Hall Of Fame

Firms To Watch: Contentious trusts and probate

Principal associate, Laura Abbott, heads the department at Rothley Law (formerly Shoosmiths LLP)  and is praised for her ‘calm and considered approach’ while also being ‘commercial and pragmatic in looking for a commercial solution’.
At Trowers & Hamlins LLP, Helen Briant continues to advise on various high value and complex domestic and international private wealth disputes.

Contentious trusts and probate in West Midlands

MFG Solicitors LLP

The contentious probate practice at MFG Solicitors LLP has a ‘reputation for tenacity and knowledge in this area of law’ and is led by Robert Weston.  The ‘highly experienced and approachable’ Weston is an ACTAPS member and regularly advises both claimants and defendants on various matters such as proprietary estoppel claims, applications to remove a personal representative and applications for Cobden-Ramsay orders.  Andrew Chandler is another ‘genuine specialist’ in this area and plays a pivotal role in the department along with Suzanne Lee . Other core areas of focus include advising on issues relating to lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence and maladministration claims.

Practice head(s):

Robert Weston

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Chandler; Suzanne Lee


‘mfg LLP have a nice balance of being a small regional firm but large enough to have meaningful specialisms. Their reputation for contentious probate is very strong‘.

Mr Chandler has provided first class support over a number of years. His advice in managing my estate dispute has always been considered and professional. He has guided me through 3 court actions where we have enjoyed good success‘.

The practice as a whole are not only very professional, but approachable, timely and very obviously have a great working relationship. Andrew Chandler has dealt with my contentious probate case in the professional manner that I would expect from MFG. What makes him exceptional, in my case, is his empathy care and consideration, he listens to his clients’.

Wright Hassall LLP

Wright Hassall LLP fields ‘a first-rate contentious trust and probate team. They have been involved in some very high-profile cases in recent years’. It is led by Martin Oliver who is ‘a stalwart litigator with a formidable reputation both nationally and in London, especially where the Inheritance Act is concerned’. The large team undertakes all types of contentious trusts and probate work. Katie Alsop has considerable experience in agricultural litigation relating to estates and continues to deal with cases involving high-value farms and farming businesses. Alsop has a particular focus on pre-and post-death proprietary estoppel claims.

Practice head(s):

Martin Oliver

Other key lawyers:

Katie Alsop; Danielle Pawson


‘Katie Alsop has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the 1975 Act and in key Chancery areas. The Team itself has an excellent reputation to rival London based firms in the private client/Chancery sphere‘.

‘An excellent team with real expertise in this area. Superb at client handling and really fought for a good result for their clients. Katie Alsop handled a difficult client extremely well and achieved a superb result for him. Danielle Pawson was very impressive as an associate’.

The team run by Katie Alsop is approachable and experienced in the area of Contentious Probate. Katie and her colleague Danielle Pawson work well as a team, and clearly with the best interests of their client in mind‘.

Key clients

Iraj Tohidi

Nalini Hirachand

Fiona Windmill-Jones

FBC Manby Bowdler LLP

FBC Manby Bowdler LLP 'holds its own against the 'City' firms' and is 'experienced and knowledgeable'. It is skilled at handling disputed trust and probate work under the leadership of Charlotte Clode. The group is adept at dealing with complex and multi-jurisdictional cases and Court of Appeal proceedings. Its work spans challenges to wills, emergency injunction applications and breach of trust actions. Senior Associate, Kimberly Mears, has returned to the firm. Angie Manley, who is also a senior associate, has considerable strength in substantial multi-party probate claims.

Practice head(s):

Charlotte Clode

Other key lawyers:

Kimberly Mears; Angie Manley


‘Angie Manley has long been a professional that I have recommended clients and contacts to. I find her efficiency and methodical yet personal service to be exemplary and she is a pleasure to deal with on that basis. When instructing Angie, you can be confident that the desired outcome is always at the forefront of her mind‘.

‘Kimberley Mears is a very efficient operator. Angie Manley has highly polished client skills’.

‘This is a small but efficient contentious probate team. I have particular experience with Kimberley Mears. She is an extremely capable and knowledgeable fee earner’.

