Next Generation Partners

Firms To Watch: Contentious trusts and probate

Stone King LLP draws on its market-leading charities expertise to effectively advise clients in that sector on legacy disputes and other contentious probate matters.
Trowers & Hamlins LLP made a notable addition to its Exeter team in early 2022 with the hire of Charisse Crawford from Stephens Scown LLP – she specialises in private wealth disputes and asset protection issues.

Contentious trusts and probate in South West

Ashfords LLP

The team at Ashfords LLP is well versed in the handling of proprietary estoppel claims and executor and trustee disputes, as well as breach of trust claims and will rectification and construction claims. The practice is led by Robert Horsey. His expertise includes advising clients on matters before the Court of Protection. Barny Croft is well experienced in advising on enduring powers of attorney, lasting powers of attorney and the administration of estates. Both are members of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists.

Practice head(s):

Robert Horsey

Other key lawyers:

Kerry Morgan Gould; Barny Croft; Katie Webber


‘Ashfords deserves its reputation as one of the top firms in this area of work. Whilst they are based in the South West, their work is national, and they more than match the top London-based firms in respect of their know-how and approach to cases.’

‘Their particular strengths lie in their ability to find pragmatic and effective solutions to issues facing their clients.’

‘Barny Croft is a real heavy-hitter with an excellent knowledge of the law, and the tactical acumen to achieve excellent results for his clients.’

‘I felt our case to be in exceptionally capable and intelligent hands- and this was borne out by the end results.’

‘Robert Horsey was extremely personable, has great speed agility and good humour handling very complex and fussy details.’

‘Ashfords made defending against a contested Will a smooth and relatively easy process and we would highly recommend the firm to anyone who needs one.’

‘I have worked with Barny Croft on numerous matters over the years and have always found him to be robust, assertive, communicative, consistent, unafraid to issue proceedings as and when necessary.’

Work highlights

  • Defended a claim brought against a minor and a young adult under the Inheritance (Provision for Families and Dependents) Act 1975 by their father.
  • Acted for the beneficiaries of a Will in the matter of a challenge to a Will on the basis of invalidity, coercion and professional negligence.

Burges Salmon LLP

Burges Salmon LLP advises a range of prestigious clients on both a national and an international basis. The team is led by both Justin Briggs and Kevin Kennedy. Briggs specialises in the avoidance and resolution of disputes pertaining to trusts, tax and private wealth. Kennedy is well versed in the representation of clients before the Court of Appeal. Another notable individual includes Caroline Emslie who handles international disputes concerning trusts, wills, tax planning and estate administration.

Practice head(s):

Justin Briggs; Kevin Kennedy

Other key lawyers:

Sian Edmunds; Caroline Emslie


‘This team is incredibly effective – the different members’ strengths complement each other and they work brilliantly well together. Absolutely first class.’

Caroline Emslie: a senior associate with great experience and attention to detail.’

‘Caroline Emslie – a star in the making.’

‘Kevin Kennedy is very thorough, pragmatic and very easy to work with.’

‘Justin Briggs is a very capable partner who is on top of the detail whilst not getting bogged down in it, and who leads a very capable team of associates.’

Caroline Emslie – an absolute superstar whose recent promotion was very well deserved. She is brilliant on the detail, great with clients and with counsel, and a delight to work with. She is without doubt going to be a leading partner in the private client world.’

‘Justin Briggs is incredibly insightful and provides sound strategic oversight to the team.’

‘Caroline Emslie is an exceptional associate with really excellent judgement.’

Work highlights

  • Advised the Earl of Plymouth and trustees of a landed estate in their extensive litigation linked to the development of a part of their estate outside Cardiff.
  • Advised beneficiary of a trust established in Australia and administered by a Swiss trustee company,  on suing the trustee concerning  allegations that a large amount of money has been improperly paid away from the trust.

Foot Anstey

Foot Anstey advises a range of clients, including high net worth private clients, professional trustees, trust corporations and national charities. The teams’ expertise includes the handling of complex inheritance disputes, where they utilise its mental capacity team as well as its trusts specialists. The practice is headed by Lucy Gill; she is well experienced in advising national charities on contentious probate work. Alexandra Rogers is noted for her representation of clients before the High Court.

Practice head(s):

Lucy Gill

Other key lawyers:

Alexandra Rogers; Emma Facey; Elizabeth Ware


‘The probate, contentious and property teams are extremely professional in their approach to their clients.’

