Personal tax, trusts and probate: Essex in South East

Birkett Long LLP

Birkett Long LLP's standing in the market is reflected by its work for clients such as hospitals, charities, care homes and local authorities. One of the cornerstones of the practice involves advising high-net-worth business owners and farming families on complex estate planning arrangements. Another strength is in long-term care planning, where practitioners advise on NHS retrospective claims. Elsewhere, tax-related issues keep the team busy, including those concerning the non-disclosure of income and capital gains tax. In addition, wills disputes are a key workstream. Emma ClarkeBen Parmenter and Claire Read co-head the practice. Amanda Smallcombe is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Emma Clarke; Ben Parmenter; Claire Read

Other key lawyers:

Amanda Smallcombe


‘Birkett Long always have a personable nature and are approachable on all matters. ’

‘The individuals I have worked with at Birkett Long always look out for your interests. They provide quality time and help wherever possible.’

Birketts LLP

Birketts LLP's first-rate reputation in the private client arena is evidenced by its ability to generate a strong flow of referral work from accountants and financial advisers. The practice is marked by its specialism in handling succession and tax planning matters for farmers and landed estate owners. In addition, it has a notable strength providing cross-border tax and estate planning advice to non-domiciled clients. Elsewhere, the firm is seen as a go-to among business owners and it distinguishes itself undertaking work concerning family investment companies. Tim Galloway, who undertakes a mix of domestic and international succession and tax planning mandates, heads up the department. His team includes senior associates Susan Young and Katie Payne, as well as associate Katie Gibson-Green.

Practice head(s):

Tim Galloway

Other key lawyers:

Susan Young; Katie Payne; Katie Gibson-Green; Penny Wotton


‘The office staff were always supportive.’

‘I was particularly impressed by their collaborative approach.’

Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP

Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP's practice, which is led by Susanne Grimwade, has seen its practice gain momentum with Sarah Rankin and Amy Burton making partner in 2020. In addition, the arrivals of chartered legal executive Carlie Brown and solicitor Rachael Fleet from Powis & Co Solicitors and Whiskers have boosted the team's headcount. Andrea Godfrey is another key individual in the group, which provides assistance with preparing wills, long-term care planning, trusts, the administration of estates and Court of Protection applications, among various other matters.

Practice head(s):

Susanne Grimwade

Other key lawyers:

Andrea Godfrey; Sarah Rankin; Amy Burton; Carlie Brown; Rachael Fleet


We will have no hesitation in using this practice in the future, and would happily recommend their services.’

‘Very professional firm with a good reputation and expertise that can be trusted.’

‘Andrea Godfrey has always happily answered my many questions and has given good advice in all matters. She always makes it clear at the outset of any fees that will be incurred and they are never exceeded, in fact not always reached.’

‘The team are always professional and provide open, honest and sound advice. The service always seems to have a personal touch and you are dealt with both as a client and as a person.’

‘Susanne Grimwade. Professional, knowledgable, caring, compassionate. A shining star. ’

‘FJG are highly professional but still give exemplary time and effort to clients, fees are very reasonable for the expertise provided.’

‘Susanne Grimwade as head of probate is always available and returns calls. Andrea Godfrey goes ‘the extra mile’ to ensure clients are always serviced and deadlines are met. Both are very sensitive to client’s concerns, especially when dealing with administrations and the difficult period that the client’s close relatives are experiencing.’

‘Susanne Grimwade, Andrea Godfrey, Amy Burton, Sarah Rankin – all are stand out individuals. Each have such a passion for their work and that is evident from the incredibly high standards they assert themselves to.’

Work highlights

  • Assisted a client with an application for a Deputyship Order which was contested by various family members. Agreement could not be reached and resulted in a contested hearing.
  • Advised an elderly client on her property and financial affairs for over twenty years prior to her passing at the age of 109.