Work highlights

  • Acting in a contested probate dispute between siblings and focused upon the family’s significant agricultural holding and business. Involved specialist litigation, agriculture and private client practitioners across four law firms representing each beneficiary and then the Estate valued at approx. £4m.

Higgs LLP

Higgs LLP has a ‘fantastic’  team which is 'well-organised'. The 'bright' group is ably led by Craig Ridge. The focus of the practice remains on dealing with all the contentious aspects of high-value and complex estates and familial trusts as well as more modest estates. Ridge is vastly experienced at dealing with and resolving disputes involving contentious wills, trusts and estates whether by means of alternative dispute resolution or by judicial means. At associate level, Georgia Stott and Joseph Martin are well-regarded.

Practice head(s):

Craig Ridge

Other key lawyers:

Georgia Stott; Joseph Martin


‘The team at Higgs is a very well balanced team in terms of knowledge and expertise and has an excellent leader in Craig Ridge. I have worked with and against members of this team and have always found them to be courteous, efficient and knowledgeable’.

‘Craig Ridge is always a tough opponent but is a fair and honourable lawyer. In the event of a conflict I would be happy to refer my clients to him. I also work with his colleagues Georgia Stott and Joseph Martin. They are clearly well trained and supported within the team and are both a pleasure to deal with‘.

‘Craig Ridge – knowledgeable, professional but above all a human being! He goes over & above for his clients, listens & makes sure he is thorough in his approach’.

Irwin Mitchell

Kamal Majevadia leads a ‘friendly sympathetic and professional’ team at Irwin Mitchell. Majevadia is skilled at handling high-value and complex disputes in multiple jurisdictions and is a full member of ACTAPS. In addition, he has particular expertise in dealing with estates that have company assets, family businesses or involve a partnership. The group acts for a broad range of UK and international clients including entrepreneurs, business people, farmers, trustees and individuals. At associate level, Michelle Chapman is well-regarded.

Practice head(s):

Kamal Majevadia

Other key lawyers:

Michelle Chapman; Marie Newton; Sabrina Morey


‘Kamal Majevadia is making waves as the new head of the team. He is wonderful with clients, excellent at mediations and seems to manage and motivate the team really well’.

‘Very responsive to customers circumstances. Michelle Chapman. Outstanding service. Grasped a very difficult case that had been poorly handled by a different firm. Obtained a result beyond the family’s hopes’.

‘The team were very pro-active and accessible to make a very complex case (with multiple parties) understandable. Michelle took ownership of all aspects of the case and gained our trust through not dropping any balls and always delivering on her commitments.’

‘Marie Newton has been extremely helpful and her communication and advice with myself has been excellent’.

‘Michelle Chapman is approachable but has strong legal knowledge and easily guides you through. Friendly, approachable and gets the job done’.

‘This is an amazingly well resourced team from top to bottom the lawyers are strong, experienced and well respected’.

Michelle Chapman is a very clever and experienced lawyer, with great instincts. She is warm and friendly, but really gets the job done‘.

‘Marie Newton is one of the most natural and effortlessly fantastic lawyers I have met. She builds wonderful rapport with people, but takes no nonsense. You can’t help but respect Marie’.

Meridian Private Client LLP

Meridian Private Client LLP has a ‘particularly capable team with strength in depth’ that is praised for its ability to bring a ‘practical and commercial approach to cases’. Practice head, Mark Abrol, is a ‘consummate professional’ who frequently acts as an independent administrator in estates where there are multiple disputed elements. In addition, he often acts in professional negligence claims.  Mark Terrar advises on the full breadth of contentious trusts and probate matters. Senior associate, Emma-Louise Green, continues to handle the complete range of contentious probate work. All three are full members of ACTAPS.

Practice head(s):

Mark Abrol

Other key lawyers:

Mark Terrar; Emma-Louise Green


‘Mark Abrol combines an incredible depth of knowledge of law and precedent in his area with a high degree of practicality. He is a tough negotiator but works to under-promise and overdeliver. I strongly suspect that having him on your side puts the fear of God into the opposition’.

‘Mark Abrol leads the team and is excellent. Mark Terrar is also first class’.

Mark Abrol continues to lead his team superbly but is a quality lawyer in his own right. Mark Terrar is technically as good as anyone out there and Emma Louise-Green is a tenacious litigator’.