‘The teams work closely and are able to provide a seamless approach.’

A well led and effective team which gives us considerable confidence.’

‘Emma Facey puts the client first and responds well to suggestions for improvements.’

‘Lucy Gill – a pragmatic and solutions based individual’

‘Lucy Gill has an in depth understanding of the sector and ‘gets’ what is required to keep her clients on board.’

‘Alexander Rogers was very dedicated to our case and always made herself available to speak to us directly on the phone or in person.’

‘The team goes above and beyond in understanding clients needs & trying to propose practical solutions.’

Key clients

Age UK

National Trust


The Salvation Army

Dogs Trust


Work highlights

    Michelmores LLP

    Michelmores LLP‘s expertise include matters concerning wills, trusts, probate and legacies. The team acts for a range of capacities such as executors, trustees and beneficiaries. Tony Cockayne heads the team; he has over 20 years’ of litigation experience. Jasmine Ivory is noted for her representation of high net worth individuals in complex litigation. Personnel changes include the arrival of Lorraine Jeffery from BDB Pitmans and senior associate Holly Mieville-Hawkins from Enable Law.

    Practice head(s):

    Tony Cockayne

    Other key lawyers:

    Jennifer Ridgway; Sara Chisolm-Batten; Lorraine Jeffery; Jasmine Ivory; Holly Mieville-Hawkins; Georgia Wookey


    ‘Michelmores has a really strong presence in this area. Tony Cockayne is an excellent team leader; he is unflappable, full of energy and has a real sense of when a point is worth pushing and when to pull back.’

    ‘The team is very knowledgeable of the charity sector and fully aware of its needs and challenges. Their advice always takes these into consideration, and especially addresses the reputational issues which the charity may face in contentious matters.’

    ‘Tony Cockayne heads up the team with great energy, enthusiasm and positivity.’

    Key clients

    Cancer Research UK

    Work highlights

      RWK Goodman

      The practice at RWK Goodman includes a specialist Court of Protection team, and its expertise also includes matters concerning charities; the team advise on disputes pertaining to wills, estates and trusts. Amanda Noyce heads the practice; she is a member of both The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and The Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists. Calum Campbell is well experienced handling claims concerning the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.

      Practice head(s):

      Amanda Noyce

      Other key lawyers:

      Calum Campbell; Mike Muston


      ‘Professional; prompt; thorough; attention to detail.’

      ‘The advice given to me was clear, outlining all options available to me and what the implications were for each option, and detailed clearly on what the outcome of the case could be.’

      ‘They communicated with each other regarding my case, and I did not not have to repeat myself explaining what I had said to the other person.’

      Work highlights


        The team at VWV regularly advises national charities, higher education institutions and universities on matters pertaining to legacy protection. Its specialists also defend contested legacies. The team is led by Michelle Rose; she regularly acts as an independent court appointed administrator and deputy in complex contested estate cases. Fiona Lawrence is noted for her experience before the Court of Protection, advising clients on matters concerning breach of duties and financial abuse of vulnerable people.

        Practice head(s):

        Michelle Rose

        Other key lawyers:

        Fiona Lawrence; Marianne Nankervis; Sally Rushton; Julia Hardy; Vicky Ward; Emily Roskilly


        ‘The team have given quality advise in a well managed timescale and laid out a course of action and various scenario’s .’

        ‘VWV’s contentious trusts and probate practice is extremely strong and has a deserved reputation.’

        ‘Michelle Rose is a star practitioner in this area, with vast experience and a down to earth approach.’

        Work highlights

        • Advised client in respect to a £19.5m estate with a contested statutory will application involving multiple charities.


        Wilsons has a full service practice, advising clients on an array of disputes concerning wills, estates, trusts, trustees and executors. Its clients include charities, professional trustees and corporate trustees, as well as individuals. The practice is led by Charlotte Watts, whose expertise includes probate and legacy administration. James Aspden  specialises in the resolution of trust and probate disputes.

        Practice head(s):

        Charlotte Watts

        Other key lawyers:

        James Aspden; Fiona Campbell-White

        Key clients


        Macmillan Cancer Support

        Guide Dogs

        Estate of Lord (Cecil) Parkinson deceased

        Work highlights

          Clarke Willmott LLP

          The team at Clarke Willmott LLP utilises its multi-disciplinary practice when overseeing matters, making use of its agricultural litigation team as well as its private wealth team. Bonita Walters and Esther Woolford  lead the team. Walters is a reputable litigator, with over 20 years' experience. Woolford specialises in agricultural and property litigation. Senior associate Sarah O’Grady 'offers excellent advice with no pretence'.

