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Contentious trusts and probate in South West

Ashfords LLP

Ashfords LLP is recognised for its expertise across the full spectrum of disputes relating to wealth management and retention. Alongside its core client base of high-net-worth individuals and landed estates, the team also attracts a number of well-known charities and trust corporations. The practice is headed up by Robert Horsey from the firm's Exeter office; other senior partners include Kerry Morgan-Gould, who has expertise in advising charities, and Michael Alden, whose specialism lies in the agricultural sector. Senior associate Barny Croft has expertise in multi-jurisdictional succession disputes.

Practice head(s):

Robert Horsey


I have worked with Robert Horsey and the qualities that stand out for me is that he always makes sense of a situation which may have become blurred, and I always feel when coming off the phone from him as if a weight has been lifted and that everything has or will be sorted. He takes the stress out of a nightmare situation.

Strength in depth’

‘Kerry Morgan-Gould and Barny Croft are very experienced and respected in this specialist area of the law. They are down to earth, approachable and straight talking.

Fantastic response times and client servicing. It goes without saying that the technical expertise is top notch.

‘Well respected in this sector and with some excellent fee earners.

Robert Horsey is a very experienced litigator who produces good results for clients whether in court or in negotiation. Practical, sensible and approachable. Barny Croft is a diligent and forceful litigator who knows how to present a client’s case to full effect. He is one to watch.

They manage their cases with absolute efficiency and their communication with their clients is top-notch. Clear, firm and insightful.

Kerry Morgan-Gould is a colossus. She is completely unflappable and hugely reassuring to her clients. She is proactive, rather than reactive, which is exactly what you want in your solicitor, in this sector. Robert Horsey is enormously experienced, respected and trusted. Barny Croft is proving himself as one of the up-and-coming stars in the field, who mixes sensitivity to his clients’ needs with an imaginative approach to driving their cases forward. The team is small enough that excellence can be guaranteed at all times, but large enough to handle very substantial cases.

An excellent and expanding team providing truly specialist advice in South West England.

Work highlights

  • Acting on a challenge to the validity of a will based on undue influence.
  • Representing a high-net-worth client in a dispute spanning three separate jurisdictions regarding reasonable financial provision from the deceased’s estate.
  • Conducting an investigation regarding the validity of a will and codicil.

Burges Salmon LLP

Burges Salmon LLP has acted in some of the biggest and most complex contentious trusts and probate matters in the country, attracting a broad client base of high-net-worth individuals, including aristocratic families and wealthy international figures. Practice heads Kevin Kennedy and Justin Briggs frequently act in high-value cases, often involving complex offshore trust structures. A significant specialism is handling private wealth disputes with pension-related issues. Another name to note is Caroline Emslie, a highly active associate who has already built up a considerable reputation.

Practice head(s):

Kevin Kennedy; Justin Briggs

Other key lawyers:

Sian Edmunds; Caroline Emslie


This is a really excellent team, from the most senior partner to the most junior associate. With a deep knowledge of trusts law married with a keen strategic sense, the contentious trusts and probate team at Burges Salmon is a ‘go to’ team in this area.

Fantastic quality of work and extremely able people, dealing with large and complex trust and probate disputes, and also a pleasure to work with.

Justin Briggs is an excellent, hands-on partner who is on top of the detail and builds good teams around him. Caroline Emslie is a star of the future. Extremely capable, calm in a crisis, and a joy to work with.

Very proactive. Support from the entire team. Very good all-round service.

Kevin Kennedy has an impressive legal mind and also has valuable strategic skills and the ability to keep sight of the bigger picture when dealing with complex cases.

Sian Edmunds is unflappable and never loses sight of the big picture.

Caroline Emslie is an exceptional associate, with the strategic understanding of a lawyer many years more senior and an extraordinary work ethic. One of the best associates I have ever worked with.

The firm is extremely well resourced in terms of personnel and systems, which means things get done fast and to a very high standard.

Work highlights

  • Suing a trustee on behalf of an Australian beneficiary who alleges that a large amount of money has been improperly paid away from the trust.

