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The ‘excellent’ Burges Salmon LLP has ‘a longstanding and deserved reputation in property, contentious probate, trusts and associated work’. Kevin Kennedy and Justin Briggs head up the practice, which often works across jurisdictions and on trusts or estates worth well over £100m. Kennedy is ‘excellent in agricultural and property cases and in trust and contentious probate work’, and Briggs specialises in offshore trust litigation, advising representative beneficiaries and on applications to rectify trust documentation. Sian Edmunds deals with contentious trusts matters, often relating to her contentious agricultural practice. Senior associate Katherine King  specialises in trusts disputes relating to both commercial and private wealth trusts. Associate Caroline Emslie provides ‘excellent trial preparation and client care’.

Foot Anstey has a team of ‘skilled and intelligent lawyers in this area’, which acts for Age UK, Great Ormond Street Hospital, RSPB, British Red Cross, Save the Children, and RNLI. Lucy Gill leads the team and recently acted in a will validity dispute for the beneficiaries of the estate of the late Lord Sydney Templeman, author of the 'Golden Rule' of good practice for will drafting solicitors in the judgment in Kenward v Adams (1975). Senior associate Alex Rogers regularly advises trust companies based in Europe and the Middle East, and also has experience in trust disputes with a Jersey connection, having spent six months on secondment to a leading Channel Island law firm. Gill, Rogers and senior associate Emma Facey are ‘all experienced, sensible and helpful’.

Michelmores LLP is a ‘market leader in contentious trusts and probate in the South West’. Specialising exclusively in contentious trusts and probate, the team receives regular instructions from a number of national charities, and has recently been appointed as Cancer Research UK's sole legal provider for contentious trusts and probate work. Head of the team Tony Cockayne is an ‘excellent tactician’ with 'strong contentious probate experience, providing prompt and thorough advice'. Senior associate Barny Croft is ‘particularly effective at mediation' and handles claims under the Inheritance Act 1975 and administration disputes. ‘Unflappable in even the messiest and most acrimonious contentious probate cases',  Croft has recently advised  professional  executors in relation to issues and claims arising from complex estates (including Beddoe applications, will construction and rectification claims) and proprietary estoppel claims. Associate James Frampton is an ‘astute tax and trusts practitioner’, with a particular focus on trust restructuring and succession planning.

Royds Withy King act on a wide range of contentious matters, including will validity claims, trustees’ disputes, and Court of Protection applications in mental capacity matters. The firm specialises in advising charities on all contentious trusts and probate matters, including inheritance disputes. Based in Bath, head of the team Amanda Noyce is an ‘excellent lawyer with an incredible breadth of knowledge’. Associate Calum Campbell is a ‘first-rate lawyer, who finds innovative solutions to complex problems’, and associate Mike Muston is also recommended.

VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards) is a ‘high-quality and professional firm providing really good advice’. Head of the department Michelle Rose is ‘the visionary leading the firm from strength to strength’ and is currently acting on ten substantial and complex estates as an independent administrator. She is also working as a deputy in relation to a multimillion-pound estate. Rose and senior associate Fiona Lawrence are 'both excellent, with excellent client service and good commercial sense’. Lawrence specialises in complex, cross-border disputes. Senior associate Marianne Nankervis has ‘obvious aptitude’ and extensive experience in professional negligence claims relating to the drafting of wills and trusts and tax advice.

Clients can expect ‘excellent service’ from Ashfords LLP. Department head Robert Horsey and Kerry Morgan-Gould are ‘extremely knowledgeable in the area of contentious probate’, dealing with matters ‘timeously and with precision and expertise’. Horsey advises private individuals, charities and trust corporations in relation to all matters arising out of contentious wills, trusts and estates, specialising in contentious Court of Protection matters. Both partners are ‘courteous and have the ability to put one at ease with the knowledge that his or her matter will be dealt with professionally and expertly’.

Clarke Willmott LLP is ‘excellent, providing a top-quality service.’ Clients include the Countryside Alliance, for whom they recently succeeded this year in a claim relating to the construction of a will clause; and the NFU.  Changes to the team included 'very skilled lawyer’ Bonita Walters joining as a partner from Burroughs, Laura Mackain-Bremner joining as an associate in Taunton from London firm Bark&co and Emily Jenkins re-joining the team as a solicitor in Bristol after a year abroad. Associate Margeret Vining in the conveyancing department is ‘consistently outstanding’. Esther Woolford leads the team.

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP is ‘a leading firm in the region, with a particularly strong department in this area’. The team specialises in claims under the Inheritance Act 1975, disputes concerning the validity of wills (involving, for example, lack of testamentary capacity, lack of knowledge and approval, and lack of due execution), trust disputes, proprietary estoppel claims, undue influence claims regarding wills and lifetime gifts, and Court of Protection work. Head of dispute resolution Lauren Day has particular experience in dealing with high-value contractual disputes on behalf of property developer clients (including judicial review applications relating to planning appeals), construction disputes and professional negligence. Day also has an established practice in high-net-worth and complex trust and will disputes. Victoria Riddleston, who joined from Wilsons, was promoted to associate. Riddleston is a ‘very good lawyer, who really knows her stuff, but also has an excellent client manner’; she is a specialist in contentious trust and probate work and recently worked for the appellants in Ilott v Mitson, which went onto become a significant Supreme Court case that developed the law on adult children inheritance act claims.