          Practice head(s):

          Bonita Walters; Esther Woolford

          Other key lawyers:

          Sarah O’Grady; Emma Ironside; Emily Jenkins


          One of the top players in contentious trusts and probate in the West of England who have captured the market in farming disputes.’

          ‘Esther Woolford is a star individual. Dedicated and hard working, responsive and goes all out for her clients.’

          ‘An excellent all-round agriculture team with deep knowledge of estoppels, testamentary promises and specialist agricultural knowledge.’

          ‘Esther Woolford is a standout partner, bringing a cool head to complex agricultural disputes.’

          ‘The firm provides an integrated service for all aspects of trust and probate disputes, being able to pull in expertise from its own property and tax teams. The lawyers have a wealth of knowledge and experience in trust and probate disputes.’

          ‘Standout partners: Bonita Walters, Sarah O’Grady and Esther Woolford. All three show legal skill, dedication to their clients and a focus on achieving their clients’ objectives.’

          ‘Sarah O’Grady is very approachable. She knows her stuff legally and offers excellent advice with no pretence. Emma Ironside is super helpful and friendly.’

          ‘The team are very skilled legally and real high flyers; they are also really nice people, very friendly and approachable.’

          Key clients

          The National Farmers’ Union

          The Countryside Alliance

          Work highlights

          • Represented client in a  proprietary estoppel claim from pre-action stages to the Supreme Court.
          • Acted for client in a turned proprietary estoppel counterclaim, winning all points in the preliminary issue, striking out the counterclaim.

          Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP

          The team at Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP is spread across both its London office and its Bournemouth office. Its clients include both private clients and charities; its specialisms include claims arising from the Inheritance Act 1975, validity of wills disputes and proprietary estoppel claims. Lauren Day heads the team. Victoria Riddleston was promoted to partner in February 2022.

          Practice head(s):

          Lauren Day

          Other key lawyers:

          Victoria Riddleston


          ‘Lauren Day and the team have been extremely supportive throughout and are always on hand to answer any questions and reassure us.’

          ‘Lauren Day has been extremely supportive and professional throughout the case.’

          ‘Lauren Day impressed with her rapid processing of a substantial case history and with her technical knowledge and pragmatic approach to dealing with contentious probate.’

          ‘Victoria Riddleston is professional and inspires confidence.’

          ‘Good collaboration between team members, sharing different areas of expertise to achieve the best result for clients.’

          ‘Excellent communication and understanding of the complexities of our case.’

          ‘Victoria Riddleston – one of the most capable young lawyers in this area of law, very affable but determined when needed. Highly recommended.’

          ‘Lauren Day – an excellent lawyer with a good commercial sense of the cases she handles, clients feel, rightly, that they are in very safe hands.’

          Work highlights

            Stephens Scown LLP

            Stephens Scown LLP has a full service practice; its team advises on validity claims concerning incapacity and undue influence, disputes between executors, claims of negligence against professional trustees and claims concerning abuse of the elderly. James Burrows heads the team and oversees multi-million pound estates. Davina Haydon has over 30 years’ of litigation experience.

            Practice head(s):

            James Burrows

            Other key lawyers:

            Davina Haydon; Anna Garde-Evans; Tamara Hasson; Rosie Young; Eve Hebbron


            ‘A very experienced and knowledgeable team.’

            ‘Standout individuals include James Burrows and Davina Haydon.’

            Work highlights

              Thrings LLP

              The team at Thrings LLP handles disputes concerning validity of wills, removal of executors, proprietary estoppel and will construction and rectification. Emily Prout leads the practice, following from her promotion in October 2021. Her focus lies within contested wills, trusts and inheritance disputes. Robert James is noted for his expertise in inheritance and proprietary estoppel claims.

              Practice head(s):

              Emily Prout

              Other key lawyers:

              Robert James


              ‘I have been very impressed how well this team works together.’

              ‘They are passionate about providing the best advice to their clients whilst being realistic about their case.’

              ‘I have found them to be meticulous, responsive and effective in the diverse matters in which they have acted for me.’

              ‘I have found Emily Prout to be proactive and insightful in her responses to my queries, as well as meticulous and comprehensive in her advice and communications.’

              ‘Emily Prout provides a balanced sounding board and reassuring presence.’

              ‘They are technically strong and specialise in this practice area which is a differentiator in some of their geographies.’

