Managing Partner - Oxford
"Sarah is praised by sources for having 'shown good judgment on what the issues were and how things were going', is 'a fine and measured litigator', is a 'very skilled and very thorough lawyer' and has an 'excellent attention to detail and a strong pedigree'."
(Chambers & Partners)
Sarah qualified in 1994 and has over twenty years’ experience of managing disputes for her clients. She is well known for her firm but fair approach to the resolution of disputes.
Sarah has particular expertise in acting for individuals in inheritance and trust disputes and heads the private client litigation team in Oxford. She deals with a wide range of cases, including issues surrounding the validity of a will; claims against estates for financial provision; disputed trusts; disputes in the Court of Protection and the removal of executors and trustees.
Sarah also has many years experience of dealing with claims made against professionals including legal, construction and financial professionals. She specialises particularly in legal or financial claims with a trust or probate background. She also advises on coverage disputes between insurers and insured.
Trials/contested hearings are very much the exception rather than the rule, but when they are the only option, clients have praised Sarah for her no nonsense, efficient and diligent approach.
Wills, Trusts & Probate Disputes
Sarah has wide ranging experience of acting for private individuals in all manner of contested challenges to wills, claims against estates and trust disputes. Her clients are executors, beneficiaries, trustees, relatives or friends of the deceased. She is known for dealing with complicated, multi-party and often cross jurisdictional disputes.
- Successfully resisted a £2 million+ unusual mutual wills case, where it was alleged that because of that mutual will, our client held his late wife’s estate on trust for the claimant (a non-family member). Complex company and estate issues arose, given (i) our client’s 100% shareholding in estate companies and the claimant’s position as director in them; and (ii) the fact that our client and the claimant were joint executors of the late wife’s will. A settlement was reached prior to trial whereby a small % of the £2 million was paid, including costs.
- Acting for the daughter of the deceased (and residuary beneficiary) in a disputed multi-jurisdictional estate. The deceased (born in Italy) had lived in England for over 40 years. His wife – and our client’s mother – alleged that he had adopted England as his domicile of choice and made a claim for reasonable financial provision, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 against his £1.5 million estate. Recognising the sensitive nature of the dispute, it was settled favourably at mediation.
- Acting for trustees (trust land valued at about £1.2 million) in connection with an application to the court for determination of (i) the validity of the trust deed and (ii) the correct beneficiaries of the trust.
Court of Protection & Deputyships
Sarah acts for private individuals in disputed Court of Protection applications/proceedings during a person’s lifetime. Often, this is a dispute between siblings or other family members as to what is in the best interests of the person affected – in terms of where that person should live or who should have the authority to make financial decisions on that person’s behalf.
- Acting for P’s son in an application to appoint a court deputy to manage P’s financial and property affairs, in the place of his step mother and accountant. A complex dispute, not helped by the perceived failure of other family members to conduct business affairs in an open and transparent way.
- Acting for P’s son, in a dispute with his sister about where P should live and who should be the deputy for him.
- Acting for P’s son in relation to the complicated issue of whether P had capacity to marry another woman during his lifetime.
Claims against Professionals
Sarah is one of the most experienced professional negligence lawyers in the market today. She deals with all manner of claims against professionals including legal, construction and financial professionals for both claimants and defendants. She specialises particularly in legal or financial claims with a trust or probate background. Sarah also deals with claims against District Councils and advises on coverage disputes between insurers and insured.
- Successfully defending a claim against solicitors at trial, arising from advice given not to pursue a claim against a NHS Trust for the “wrongful birth” of the claimant’s child. At a liability trial, it was held that the claim had not been brought within time and there was no breach of duty in any event. The Court of Appeal then dismissed the appeal, albeit with different reasons on limitation. The claimant then applied to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal which was refused. The matter finally concluded with a successful costs recovery (funded by insurers).
- Acting for the claimant in a claim against solicitors who negligently advised in relation to a trust. The loss suffered was about £350,000 including penalties. We reached a settlement with the solicitors for £365,000 inclusive of costs and with the proviso that any further penalties would be payable by the solicitors too.
- Defending a claim for £800,000 arising out of a local authority search. By consent, the proceedings were dismissed with costs a week before a liability only trial.
- Advising insurers on the scope of cover for a solicitor acting in a quasi partnership, arising out of a £2 million mortgage fraud.
She is a fierce advocate of mediation, recognising that in family disputes particularly (where Sarah’s aim is to maintain relationships wherever possible), it can be an extremely useful tool to bring about early closure of disputes and at less cost.
- Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists
- Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners
“It only remains for us to thank you for the considerable support you have given us in the last year… Without access to the high quality advice you have given us, I’m not sure we would be where we are now i.e. a claim that has, thankfully, simply gone away.”
“Well done and thank you for achieving such a splendid result… I think you have handled the matter very cleverly… it has been a pleasure to do business with you!”
“Thank you very much for your excellent handling of my case: no-one could have been more expedient or effective. It was my good fortune to have your exceptional services.”
‘Doing the right thing’ is at the heart of Freeths. Find out more about our excellent client service and the strong set of values that guide the way we work.
Talk to us
Freeths are a leading national law firm with 12 offices across the UK. If you have a query about our services or just want to find out more, why not give us a call?
Contact: 03301 001 014