Personal tax, trusts and probate: Essex in South East

Birkett Long LLP

The ‘competent and efficient‘ group at Birkett Long LLP contains specialists focused on complex wills and all areas of personal tax work. Collaboration with other departments of the firm is a prominent feature of the team, which works with a specialist Court of Protection and inheritance disputes team, agriculture and estates team, and commercial and corporate finance team to provide a holistic service to clients. Emma Clarke, Ben Parmenter and Claire Read co-head the practice, which is active in assisting high-net-worth business owners and farming families with complex estate planning arrangements. The group is split between Basildon, Chelmsford and Colchester. Amanda Smallcombe is a key name to note for Court of Protection matters.

Practice head(s):

Emma Clarke; Ben Parmenter; Claire Read

Other key lawyers:

Katie Hayden; Jess Birch; Amanda Smallcombe; Kay Baker


‘Emma Clarke has always answered queries quickly and fully, and has a great depth of knowledge.’

‘The team are competent and efficient.’

‘My dealings with Jess Birch have been brilliant. She has explained everything to me in great detail.’

‘People and collaboration are definitely key strengths at Birkett Long LLP. I like that I can speak with dedicated people at the firm on topics as wide ranging as probate and deeds of variation, and then, within the same firm, have people work on conveyancing, but crucially keeping the other teams in the loop with regards to activity and documentation and keeping me updated holistically on progress.’

‘Katie Hayden in particular has been extremely helpful, very knowledgeable and responsive to all of our needs and many questions.’

Birketts LLP

Birketts LLP‘s practice can ‘call on a wide range of expertise‘ from its Chelmsford base, which includes acting for non-resident or non-domiciled clients, and handling multi-jurisdictional tax and estate planning. The latter is an area of expertise for Susan Young, who leads the team after being promoted to partner in 2021 and is singled out as ‘incredibly knowledgeable but also brilliantly organised and communicative‘.  Katie Payne is a key name to note and has particular expertise in offshore and cross-border work. Former practice head Tim Galloway has departed to Roythornes Solicitors.

Practice head(s):

Susan Young

Other key lawyers:

Katie Payne; Katie Gibson-Green; Penny Wotton


‘Birketts are able to call on a wide range of expertise.’

‘The private client team at Birketts in Chelmsford stands out from its competitors for the superb speed of its service and fantastic client service, as well as excellent technical knowledge.’

‘Susan Young is incredibly knowledgeable but also brilliantly organised and communicative.’

‘Penny Wotton is exceptional, giving great advice and paying attention to detail. She is always on top of potential issues and keeps pressure on others to deliver. She also has a good strategic eye on the wider issues. She is conscious of the impact of the cost of her time and strives to keep costs low.’

Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP

Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP's wills, life planning and probate team is led by the 'compassionate and practical' Susanne Grimwade, who divides her time between the firm's Colchester and Holland-on-Sea offices. She is a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and regularly handles complex estate administration, including notably high value matters. She works alongside deputy head Andrea Godfrey, who is praised for her 'supportive, kind and humane' approach - she is based in Clacton-on-Sea and has particular expertise in advising elderly and vulnerable clients.

Practice head(s):

Susanne Grimwade

Other key lawyers:

Andrea Godfrey; James Bird; Rachael Fleet; Sarah Rankin


‘The whole team, led by Susanne Grimwade, offer a kind and caring services, and it is obvious for all to see that clients feel at ease often at a time of personal distress.’

‘A human approach with personal care and detail.’

‘James Bird didn’t mind me asking any questions and explained everything in terms I could understand. I felt he was holding my hand, guiding me through the very complex (for me) processes.’

‘Andrea Godfrey is supportive and kind – a truly humane element in my experiences.’

‘Susanne Grimwade and James Bird have both always been exceptional, always happy to help and are my go-to people when I need anything relating to wills. James has also personally written mine and my family’s wills, and I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else with such an important task. I trust James and the practice completely. He is incredibly professional but has the ability to instantly make you feel at ease and like you’re just talking to a friend.’

