Contentious trusts and probate in Wales

Hugh James

Under the leadership of 'first-rate litigatorRoman KubiakHugh James' six-strong team is not only the 'market-leader in Wales' but is also 'challenging the dominance of London in this area' and is 'unafraid to go toe-to-toe with the magic circle'. Kubiak 'has a kind and generous manner with clients but is ruthless with opponents' and has successfully built up an impressive offering advising individuals, as well as an increasing number of charities (on legacy disputes). Private wealth head Matthew Evans is also recommended and has a particular specialism handling proprietary estoppel cases. Recent changes at associate level include the departures of both Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu and Richard Adams to Aaron & Partners LLP and Red Kite Law LLP, respectively, and the arrival of senior associate Sarah Bolt from Harneys in January 2021.

Practice head(s):

Roman Kubiak

Other key lawyers:

Matthew Evans; Oliver Black; Sarah Bolt

Testimonials

‘The best contentious estates and trusts team in Wales. One of the top five in the West of England and capable of matching other national firms in heavier weight work.’

‘The market leader in Wales, Hugh James has built a reputation for aggressive litigation and challenging the dominance of London in this area. Unafraid to go toe-to-toe with the magic circle, they have fantastic resource allocation and are willing to take risks with their own fees for clients’ benefit.’ 

‘A good team – industry leading for Wales and with a good reach into the London market too.’

‘Roman Kubiak is efficient, user-friendly and professionally knowledgeable.’

‘Roman Kubiak is a first-rate litigator. He is tough, smart and charming and fights client’s corners very hard.’

‘Roman Kubiak is a stand out for so many reasons, his legal knowledge is brilliant along with his ability to support clients emotionally and also help them understand commercial decisions.’

‘Roman Kubiak is a real mover and shaker. He impresses clients with his energy and appreciation of the commercial realities in litigation. He has a kind and generous manner with clients but is ruthless with opponents, particularly over the negotiating table. He runs a slick team and turns work around at an incredible rate. ’

‘Roman Kubiak is a fierce litigator. ’

Key clients

Hugh James Trust Corporation (formerly Joan Thompson)

Representative Body of the Church in Wales

Noah’s Ark Charity

Work highlights

  • Advising the husband of deceased regarding claims relating to tax arising on spouse’s worldwide estate, the validity of various wills and marriage. The estate is spread across the UK, Greece and Cyprus and valued at c.£10m.
  • Acting for the daughter in a dispute regarding a £1m+ estate relating to a series of purported lifetime transactions in favour of brother, dealings with properties used by the deceased and brother in a farming partnership and defending claims by brother for proprietary estoppel.
  • Acting for a minor in relation to a claim to rectify a will, the offending clause of which purported to gift a shareholding in various companies valued at in excess of £120m

Berry Smith

Berry Smith continues to generate a significant deal flow directly from clients through word of mouth, as well as from referrals from professionals, including lawyers and accountants, and is appreciated for its transparency on fees and the 'knowledge and skill base to do an excellent job'. The 'honest and trustworthySimon Care  is the main partner at the firm handling contentious probate matters and is appreciated for his ability to 'explain things in layman's terms'. Care is also able to leverage his broader property litigation credentials to good effect on probate disputes, should the need arise.

Practice head(s):

Simon Care; Iwan Doull

Testimonials

Their advice has been second-to-none. Their has been extremely professional and very well planned.

‘The staff that work in Berry Smith are of the highest calibre and have the knowledge and skill base to do an excellent job.’

‘Simon Care comes across as honest and trustworthy and makes you feel at ease.’

‘Simon Care is excellent at what he does and the knowledge and experience you get is superior  – also he explains things in layman’s terms.’

Key clients

Miss Sara Williams & Miss Sian

The Estate of Mr Farzand Ali

Captain Catherine Burton

Mr Derek Silver

Ms Angela Deaton

Ms Jane Haskayne

Work highlights

  • Defended a high-net-worth client as the executrix and principal beneficiary of an estate valued at c. £25m, in two High Court actions.
  • Defended the executrices and beneficiaries of the estate of their late uncle, which was valued at over £1m. The claim was brought in the High Court by a woman claiming to have been in a long-term relationship with the deceased pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependents) Act 1975.
  • 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. The principal issue (involving a large residential property occupied by one of the defendants) was resolved in the client’s favour at mediation in early 2020.

Howells Solicitors

Led by the 'sensible and skillfulLaith Khatib, who is focused on contentious probate matters but also adds real value to clients as a result of his broader grounding in complex wills and lifetime trusts advisory work, Howells Solicitors is well regarded in the market as evidenced by a continuing flow of instructions directly from clients, as well as in a referral capacity. The arrival of senior associate Ian Moore  in July 2020 from Osbornes in London, enhances the firm's capabilities on both the contentious and non-contentious front.

Practice head(s):

Laith Khatib

Other key lawyers:

Clare Davies; Ian Moore

Testimonials

‘Laith Khatib is sensible and skillful.’