Giles Wilson LLP

Giles Wilson LLP maintains a strong reputation for private client work under the leadership of practice head Melinda Giles, with it acting for clients from throughout the UK. In addition to undertaking purely domestic mandates, the firm is also increasingly sought-after for advice on matters with a cross-border dimension. The team provides a wide range of services to clients, including the preparation of wills, the appointment of Powers of Attorney, trusts and estate planning, and advice on inheritance tax issues. Giles serves as the private client representative of the Law Society Council and represents all private client solicitors nationwide. In addition, she serves on the Wills & Equity Policy Committee and recently participated in the Legal Services review of wills regulation. Pippa Bavington and Caroline Woodham are other active practitioners.

Practice head(s):

Melinda Giles

Other key lawyers:

Pippa Bavington; Caroline Woodham


‘Melinda Giles is excellent at this work and is able to speak to clients in a way they understand. She is able to take on difficult matters that others would not ’

‘As far as I am concerned, the main strengths are empathy with the client, their helpfulness and that availability of the partner to speak with you. In my experience of dealing with solicitors over the last 50 years, very few have come up to their standard.’

‘A diverse team of people with a ‘can do attitude’ and very knowledgeable/experienced.’

‘Melinda Giles’ knowledge is excellent in the long term care, estates and probate and family law space. Pippa Bavington is an excellent private client solicitor. Many clients praise her speed of response and personable skill with them.’


Palmers' practice is characterised by its breadth, with its team providing a comprehensive range of services to vulnerable clients, elderly individuals, business owners and farming clients, among others. Lee McClellan and Tim Steele co-head the team, which excels in handling wills, Powers of Attorney, public guardianship applications, estate administration/probate and inheritance tax issues. In addition to undertaking non-contentious work, McClellan is experienced in assisting clients with disputes, including Court of Protection cases, inheritance claims and contested probate matters. Donna Smy and Helen Jago are other key partners.

Practice head(s):

Lee McClellan; Tim Steele

Other key lawyers:

Donna Smy; Helen Jago; Siobain Moore; Marissa McKenzie


‘The team at Palmers has a number of lawyers with different levels of experience, so that they always have a fee earner who is suitable for the type of case. They have a well regarded non contentious private client team to whom the contentious team have access.’

Lee McClennan has vast experience in contentious and non contentious probate; has in depth tax knowledge and is a very safe pair of hands.

‘Helpful, knowledgeable and able. Happy to recommend my clients where they have a need for specialist legal advice.’

‘Donna Smy was excellent and a pleasure to deal with throughout the process. She was always available to provide me with updates and answer any queries I raised. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Donna to anyone who needs help in dealing with probate matters.’

‘I have had dealings with a number of the partners and staff at Palmers Solicitors and what has impressed me is the depth of knowledge and attention to detail shown. I would also add that matters are always dealt with in a timely and efficient manner.’

‘The individuals that I work with all show the same qualities which is geared to providing the client with the best possible service in an efficient and friendly way. The stand-out individuals are Lee McClellan, Helen Jago and Donna Smy.’

‘They’re approachable, patient and practical with those who are less versed in technology.’

‘I find Helen Jago particularly able to put at ease clients who are not confident in approaching the firm and knowing exactly what they need.’

Tees Law

Tees Law's private client practice has wide reach in Essex, with it being spread between the firm's offices in Chelmsford, Brentwood, Bishop's Stortford and Saffron Walden. The team's experience spans a full spectrum of matters, including wills, estate administration, Lasting Powers of Attorney, trusts and tax-related issues. The firm is seen as a key player in the agriculture sector, with it undertaking a significant amount of work for landowners, notably on succession planning and estate administration matters. Elsewhere, the practice has had a marked uptick in mandates from high-net-worth individuals, and it also has a strong profile among owner-managed businesses. Ian Johnston (Chelmsford), Nicola Healy (Brentwood), Nicola Havers and Sarah Walker (both in Bishop's Stortford) are all recommended.

Practice head(s):

Ian Johnston; Nicola Healy; Nicola Havers; Sarah Walker

Other key lawyers:

Lorna Boorman; John Southan


Nicola Healy and her team were most informative and helpful on a personal level.’

Nicola Healy was very personable and helped to make the whole process run smoothly. She was always willing to help out and we never felt we couldn’t contact her, even when it felt like a silly question. Nicola was always happy to guide us through paperwork we didn’t understand and was quick to get back to us with any issues raised.’