              ‘ I have always found Emily Prout to be thoroughly on top of the detail, technically strong, fair and pragmatic.’

              Key clients

              John Gee

              David and Josephine Guest

              Work highlights

              • Represented appellants in Supreme Court appeal on the issue of relief in proprietary estoppel cases.
              • Advised clients about a post-death challenge to significant lifetime gifts made by a deceased, under Section 10 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, in conjunction with a claim being concurrently brought for ‘reasonable financial provision’ from the estate.
              • Acted for a professional executor to obtain a Re Yorke Order in the course of estate administration, to provide protection to the executor against any future claims or litigation that may arise out of the deceased’s past dealing as a Lloyds member.

              Wards Solicitors LLP

              The team at Wards Solicitors LLP operates across its 12 office locations. Elizabeth Fry heads the practice; her expertise includes the handling of trust and land law issues, cross-jurisdictional disputes and Court of Protection matters. Ian Williamson is noted for his expertise in probate and trusts professional negligence claims and inheritance related disputes.

              Practice head(s):

              Elizabeth Fry

              Other key lawyers:

              Ian Williamson; Emma Kerry; Lucia Mills


              ‘Wards LLP have shown expert knowledge in their area and a willingness to resolve the matters at hand.’

              ‘At every stage of the process, Wards have identified the issues and clearly explained them in “easy to understand” terms, exhibiting their expert knowledge and showing they clearly understand their clients.’

              ‘They have given honest, sound advice, provided solutions to problems which have arisen and managed our expectations along the way.’

              ‘Each individual we have dealt with at Wards has shown great sensitivity towards our situation and dealt with us accordingly.’

              ‘We are extremely satisfied with the service we have received and continue to receive from Wards; We would happily recommend, with confidence, Wards solicitors to anyone who was seeking legal advice.’

              ‘Lucia Mills has an excellent breadth of knowledge as regards disputes over beneficial interests in property due to her TOLATA specialism.’

              ‘Incredibly efficient and cost effective. Keen on developing specialisms and instructing counsel who are also specialists.’

              Work highlights

                Willans LLP

                Willans LLP acts for clients in disputes concerning the validity of wills, applications to rectify wills and applications to the Court of Protection. Practice head Paul Gordon regularly oversees cases pertaining to multi-million pound estates and inheritance issues. James Melvin-Bath was promoted in January 2022; he is well versed in the handling of private wealth disputes before both the County and High court.

                Practice head(s):

                Paul Gordon

                Other key lawyers:

                Katie Duthie; Jessica Whooley; James Melvin-Bath; Laura Stone


                ‘Willans just seem to have the right people that take care of your issues professionally and courteously.’

                ‘I found that Paul Gordon gave us excellent advice and always had our interests in the forefront of any negotiation or meeting.’

                ‘Paul Gordon is a strong head of department and he has been immensely helpful to me in helping me to understand this new area of expertise we are moving into. He is forthright, fair, decisive and approachable.’

                Key clients

                Veronica Anne Pritchett – The estate of David Pritchett deceased Mrs Veronica Anne Pritchett v (1) Mrs Georgina Anne Bywater (2) Miss Emma Margaret Pritchett and (3) Mr Vincent Edward Cowling; Claim number PT-2021 – BRS 000051.

                Richard Burns, Robert Mansel, Alun Llewellyn and Sir Philip Mansel – The estate of Mary Phillipa Agnes Germaine Mansel deceased (1) Richard Harcourt Burns (2) Sir Philip Mansel (3) Alun Mansel Llewellyn (4) Robert Mansel v Elizabeth Mary James; Claim Number: PT-2020-CDF-000050

                Daisy Lee, a child by her litigation friend Rachel Astor – The estate of Adrian Clifford Stapleton Lee deceased Ms Katharine Ann Ferguson-Caisley (2) Mr Samuel Richard Ferguson-Caisley (3) Miss Lucy Isabelle Ferguson-Caisley v (1) Mr Nicholas John Stapleton Lee (2) Mr Jeremy Peter Stapleton Lee (3) Miss Sophie Rose Lee Caisley (4) Miss Daisy Elizabeth Lee; Claim number H10CL380

                Reagan Lovejoy by her litigation friend Lisa Heintze -The estate of Clive Noel Lovejoy deceased Reagan Mia Lovejoy v (1) Joseph Keith Lovejoy (2) Thomas Alexander Lovejoy; Claim number PT2021-000468

