Next Generation Partners

Contentious trusts and probate in Yorkshire And The Humber


The specialist Leeds team at Clarion is headed by Lynsey Harrison, ‘a star in contentious trusts work’. It advises on high-value, complex and often cross-jurisdictional trust and probate disputes; its workload consists mainly of will and trust cases, inheritance act claims and administration of estates cases. In addition, Clare King regularly deals with Court of Protection matters. The firm prides itself on its ability to work collaboratively in-house to achieve the best outcome for its clients. All lawyers in the team are members of the ACTAPS, but notable individuals are the ‘exceptional’ Nicholas Choiniere and ‘highly talented’ Louise Dodds.

Practice head(s):

Lynsey Harrison

Other key lawyers:

Louise Dodds; Nicholas Choiniere; Clare King


‘Nicholas Choinere was so professional and knowledgeable. His knowledge of the law was exceptional and he guided me every step of the way. It is one thing to be exceptional at your job, but without the kindness Nicholas showed me the whole process would have been extremely stressful. I would thoroughly recommend him to anyone, without hesitation.’

‘Clarion are rightly regarded as a top tier firm in the region in this field. The team is very active in the northern contentious trust and probate lawyers network and have strong relationships with their counterparts, which makes it easy to deal with them to find beneficial solutions in difficult family contexts.’

‘Team leader Lynsey Harrison combines being an impressive lawyer with approachability and positivity, which is a combination that can remove barriers to settlement in even the most hostile of family disputes.’

‘Clarion are the market leaders, with a great reputation for feisty litigation strategy, which they are not afraid to back up with resources and quality personnel.’

‘Lynsey Harrison is a star in contentious trusts work, often sought-out to handle the most difficult contentious estates as independent administrator. She is calm under pressure, unflappable and ferocious in negotiations. Nicholas Choiniere is ice-cool in the face of aggression from opponents and has a really good manner with clients.’

‘Louise Dodds is a highly talented litigator with extensive legal knowledge and excellent judgment.’

‘The team are incredibly personable and easy to work with. They are pragmatic and not overly aggressive, which is what is needed in this area. They are the leading team in Leeds and I would not hesitate to refer work to them when appropriate.’

‘Lynsey Harrison is an incredibly talented lawyer, both technically and with respect to her personal skills, which is demonstrated by her popularity within her own team and the wider contentious probate market.’ 

Work highlights

    Irwin Mitchell

    The team at Irwin Mitchell is co-headed by Paula Myers, who is national head and director of private client services, and the ‘truly excellent’ James Laycock , who is lead partner for the Leeds and Sheffield private wealth disputes teams. It deals with a range of disputes, including but not limited to validity of wills and lifetime gifts, construction and rectification of wills and trusts, family provision claims, Court of Protection matters concerning financial abuse, and proprietary estoppel claims.

    Practice head(s):

    Paula Myers; James Laycock; Carla Rist

    Other key lawyers:

    Richard Smaller; Jodie Buck


    ‘The heft and resources a huge national firm but with the agility of a small and specialised team. In-depth expertise from partners to trainees, with real insight and feel for the practice area.’

    ‘James Laycock is a truly excellent lawyer with a deep strategic understanding of litigation in this area. He has a real knowledge of the law but also the commercial drivers for clients and opponents alike. He handles dispute resolution excellently both pre-action and post-issue. Paula Myers is nationally renowned and respected. She is a real leader in the sector and exceptionally good at handling clients in very often highly emotionally-charged circumstances, fighting their corner to achieve excellent results.’

    ‘Paula Myers is unflappable under pressure and very efficient. James Laycock is very knowledgeable, calm, and tactically strong. The standout associate is Richard Smaller – extremely hardworking, very organised, knowledgeable, and a good sense of the broader strategic picture.’

    ‘Irwin Mitchell are a national team but with a local feel – they work cohesively as a team regardless of geography and this results in a first class service for their clients.’