Work highlights

  • Advised litigation friend for minor children and brought application to Court under Variation of Trusts Act to vary terms of the intestacy to save significant inheritance tax liability.
  • Acting for beneficiary client to secure her inheritance in circumstances where there was risk of fraud and obtaining injunctive relief in respect of the same.
  • Successfully defending a claim at trial by the mother of the deceased, who was claiming that the widow could not receive her inheritance under the intestacy rules due to an in principle financial settlement in their divorce. The settlement had not been approved by the family court and there was no decree absolute.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP has a strong national offering with Lucy Howard at the helm at the Birmingham office. The team  has 'great depth and works on some very high-profile cases'- it excels in advising on disputes concerning the validity of wills, actions involving trustees and executors as well as claims under the Inheritance Act. Another area of focus is advising charities on contested legacy matters and it regularly works closely with its professional indemnity department. In addition, Howard works alongside the expanding Court of Protection practice on various contentious matters. Kim Ryan and Kieran Leahy are both recommended.

Practice head(s):

Lucy Howard

Other key lawyers:

Kim Ryan; Kieran Leahy


‘This is a young, but deceptively experienced team, who are second to none in the sector. They are incredibly capable and their preparation of cases and files is first rate’.

‘Kieran Leahy – from the moment I met him and throughout the very painful journey Kieran remained completely open, honest and above all very sensitive to my own concerns. He was very professional in his manner.

‘I am aware that Kieran was reporting to Lucy Howard ( Partner) and therefore would also like to add that her vast experience and expertise in this area of work was very evident with the management of the ongoing dispute’.

I would always recommend them to people who have complex and high value trusts or probate litigation. They are excellent at building really positive relationships with clients in difficult circumstances. They have an excellent understanding of the law, and are tough negotiators who always get a great deal for their clients’.

‘Lucy Howard – a superstar lawyer, whom clients absolutely love. She is one of the very best around, combining superb legal acumen, excellent tactical skills and a drive to achieve the best possible results for her clients. She will always go above and beyond to make sure that her clients’ best interests are achieved’.

‘Kieran Leahy – extremely capable, practices way beyond his years of experience. A real rising star, he has quickly developed a reputation for getting on top of complex cases very quickly, the quality of his legal analysis and his ability to cut through the noise to find sensible practical solutions for his clients’.

‘Lucy Howard is a fantastic Partner. She is very clever, tactically very able and exceptionally pleasant to work with. She is well respected and rightly so. Kieran Leahy is very strong. He is bright and always well prepared. He knows his cases well and juggles his case load with ease’.

‘Lucy Howard – very calm, commercial and pragmatic and looks out for the clients interests as well as looking at the bigger picture. Kieran Leahy – an excellent junior solicitor who works extremely hard and will be one to watch for the future’.

Freeths LLP

Mark Keeley  heads the department at Freeths LLP - he divides his time between Birmingham and Nottingham. Keeley has regularly been appointed by the court to act as an independent replacement trustee/ administrator in numerous contested estates. Managing associate, Max Orbach, plays a pivotal role in the Birmingham offering. The group is skilled at handling high-value contentious trusts and probate litigation ranging from removal applications to professional negligence claims.

Practice head(s):

Mark Keeley

Other key lawyers:

Max Orbach


‘Freeths are undoubtedly one of the leading contentious trust and probate teams in the Midlands. They have strength in depth from Mark Keeley who leads the team, through their various partners and associates. Strong technically but always very pragmatic’.

‘Mark Keeley is an extremely capable lawyer with strong knowledge and tactical acumen. He is very ably assisted by Max Orbach’.

‘Freeths is one my favourite firms and this team is no exception. They really know their stuff and go the extra mile for their clients. They focus on the clients’ aims and deliver’.

Gateley Legal

Gateley Legal carries out work nationally for individual clients, banks, executors, trustees, deputies and beneficiaries on the full spectrum of issues relating to claims involving wills.  Other areas of focus include dealing with Court of Protection matters where there is financial abuse and issues surrounding the removal of deputies. The former head of department, Gavin Faber has left to join Roythornes Solicitors and Andrew McManus is now the key contact. McManus has a varied trusts and estates practice.