Efficient, friendly team who have quick responses, efficient and professional but also inclusive. Listened and did what we requested as clients with all the advice we needed. Felt like a collaboration and safe hands. Clear billing, good technology around the zoom meetings. Clear explanations of the work that was done for us. Good value for money.’

Tees Law have always been quick to respond clearly and resolve matters efficiently whenever needed, I always feel I can trust them to do the right thing which makes dealing with any matters less stressful for me.’

Nicola Healy always provides a prompt and comprehensive response to any requests we make. We have received positive feedback from those clients that we refer to her for estate planning matters.’

Friendly and approachable team who adapted well to the challenges of Covid.’

The firm/practice stands out as a responsive, solid adviser as well as being conscious of professional fee spend.’

Work highlights

  • Advising a client on mitigating future inheritance tax and avoiding the breaking up of the property portfolio worth £12m.
  • Advising executors on an estate worth over £4.5m involving uncovering anomalies in a substantial collection of arts and antiques.
  • Advising a client on updating their Wills due to significant changes to their estate worth £7 million, involving livery, European property and a substantial pension.

Thompson Smith and Puxon

Thompson Smith and Puxon's wills and estates practice is highly prominent in the agriculture sector; its recent workload in this space has included advice to clients on farming family successions, high-value estate administrations and tax-related issues. Fiona Ashworth and Robert Ashworth are both members of the Agricultural Law Association, and along with Aileen Hirst, are members of the Tendring Hundred Farmers Association and Suffolk Agricultural Association. Beyond work for agricultural clients, the practice is highlighted for its advice to business owners and high-net-worth individuals on lifetime and succession planning. Elsewhere, the team's other areas of expertise include Court of Protection deputyship matters, powers of attorney and contested wills. Associate solicitor Sarah White is another key individual in the group.

Practice head(s):

Fiona Ashworth

Other key lawyers:

Aileen Hirst; Robert Ashworth; Sarah White


‘The team is very experienced and established. Due to the size of the team there are a number of areas of specialism for individual members and many are also members of Solicitors for the Elderly and/or Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.

‘I have worked with Aileen Hirst for a number of years and I have always found her to be thoroughly professional, knowledgeable and committed to ensuring the best outcome for clients. Aileen is compassionate and empathetic, able to gain a detailed understanding of clients needs and to build trusted relationships. I am happy to recommend clients, family and friends to Aileen in the knowledge that they will be well looked after and that Aileen will always be prepared to go the extra mile if needed.’

‘Very personable, approachable and able to make clients feel at ease.’

‘I have known Fiona Ashworth’s work and reputation for more than 20 years. Clients receive the benefit of total commitment, an unusually good memory for the finer details – often the telling factor behind a successful outcome.’

‘Robert Ashworth was the sole contact during my time working with TSP, and he proved to be the epitome of professionalism. High quality, balanced advice was combined with a will to go above and beyond, which meant the whole experience of working through the case was as pain free as possible. In my opinion, he is a true asset to the team.’

‘The practice is the most professional, knowledgeable, friendly and efficient of any I have previously worked with. Having found them, I would never work with any other law practice.’

‘In the private client sphere I usually deal with Robert Ashworth. He makes a good effort to get to know you and about your family. Over the years I have come to think of him as much as a friend as an adviser which is important when dealing with personal matters. He invariably responds swiftly to requests for advice and during these Covid times has gone out of his way to facilitate legal processes.’

‘Fiona Ashworth is a valued member of her team as well as a valued member of ours. All the people who have worked on behalf of our late family member value Fiona’s work, ethics and knowledge. Any customer or professional would be delighted to have her on board. Fiona’s team are a credit to the firm and herself.’

Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors

Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors' acquisition of Stafford Young Jones in 2019 has enhanced the firm's capabilities in the private client arena, giving it the size and bandwidth to provide a full range of services. Led by managing partner Andrew Flannagan, the team assists clients with the preparation of wills, administration of estates, tax and trusts issues, Court of Protection applications and Powers of Attorney, among other matters. Working with Flanagan are Lesley-Ann MayhewTony Brownlie and tax expert Steve Meredith.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Flannagan

Other key lawyers:

Lesley-Ann Mayhew; Tony Brownlie; Steve Meredith


‘A strong team dealing with complex cases both in probate but also managing trusts for injured clients.’