Foot Anstey

Foot Anstey provides specialist contentious trusts and probate advice to a wide range of clients, including charities, offshore trust corporations and high-net-worth individuals. Its client base is not limited to the South West; the team often attracts clients from London and abroad. Practice head Lucy Gill, based in Exeter, handles the full range of possible inheritance disputes. Another key lawyer in team is highly active managing associate Alexandra Rogers, who specialises in complex disputes involving trusts and probate, and in trust disputes over agricultural land.

Practice head(s):

Lucy Gill

Other key lawyers:

Alexandra Rogers; Emma Facey


‘There is a wealth of expertise within the Foot Anstey team, so they have been able to assist us in a myriad of ways, providing support with issues which were not even thought about at the start. As well as general charity law, they have been able to assist with land law, tax law and IP law issues. The key thing that sets Foot Anstey apart from other law firms is that they do not sit on the fence – if you ask for advice, you get advice, which gives a clear direction.’

‘Lucy Gill and Emma Facey have both been extremely helpful in managing charity law and legacy reviews for the charity, with expert advice simply translated to ensure all stakeholders understand the legal context.’

Key clients

Jane Goss Custard

Sarah Edworthy

Michelmores LLP

Based in Exeter, but attracting clients from across the country and abroad, Michelmores LLP is regularly instructed by charities, high-net-worth individuals and financial referrers on a wide range of contentious trusts and probate matters, often involving a cross-border element. The team notably is the preferred legal provider for Cancer Research UK for all legacy matters and disputes. Team head Tony Cockayne has a strong reputation across the region and another key name is Jennifer Ridgway, who specialises in advising international and non-UK domiciled individuals on tax and succession issues.

Practice head(s):

Tony Cockayne


The team are hardworking and professional at all times – they focus on executable strategies and are not distracted by the manoeuvres of their opponents. The advice I received was carefully graduated towards an agreed solution, and at no time did I feel that I was being led into an area that had not been discussed. This is the only firm I would work with in the UK for this area of law.

Tony Cockayne stands out for his professionalism, vigour and integrity.

The team is extremely knowledgeable and efficient. Their knowledge of the charity sector and its needs and challenges, especially from a reputational point of view, are excellent.

All members of the team are friendly and very approachable. They are happy to help on the small day-to-day queries as well as advising on the larger contentious issues. Tony Cockayne heads up the team with great energy and positivity, aided extremely ably by Jasmine Ivory.

Clear, concise and logical practice. Open and transparent guidance in relation to costs and fees. Objective and dispassionate.

Jasmine Ivory shows attention to detail and analytical thinking. Excellent planning with strategic thinking.

Very much a personal approach. Always available to talk through matters and discuss alternative approaches. Nothing is too much work for them.

Tony Cockayne is a very robust and pragmatic litigator; he has a good sense of the commercial realities of a case and of what makes people tick. He is surrounded by a great team, in particular Jane Swannell, who is knowledgeable and delightful to work with, and Jasmine Ivory, who is always exceptionally well-prepared and calm and reassuring in every situation.’

‘Holly Mieville-Hawkins communicates the correct amount of information in the appropriate manner rather than just legal jargon. She is responsive, accurate and helpful.

Key clients

Cancer Research UK

Work highlights

  • Acting for a client in a cross-jurisdictional probate dispute involving a will validity claim with highly complex underlying offshore assets and an estate estimated to be worth in excess of £250m.
  • Acting as trusted legal advisers to the trustees of a large agricultural estate (circa 2,500 acres) in relation to a dispute arising from the life tenant’s loss of capacity.
  • Pursuing a complex will rectification claim for three national charities to secure additional legacy income intended for them and in mitigation of a potential professional negligence claim.

Royds Withy King

Royds Withy King advises clients along the M4 Corridor and from London on the full range of work related to contested wills, trusts and inheritance disputes. In addition to attracting high-net-worth individuals, the firm is often the first port of call for clients in the charities sector. Amanda Noyce heads up the team from Bath, and her areas of expertise extend to tax disputes, negligence actions brought against tax advisers and proprietary estoppel claims. A more junior name with a growing caseload is associate Calum Campbell.