‘Susanne Grimwade has a compassionate and practical approach to matters.’

‘Susanne Grimwade made the whole process of applying for probate and finalising my father’s estate very easy and with minimal stress.’

‘The practice offered a very personalised and compassionate service. The ability to use video links for meetings was invaluable.’

Work highlights

  • Acted as a professional attorney in relation to the administration of the financial affairs of an elderly lady with substantial assets. Liaising with her health and welfare attorney, ensuring her care fees were met whilst managing her portfolio of investments with the assistance ofher accountant and financial advisors.
  • The deceased died before she could sign her will so died intestate. The firm dealt with a deed of variation to achieve the deceased’s wishes in accordance with her will, the rules of intestacy would have provided for the estate to pass to her estranged husband who had been provided for during lifetime by a deed of separation.
  • Acted on the administration of an estate after being appointed as executors. Liaising with overseas and charity beneficiaries and making necessary funeral arrangements and registration of death with the asset holders.

Giles Wilson LLP

Giles Wilson LLP‘s practice in Leigh-on-Sea is led by the ‘intellectually formidableMelinda Giles, who leverages her experience in property work and Court of Protection mandates to handle probate, trusts and wills issues. The group is also active in mandates involving vulnerable clients and all members of the team are trained as Dementia Friends; several practitioners are also STEP accredited. While active in the local region, the department also attracts national work and matters with cross-border elements.

Practice head(s):

Melinda Giles

Other key lawyers:

Kirsty Buxton; Pippa Bavington


‘Melinda Giles is helpful and professional.’

‘The team are hugely supportive of female progress and empowerment, and are fantastic at celebrating individuals within their team. They work as one cohesive unit, and it has a real family feel.’

‘Melinda Giles is intellectually formidable, hugely empathetic, cares deeply about her clients, and will not rest until she considers that justice has been done. She is very creative in bringing about positive outcomes for her vulnerable clients.’

‘Melinda Giles has a brilliant way with clients so that they understand what the situation is. She takes into account how they need to receive information in the most appropriate way.’

‘Kirsty Buxton has been very supportive to me and I have commented to her that I feel comfortable and not intimidated in any way.’

‘Melinda Giles is extremely knowledgeable and highly personable = a perfect combination.’


Palmers‘ ‘very knowledgeable‘ practice is notable in its scope, with its team providing wills, probate, power of attorney and Court of Protection advice, as well as assistance with contentious probate work, inheritance act claims and residential care issues. Practice co-head Tim Steele is a member of the Probate Section of the Law Society, Solicitors for the Elderly and STEP, while fellow co-head Lee McClellan ‘offers very thorough, considered and meaningful advice to his clients.’ Helen Jago heads up the private client team at the firm’s Rayleigh office.

Practice head(s):

Tim Steele; Lee McClellan

Other key lawyers:

Helen Jago; Siobain Moore; Donna Smy


‘We have always found their team to be most helpful and provide good advice when requested.’

‘Siobain Moore cares about her clients and is prepared to go the extra mile. She has provided us and our clients with wonderful service levels, including visiting bereaved customers in difficult situations at emotional times. Lee McClellan offers very thorough, considered and meaningful advice to his clients and is highly recommended.’

‘Helen Jago is expert, diligent and conscientious.’

‘Very knowledgeable. I understood all I was told, without having to keep asking what different terms meant.’

‘Donna Smy was an absolute pleasure to work alongside and was very easy to contact.’

‘I have worked with Helen Jago who has been able to explain often complex decisions in a way which made it easy for me to understand. She is always quick to respond and very thorough in her advice. I would be comfortable discussing anything with her.’

‘I have valued the individuals who have provided us with continuity and retained knowledge of previous family circumstance and transactions.’

‘Helen Jago is generous with her time and guidance when needed. Shows good depth of technical understanding.’

