’s strengths lie in the depth of knowledge of contentious trusts and estates and the firm’s ability to draw on its expertise in other areas that inevitably impact on trusts and estates e.g. family law, immigration law. They have flexible funding arrangements that enhance access to justice for disadvantaged clients and they are prepared to take risks in order to provide representation to clients who need it.’

‘The practice head, Caroline Roche, is a firm and guiding hand on the team. She brings in depth expertise and experience; she is practical, outcome-focused and fights hard for her clients both in negotiating settlements and in proceedings. She has a particular skill in claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, achieving excellent outcomes for clients.’

‘The team at Duncan Lewis have, over many years, dedicated their time and resource to Will Aid. Their efforts have also been met with extremely positive feedback from clients and we are hugely appreciative of their commitment over these years.’

IBB Law

Operating out of Chesham, IBB Law deals with the full range of contentious trust and probate matters for local farming families and charities, including proprietary estoppel cases and family disputes. Practice head Amanda Melton is highly experienced in will and administration disputes, the removal of executors or trustees, and Inheritance 1975 Act claims. She works alongside solicitor Catherine O’Reilly and Rekha Toor, who are experts in contentious probate disputes.

Practice head(s):

Amanda Melton

Other key lawyers:

Catherine O’Reilly; Rekha Toor

Testimonials

‘Amanda Melton is first-class. She is organised, efficient and popular with clients. She manages the team particularly well.’

Catherine O’Reilly is very impressive. She is extremely bright and always on top of the detail. I am impressed by her client-friendly and costs-conscious approach.’

Rekha Toor is a pleasure to work with and a safe pair of hands.’

‘Amanda Melton displays impeccable judgement. She has a good reputation in the field and was a pleasure to work with.’