‘Lesley-Ann Mayhew is a key individual at the firm. Her flexibility and tenacity in dealing with both court of protection and probate matters gives the client a real force to be reckoned with in the field.’

‘Steven Meredith is an extremely bright and intuitive lawyer. His pragmatic approach to problems makes him very popular with our clients and us. His experience in estate planning matters allows him to create strategies appropriate for clients’ needs and his explanation of these to clients is clear and simple making him very easy to work with.’

‘The team deals with a broad spectrum cases from trusts to deputyships.’

‘Lesley-Ann Mayhew goes from strength to strength, with a keen interest in empowering clients whilst still efficiently receiving results.’

‘Attwaters projects an image of teamwork, high capabilities, high professionalism and confidence. The solicitors I’ve had working with our clients have been highly knowledgeable and capable.’

‘Lesley-Ann Mayhew’s approach to her clients’ needs and objectives demonstrates a wealth of experience and knowledge, and an ability to look out of the box when making recommendations on the most suitable solutions. She has the ability to explain, analyse and respond in a relaxed, confident and intelligent manner. She’s one of the best I’ve seen in the industry.’

Jefferies Essex LLP

Jefferies Essex LLP is a strong choice for assistance with all aspects of the administration of estates. In addition, its team advises on wills, trusts, inheritance tax, powers of attorney and Court of Protection applications, among other matters. Group head Gill Tobin, who is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, has more than 20 years of experience in this space.

Practice head(s):

Gill Tobin

Other key lawyers:

Philip Conway; Amelia Hayes


The whole team – from the secretaries to the head of the probate team – are a credit to this law practice and I would highly recommend them for their genuine service as a whole team.’

‘The people I dealt with were Gill Tobin in probate and Amelia Hayes in conveyancing. In both cases I really appreciated their quick and clear responses to my questions, and how they kept me informed of how our probate application and later property sale were progressing.’

‘It was easy to deal with Jeffries. I had a brilliant Zoom meeting with a solicitor and cannot fault the service I received.’

‘I had dealings with Gill Tobin who made the whole experience calm and easy. She was professional and put me at ease and made suggestions to me that I found useful. I would not have thought of these suggestions on my own.’

‘All staff at Jefferies were courteous and efficient at all times, and we were kept up to date with our probate and conveyancing matters promptly, which was appreciated during a difficult year for everyone.’

‘All the staff of the Jefferies team have been customer focused and extremely supportive in the dealings that we have had. I deal with lawyers in Australia, the team have set an extremely high standard and when compared to my past legal dealings they have excelled in every aspect of support, professionalism and cost effective processing on my deceased brothers estate.’

‘I honestly cannot rate them below excellent – they are by far a fantastic company and Gill Tobin is an excellent specialist.’

Work highlights

  • Assisted client with full administration of estate, with charity beneficiaries contentious issues resulting from a homemade will. Potential position of conflict for executor/beneficiary Deed of Variation.
  • Assisted client with full administration of high-value estate, IHT accounts and payment of inheritance tax, penalties and interest. Potential appeal to HMRC against interest and penalties.

Paul Robinson Solicitors LLP

At Paul Robinson Solicitors LLP, department head Lee Hibell and senior associate Jonathan Saunders are full members of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and associate members of the Solicitors for the Elderly. Caroline Cole is another key figure in the team, which assists clients with the preparation of wills, the administration of estates, lasting powers of attorney, trusts (creation and administration), inheritance and capital gains tax planning, and Court of Protection applications.