Tees Law

Tees Law‘s private client practice spans across offices in Chelmsford, Brentwood, Bishop’s Stortford and Saffron Walden and assists a variety of clients from business owners to farmers. Ian Johnston, who leads the overall Essex team, continues to be recognised for his expertise in the farming community, including advising families on the succession planning of farming interests and dealing with farming estates.

Practice head(s):

Ian Johnston

Other key lawyers:

John Southan


‘Attention to detail, broad ranging approach to inheritance/LPA advice covering more than just the basic subject. John Southan has a very good grasp of the topics covered and an easy manner of presentation.’

‘The team at Tees are very experienced, able to adapt to different client types and those with differing needs, and easy to communicate with. It is pleasing to see this approach and makes them very easy to work with.’

‘The practice offers a quality service and clients can have full confidence in the practice which offers advice in many different areas of law.’

‘Ian Johnston is always approachable, gives advice to a high standard and is able to explain complex legal matters in simple terms.’

Work highlights

  • Advising a client on a death-bed will situation.
  • Advising executors and beneficiaries on the ability to use Deed of Variation to create a charitable trust.
  • Advising a farming client on the disposal of land at his farm for development purposes.

Thompson Smith and Puxon

Thompson Smith and Puxon‘s group is based in Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea. During 2021, the team acted for a varied client roster in the business and the agricultural sphere. The firm has long-standing and strong relationships with the regional rural community and has a substantial portfolio of agricultural clients. Fiona Ashworth leads a team, which has strong expertise in lifetime and succession planning work. Clients describe Robert Ashworth as ‘excellent, patient and thorough’, and Aileen Hirst is a key team member. Senior associate Nicola Healy joined from Tees Law in 2022.

Practice head(s):

Fiona Ashworth

Other key lawyers:

Robert Ashworth; Aileen Hirst; Sarah White; Nicola Healy


‘Focus on supporting the end client, taking time to explain circumstances, processes etc. The relatively small nature of the firm really delivers a personal touch.’

‘Robert Ashworth has helped us navigate through a challenging scenario.’

‘Fiona Ashworth has helped me through difficult times and I know where to go if I have problems.’

‘Robert Ashworth was excellent. Patient and thorough at all times. Thank you!’

‘They have always been professional & thorough. We find the information & guidance easy to understand without any jargon.’

‘Highly efficient, professional, knowledgeable and personable team.’

Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors

Led by Andrew Flannagan, the expanding Harlow-based team at Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors is ‘particularly strong at working with vulnerable clients on deputyships and personal injury trusts.’ The practice has a wide reach, working with high-net-worth individuals in Essex, Hertfordshire and Metropolitan Essex. The offering includes advice on wills, trusts, powers of attorney and probate matters. Lesley-Ann Mayhew assists with Court of Protection issues and matters involving elderly clients.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Flannagan

Other key lawyers:

Lesley-Ann Mayhew; Anna Lochhead


‘It is a strong, able team. I have worked both professionally and personally with them and the attention to detail on each area makes them stand out.’

‘Particularly strong at working with vulnerable clients on deputyships and personal injury trusts.’

‘Lesley-Ann Mayhew is approachable and clients love working with her.’

‘The team are focused, innovative, forward thinking and keen to provide bespoke advice. They work cohesively with other members of the team, to provide well rounded holistic advice, in a way that other law firms do not. They have a young, forward-thinking team, led by the experienced and innovative thinking Lesley-Ann Mayhew.’

‘Lesley-Ann Mayhew has worked for the team and led them for a number of years, and it shows. The team is managed with cohesion, and a focus on client output.’

‘Friendly and professional approach, quick to respond and always helpful.’

‘Lesley-Ann Mayhew and Anna Lochhead are always very supportive and professional in their approach.’

‘Clients are dealt with by the best suited partner as the firm has many specialisms.’

Jefferies Essex LLP

The team at Jefferies Essex LLP, based primarily in Southend-On-Sea, is popular with clients for its estate administration expertise, resulting in a high volume of probate and estate cases. In addition, practitioners assist with wills, trusts and inheritance tax matters, and Court of Protection application matters as well as power of attorney issues. Practice leader Gill Tobin is an accredited STEP trust and estate practitioner.