Practice head(s):

Amanda Noyce

Other key lawyers:

Calum Campbell; Mike Muston


Calum Campbell is a solid private client and property litigator, combining a depth of legal knowledge with a tenacious approach to litigation, yet at all times keeping an eye on the client’s objectives. Both Mike Muston and Amanda Noyce are excellent with clients, and are able to quickly get to the heart of any dispute.

Amanda Noyce is a highly experienced contentious probate and trusts lawyer with a first-rate reputation. She brings a very pragmatic approach to an area of law where emotions can often run high, which is ultimately to the benefit of her clients. She provides sensible and realistic advice.

Amanda Noyce has the ability to analyse large amounts of information, extract the salient points that relate to the law and totally bypass all the emotion that is wrapped up in this sort of affair. I can’t thank her enough for producing a very strong response that resulted in action being withdrawn. Amanda Noyce is an exceptional lawyer and should be recognised as such.

The team who worked for me were professional and showed the utmost integrity. From my first appointment they asked the right questions to get to the nature of my problems. I felt total trust in the advice I was given.

It was Amanda’s balance of compassion and professionalism that made her stand out. I felt absolute trust in the advice given and that she was on top of everything.

The firm has clearly developed a centre of expertise in private client law and in particular contentious trusts. The systems operated by the firm are efficient and the letters and contracts clear and easy to follow. The firm has a personal and friendly style, while maintaining high standards of customer service. I was impressed with the provision of additional advice on estates planning and tax when we needed it.

Amanda Noyce has been unfailingly helpful and sympathetic to our situation. Most importantly she has provided excellent advice and proposed creative solutions in order to reduce costs. I was particularly impressed with her patience and clarity in dealing with all our concerns and her tact and diplomacy in negotiating with the other side.

Amanda Noyce, who heads up the team, is very good. She is passionate about her cases and knows her stuff. So too does Calum Campbell, who is increasingly involved in their cases.


VWV's contentious trusts and probate team is highly sought after for its wide-ranging expertise in inheritance disputes. A notable specialism of the team is in legacy disputes; it regularly acts for a number of national charities in this area of law, and has also seen a rise in instructions from the University of Bristol. As well as heading up the practice, Michelle Rose is regularly appointed as an independent administrator and court deputy. Fiona Lawrence, who was promoted to partner in October 2019, has a specialism in cross-border disputes.

Practice head(s):

Michelle Rose


The inheritance and wills dispute team is a major player in the South West. They might be the largest dedicated team of specialists in Bristol. The team attracts good work and has the capability to compete with any other firm nationally.

VWV are the market leaders in the South West, with particular strength in contentious trusts litigation and in acting as independent administrators taking on difficult fractious estates or trusts.

Very focused on securing the best outcome for the lay client.

One of the best firms in this sector.

Michelle Rose leads the team from strength to strength. Experienced and tactically savvy. Fiona Lawrence is a hardworking and thorough practitioner who achieves excellent results for clients. Julia Hardy is talented and client-friendly.

Sympathetic but still professional. Pragmatic outlook. Well-researched and comprehensive advice. This relates to both Michelle Rose and Fiona Lawrence.

Julia Hardy is courteous, helpful, efficient and approachable. She is very open and clear about what she is doing and why and how the law impacts on what is possible or not. She has explained procedure well. She is tenacious, understands my needs and finds ways to have these met within the legal process. She is professional with a good work ethic. Her drafting skills are of the highest order.

Work highlights

  • Advising the University of Bristol on a number of estates where legacies have been under threat as a result of poorly drafted wills and challenges under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
  • Acting in a two-year contested will matter which reached the Court of Protection, relating to a £15m estate.
  • Representing a client in a dispute with the executors of a well-known local family attraction park estate worth over £30m.


Wilsons' sizeable private wealth disputes team acts for clients from across the UK, regularly handling high-value matters for high-net-worth individuals. The practice also represents household name charities such as the RSPA and RNLI in legacy disputes. Practice head Charlotte Watts is a leader in the firm's charities work. Another key name is the highly experienced James Aspden, whose workload in the past year has included some of the team's most high-value inheritance and trusts disputes.

Practice head(s):

Charlotte Watts


Wonderful level of client care and attention to detail, phenomenal intelligence, legal expertise and tactical nous. I can see why so many charities go to them as a matter of course for their legacy work.