Practice head(s):

Lee Hibell

Other key lawyers:

Caroline Cole; Jonathan Saunders

Pinney Talfourd LLP

Pinney Talfourd LLP's private client team, which is led by Matthew Edwards, has expertise in last powers of attorney, complex estates and trusts administration, as well as wills. In addition, it is sought after for advice on Court of Protection matters. Edwards is a member of the Office of the Public Guardian Panel of Professional Deputies (one of only two in Essex and 71 in the country) and also a member of the newly formed the Office of the Public Guardian Panel of Professional Guardians. Senior associate Kristian Croad specialises in trusts work. Other key senior associates are Kayleigh O’Donnell and Jill French. Associate Christopher Dickinson is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Matthew Edwards

Other key lawyers:

Kristian Croad; Kayleigh O’Donnell; Christopher Dickinson; Jill French; Emma Thorpe; Claire Buttress


‘Quick, courteous and efficient while still retaining that gentle touch that put you at your ease. Also the firm did not feel impersonal and made one feel safe with their range of services and knowledge. ’

‘Staff are professional, friendly and reliable. Excellent customer service. ’

‘The solicitors I have worked with have been polite, respectful and empathetic. They have been extremely knowledgeable, which instilled confidence within me. Deadlines were always met, phone calls returned, and as a client, I was well informed and updated on each step of the process. I would highly recommend Pinney Talfourd to anyone.’

‘Kristian Croad promptly deals with complicated matters, with good feedback and communication throughout.’

‘The team are responsive across departments to assist in what ever requests are made. They have managed well during the covid restrictions and provided a consistent service.’

‘The individuals are practical and response in a timely manner.’

I have found Kristian Croad to be totally professional and has explained any questions or queries I have had in simple terms that a layman like myself could understand. I have complete confidence in his capabilities. I would recommend Pinney Talfourd.’

‘Pinney Talfourd acts in a sensitive, professional and approachable way dealing with issues of sensitivity and complexity in a timely manner. Even if you cannot reach your usual contact, the practice always picks up on and passes on, as appropriate customer contact and information. It compares favourably with many competitors who do not share its customer focus or professional approach to complex legal issues.’

Work highlights

  • Acting for a high net individual with an estate valued at £14m comprising business and property assets. The advice given relates to wills, trusts and inheritance tax planning to maximise the significant tax reliefs available and in the process preserve family assets for future generations.
  • Acting for a client in connection with a serious financial abuse claim involving the recovery of assets exceeding £200,000 in value that had been misappropriated by a former attorney from a person who has lost mental capacity.
  • Acted on a trust and estate planning case to remedy defective tax and trust advice given by a secondary organisation. This resulted in the winding up of the trust and preferential inheritance tax and capital gains tax treatment.

BTMK Solicitors

The private client department at BTMK Solicitors - which operates as BTMK Goodson - encompasses specialist teams in its Leigh-On-Sea and Rayleigh offices. Practitioners advise on a wide variety of matters, including wills, lasting powers of attorney, tax, trusts, probate and administration of estates, and increasingly, Court of Protection issues. Also notable is that the group handles contentious work, such as wills disputes and contentious probate cases. Saul CaplanMark Goodson and Simon Jones jointly head up the department.

Practice head(s):

Saul Caplan; Mark Goodson; Simon Jones


‘Saul Caplan was extremely knowledgeable with great attention to detail. During very stressful times he was reassuring. He also valued my opinions. Always very contactable and on the ball. I had complete trust in him to win my case… which he did. I had the best solicitor for the job!’

‘I have dealt with Mark Goodson for many years. He has given advice and support through some very difficult and complex issues You are not passed from pillar to post. He makes sure he understands your situation completely and acts accordingly.’

‘Mark Goodson is so caring, supportive, available, and competent.’

‘Saul Caplan is easy to work with, efficient, reliable, and highly knowledgeable.’

‘Simon Jones has been excellent on several of our client matters and my own Personal affairs. Good communication and very knowledgeable.’

‘Mark Goodson is qualified via STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) which is the Rolls-Royce of qualifications in the area of trust and estate planning. Mark has a wonderful temperament and attitude which is important, but he is also able to convey very complex matters in a very simple way, which is essential when dealing with the public.’

‘The firm have gone from strength to strength and are recognised as the ‘ go to firm’ for this area of law in the local and surrounding areas. Saul Caplan is an excellent team leader.’

Work highlights

  • Acting for a client as the claimant 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.