Contentious trusts and probate in West Midlands

FBC Manby Bowdler LLP

FBC Manby Bowdler LLP fields a highly specialised team that deals with disputed probate and trust work. The agile team does a lot of complex, high-value and multi-jurisdictional work and also has experience of Court of Appeal proceedings. Its work ranges from challenges to wills, rectification claims, breach of trust actions through to emergency injunction applications. It advises beneficiaries and personal representatives on all contentious issues that arise in the administration of a trust or an estate. However, the former head of the team Craig Ridge left the firm in November 2019 and moved to Higgs & Sons. Kimberly Mears and Angie Manley now head the team.

Practice head(s):

Angie Manley; Kimberly Mears

Testimonials

The whole team’s attention to detail is amazing. Cases are prepared forensically, correspondence is detailed and used to actually advance the client’s case and the preparation for trial and/or mediation is second to none‘.

‘The key strength of FBC is the diligence with which the team scrutinises every case to ensure the very best advice is given from the off. The team is made up of experienced and talented lawyers who are dedicated to providing an excellent service for the client‘.

Kimberly Mears is an excellent lawyer. She is very capable and has strong relationships with clients. She takes time to make considered and well thought through decisions, so clients’ money is never wasted‘.

Angie Manley always strives to get the best result for the client at the most reasonable cost. She is often on the front-line dealing with the grieving husband or family members who need to be considerately guided through the pre-litigation and proceedings stage. She offers good and thorough advice‘.

‘The team is highly professional and very polite. Angie Manley is very approachable and good at communicating difficult matters. I feel I can trust her advice as she fully understands my situation. She is always happy to spend time explaining and talking through any issues‘.

‘Angie Manley’s considerable experience gives her a distinct edge against partners at other firms. She is calm in a crisis and able to draw upon her considerable knowledge to provide sensible advice and confidently steer the clients through their litigation‘.

Work highlights

  • Advised on a claim that was brought by the clients to establish that the testator of a will did not have knowledge and approval of the contents of the testamentary instrument – the matter was concluded at a mediation involving the four parties.

MFG Solicitors LLP

The team at MFG Solicitors LLP is led by Robert Weston. It is best known for its specialism in dealing with contentious probate matters for both claimants and defendants. Areas of expertise include advising on caveats, searches, warnings and appearances as well as applications for the removal of a personal representative, maladministration and promissory estoppel claims. The team is adept at advising on all aspects of a claim relating to the validity of a will, whether that is on the basis of lack of testamentary capacity or other areas such as undue influence or duress. Weston continues to receive substantial referrals from counsel and other solicitors. Associate Andrew Chandler is another key member of the team.

Practice head(s):

Robert Weston

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Chandler; Suzanne Lee

Testimonials

A genuine specialist team working out of Kidderminster. Robert Weston is very experienced. Andrew Chandler has a very sensible approach to litigation’.

Robert Weston is an excellent private client litigator with a national reputation. 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‘.

The team contains a number of genuine specialists with wide experience in this area. Andrew Chandler is very hardworking and shows fantastic attention to detail‘.

Andrew Chandler has a total commitment to what is best for his clients and understands their needs. He is popular and well received by his clients. He also shows tremendous attention to detail, and is meticulous in his consideration of documentation‘.

Detailed knowledge in specialist areas, with a strong regional “touch”. Offers city centre qualities of knowledge and expertise (and preparation) without city centre pricing. Andrew Chandler – calm, authoritative but with an obvious tenacity (and pragmatism) for his clients‘.

Andrew Chandler is a safe pair of hands‘.

An excellent regional firm with a broad range of expertise. Andrew Chandler has provided excellent advice in relation to contentious probate work‘.

Very helpful and fully knowledgeable. Extremely friendly and approachable‘.

Key clients

Mr Nicholas Gavriel and Mr Tryfon Gavriel

Work highlights

  • Represented the beneficiaries in a claim concerning the ability of an executrix to charge the estate for her administration of it – it was successful in the first instance, but now is awaiting an appeal.

Sydney Mitchell LLP

Sydney Mitchell LLP has a thriving contentious probate department with Kamal Majevadia at the helm. It continues to receive referrals from the firm’s busy private client departments as well as returning clients. It also receives a steady flow of referrals from other law firms. The team has noticed an increase in the number of estates where there are disputes relating to the ownership of private companies. It has also witnessed a surge in the number of potential negligence claims arising from advice given by other firms. The team continues to act on a significant number of TOLATA cases and is acting in several cases dealing with the distribution of trust assets when relationships have broken down. Majevadia routinely advises on estates that have cross-border elements and where there is a dispute over commercial matters and company shares. Tracy Creed  heads up the private client team and has extensive knowledge of complex probate matters.

