Clarke Willmott LLP

Private Wealth Law Department

Somerset
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Clarke Willmott is hailed for its private client offering in the South West. Its private client team advises farming clients, landed estate clients and business owners on a broad range of matters. A professional adviser says: "The team build strong relationships with other professionals and clients, providing understandable and helpful advice in a timely manner." One client is "very pleased by their efficiency, professionalism and cost-effectiveness."

A source says the firm's contentious and non-contentious private client teams work with "overseas elements to estates, but are not fazed by any of that," adding: "I genuinely do not think there are any areas outside of its expertise." Another interviewee says the private client team offers "sharp advice, delivered with a personable, down-to-earth attitude."

Notable practitioners

Bristol-based Bonita Walters is "head of contentious probate at Clarke Willmott and is driving the team forward to great things," says a barrister. She "understands contentious probate and how it works in practice," according to a market insider. A client says: "Bonita has an incredible work ethic, often going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that her client's needs are met," adding: "She ensured that the right advice was brought in at exactly the right time and we felt in very safe hands throughout the duration of our case."

Taunton-based David Maddock is noted for his expertise in Inheritance Tax planning and estate planning for agricultural and farming matters. A source says Maddock is a "lovely chap" who is "really good at client care and client relationships."

Esther Woolford leads the firm's commercial and private ligation practice in Clarke Willmott's Taunton office. A respected barrister says that "Esther has particular expertise in Court of Protection work and she is a real expert in that," adding that she is "recognised nationally" for her work in this area and has "experience to bear on issues." Another source notes she is doing "agricultural work, but a significant amount of property estates and trusts built into that," and enthuses that she is "extremely bright, one of the cleverest solicitors I have come across."

Senior associate Sarah O’Grady divides her time between the firm's Bristol and Taunton offices and deals with trust and probate disputes. A barrister says: "She is a very astute lawyer and she always runs litigation very efficiently and gets a good result for the client." Another commentator says: "She is lovely, always very efficient, always gets on very well with clients, and someone who I would wholeheartedly recommend."

Stuart Thorne is "probably the pre-eminent practitioner in Somerset," according to a peer, who adds: "Clients love him," and he is "very capable, practical, and a hard worker who has been around for years." Thorne's expertise spans lifetime tax and succession planning, particularly for local landed estate and farm owners. He is also adept at Inheritance Tax planning issues.

Tom Chiffers is described by a peer as being "very good on high net worth" matters. Chiffers provides affluent clients with advice on tax planning, the formation and maintenance of trusts, wills drafting and power of attorney matters. He joined Clarke Willmott LLP in May 2020, having previously been a partner at Mogers Drewett.