James Aspden is one of the outstanding individuals in this area: wise, learned, careful, hardworking. It is always a treat to receive instructions from him. Charlotte Watts is another excellent solicitor, providing incredibly clear and sensible advice to her charity and other clients. Fiona Campbell-White is a tenacious fighter, and very bright.

For many years now, they have been a source of excellent work, well-managed cases and intelligent practitioners. The training also seems to be good, as the junior associates replicate the quality of the partners. They have a particular expertise in acting for charitable beneficiaries of estates.

Charlotte Watts and James Aspden are the two standout partners in the Salisbury office, and Fiona Campbell-White in the London office. Charlotte is a master at dealing with tricky probate disputes involving charities, and the additional issues which arise out of these claims. James is a technically brilliant lawyer and Fiona is formidable (someone you want on your team, and not on the other side).

As well as an impressive knowledge of their subject areas, they have a sound understanding of how this should relate to the world of charitable legacies. It is this combination of knowledge and wisdom that makes them stand out from that crowd.

I have particularly valued the ability, shown by partners and associates, to fight our corner while preserving the organisation’s reputation.

Key clients

The wife and daughters of the late Cecil Parkinson

Jane Habberfield



Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

British Heart Foundation

Macmillan Cancer Support

Blue Cross



Work highlights

  • Acting for Cecil Parkinson’s widow and daughters to defend a claim against his estate under the Inheritance Act 1975 by his illegitimate daughter.
  • Acting for Guide Dogs, British Heart Foundation and other charities in a claim against the indemnity insurers of former law firm Dixon Coles & Gill.
  • Acting for Jane Habberfield in the Court of Appeal in a significant farming estoppel case.

Clarke Willmott LLP

Clarke Willmott LLP fields a strong private client litigation team whose practice stretches across the region and operates from offices the length of the M5 corridor. Alongside standard inheritance disputes, the department is particularly strong in the agricultural sector; it has a strong reputation for dealing with proprietary estoppel cases. The highly experienced Bonita Walters heads up the team in the Bristol office, while co-head Esther Woolford leads the Taunton office. Senior associate Sarah O’Grady (also based in Taunton) combines work in will disputes with experience in the agricultural sector.

Practice head(s):

Bonita Walters; Esther Woolford


One of the bigger players in the West Country, Clarke Willmott pulls in high-quality contentious work from across the South West.

I have recently been working with the indefatigable Emily Jenkins, who has a great eye for detail and is always ahead of the game. I’ve also worked with Sarah O’Grady, who is very reassuring and level-headed.

Very well-established private client practice in the South West. Especially well regarded in agricultural sectors, but equally competent across all areas of contentious trusts and probate work.

Sarah O’Grady is very bright and excellent at keeping the client involved. Emily Jenkins is a diligent up-and-coming young lawyer.

Clarke Willmott provides a top-level service with real expertise. They go the extra mile for the client and deliver the best possible results.

Bonita Walters is an excellent litigator in wills and trusts; she is very experienced with a real skill in negotiating a good deal.

Clarke Willmott were diligent, knowledgeable, impartial and generous in their advice. They were professional in all aspects of their handling of our case, we were treated with respect at all times, and it really felt that we were listened to and that this was a team effort where the company cared about the outcome, how it was handled and that they wanted to achieve the best outcome for us.

Bonita Walters and her colleague Emily Jenkins were compassionate, unflappable, easy to deal with and were a source of strength to us. Their advice was honest and generous, and Bonita was able to gently steer us along a path that was focused and productive. She provided us with calm wisdom and understood our position from day one and she stayed focused despite obviously having many other cases to deal with. For this we could not have been recommended a better legal personality and practice to work with.

Key clients

Andrew Guest

Christopher and Veronica Patience

Virginia Ashcroft and John Penley

Catherine Armstrong and Elaine Sutherland

The National Farmers’ Union

Countryside Alliance

St James’ Place Wealth Management

Clarke Willmott Trust Corporation

Work highlights

  • Successfully pursuing a proprietary estoppel claim against the client’s parents in respect of the family farm.
  • Defending clients against a claim by a relative, including a challenge to the validity of their grandmother’s will, proprietary estoppel, obtaining a civil restraint order and related bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Acting for clients in a claim for the construction or rectification of defective trust deeds.