At Lester Aldridge LLP, department head Victoria Jones specialises in contested will, trust and probate cases. She represents charities, care homes, families and private clients and has a particular strength in cases involving vulnerable adults, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Court of Protection. Graham McLean joined the team from Coles Miller Solicitors LLP in May 2017 and was made a partner in November 2017. He represents private individuals, professional advisers and charitable institutions in disputed will, trust and probate cases. Although Oliver Phipps is not part of the contentious probate team, he does offer specialist advice on international private client matters.

Phil Gregory heads the team at Stephens Scown LLP and practises almost exclusively in contentious probate work, with a particular emphasis on high-value estates and businesses. Charisse Crawford recently acted on an Inheritance Act 1975 claim against a £1.3m farm estate; is currently advising trustees regarding a claim brought against a will trust by a former spouse; and has recently been instructed by a beneficiary following the failure of the deceased to sign a will prepared in contemplation of marriage. Davina Haydon heads up the dispute resolution team in the St Austell office; she has particular experience in challenging the validity of wills, including the use of Larke v Nugus requests.

Wilsons has an array of national charities on its client list. The firm represented Blue Cross, RSPB and RSPCA, successful appellants in Ilott v Mitson, in the first case the Supreme Court has ever considered regarding the Inheritance Act 1975. Team head James Aspden is ‘very bright, diligent, sensible, and looks after his clients wonderfully’; he specialises in resolving high-value trust and probate disputes. Charlotte Watts is ‘organised, intelligent and gives amazingly clear and insightful advice’. Fiona Campbell-White advises on disputes involving legacies and disputes arising during the course of the administration of trusts and estates, with particular experience acting for charities.

Blanchards Bailey LLP provides a ‘generally good’ contentious trusts practice. Team head Paul Dunlop works from both the Blandford and Dorchester offices and specialises in agricultural succession planning. Solicitor Lucy Mignot  has particular experience in Court of Protection matters and disputes relating to ‘deathbed wills’. The ‘very efficient, knowledgeable’ and ‘very personable’ head of wills and estate planning Jerome Dodge sometimes works with the contentious trusts and probate team, advising on discrete elements of trusts law, the duties of executors and trustees and the dissolution of trusts or transfer of trust assets upon settlement. Ben Jones , a specialist in property-based disputes, joined as an associate in 2017 from Porter Dodson LLP.

Colin Hunter, who heads the team at Coodes Solicitors, spends approximately 70% of his time on contentious trust and probate disputes. His recent work includes acting on a £7m estate requiring two substantive High Court actions in relation to will construction and capacity and involving a total of 20 defendants. Melanie Grose advises on a wide range of contentious trust and probate disputes, including legacies to charities; claims under the Inheritance Act 1975; problem executors; difficulties arising out of the sale of property in estates; equitable claims; undue influence and fraud.

Consultant Philip Siddons has withdrawn from the partnership, but still heads the department at Humphreys & Co. Siddons advises on will validity and Inheritance Act claims, assisted by trainee Rachel Tonkinson. The firm has a niche industrial disease unit, which obtains grants of representation for the estates of those who have died as a result of asbestos-related diseases, and act for terminally ill clients in the preparation of urgent wills. The firm takes instructions from abroad also, in particular Australia and New Zealand.

Porter Dodson LLP is a ‘major player in the Taunton and Yeovil area’. ‘Astute and commercial’ team head Stephen Wray specialises in inheritance disputes and financial provision claims, capacity disputes, trust and trustee disputes, and applications regarding the removal and replacement of trustees. Sarah Summers joined from Kitsons LLP as a newly qualified Chartered Legal Executive and specialises in contentious trusts and probate work. Solicitor Rachel FitzGerald  joined from Irwin Mitchell.

Bournemouth-based John Andrews heads the team at Steele Raymond LLP, where he handles contested probate and trust disputes related satellite claims as well as Inheritance Act applications for claimants and defendants. He also specialises in litigation before the Court of Protection, dealing with issues arising out of attorney and deputyship work. Sue Adams in taxation is another key contact.

Clients are impressed by the 'diligence and persistence' of the 'skilled and effective' team at Wards Solicitors. Department head Elizabeth Fry specialises in Inheritance Act 1975 disputes and contentious Court of Protection work, providing a ‘very strong combination of legal analysis and fact management, which works towards the best possible outcome for the client’. Ian Williamson is a ‘determined litigator’. Associate Lucia Mills comes highly recommended by clients, going ‘beyond the call of duty’; she specialises in cohabitation agreements and disputes, as well as probate disputes concerning property and financial provision.

Willans LLP is ‘excellent in all aspects: almost immediate response times, with in-depth knowledge and experience’. The firm handles a number of Inheritance Act 1975 claims, led by head of team Paul Gordon, a ‘robust, yet sensible and pragmatic’ litigator. A recent highlight has been advising an Australian national looking to challenge the administration of her father’s estate; High Court proceedings have been issued and are ongoing. Senior associate Nick Southwell is recommended for dispute resolution and mediation.

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