JCP Solicitors

Benefiting from 'a good relationship with clients and a true connection to the local area in which they work', the two-strong Carmarthen-based team at JCP Solicitors is 'knowledgeable and capable in many areas of contentious trusts and probate', including for charities and private clients on complex trust litigation, and for individuals challenging the validity of wills and Inheritance Act claims. With a 'pragmatic but tough approach to litigation', team head Richard Howells 'brings genuine insight to a case' and excels in handling complex proprietary estoppel cases in the agricultural sector. In addition to providing assistance to Howells in high-value and complex cases, associate Rachel Morris has also developed an expertise in cohabitee trust property disputes and Court of Protection litigation.

Practice head(s):

Richard Howells

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Morris

Testimonials

‘A long-established, large firm with offices across south Wales that combines professionalism with approachability.’

‘They are knowledgeable and capable in many areas of contentious trusts and probate, which is not the case with all firms that profess expertise in these fields.’

‘Richard Howells has a pragmatic but tough approach to litigation. In such matters he provides an important gentle touch to client management but shows a good combative side in the throes of litigation.’

‘Richard Howells is an excellent and thoughtful litigator. He brings genuine insight to a case, seeing through the clutter and noise, quickly establishing the real causes and drivers of a dispute. His work is thorough and conscientious, and he is not afraid of a fight.’

Key clients

NFU

Red Kite Law LLP

Under the guidance of 'sound litigatorAlexia ThomasRed Kite Law LLP continues to pick up market share for private clients throughout south Wales, not only as a result of her own connections (including with many local law firms and accountants), but also because of an increasing flow of work generated internally from the firm's growing probate departments throughout the region (enhanced by a number of recent law firm acquisitions). 'Very sensitive to her client's needs but also not afraid to give firm advice where necessary', Thomas is able to draw from her broader grounding in commercial litigation to provide very effective advice on probate/trusts matters which overlap with general business disputes. The arrival in April 2021 of 'experienced litigatorRichard Adams from Hugh James has strengthened the firm's offering in the area, including in relation to funeral and burial disputes.

Practice head(s):

Alexia Thomas

Other key lawyers:

Richard Adams

Testimonials

‘A committed and busy practice capable of handling the knottiest of problems.’

‘They have a good mix of expert knowledge of private client – especially contentious – and commercial law. This helps greatly to navigate some of the issues that can often arise in the more complicated estates.’

‘Alexia Thomas is a sound litigator with expert private client knowledge and a solid experience in commercial law.’

‘Alexia Thomas is an excellent solicitor with a great depth of experience and skill that she puts to use to get the best for her clients.’

‘Alexia Thomas is the stand-out partner who is very effective at using her extensive litigation experience to deal with a wide range of private client matters.’

Alexia Thomas is very sensitive to her client’s needs but is not afraid to give firm advice where necessary.’

Richard Adams is an experienced litigator, a cool head and a safe pair of hands.’

Work highlights

  • Represented an adult child in respect of a claim for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against his late father’s estate.
  • Acting for the grandson of the deceased in relation to an application under section 116 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 for an order that letters of administration be granted to him in circumstances where other family members who would have been otherwise entitled to the grant are missing and presumed dead.
  • Acted for an adult child in respect of a claim for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against his step father’s estate, as well as dealing with a proprietary estoppel claim in respect of a farm which the client worked on for many years and which he was promised.

Gomer Williams & Co

Since the arrival of the 'calm and authoritativeClare Tregoning from Acuity Law in March 2020, Llanelli-based firm Gomer Williams & Co has raised its profile in the local market for contentious probate work. With an 'excellent approach to litigation', which has been honed over many years' experience handling a wide range of commercial disputes, and also appreciated for her 'people and communication skills', Tregoning's growing body of work in the area includes representing beneficiaries and executors in cases involving allegations of undue duress and lack of testamentary capacity.

Practice head(s):

Clare Tregoning

Testimonials

‘Gomer Williams has provided me with a service which has been detailed, supportive, pragmatic and mindful of protecting me.’

‘They are accessible, which in today’s world is refreshing.’

‘The service I received from Gomer Williams was outstanding. They were very understanding, caring and helped me every step of the way.’

‘A good small team which provides an excellent litigation service.’

‘Clare Tregoning is calm and authoritative.’

‘Clare Tregoning was truly amazing in helping me with my late wife’s probate.  She is very caring and sympathetic – a truly talented person.’

‘Clare Tregoning is an outstanding role model, she embraces the need to build relationships first. She is authentic and when facing a sticky situation provides the right balance of support and direction.’

‘Clare Tregoning has an excellent approach to litigation. She is focused on key issues and is able to tactically put her clients at an excellent advantage. Clare is also emphatic and always has the ability to develop excellent client relations.’

Hutchinson Thomas

At Neath-based firm Hutchinson ThomasSimon Thomas  has an excellent reputation and is viewed as a 'formidable opponent' across a range of contentious probate matters, including on will validity challenges and in relation to Inheritance Act claims.

Practice head(s):

Simon Thomas