Practice head(s):

Andrew McManus

Other key lawyers:

Annam Nasir


‘Gateley has made considerable ground in this area of practice’.

‘Andrew McManus is the standout lawyer – he is technically very astute’.

‘Competent team able to deal with all areas of disputes’.

‘Annam Nasir – Exceptional in dealing with complex disputes. Keen attention to detail and good knowledge of the law. Easy but confident manner with the clients, which encourages their trust’.

‘A high quality team of litigators who have in depth knowledge in the field and a wide range of experience of contentious trusts and probate disputes. They are good at guiding clients through a case and explaining the process in clear terms’.

‘The team provides an excellent service focused on achieving the client’s objectives, whether that is best served through negotiation or litigation‘.

George Green LLP

George Green LLP has a ‘cohesive team‘ that is praised for its ability to ‘effectively communicate with clients clearly‘. Its strong contentious probate department is led by Liam Owen . It is experienced in dealing with all types of matters from challenging wills to advising on various aspects of significant trust disputes. The group is also adept at handling negligence claims arising out of the drafting of wills and the construction of trusts. At associate level, Susan Ford, is recommended.


Practice head(s):

Liam Owen

Other key lawyers:

Susan Ford


‘The three things that make this practice unique are the people, the value for money of the services they provide, and the collaboration. In terms of people, both Susan Ford and Liam Owen are true assets. Both are specialist and experienced, but also provide an approachable and friendly face to clients‘.

‘The firm is extremely good value for money in terms of the advice and service provided. This is no doubt a result of them having invested significantly in their team and people. Liam and Susan give excellent advice for exceptional value’.

Susan Ford is extremely clever and a pragmatic litigator. She cares very deeply for her clients and will fight their corner when needed. From the beginning of the case she is focused on achieving the best outcome’.

Work highlights

  • Acting for the partner of a deceased in relation to an estate/trust dispute in relation to unauthorised withdrawals from a joint account. There were also two properties owned as tenants-in-common, as well as a possible claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 and a claim to be considered as a Discretionary Beneficiary under a Trust.
  • Acting on a full Conditional Fee Agreement, recovered a substantial six figure sum for its client in respect of her late father’s interest in a property, with the deceased having passed away in 2013.
  • Acted for three out of four of the beneficiaries of its clients’ late mother’s estate in respect of proceedings to remove/substitute the executor.

Lanyon Bowdler

Associate solicitor, Claire Vale, heads the contentious probate department at  Lanyon Bowdler. The practice continues to be busy advising on various claims under the Inheritance Act as well as a variety of probate disputes relating to challenges to wills. It is also skilled at advising on disputes and applications to remove executors/administrators.

Practice head(s):

Claire Vale


‘The solicitor I dealt with seemed very professional and competent in dealing with my matter’.

‘A strong out of London firm handling some interesting probate and trusts disputes. Claire Vale is a very good solicitor, technically able and with good commercial sense‘.

‘The solicitor I dealt with seemed very professional and competent in dealing with my matter‘.

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

Andrew Wilkinson is a key contact at Shakespeare Martineau LLP nationally. Wilkinson is a full member of ACTAPS. He specialises in high-net-worth trust disputes with cross-border elements and is also known for his skill at dealing with sizeable estates. Associate, Alistair Spencer, who is based at the Stratford-upon-Avon office, is another name to note. Spencer frequently deals with complex estoppel and 1975 Act claims and has particular expertise in issues concerning the validity of wills and testamentary capacity.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Wilkinson; Alistair Spencer


‘There is a very strong team at Shakespeare Martineau with very broad knowledge across all the areas of contentious trusts and probate‘.

‘Shakespeare Martineau are a strong contentious trust and probate team and have some strength in depth. They have a particular focus in acting for large charities’.

‘Andrew Wilkinson is undoubtedly a leading individual. He is a strong litigator who fiercely pursues his cases on behalf of his clients’.

SM’s Contentious Trusts and Probate team has the rare balance of excellent client care together with a thorough knowledge of its practice area. The team is responsive and goes the extra mile in ensuring its clients are fully aware of the risks and benefits through the litigation process’.

‘Alistair Spencer – associate – punches above his weight. His legal analysis is comprehensive as is his attention to detail. He has a charming bedside manner, and recently has taken great care to ensure vulnerable clients are fully informed and their needs are met’.

