Contentious trusts and probate in Wales

Hugh James

'Technically very able' and appreciated for its ability to 'handle difficult and emotional issues with ease', Hugh James retains its position at the pinacle of the market for contested estates and trusts in Wales. Much of the credit for the success of the firm in the area can be attributed to 'knowledgeable and hardworking' team leader Roman Kubiak  who leads by example and has effectively broadened the scope of the practice to include specialisms in offshore disputes, as well as an increasing amount of mandates for celebrities and high-net-worth individuals. As well as handling core contentious probate work, an area that 'technically astute and commercially-oriented' private wealth head Matthew Evans  is also noted (including in relation to proprietary estoppel work), the firm also continues to grow its presence in relation to charity-related legacy disputes. At an associate level, although he is still relatively junior, Oliver Black  is already impressing clients 'with his comprehensive knowledge of the facts', including on cases relating to a lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.

Practice head(s):

Roman Kubiak

Other key lawyers:

Matthew Evans; Oliver Black


The firm has the best reputation for contested estates and trusts in Wales. It also has a national reputation. The team has sufficient quality and depth to be able to manage large scale litigation, but is affordable for lower value estates.’

The premier firm for contentious trust and probate work in Wales. Exceptional quality, strength in depth and technically very able.’

The team is knowledgeable about the area of law and gives sensible and commercial advice to its clients. The members of the team are approachable and user friendly in my experience. They handle difficult and emotional issues with ease.’

Undoubted the market leaders in Wales in contentious trusts and probate work, Hugh James are streets ahead of the competition. They have quality lawyers supported by excellent resource-management and they bring their A-Game to every case.’

Roman Kubiak is well known in the industry as knowledgeable, hard working and tough.’

Roman Kubiak is energetic and engaged, with great client-handling skills, knowledgeable and well-respected.’

Roman Kubiak has the ability to cross over between private client and property-related matters with ease which gives him a breadth which many solicitors do not have. He is very easy to deal with, a pleasant personality without arrogance and works well as a team with counsel and others.’

‘The first-class Matthew Evans is technically astute and also very commercially oriented.’

Oliver Black is a strong contender for best associate in Wales, and must surely make partner in the near future. He is all over his cases on the detail and impresses clients with his comprehensive knowledge of the facts.’

Key clients

Thomas Crane and his sister

Family of the deceased

Daughter of the deceased

Husband of the deceased

Trustees/former trustees of the Eritrea Orthodox Church

Noah’s Ark Charity

Inheritance Planning Company

Ludlow Trust Company

Banking client

Adam and Timothy Dunbabin

Work highlights

  • Advised Ludlow Trust Company on the correct devolution of a complex family trust settled in 1945 and valued at over £4m which was subsequently varied by two court orders in the 1970s under the Variation of Trusts Act 1958.
  • Acting for the successful claimants in the reported decision of Dunbabin and Others v. Dunbabin [2022] EWHC 241 (Ch) in relation to a claim regarding a dispute over a severance of joint tenancy.
  • Acting for the successful parties in having the deceased’s purported last will set aside for lack of capacity and establishing a beneficial interest over farmland under the doctrine of proprietary estoppel in the reported decision of Hughes v. Pritchard & others EWHC 1580 Ch [2021].

Howells Solicitors

Under the leadership of Laith Khatib, who is also able to draw upon a broader grounding in complex wills and lifetime trusts advisory work, Howells Solicitors‘ contentious probate team has a strong reputation in the South Wales market and consequently not only receives direct instructions but also a substantial amount of referral work from local law firms. Particular areas of expertise for Khatib include claims under the Inheritance Act 1975, and will validity claims, including in the context of undue influence. The arrival in April 2021 of associate John Davies from Slater and Gordon enhances the firm’s capability in the area, particularly by dint of his higher rights of audience in the practice area.

Practice head(s):

Laith Khatib

Other key lawyers:

John Davies

Work highlights

    JCP Solicitors

    Led from Carmarthen by the 'knowledgeable and thoughtful' Richard Howells, JCP Solicitors' standalone two-strong team provides 'professional, practical and pragmatic advice' to private clients and charities across the panoply of contentious trusts and probate matters. Noted for being 'robust but realistic in his advice', a good deal of Howells' work is for agricultural clients, including NFU members, which he advises estate disputes and proprietary estoppel matters. Associate Rachel Morris is the other member of the team and as well as her work representing clients (as defendants and claimants) on claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, she has also developed niche expertise in Cohabitee trust property disputes.

    Practice head(s):

    Richard Howells

    Other key lawyers:

    Rachel Morris


    The commercial team has good client skills and knowledge of the local courts.’

    The friendly and supportive team provides professional, practical and pragmatic advice.’