Practice head(s):

Kamal Majevadia

Other key lawyers:

Tracy Creed

Testimonials

The team represents excellent value for money litigators. The team is partner led, with very hands-on input and support. The team gets a good quality of work and case load and is well respected in the Midlands‘.

Kam Majevadia is an experienced lawyer and drives the direction of litigation well. He has a sensible and pragmatic approach, whilst ensuring that his clients get a good deal. He and his team will pull out all the stops to offer help and support to clients’.

There is a general and obvious warmth with this practice along with its professionalism and work ethic to communicate with the customer‘.

The team has proper specialist knowledge combined with a commercial approach. Kam Majevadia is a proper expert in this area with lots of experience and takes a realistic and commercial approach‘.

The team is experienced and represents good value for money. Kam applies a sound and commercial approach as well as a good legal approach to his cases‘.

The team offers sensible and pragmatic advice. Kamal Majevadia is commercially focused, a smooth operator‘.

Work highlights

  • Instructed by a client to bring a claim against his late mother’s estate pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 as an adult child of the deceased, who was being maintained by the deceased.
  • Representing clients in their capacity as joint executors of their late father’s estate and joint attorneys of their mother’s estate under her EPA in an acrimonious dispute with their co-executor and attorney.
  • Advising its client in a case involving huge complexities of partnership law – the partnership/estate consists of a combined residential and commercial portfolio, which has a valuation and rental income.
  • Represents a client in his capacity as executor to investigate assets owed to the estate and to recover funds on behalf of the estate, if necessary.
  • Instructed by a client to issue a claim pronouncing against the validity of an alleged will of the deceased, and pronouncing for the validity of an earlier will which appoints the client (the only sibling of the deceased) as sole executrix and beneficiary.

Wright Hassall LLP

Wright Hassall LLP has four ACTAPS members and three associate members – one of whom is also STEP qualified. As a result the large team has considerable strength and depth in contentious trust and probate matters. Head of team Martin Oliver specialises in inheritance disputes and has acted in many high-profile matters. Oliver is also a solicitor advocate (all higher courts) and is skilled at assisting families where the deceased lacked mental capacity to make a will, or was subject to undue influence. Other areas of expertise include his advice on applications to substitute or remove executors as well as claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Newly promoted partner Katie Alsop specialises in contentious probate work relating to farms and has substantial niche expertise in proprietary estoppel cases.

Practice head(s):

Martin Oliver

Other key lawyers:

Katie Alsop

Testimonials

The team is incredibly collegiate and works to each other’s strengths to ensure the client receives the best possible service and outcome. Every member of the team is dedicated and fights tirelessly for its clients’.

The team’s knowledge on contentious trusts and probate matters is second to none and no matter how complex the dispute, the team excels in ensuring the clients understand what is going on every step of the way‘.

Martin Oliver is an exceptional lawyer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of private client matters. He fights fearlessly for his clients and is without a doubt the “go-to” lawyer for complex disputes that need a forensic mind to untangle‘.

‘Katie Alsop is particularly brilliant with clients. Martin Oliver has a fantastic commercial approach helping clients focus on what is necessary when engaging in ADR‘.

‘Katie Alsop is an absolute joy to work with and has had a stratospheric rise over the last few years. She is meticulously prepared and the advice given to the client is entirely sensible and commercially driven. She explains things in a simple and human way’.

‘Katie Alsop is technically sound and adopts a very collaborative approach‘.

Katie Alsop is second to none. Her approach is the perfect blend of legal knowledge and commerciality‘.

Key clients

Timothy Relton

Work highlights

  • Advised three siblings in relation to a challenge to their aunt’s will.

Freeths LLP

Mark Keeley is the lead partner at Freeths LLP. The skilled team frequently advises on high-value contentious trust and probate matters including will challenges, removal applications, financial abuse claims and claims under the Inheritance Act. The team’s reputation for acting as replacement trustees/administrators/deputies has continued to grow and it has also noticed increased work from the agriculture sector as it continues to advise wealthy farming clients on numerous disputes involving farming estates. It has also seen an increase in instructions with an international dimension. Max Orbach has a varied trust and estate disputes case load.

Practice head(s):

Mark Keeley

Other key lawyers:

Max Orbach

Testimonials

Mark Keeley’s reputation is outstanding, and I never fail to be impressed by his prowess as a mediator and his leadership of his team. He brings considerable gravitas and is always a pleasure to work with. Max Orbach is very good. He’s well organised, always on top of his papers and is supremely calm under pressure‘.

Max Orbach is technically very good and a capable pair of hands‘.

A large and very friendly team of experts. Mark Keeley is incredibly knowledgeable and an effective mediator. Max Orbach is a pleasure to work with/against‘.

The team is extremely knowledgeable and very professional at all times. Max Orbach tried his hardest and gave me very good advice‘.