‘Andrew Wilkinson has a common sense no-nonsense approach. I would also and do often recommend the team to act as independent administrator as again I am confident that my clients will be in safe hands. They are one of the best teams in the business’.

‘One of the best firms in the Midlands in this practice area‘.

Key clients

Adam Scott

Work highlights

  • Acts for a farmer in a complex and bitterly fought will challenge and proprietary estoppel case.

Sydney Mitchell LLP

Sydney Mitchell LLP has a solid reputation for its work on contentious probate matters and works closely with its private client team. Under the joint leadership of Tracy Creed  and Dean Parnell , it regularly advises on diverse issues such as claims under the Inheritance Act, disputes about the validity of wills and issues relating to the distribution of trust assets. The former head of department, Pam Deol, is now at Painters.

Practice head(s):

Dean Parnell; Tracy Creed

Other key lawyers:

Ian Sheppard; Katie Maxwell-Stewart


Sydney Mitchell have been immensely professional in all areas relating to my present situation. Katie Maxwell- Stewart has been quite unique with her findings and picking out the other parties inconsistencies in regards to the case’.

‘Excellent rapport with their clients‘.

‘This is a wonderful firm going through a state of flux. The junior team and private client lawyers are exceptional. Value for money at this firm is excellent’.

‘In depth team, able to deal with all areas of disputes relating to wills and trusts. Tracy Creed- well experienced and good with clients. Good knowledge of the law and clients find them easy to talk to and discuss their cases‘.

‘They are specialists in this area rather than dabblers and have lots of experience. Almost unique in having a real specialism in a relatively small firm and provide excellent value for money‘.

‘Katie Maxwell – Stewart is a specialist with lots of experience in this area’.

The team now provides a broad range of expertise in overlapping fields, such as real estate and professional negligence work. This combines with the experience of longer standing members. There is, in consequence, a cohesiveness of provision for clients’.

‘Ian Sheppard: a careful, considered and experienced solicitor. He thinks things through and, just as importantly, thinks ahead. As a result, he has really strong strategic insight‘.

Work highlights

  • Acting for two executors and trustees relating to three estates, six trusts and four companies all of which are interlinked and disputes spanning 20 years.
  • Acting for A in a complex contentious probate partnership dispute culminating in an 8 day trial. The client was successful in his defence and counterclaim.
  • Acting for B in successfully defending a court of appeal application.

The Wilkes Partnership

The Wilkes Partnership has a busy and varied workload and specialises in advising private individuals on an extensive range of disputes from probate and Inheritance Act claims to rectification claims and disputes in relation to trusts. Practice head, Kevin Lynch, is a full ACTAPS member and regularly advises executors, administrators and beneficiaries in multi-million pound estates. At associate level, Jack Ackrill is well-regarded.

Practice head(s):

Kevin Lynch

Other key lawyers:

Jack Ackrill; Andrew Piddock


‘I have to say they have been great, helping me through a very difficult probate case. Billing was very clear and Jack Ackrill explained everything to me. Jack was so good when I first talked with him, I was so upset but he talked to me and walked me through everything I needed to do’.

‘This is a really solid team who have a good local reputation. They are a longstanding ‘safe pair of hands’. Jack Ackrill and Kevin Lynch are experienced litigators’.

‘I have had excellent experiences working with the Wilkes Partnership contentious trusts and probate team. A well versed and well put together team, that have a broad wealth of experience and sufficient depth that they can take on high value and quite complicated estates cases’.

‘The team is headed up by the excellent and always reliable Kevin Lynch. My own experience has mostly been cases involving the also excellent Jack Ackrill, who is not only very competent and conscientious but also very approachable, as well as able to relate to a wide range of clients’.

‘A large and well-resourced group.  Andrew Piddock of the old school’.

‘A good value alternative to other more expensive firms. Well able to hold their own against the bigger boys. Kevin Lynch is a very engaging and likeable character’.

Wilkes have a strong reputation for contentious probate in the West Midlands. I primarily work for Kevin Lynch. He is an affable and efficient practitioner who collaborates well with counsel and has a good understanding of when to pursue a claim to trial and when to settle’.