Managing Partner - Oxford & Joint Head of Private Client Services
"Sarah Foster is both deeply experienced and direct and practical in her approach."
(The Legal 500, 2024)
Sarah manages the Oxford office, is joint national head of the Freeths Private Client Services Team and sits on the firm’s management board.
Sarah has 30 years of post-qualification experience of dealing with contentious trust and probate disputes and professional negligence claims. She is well known for her firm but fair approach to the resolution of disputes.
Sarah is a member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) and the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association (PNLA). She is also an affiliate member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).
Sarah also acts as Trustee and Executor for a number of family trusts and estates. She has been appointed as a replacement administrator/trustee by the High Court and is also a director of Freeths Trustees Limited, our trust corporation which has been set up specifically to act as a trustee, executor of a will or attorney or deputy for a person who lacks capacity where a professional appointment is needed.
Sarah is listed as an Eminent Practitioner in Chambers & Partners (2024 edition) for both Professional Negligence and Private Wealth Disputes. She is also a Recommended Lawyer in the Legal 500 (2024 edition) being recognised as a Leading Individual for “Private Client – Contentious Trusts and Probate”
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.
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.
Sarah and her team deal 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.
- 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.
- Private Client Dispute Resolution Oxford – A year in review
- Kaur v Estate of Karnail Singh & Ors: A challenge to testamentary capacity?
- Freeths strengthen Employment offering with strategic appointment
- Freeths continues to expand leading UK private wealth offering with latest appointment
- Contentious Trusts & Probate Conferences in association with 5 Stone Buildings Chambers
- Freeths strengthens family law offering with partner hire
- New Leadership and Team Expansion for Freeths’ Highly Regarded Oxfordshire Private Client Practice
- Top Rankings and Team Expansion for Freeths’ Highly Regarded Oxfordshire Private Client Practice
- A sense of entitlement does not equate to “need” in adult children 1975 Act claims
- London Contested Trusts and Estates Virtual Globe Trotting Event
- A Recap of 2020’s Key Contentious Trust and Probate Cases
- Litigation friends: Who would want to be one?
- Farms and Estates Newsletter – Autumn 2019
- Contentious Trusts and Probate Seminar with New Square Chambers
- Dispute Management: Promises, promises, promises…
- Agriculture Newsletter: Spring 2017
To contact Sarah or for more information…
- Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists
- Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners
“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.”
Freeths has a very strong contentious trusts and estates team, led by Sarah Foster and hugely well supported by an excellent team of associates and senior associates.’(The Legal 500, 2023)
An interviewee says: “Sarah is extremely good. She provides clear advice, her tax knowledge is excellent and she is really amiable.” Another enthuses: “She has a wealth of experience and knowledge in her practice area. She is able to disseminate complex and voluminous information and then deliver advice in a practical and understandable manner. She is also extremely personable.”(Chambers & Partners HNW 2022)
“Sarah Foster has a wealth of experience and knowledge in her area of specialism and this, combined with her ability to deliver complex legal advice in a concise, practical and approachable manner makes her stand out as exceptional in her field.”(The Legal 500, 2021)
“Sarah Foster heads the firm’s private client litigation team in Oxford and advises high net worth clients on contentious trust and probate matters. An interviewee says: “Sarah is extremely good. She provides clear advice, her tax knowledge is excellent and she is really amiable.” Another enthuses: “She has a wealth of experience and knowledge in her practice area. She is able to disseminate complex and voluminous information and then deliver advice in a practical and understandable manner. She is also extremely personable.”(Chambers & Partners HNW 2021)
“Nigel Roots and Sarah foster both have their eye on the ball and are really good at explaining legal technicalities.”(The Legal 500, 2020)
Managing partner and contentious trusts and estates specialist Sarah Foster is “excellent,” says a fellow private client solicitor, adding: “She is a really standout one – really good at what she does.” A barrister says that, on a recent case where the client “needed more sensitive and close handling of the matter,” Foster was “great – really brilliant at identifying where they needed more help to understand and explaining in layman’s terms.” This interviewee says Foster was “really good at narrowing down the main issues and just a real pleasure and fun to work with.”(Chambers & Partners HNW, 2020)
Sarah Foster has wide-ranging experience acting for clients in both claimant and defendant cases, with a particular focus on probate and trust disputes. A client reports: “I was always impressed by her grip on the case and firm handle on the law.”(Chambers & Partners, 2019)
Managing partner and contentious trusts and estates specialist Sarah Foster is “excellent,” says a fellow private client solicitor, adding: “She is a really standout one – really good at what she does.” A barrister says that, on a recent case where the client “needed more sensitive and close handling of the matter,” Foster was “great – really brilliant at identifying where they needed more help to understand and explaining in layman’s terms.” This interviewee says Foster was “really good at narrowing down the main issues and just a real pleasure and fun to work with.(Chambers & Partners HNW, 2019)
‘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.
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Contact: 03301 001 014