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP fields a sizeable team in Dorset, specialising in contentious trusts and probate work. Headed by Lauren Day, the practice's expertise ranges from Inheritance Act claims to disputes concerning the validity of wills, trust disputes and proprietary estoppel claims. Victoria Riddleston, another key member of the team, also has wide experience in this field. The team benefits from its close cooperation with the firm's non-contentious wills, trust and probate department. Clients of the firm include high-net-worth individuals, families and charities.

Practice head(s):

Lauren Day

Other key lawyers:

Victoria Riddleston


An excellent regional firm with experienced and capable practitioners. I have no hesitation in recommending them.

Lauren Day is very approachable and pragmatic with a genuine ambition to settle as early as possible.

Lauren Day is brilliant at getting to the nub of the matter and has huge patience with the other side’s vagaries.

Victoria Riddleston is very knowledgeable as to the applicable law and has a firm grasp of the relevant issues. She is always available to discuss a matter if necessary.

Victoria Riddleston is an up-and-coming lawyer who is extremely good with clients and with difficult cases. going from strength to strength.

Stephens Scown LLP

Stephens Scown LLP fields a large and experienced contentious trusts and probate team in offices across Devon and Cornwall. Acting alongside the firm's private wealth team, the department provides the full range of advice in contentious matters, including negligence claims against professional trustees and undue influence claims. Charisse Crawford heads up the team from the Exeter office. Other key names are Phil Gregory in Exeter, who specialises in farming cases and proprietary estoppel, and Davina Haydon in Truro, whose expertise includes Inheritance Act 1975 claims.

Practice head(s):

Charisse Crawford

Other key lawyers:

Phil Gregory; Davina Haydon


Specialists in wills, probate and contentious estates. They speak in a language  that is easily understood. They keep us well informed at all stages and they keep costs to a minimum.

Blanchards Bailey LLP

Blanchards Bailey LLP has a strong reputation in Dorset, and has experience dealing with a range of contentious trusts and probate matters. Paul Dunlop, who heads up the firm's dispute resolution practice, advises on areas including deathbed gifts, undue influence, breach of trust and Inheritance Act 1975 claims.

Practice head(s):

Paul Dunlop

Other key lawyers:

Lucy Mignot


Paul Dunlop is an experienced and skilled lawyer.

Lucy Mignot is superb. Humorous, focused, empathetic and dogged. She wasted no time but was always available for phone calls. We always have had the impression she is on our side. Her reports are clear and comprehensive and we are left with no doubts about the next steps we can take.

Client care, particularly in sensitive matters, is exceptional.

Lucy Mignot is knowledgable.

Work highlights

  • Advising the beneficiary of a probate estate worth £1m on the validity of historic trust instruments, removal of executors and an Inheritance Act 1975 claim.
  • Acting for a London-based client as litigation friend for minor claimants to an Inheritance Act 1975 claim worth £875,000.
  • Successfully secured a contested application for a statutory will in respect of the client’s long-term partner.

Coodes Solicitors

Coodes Solicitors primarily acts for clients across Cornwall and West Devon in a range of contentious matters related to trusts and probate, including Inheritance Act claims, breach of trust claims and proprietary estoppel matters. Truro-based Melanie Grose was made head of the firm's personal disputes department in May 2019.

Practice head(s):

Melanie Grose

Other key lawyers:

Colin Hunter; Ben Sidgwick


The practice were responsive to our needs and fulfilled our remit perfectly.

Mel is sympathetic to individual situations and demonstrates empathy with clients, which is often a quality missed by many lawyers. She makes herself readily available on the telephone and for face-to-face meetings to suit her clients’ needs and manages her extremely busy workload with ease and professionalism. She always takes a pragmatic approach to real issues, understands what exactly needs prioritisation and manages client expectations very well indeed. Most importantly, Mel is knowledgeable and experienced in her specialist field.

Ben Sidgwick was professional, attentive and efficient. He was quick to understand the complexities of my situation and I trusted his experience and judgment. I also found him compassionate in his guidance.