    ‘Extremely user-friendly, with lawyers who combine excellent technical knowledge and client-care skills.’

    ‘Richard Smaller provides excellent instructions and is always available to talk points through.’

    ‘Carla Rist in the Sheffield office is very approachable and is excellent with clients.’

    ‘Paula Myers is an incredibly experienced litigator and team leader who pursues her clients’ cases with passion, persistence and perception. She is ably assisted by Jodie Buck who is self-assured and able.’

    Work highlights

      Taylor Emmet

      Alexander Watkinson leads the Sheffield-based contentious trusts and probate team at Taylor Emmet. The practice, which is regarded by many as a market-leader in the city, predominantly handles complex, often cross-jurisdictional and high-value matters of estate division, involving unorthodox family circumstances and cases in which parties lack capacity. In addition, it deals with grant applications and Inheritance Act matters. The team prides itself on its advocation of alternative, non-contentious means of dispute resolution.

      Practice head(s):

      Alex Watkinson

      Other key lawyers:

      John Tunnard; Sandra Kowalska; Komal Landa


      ‘Taylor & Emmet’s team, led by Alex Watkinson, has established itself as a key regional player in the field of contentious trusts and probate. They offer specialist advice and representation with a great deal of common sense and empathy.’

      ‘Alex Watkinson has built a strong team in his own image. He is good to do business with, empathetic and very astute in terms of predicting the likely outcomes of cases. He will fight for his clients but always keeps the bigger picture in view through promoting ADR. John Tunnard puts his background in non-contentious estate administration to excellent use in structuring settlements and offering solutions in complex contentious estates. Sandra Kowalska and Komal Landa both have solid backgrounds in litigation, enabling them to navigate their clients through complicated processes as cost-effectively as possible.’

      ‘I appointed Alex Watkinson and his team to help with a contentious probate issue. I found them all to be extremely helpful and knowledgeable in guiding me through a very difficult and stressful time.’

      ‘I found John Tunnard to be personable, pragmatic and clear. Communication was dealt with promptly and efficiently.’

      ‘Alex Watkinson brings immense experience to bear, and is likeable and reassuring to clients. He is ably supported by John Tunnard and another bright and efficient lawyer.’

      ‘They have specialist wills trust and probate knowledge and legal capabilities whilst being extremely pragmatic and commercially aware.’

      ‘Alex Taylor is commercially aware, extremely knowledgeable, pragmatic, thoughtful, sensible about clients ability to fund the litigation and fair in billing and is always willing to go the extra mile for his clients.’

      ‘The contentious trust and probate team are really great. They deal with a wide variety of interesting and complex work, and their knowledge and experience is spot on. They are very much a key team.’

      Work highlights

      • Acted for a beneficiary in a high-value case involving a dispute over entitlement under intestacy due to an unproven genetic link to the deceased.
      • Acting in an international estate in a claim by the deceased’s widow for additional financial provision.
      • Acted for a client who was claiming against the validity of the deceased’s will; it was accepted by the parties that the client should receive the sum he was expecting under the deceased’s previous will, and litigation was avoided.

      Bell & Buxton

      The will, trust and inheritance disputes team at Bell & Buxton is headed by the ‘outstanding’ John Breeze. The main bulk of the team's workload involves: high-value Inheritance Act claims, will validity challenges, financial abuse and contentious attorney matters, professional negligence claims against solicitors. In addition, the team advises and acts on complex claims arising from the administration of estates and trusts.

      Practice head(s):

      John Breeze


      ‘Bell & Buxton provide an unmatched and cost-effective quality of service with genuine specialists.’

      ‘John Breeze is a very, very clever man who is always ahead of the game and abreast of the arguments. He knows when to take an aggressive approach and when it’s time to advise clients that negotiation would be in their best interest. A pleasure to work with.’

      ‘John Breeze has grown into the person to refer to on contentious matters in Sheffield and the wider area. John is personable and helpful as well as strong and pragmatic when advising his clients.’