                Claudia Brooks – The estate of Margret Willinger deceased Claudia Katharine Brooks v (1) Christopher John Coles (2) Christine May Mayne; Claim number PT-2021-BRS-000109

                Sarah Spoor – The estate of Gwendoline Linda Spoor deceased Spoor v (1) Timothy Spoor (2) Anita Rose Poulter (3) Simon Spoor; Claim number: PT-2021-000169

                Work highlights

                • Acted for client in High Court matter concerning a claim pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
                • Acted for beneficiaries of estate in respect of an executor’s dispute that arose following the executor utilising estate funds for their own use and failing to account to the beneficiaries.
                • Acted for minor and daughter of deceased to defend a claim against the deceased’s estate brought by the deceased’s partner and her children from a previous marriage under the Inheritance Act 1975.

                Blanchards Bailey LLP

                Blanchards Bailey LLP has growing expertise in Court of Protection work, with Lucy Mignot expanding her practice here. The practice is headed by Paul Dunlop and Ben Jones. Dunlop has over 21 years’ civil litigation experience. Jones specialises in property and company commercial disputes.

                Practice head(s):

                Paul Dunlop; Ben Jones

                Other key lawyers:

                Lucy Mignot


                ‘The team are all very professional and efficient when dealing with my questions and concerns.’

                ‘The individual we consult seems to be be very knowledgeable, experienced, positive and professional in her approach.’

                ‘Blanchards’ multi-disciplinary set-up means that there are specialists available for whatever the case may throw at you.’

                ‘Lucy Mignot stands head and shoulders above any solicitor I have used in the past. Readily available and responsive.’

                ‘The empathy shown within their Court of Protection team is exceptional, together with great understanding of the processes required to ensure the protected party receives all the requisite care they require.’

                ‘Competent, depth of legal knowledge and professional in inter-party correspondence.’

                ‘Lucy Mignot is always professional and positive about reaching solutions to resolve dispute but also robust in defence of her client.’

                Key clients

                Robin Hansford

                Christopher Kekwick

                Rachael Roberts

                Jane Glover

                Judith Sargeant

                Work highlights

                • Advised trustees in an unusual trust dispute that previous solicitors had been running for 12 years.
                • Advised potential claimant in a validity claim on the grounds of fraudulent calumny and lack of knowledge and approval with agricultural elements.
                • Advised the beneficiary of a statutory will in potential claims to remove the executors and for breach of trust.

                Coodes Solicitors

                Coodes Solicitors handles a broad range of matters concerning proprietary estoppel, injunctive relief and will construction and interpretation. Melanie Grose leads the practice. She has particular expertise in claims under the Inheritance Act 1975 and claims pertaining to undue influence and fraud.

                Practice head(s):

                Melanie Grose

                Other key lawyers:

                Colin Hunter; Hayley Gaffney

                Work highlights

                • Represented clients in a breach of fiduciary duty claim against Trustee for the maladministration of a Will trust and settled land.
                • Acted for client in a cross-border contentious probate matter valued in excess of £1million relating to a trust in Jersey.
                • Acted for Jeff and Nikki Gill to defend an estate valued at £3million.

                Frettens LLP

                Frettens LLP has dedicated litigants overseeing contentious trusts and probate work as well as general litigation. Michelle Hayter leads the practice; she regularly handles high-profile cases and is praised for her 'direct approach and constructive manner'. The team is continuing to grow, with a number of recent junior additions.

                Practice head(s):

                Michelle Hayter


                ‘The team I have met have all been very positive and proactive. I have felt confident in their professional and knowledgeable approach in the matters they are handling for me.’

                ‘I value the direct approach and constructive manner Michelle Hayter deals with matters. She always responds quickly to any concerns and questions that I have.’

                Work highlights

                • Represented client in a claim concerning insufficient providing for under the terms of will arising from the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
                • Represented client in claim against sister and executor of a £1m estate of late father concerning a failure to pay out the residuary estate to the pursuant to the terms of the will.
                • Acted for two beneficiaries in defending an action brought by the deceased’s step-grandson for reasonable financial provision from the estate of the deceased.

                Steele Raymond LLP

                Steele Raymond LLP advises clients in an array of capacities; the practice is led by John Andrews. His specialisms include disputes of will validity and interpretation, duties of trustees, breach of trust, proprietary estoppel and claims concerning attorneyship and the Court of Protection.

                Practice head(s):

                John Andrews

                Work highlights