We were impressed with the range of specialisms offered by the firm.

The Coodes team are keen to help at a moment’s notice. Nothing seems too much trouble and we have been made to feel that no question is too small. During difficult personal periods, it’s a great reassurance to know they are available to answer any and all questions and offer guidance.

Mel Grose has been an amazing support. She is always willing to give advice and guidance at a moment’s notice, whilst maintaining great compassion in difficult and complex situations. She is kind and immensely knowledgeable. She puts you at ease and nothing is too much trouble. I can’t recommend her strongly enough.

Work highlights

  • Defending an Inheritance Act claim on behalf of all but one of the deceased’s children in relation to a £5m estate.
  • Advising two brothers in relation to their late mother’s will trust, and a dispute around the trustee’s dealings with the land contained within the trust.
  • Advising a client about the use of the deceased’s money and assets under a lasting power of attorney as well as purported financial abuse of the donor.

Frettens LLP

Frettens LLP operates out of offices in Ringwood and Christchurch, offering wide-ranging services in contentious trusts and probate matters. Michelle Hayter heads up the team; her experience includes dealing with Inheritance Act claims, undue influence, enforcement of trust provisions, and professional negligence claims relating to the drafting of wills.

Practice head(s):

Michelle Hayter

Work highlights

  • Advising on a claim for enforcement of monies due after failed legal action against the executors of a will.
  • Acting for a widow who is the beneficiary of her late husband’s estate in defending a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 by the deceased’s five daughters.
  • Defending a claim by the deceased’s estranged wife (and the client’s mother) under the Inheritance Act on the estate worth £800,000.

Lester Aldridge LLP

The client base of the contentious trusts and probate practice at Lester Aldridge LLP includes high-net-worth individuals, families, executors and trustees, and charities, including individuals based abroad. Team head Victoria Jones has a niche practice focusing on elder financial abuse and financial fraud involving vulnerable adults. The team also advises on contested Court of Protection applications.

Practice head(s):

Victoria Jones

Porter Dodson LLP

Porter Dodson LLP's contentious probate practice operates across eight offices in Dorset and Somerset, and undertakes a wide range of work, including disputes over the validity of wills and undue influence claims. The contested wills, estates and trusts offering is headed up by associate Cara Hough, who is based in Taunton.

Practice head(s):

Cara Hough


One of the real big players in contentious trusts and probate in the South West. The strength in depth is excellent and they are adept at defusing tricky, acrimonious disputes. Clients love how they fight their corner and they don’t shy away from going all the way to trial if necessary, but equally they are very adept at finding and securing clever and advantageous settlements.

Cara Hough is the star of the show: brilliant with clients, robust with opponents, and clear and focused with counsel.

Porter Dodson are very professional, compassionate and give sound, risk-free advice. They have always communicated their intentions well and provided good, solid and grounded advice following a period of consultation.

Those who deal with contentious trusts and probate matters at Porter Dodson are notable for how personable they are and their willingness to go the extra mile for clients, including discussing any last minute matters over the weekend.

The team at Porter Dodson LLP have been very thorough throughout our interactions. They have provided concise advice both in written and verbal format, providing clear explanations in relation to what is a complex legal situation. They ensure they have a full understanding of a legal position and the related facts before providing advice.’

For Porter Dodson LLP, Cara Hough stands out as a highly experienced and knowledgeable individual. Cara has provided a service at a continuously high standard.

Work highlights

  • Advising the executor of an estate facing international claims of significant value.
  • Acting in a proprietary estoppel claim worth in excess of £1m.
  • Instructed in a dispute between executors compounded by the beneficiary seeking to dispute matters in an estate worth in excess of £1m.

Steele Raymond LLP

Bournemouth-based Steele Raymond LLP often handles complex disputes covering a broad range of trusts, probate and Court of Protection matters. Team head John Andrews is adept at dealing with Inheritance Act claims, advising claimants, defendants, executors and trustees. In trusts work, he is frequently instructed to advise trustees on their responsibilities and duties.