      ‘The practice has lawyers who provide genuine expertise and those lawyers also provide clear legal advice and assistance. The practice also provides a high standard of client care which is provided by both lawyers and the administrative staff.’

      ‘I have been a longstanding client of Bell & Buxton LLP and I have always been impressed by the clear advice provided by its lawyers over the years; the advice has always been delivered without fuss and pomposity.’

      ‘John Breeze provides clear advice to deal with practical situations and he always goes “the extra mile” when providing his advice and he also manages his work well to ensure that deadlines are achieved.’

      ‘Bell & Buxton’s contentious probate department has a reputation much larger than the size of the firm. They combine the technical excellence and prowess of a much larger organisation with a more unique personal touch.’

      ‘John Breeze is an outstanding solicitor who puts resolution at the heart of all matters. He is knowledgable, approachable and extremely sensible.’

      Work highlights

        Freeths LLP

        The team at Freeths LLP is led by Nottingham-based Mark Keeley ; key names in Leeds include managing associate Laura Short and associate Nicola Heslop. Its caseload primarily involves litigating on Inheritance Act claims; will challenges; the construction, rectification or removal of applications and proprietary estoppel claims. The complexities that often arise in these areas include disputes of ownership of assets, business property relief and spouse exemption.

        Practice head(s):

        Mark Keeley

        Other key lawyers:

        Laura Short; Nicola Heslop


        ‘The team deals very sensitively with very delicate matters, they are able to communicate difficult matters sympathetically and they try to reduce emotional charge in order to reach the right outcomes.’

        ‘Laura Short deals with very sensitive matters in a very sympathetic manner. She helps to reduce clients’ anxieties and extreme emotions to help them achieve the best outcome under, what can be, very difficult circumstances.’

        ‘The whole team is well-informed and professional. Whenever I spoke with any staff member in this team, they were extremely helpful and genuinely cared – they spoke to me as a client and a person – and all really went above and beyond to help. I would go so far as to say, I don’t think I would have achieved the result I did had it not been for Freeths and, in particular, Laura Short and Nicola Heslop.’

        ‘I found the advice given was perfect from start to finish. Nothing was too much trouble, however big or small, all questions asked were always answered in an easy to understand way. The guidance and information provided was excellent. I was always kept up to date on every aspect, and at no point did I feel in the dark throughout the whole process.’

        ‘If the situation arose where I would need advice of this nature again, I would not hesitate to use Freeths and I would definitely recommend Laura Short and Nicola Heslop to anybody.’

        ‘A strong team.’

        ‘Mark Keeley is an excellent mediator.’

        Work highlights

          IDR Law

          The team at IDR Law, described as ‘a real force in the world of contentious trusts and probate work’, is led by the ‘outstanding’ Martin Holdsworth. It specialises solely in this area of work. Its workload is formed of emotionally and technically complex matters of high value; such matters often involve advising or acting on applications for grants, challenges to will claims, trust disputes and inheritance claims.

          Practice head(s):

          Martin Holdsworth

          Other key lawyers:

          Richard Thomas; Louisa Wardle


          ‘The only firm specialising in the growth area of contested probates and nothing else; and in their chosen field they are simply second to none. Knowledgeable, skilled, innovative and resourceful.’

          ‘Martin Holdsworth is one of the best, if not the best, in his field. Tenacious but pragmatic and knowledgeable, whilst keeping a personal touch. He’s incredibly resourceful and innovative.

          ‘Richard Thomas and Louisa Wardle are both up and coming stars.’

          ‘The team is cohesive, experienced, knowledgeable and supportive, which gives you the utmost confidence in the advice you are getting. They are also conscious of looking at things on a practical level. The team puts you at ease.’

          ‘Led by Martin Holdsworth, who is somewhat of an innovator in his own right, IDR have become a real force in the world of contentious trusts and probate work.’