Practice head(s):

Gill Tobin

Other key lawyers:

Philip Conway; Amelia Hayes


‘We’ve found Gill Tobin to be most helpful and flexible.’

‘The team are very experienced and knowledgeable.’

‘Gill Tobin is extremely thorough and ensures the job is done to the highest standard. She is very efficient in communicating with clients. I have recommended Gill to friends/family.’

‘The Jefferies team excelled in all aspect of my enquiries.’

‘Gill Tobin excelled in all aspects of my enquiry and brought the issues to a perfect conclusion.’

Work highlights

  • Advised a widow on the administration of her late husband’s high-value estate, including business and foreign assets, and a variation of the estate to mitigate IHT liabilities.
  • Advised a long-standing client in relation to a pilot trust and a complex will, to mitigate possibility of claim against his estate.

Pinney Talfourd LLP

Located in Brentwood, the group at Pinney Talfourd LLP, which is headed up by Matthew Edwards, was strengthened in April 2021 following a merger with Sackvilles Solicitors and after becoming a successor practice to Hill & Abbott Solicitors, which also increased the number of will mandates that the group is able to take on. Clients note that ‘all team members are very knowledgeable on wills and lasting power of attorneys.’

Practice head(s):

Matthew Edwards

Other key lawyers:

Danielle Lees


‘Very friendly and helpful team.’

‘Matthew Edwards has provided excellent support for us through several family matters over the years.’

‘Matthew Edwards has been excellent, dealing with our matter with integrity and empathy.’

‘I have always found them efficient and clear in their advice.’

‘All team members are very knowledgeable on wills and lasting power of attorneys.’

Work highlights

  • Acting for the executors of an estate valued at more than £2m that included two limited companies.
  • Assisted a client as deputy following financial abuse by previous attorney.
  • Assisted the client with a Court of Protection application for an order authorising the execution of a Deed of Variation.


‘Forward-thinking and modern‘ firm Aquabridge‘s practice is best known for its specialist advice on wills, trusts, probate issues, estate planning matters and lasting powers of attorney for entrepreneurial clients. Senior Associate Lorna Bastian, who clients commend for ‘excellent technical knowledge in her area of law,’ leads the team, and is well supported by private client specialist Emily Payne.

Practice head(s):

Lorna Bastian

Other key lawyers:

Emily Payne


‘The team ensured that all my problems due to not having a will going through probate, writing a will, lasting power of attorneys were all explained so that I could understand the process.’

‘The firm is forward-thinking and modern, rewriting rules for how a law firm is run, but only as necessary to improve on the norm. They are still a traditional firm in every sense that matters.’

‘Lorna Bastian is an excellent lawyer. She is caring and hard-working as well as having excellent technical knowledge in her area of law.’

The understanding and the quality of the advice that has been given to me has been very professional. The collaboration and diversity in its technology in both setting up my will and personal tax considerations helped me.’

BTMK Solicitors

Jointly led by Saul Caplan, Mark Goodson and Simon Jones, a notable recent mandate for the team at BTMK Solicitors involved a High Court claim in which the client looked to prove her late mother’s last will. As one of two teams within the private client department, the group operates as BTMK Goodson and is split across the firm’s offices in Leigh and Rayleigh.

Practice head(s):

Saul Caplan; Mark Goodson; Simon Jones

Work highlights

  • Represented a client in a dispute between five siblings where the four defendants claimed their mother lacked testamentary capacity, did not know the extent of her estate, and was unduly influenced by her daughter, the claimant.

Paul Robinson Solicitors LLP

Based in Billericay, the team at Paul Robinson Solicitors LLP is led by Lee Hibell, whose practice focuses on estate and trust administration, wills, lasting powers of attorney and Court of Protection matters; Hibbell is a full member of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP). Caroline Cole is another key team member and specialises in wills, trusts and estates.

Practice head(s):

Lee Hibell

Other key lawyers:

Caroline Cole

Key clients

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