Practice head(s):

John Andrews

Thrings LLP

Thrings LLP's contentious trusts and probate department undertakes a wide range of work, including disputes over the validity of wills, proprietary estoppel  claims and trust disputes. The practice is experienced in advising on estates with a cross-border element. Recently promoted senior associate Emily Prout heads up the team from Swindon.

Practice head(s):

Emily Prout

Other key lawyers:

Robert Sear; Robert James


Emily Prout is the standout star of the team; she really knows her stuff.

Key clients

Roger Moore

John Gee

Work highlights

  • Acted for Roger Moore in a high-value proprietary estoppel dispute over a farming partnership, involving complex issues of trust, partnership, company law, tax and mental capacity.
  • Acted for John Gee in a proprietary estoppel claim in respect of a farming partnership and family dispute.
  • Acted for a family trust (running a successful agribusiness) in an application for removal of a bankrupt executor and trustee.

Wards Solicitors LLP

Wards Solicitors LLP provides advice on contentious trusts and probate to individuals and local businesses from 11 offices across Bristol, Gloucestershire and Somerset. Practice head Elizabeth Fry, who is based in the Bristol office, often handles cases involving high-value estates, trusts and land law issues, including many with a cross-border element.

Practice head(s):

Elizabeth Fry

Other key lawyers:

Ian Williamson; Emma Kerry; Lucia Mills


They have genuinely experienced and specialised members in this area, particularly in probate challenges and 1975 Act claims.

Emma Kerry in the Clevedon office is very good with clients, very experienced in this area and works very well with counsel too. Ian Williamson in Bristol is bright and tactically minded, very thorough and well prepared, and likewise friendly and humane. Elizabeth Fry is the main partner in this area; she is very good at generating work, and is experienced and approachable.

Wards provide a first-rate wills and trust dispute service.

We have mainly worked with Lucia Mills at Wards. We have found her very pleasant, professional and approachable. She keeps us up to date in a timely manner and has ensured she advises us of any weak points in our case. In my opinion, an honest and open approach is always the best way to do business and Lucia does this well. Lucia also explains things in a simple, straightforward manner that makes understanding that much easier.

Wards are building real strength in this area, especially for cohabitation work.’

Lucia Mills is one of very few real cohabitation specialists with a true understanding of this area of work that is unmatched locally. She is also extremely good at dealing with intervention by third parties in financial remedy divorce cases as well as more traditional areas of trusts and probate work. She has a brilliant manner with clients and always gives pragmatic and cost-effective advice.

This is a busy and well-known local practice, with good geographical coverage in the area. The firm appears to have a good range of business in the contentious trusts and probate field. It is receptive to deal with. Wards’ contentious trusts and probate practice is also able closely to support individuals at Wards who are operating as trustees and personal representatives.

Emma Kerry is a careful, competent and sensible pair of hands. She plainly has  a good understanding of her field, a pragmatic outlook, and a willingness to seek specialist advice when she considers it appropriate.

Willans LLP

Willans LLP undertakes a wide range of work in contentious trusts and probate, primarily for clients in the Cheltenham area. Alongside its work in litigation, the team is well versed in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. Paul Gordon, who has extensive experience in litigation, heads up the practice, and frequently acts in High Court cases.

Practice head(s):

Paul Gordon


Willans are an established and very-well regarded firm in Cheltenham, and deservedly so.

Nick Southwell is an excellent private client and property litigator. He has a wealth of legal knowledge and applies it rigorously to each dispute. He is a tough litigator and fights his client’s corner doggedly. He is a real fighter!

Katie Duthie was excellent and supportive.

I found the two members of the practice I dealt with very helpful and reassuring. I felt they had my interests at heart.

Particularly good at achieving good results in ADR.

Paul Gordon is a robust and very good litigator who gets results. Katie Duthie is thorough, capable and very good with clients.

Work highlights

  • Acting for clients in an action to defend a 1975 Act claim against an estate valued in excess of £1.2m.
  • Acting for the defendants in a claim under the 1975 Act, involving a detailed trust arrangement with a life interest in various properties from the estate of the claimant’s late husband, with remainder to the defendants, now trustees.
  • Handling a claim for possession of property brought by the trustee of an estate, which is defended on the basis of the defendant’s having acquired an interest in the property which entitles them to remain in possession.