Both Max Orbach and Mark Keeley have impressed me with their knowledge and calm advice‘.

Hardworking, well-regarded, knows its stuff. Mark Keeley is a well-renowned mediator – he is an efficient, hardworking and committed mediator, who prepares very well and pushes clients where they need to be pushed‘.

Mark Keeley is the standout partner. He remains calm, sensible and efficient even in the most testing of cases and Max Orbach is developing into the same mould‘.

Mark Keeley stands out because of his vast experience as a mediator so he has developed a unique insight into what drives people in litigation and how a settlement might be fashioned. This is vital because most of this type of work does settle. Both he and Max Orbach are very bright and knowledgeable. I have therefore valued their legal insights in difficult cases‘.

Work highlights

  • Defending a 1975 Act claim concerning a £2.8m estate.
  • Advising on a dispute concerning the deceased’s option to purchase a share of the partnership business.
  • Defending a claim that was pursued by the client’s aunt – that she is owed £1.3m.
  • Pursuing a claim to overturn two wills on the grounds of lack of capacity.
  • Advising on the protection of an estate from a debt claim that is being pursued by a US company.

Harrison Clark Rickerbys

Harrison Clark Rickerbys is increasingly a known name for its work with high-net-worth individuals throughout the region. It is adept at advising on complex family trust disputes, Inheritance Act claims and the removal of executors. Practice head Beth King-Smith is recommended for her work on contentious trust and probate matters and associate Helen Cain is also well-regarded for her focus on disputed wills, trusts and estates. Senior associate Caroline Cowley joined the team from Lodders Solicitors LLP in January 2020. Cowley has particular experience of bringing and defending claims on behalf of charities and on charity legacy disputes as well as advising on disappointed beneficiary claims and Variation of Trusts Act matters.

Practice head(s):

Beth King-Smith

Other key lawyers:

Helen Cain; Caroline Cowley

Testimonials

Great and fast-growing team, with strength in depth, attracting high-quality work from across the firm’s network‘.

Harrison Clark Rickerbys stands out amidst other firms in this field for its dedicated team of experienced professionals. The wealth of experience which exists amongst the team means that any client instructing HCR is already a step ahead in its litigation. The team gives excellent advice and provides a diligent and conscientious service’.

Beth King-Smith is a force of nature and a real breath of fresh air.

Beth King-Smith is an excellent partner and leader in the team. She is an extremely clever lawyer and gives her clients the tactical edge in any litigation. Beth gives pragmatic and sensible advice and will fight a client’s corner fearlessly‘.

Beth King-Smith is a visionary leader, who works hard to develop and grow her team, and attracts high-quality work to the team. She has grown a team essentially from scratch which services a broad and varied client base, which is commendable‘.

Beth King-Smith is a very safe pair of hands and is a genuine specialist‘.

‘Beth King-Smith is exceptional, she manages to provide hand holding to the client when needed but also manages to be very proactive on matters and she definitely drives things forward. She is practical and approachable and is an extremely good litigator‘.

Caroline Cowley stands out amongst the associate solicitors as a dedicated and talented lawyer. She gives firm and practical advice and is an asset to have on any case‘.

Higgs & Sons

In December 2019 Higgs & Sons recruited Craig Ridge as its new head of department from FBC Manby Bowdler LLP. The contentious team is known for its knowledge of estates and complex trust structures and for its complex multi-jurisdictional experience advising on trust and estate disputes involving partnerships, company structures and agricultural holdings. It frequently advises independent personal representatives on the administration of complicated and high-value litigious estates. Ridge has vast experience of acting for charities, individual beneficiaries, executors and trustees as well as people who have prospective claims on an estate or a trust.

Practice head(s):

Craig Ridge

Testimonials

‘Craig Ridge is very knowledgeable, a genuine specialist in this area and a safe pair of hands‘.

Craig Ridge is very capable and passionate about his work‘.

Lanyon Bowdler

Lanyon Bowdler has been active in advising on a broad range of claims. Recently it has acted for claimants, defendants and executors/administrators on a myriad of claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The team has been increasingly active in advising on claims for reasonable financial provision by disappointed beneficiaries. Associate solicitor Claire Vale leads the team.

Practice head(s):

Claire Vale

Testimonials

Well established and respected in Herefordshire and Shropshire and offers many solicitors in expert fields. I have dealt with Claire Vale. I have valued her sound knowledge, thorough and diligent work. Claire has always responded quickly and has always been calm, pragmatic and professional‘.

Claire Vale was very understanding and made sure I understood the pros and cons of any decision and was very compassionate and efficient‘.

‘In my experience, this firm dominates the contentious trusts and probate market in its area. It is the firm which has the knowledge and expertise from conducting a number of these cases of all sizes. Claire Vale is clear, focused and practical. Knows the procedure well and is a forceful litigator‘.