          ‘Martin Holdsworth is an outstanding contentious trusts and probate solicitor who has a deserved reputation for excellence. Martin is very knowledgeable, savvy, approachable and practical. Richard Thomas is also excellent.

          ‘Led by Martin’s example, IDR are all about innovation, client service and achieving the best possible outcomes.’

          ‘One aspect of the IDR ethos which I particularly like is that they will say if they do not think it is the best interests of one of my clients to engage them in litigation. IDR are not a fees-driven firm and their moral compass is firmly fixed.’

          Work highlights

            LCF Law

            The ‘unflappable’ Ragan Montgomery heads the Bradford-based team at LCF Law. The team acts on a wide spectrum of matters, including trusts disputes, complex issues of capacity, gifts in wills, Inheritance Act cases, removal of executor claims and Court of Protection matters. Montgomery is able to draw on her experience as an accredited mediator in contentious matters.

            Practice head(s):

            Ragan Montgomery


            ‘LCF is a strong regional practice with excellent personal service, timely actions and it’s cost-effective.’

            ‘Led by Ragan Montgomery, the LCF team specialising in contentious trusts and probate is very impressive indeed – fighting the corner of its clients whilst giving shrewd and pragmatic advice.’

            ‘Ragan Montgomery is a very experienced and unflappable partner – nothing fazes her. She’s brilliant with clients.’

            ‘A small team but does good work locally and is easy to deal with- no ‘point scoring’ even when faced with opposing views. Ragan Montgomery is really lovely to deal with, a good brain, practical and sees the commerciality in reaching a conclusion.’

            ‘Ragan Montgomery is strong and rolls her sleeves up to get the job done. Works hard and sees the wood from the trees.’

            ‘Ragan Montgomery is great to work with – knowledgeable and approachable. She knows which points to take and which to leave.’

            ‘The firm are collegiate and really do work together across practice areas and seniority.’

            ‘The individuals at the firm are friendly, approachable and put clients at ease.’

            Work highlights

              Ramsdens Solicitors LLP

              Nazia Nawaz heads the team at Ramsdens Solicitors LLP. The team specialises in advising on a range of complex matters, including inheritance tax and trust disputes, executor-beneficiary disputes, validity of will disputes, as well as financial abuse and misappropriated funds cases. In addition, it acts on statutory wills applications, and has experience representing clients in contentious cases of this nature in the Court of Protection. Nawaz is a full member of ACTAPS and STEP affiliate, and the team she leads is described as going ‘above and beyond expectations’ for its clients.

              Practice head(s):

              Nazia Nawaz

              Other key lawyers:

              Katie Whitehead


              ‘Nazia Nawaz was my solicitor and I have nothing but praise for her. She grasped my situation perfectly, and was able to support me all the way. She is very articulate and has been able to deal with some difficult correspondence from other solicitors. When she hasn’t been available to take my call, she has always returned my call as soon as possible.’

              ‘I think one strength that makes the practice unique is the approachability of the staff – they are all always happy to help and nothing is too much trouble; their availability is also an asset. They always try to carry out your instruction in the easiest and most cost effective way for you, and completely honest as to whether or not it is in your best interests to take a case forward. The knowledge of the team is exceptionally good.’

              ‘The team have proven their individual and collective ability to communicate effectively, operate in a proactive manner and show the level of in-depth knowledge necessary to undertake a complex case such as mine. From a billing and expectations perspective the practice could not have been more fair and understanding. For those in need of legal support and collaboration, I would have no hesitation whatsoever in highly recommending Ramsdens Solicitors and in particular Nazia Nawaz and the team supporting her.’

              ‘Nazia Nawaz and every member of her team with whom I have had dialogue, have gone above and beyond my expectations. They each show the greatest of ability when covering for each other in the event that team members are otherwise engaged. Nazia herself continually shows great compassion, she is extremely knowledgeable, shows great empathy and leads my case and her team with great professionalism and understanding. I would be totally lost without the team’s support.’