    Richard Howells is knowledgeable and thoughtful as well as being robust but realistic in his advice.’

    Key clients

    National farmers union (and its members)

    Work highlights

      Red Kite Law LLP

      Under the leadership of ‘tactically astute and knowledgeable’ Swansea-based Alexia ThomasRed Kite Law LLP has gained market traction across the spectrum of contentious trusts and probate work, receiving local and national mandates directly from private clients, as well as a result of her excellent connections with local solictors  and accountants. Thomas is well-versed ‘as to the practicalities of procedure and preparation for trial‘ and is well-positioned to protect the interests of clients across a myriad disputes, including proprietary estoppel and those involving international assets.

      Practice head(s):

      Alexia Thomas


      Knowledgeable and effective litigation team.’

      Alexia Thomas is an excellent lawyer who understands the issues, manages clients and gets results.’

      Alexia Thomas has a very strong practice as a contentious litigator handling a wide range of private client matters, focusing on probate disputes. Currently working on heavy farming proprietary estoppel claim. Tactically astute and knowledgeable as to the practicalities of procedure and preparation for trial.’

      Alexia Thomas has always provided an excellent service in relation to potential and actual contentious matters. She approaches the queries presented to her with confidence, attention to detail and technical expertise.’

      Work highlights

      • Acting for the daughter of the deceased to defend two adult child claims for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The claims have been made by the deceased’s two sons.
      • Acting for two sisters in relation to a claim made by their father’s wife that the deceased’s last signed will was invalid because the witnesses failed to attest the will in accordance with the requirements of Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837.
      • Acting for a local farmer in respect of a claim for proprietary estoppel in relation to a local farm.

      Berry Smith

      Subsumed within the firm's broader commercial litigation offering, Berry Smith picks up a steady flow of contentious probate work directly for clients as well as from professional services referrers. Simon Care is the main contact in the area and is appreciated for his 'exemplary' advice and 'professionalism'.

      Practice head(s):

      Simon Care

      Other key lawyers:

      Iwan Doull


      I have found them to be very professional and helpful in all aspects.’

      Simon Care, my lawyer, who specialises in contentious probate, and is dealing with my dispute, has been exemplary in his advice and professionalism. He has always been available, even out of hours to respond to my queries.’

      Key clients

      The National Executive Committee of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales

      Ms Angela Deaton

      Captain Catherine Burton

      Mr Derek Silver

      The Estate of Farzand Ali Deceased

      Work highlights

      • Instructed by Plaid Cymru in respect of a legacy of £100,000 bequeathed to the party by one of its lifelong supporters, who died in 2015.
      • Continuing to represent the estate of Farzand Ali in a long-running, multi-party dispute in the High Court concerning the Estate of Mr Ali’s late mother.
      • Represent a widow in a challenging case where her late partner’s children (who are the executors of the will) are seeking to withold her modest legacy and are also seeking to recover substantial sums which they say their father spent during the couple’s relationship.  

      Douglas-Jones Mercer

      'A safe pair of hands who knows how to litigate difficult contentious probate claims', Richard Adams  heads the team at Douglas-Jones Mercer following his move from Red Kite Law LLP in January 2022. Adams' expertise in the space is broad and includes niche knowledge relating to funeral and burial disputes.

      Practice head(s):

      Richard Adams


      Richard Adams is a safe pair of hands who know how to litigate difficult contentious probate claims.’

      Work highlights

        Gomer Williams & Co

        With strong roots in the local South Wales community by virtue of its longstanding presence in Llanelli and a nascent Swansea office, Gomer Williams & Co‘s ‘professional and knowledgeable‘ contentious probate team continues to go from strength-to-strength since Clare Tregoning‘s recent arrival from Acuity Law. Leveraging her broader commercial litigation credentials, the ‘exceptionally talented’ Tregoning is very well-versed in civil litigation procedure which she implements to good effect for private clients engaged in a myriad of contentious probate matters, including as it relates to undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity.

        Practice head(s):

        Clare Tregoning


        The team is very helpful and understanding.’

        The team is professional, very knowledgeable, and are up to date with current legislation.’

        ‘Clare Tregoning has been fantastic. She has kept me informed every step of the way and explained things I have’t understood.’

        Clare Tregoning was extremely understanding and supportive while maintaining a professional attitude and her advice was always appropriate to the situation at the time.’

        ‘The exceptionally talented Clare Tregoning has shown empathy and compassion along with professionalism at all times.’

        Work highlights

        • Securing judgment for clients in proceedings that have spanned three years and involved the interference with a right of way.
        • Representing a beneficiary in her challenge to a will on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity, lack of knowledge and approval and undue influence.
        • Advising a beneficiary in her challenge to a will on grounds of undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity in relation to long standing sensitive family issues.