Claire Vale is very experienced in probate matters, both contentious and non-contentious. Her depth of knowledge, thorough preparation and reassuring manner put clients at ease. She is able to quickly identify key issues within any dispute and focus upon resolving those to the benefit of her clients‘.

Key clients

Deborah Stayte and Bianca Lewis

Gareth Turner

Charles Almond (Kevin Jones deceased)

Charles Almond and Timothy Treherne (Michael Fellows deceased)

Rosemary Orchard

Josephine Sheridan

Work highlights

  • Advised two residuary beneficiaries about a claim for reasonable financial provision against the estate.
  • Advised the executors/residuary beneficiaries about an Inheritance Act claim against the estate.
  • Advised the administrator on two different claims against the estate.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP has a strong national private client offering with a specialist contentious trusts and probate team. Most of the team are members of, or working towards becoming members of, ACTAPS. Under the direction of Lucy Howard the practice deals with disputes about the validity of wills, actions involving trustees and executors, claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 as well as Court of Protection matters and related claims over lifetime transactions. The agile team also acts for a number of charities on contested legacy matters.  In addition it works closely with its professional indemnity department on various complex professional indemnity matters with a trust/probate component. Clients include high-net-worth individuals, various substantial charities and institutions such as trust companies, universities and hospital trusts as well as insurance companies and professional trustees. Kim Ryan is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Lucy Howard

Other key lawyers:

Kim Ryan

Testimonials

‘Lucy Howard has made a big impact on the team – she is really knowledgeable, has a quiet commanding air about her and clients really respect her judgement‘.

The Wilkes Partnership

The Wilkes Partnership has particular expertise in the resolution of contentious probate disputes. Some of the recent disputes it has worked on have been litigated in the Chancery Division of the High Court. Typical types of cases it has dealt with recently include bringing and defending an application for reasonable provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Other claims include acting in cases against personal representatives for their removal or substitution. Kevin Lynch is the key lawyer and is a full member of ACTAPS. Jack Ackrill is undertaking his associate membership course for ACTAPS.

Practice head(s):

Kevin Lynch

Other key lawyers:

Jack Ackrill

Testimonials

Kevin Lynch explains complex situations well and provides solutions‘.

This is an innovative and forward-thinking team, with high-quality lawyers who are interested in practical solutions. There is clearly some dynamic leadership in the personage of Kevin Lynch. He understands client objectives. Jack Ackrill: up-and-coming associate‘.

The Wilkes Partnership stands out in the field of contentious trusts and probate for the dedication of the team and the diligence with which each of its members runs a case. The client’s needs are always paramount at Wilkes and the team will always go the extra mile to ensure that a truly excellent service is provided‘.

Kevin Lynch is an experienced litigator with an excellent eye to the tactical advantage. His experience and sharp instincts make him an asset in any litigation. Jack Ackrill is an extremely clever and dedicated up-and-coming solicitor. He has an excellent eye for detail and approaches each case with dedication and diligence‘.

Kevin Lynch is a very savvy operator with strong tactical awareness in dealing with litigation. Jack Ackrill also applies the same principles‘.

I was immensely impressed with Kevin Lynch and Jack Ackrill, they conduct themselves at all times with empathy and understanding. I feel that both have the “Get things done” attitude, which I greatly admire’.

Thomas Horton LLP

Senior associate James Sommerville at Thomas Horton LLP has considerable experience in contentious probate matters and is also a member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists. Sommerville is ably supported by associate Sara Atkinson.

Other key lawyers:

James Sommerville; Sara Atkinson

Thursfields Solicitors

Thursfields Solicitors has increasingly been focusing on high-value and complex trusts and estate disputes and advises on the full range of contested estate matters. The team that is overseen by director Shane Miller is based primarily in its Kidderminster and Halesowen offices and advises on Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claims. It is also skilled at advising on challenges to the validity of wills, applications over the construction of a will and disputes where a will has been lost. Other areas of expertise include advising on executor/trustee disputes and professional negligence actions on behalf of disappointed beneficiaries, in addition to rectification of wills and other estoppel claims. Pam Deol and Katherine Ellis  are also key members of the team.

Practice head(s):

Shane Miller

Other key lawyers:

Pam Deol; Katherine Ellis

Testimonials

Katherine Ellis was highly efficient and quite robust in her approach. Katherine went through every detail with a fine-tooth comb and gave me a great deal of confidence in her approach. She responded sensitively and was considerate in her communications with me‘.

Work highlights

  • Advised on an administrator/beneficiary dispute .
  • Advised on a rectification claim.
  • Advised on a claim involving lack of testamentary capacity, want of knowledge and approval, undue influence and proprietary estoppel.
  • Acting for an executor in securing the original will and thereafter defending a potential claim against the estate on the alleged basis of lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.
  • Advising on an Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975 claim.