              ‘The team have listened to and advised us, and in doing so, made a very difficult time for my elderly parent better. Particularly Katie Whitehead and the team she works with.’

              ‘The team is experienced, commercially astute and legally knowledgeable. They must be one of the best teams in this area in Yorkshire.’

              ‘Nazia Nawaz and Katie Whitehead are both excellent lawyers, who go the extra mile for clients.’

              ‘Ramsdens offers a genuinely specialist and user-friendly service for contentious probate and trust work. They are down to earth and personable.’

              Work highlights

                Andrew Jackson Solicitors LLP

                The contentious trusts team at Andrew Jackson Solicitors LLP is led by the ‘knowledgeable and innovative’ Peter Duffus . Its workload includes advising on matters of disputed wills, proprietary estoppel claims and on complex and intricate family matters.

                Practice head(s):

                Peter Duffus

                Other key lawyers:

                Nicola White


                ‘A strong team with quality work.’

                ‘Peter Duffus is capable, calm and competent and is always a pleasure to deal with.’

                ‘They are very client-friendly and tenacious in pursuing their clients’ cases.’

                ‘Peter Duffus is possibly the most experienced contentious probate solicitor locally.’

                ‘I have always dealt with Peter Duffus. He is knowledgeable, pro-active, client friendly and can’t be bullied.’

                ‘Dealings with one person as ‘your’ solicitor and not being passed to different people who try to ‘just look at your file’ upon taking your call.’

                ‘Partner-level knowledge and expertise. Whilst most ably supported by assistants, Peter Duffus was always available for any discussion on legal matters and remained fully appraised of our case.’

                ‘Peter Duffus is a very experienced litigation lawyer in this field of work. His negotiating skills and commitment to finding solutions to disputes are to be commended to his clients. As an adversary he is knowledgeable and innovative with a very personable approach to his work.’

                Work highlights


                Harrowells Solicitors

                Simon Black heads Harrowells Solicitors’ York offering. It advises on Inheritance Act claims for both sides, trust and estate disputes relating to capacity, lack of knowledge and undue influence casts. In addition, the team advises on issues of proprietary estoppel, financial abuse and misappropriated funds.

                Practice head(s):

                Simon Black


                ‘Approachable, straight-forward and on your side. You wouldn’t want them batting for the away team!’

                ‘Stand-out partner: Simon Black – responsive, efficient, no nonsense approach. Works incredibly hard, thinks outside the box, and delivers. Always follows up on calls/emails. Can assimilate a deluge of materials with ease, and extract what really matters.’

                Work highlights


                  Elaine Lightfoot  heads the contentious trusts and probate team at McCormicks in Harrogate. Its workload mainly involves advising executors, trustees and potential beneficiaries of family estates and trusts of significant value. The team advises on a variety of cases from will drafting and registration to complex division of assets cases.

                  Practice head(s):

                  Elaine Lightfoot

                  Work highlights

                    Weightmans LLP

                    Weightmans LLP‘s Leeds offering is headed by Matthew Morton. The team acts on high-value, often multi-jurisdictional, complex disputes. Its workload predominantly consists of Inheritance Act claims, will validity cases and various administrative claims involving estates. Many of its lawyers are STEP qualified. In addition, the team advises on breach of trust actions, relating to trusts and proprietary estoppel claims.

                    Practice head(s):

                    Matthew Morton


                    ‘Matthew Morton is just the perfect solicitor for this type of work. He is firm, but not overbearing and, at the same time, gentle and empathetic. Clients are often extremely emotional when they are dealing with complicated matters arising after the death of a family member. Matthew is brilliant at steering them through the choppy waters of a contentious probate claim.’

                    ‘Matthew Morton is a highly knowledgeable and skilled lawyer.’

                    ‘Weightmans are a well-priced firm who know exactly what they are doing and give excellent value for money.’

                    Work highlights