Actress Jennifer Lawrence told Vogue magazine this month (Aug 2017) that she still suffers the psychological effects of the internet attack on her in 2014, in which nude pictures of her were hacked and then posted online.

Ryan Dunleavy
Ryan Dunleavy
Partner & Head of Media Law Reputation Management

She was not the only celebrity affected at the time, but she is almost certainly the most commonly mentioned one.

Lawrence said:

"It’s scary when you feel the whole world judges you… I think people saw [the event] for what it was, which was a sex crime, but that feeling, I haven’t been able to get rid of it. Having your privacy violated constantly isn’t a problem if you’re perfect. But if you’re human, it’s terrifying. When my publicist calls me, I’m like, “Oh, my God, what is it?” Even when it’s nothing.  I’m always waiting to get blindsided again."

Revenge Pornography and Sextortion Can Happen to Anyone

This type of situation is not exclusive to celebrities. Indeed, many thousands of people suffer from ‘revenge pornography’ attacks upon them, which has a similar impact on their well being. Revenge pornography is where someone releases naked images or sexual information about a person without their consent as part of a vendetta. There is also a problem with ‘sextortion’ on the internet, where people threaten to carry out the above.

A few months ago, The Guardian newspaper published an article about a leaked Facebook document.  It indicated that in a single month Facebook needed to deal with nearly 54,000 potential cases of revenge pornography and sextortion. These cases occur on all types of social media platforms of course, not just Facebook, and we at MW Solicitors are seeing an increase in clients approaching us with an emotional and reputational crisis on their hands because of revenge pornography and sextortion attacks. 

In our experience, these incidents often arise when people are having affairs, are getting divorced, or have a spiteful partner or ex-partner.  We have even had cases where people in relationships have had to resort to sleeping with their mobile telephones under their pillows because they are concerned about their partners using their private PIN numbers to access their phones while they are sleeping.  Whether the intention is to snoop, or to forward sexual or naked images to themselves or to share with others such as with the victim’s work colleagues or the victim’s family and friends, revenge pornography is almost always used to cause maximum embarrassment and emotional damage to the victim.

What Can I do if I am a victim of Revenge Pornography?

Sometimes contacting the social media provider directly to require it to remove the images or information is successful, but at other times a victim might not know where the pictures or information are published or stored and they can be difficult to trace. Despite the amount of resources they are reported to spend on tackling the issue, some social media companies are not as quick or as effective as victims may expect when it comes to removing revenge pornography from their networks.

What Can the Law Do to Help Victims?

UK laws and courts do provide various very efficient avenues to protect victims of revenge pornography, or sextortion.  These can be used to deal with a problem quickly, to have the items traced, to have them removed from a particular website or IT storage facility, and to ensure that they are not disseminated further afield.

Once the law is used to protect a victim or potential victim, the legal sanctions on the offending person or host of the material can be severe. 

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors, our mission is "to make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including people who are the victims of revenge pornography or sextortion. 

If you would like to discuss the above with our team of experts and specialist Media and Reputation Lawyers, don't delay, call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at


Subsidence Drought Trees

Your home is your castle and it is quite proper to seek to protect what is normally the largest investment you will ever make.

Drought is a Root Cause of Subsidence

Dan Carter
Dan Carter
Partner & Head of Professional Negligence

Recent newspaper reports have highlighted that 2017 could experience a serious drought caused by a hot dry summer and the driest winter in 20 years.  When the ground dries out, it is increasingly prone to movement and shrinkage.  According the British Geological Survey (BGS) shrinking and swelling of the ground (often reported as subsidence) is one of the most damaging geohazards in Britain today.  This shrink swell situation is often exacerbated by trees and shrubs which suck up what little moisture is left in the ground in a bid to stay alive.

What Can I Do To Protect My Home from Subsidence?

Home owners can mitigate the risk themselves by maintaining the trees and shrubs on their property at levels where their “zone of influence” does not extend to under the foundations of their property.  Care must be taken that any trees to be treated are not covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) as this could possibly lead to a breach of the TPO and land you the homeowner legally liable.  Read our article Tree Preservation Orders: The Facts for more information about Tree Preservation Orders and how to deal with them.

However, trees are living organisms and they will sometimes extend their roots beyond the recognised zone in order to source moisture from further afield. Each species of tree has a different recorded zone of influence to the point where a copse containing an Oak, a Willow and an Ash for example will have roots extending for different distances and treatment will need to tailored accordingly.

How Do I Identify Subsidence?

Tell-tale signs of subsidence are:

  • windows and doors sticking on opening and closing
  • diagonal cracking to walls extending from ground level towards the corners of windows or doors
  • cracks which are mirrored inside and out and flow along the line of cement between bricks

If you spot any of these signs you should contact your buildings insurance company immediately.

What Will My Insurance Company Do?

Your insurance company will appoint a loss adjuster to inspect your property and seek to identify the cause of the problem. It may also be necessary to appoint an arborist, soil engineers and a structural engineer if the tree belongs to a third party which will need convincing to remove the cause.

If the tree belongs to you then, subject to any TPO protection, it should be more easily removed although it will also be necessary to assess whether the tree pre-dates the property in which case “heave” where the soil recovers too much and pushes the property higher than it was originally designed for should be considered. In these cases the tree is usually removed in stages to allow recovery of the moisture levels in manageable stages. Often a property will be monitored before and after removal to ensure that the cause has been remove an the property stabilised before repairs are undertaken so these claims can last for months – the sooner the claim is reported the earlier the remedy can be in place.

If the cause is caught early then repairs can be as simple as raking out and replacing the cement but, in more severe cases, the property may have to be underpinned which involves the owners normally having to vacate the property for the duration of the works.

In cases where the cause of the damage is vegetation belonging to a third party, it may be possible to recover the costs of any repairs from that party. Any subsidence claim will be subject to a £1,000 excess if it is the first occurrence.  This is a significant sum for any householder to find and therefore, if this sum and subsequent repairs costs can be recovered, you should appoint Solicitors to deal with the claim.

At MW our specialist Solicitors have many years experience acting for homeowners and their insurers in recovering significant sums from Councils, Housing Associations and other public bodies and private individuals.

If you have insurance, your insurer will cover the costs of an insured peril subject to your policy coverage and adherence to the terms of the contract by the policyholder.  They will then seek to recover the costs of those repairs under its right to step into the shoes of the insured. This removes undue and unnecessary stress from the insured who has already experienced the worry of seeing their property damaged.  At this point MW Solicitors can be instructed by your insurer if you require.

What If I Do Not Have Valid Buildings Insurance?

Where there is no valid insurance, you should look to instruct a Solicitor as soon as possible in order to avoid the potentially costly repairs falling on you personally.

If we can assist we will approach the liable third party for a contribution towards the repair costs at the earliest opportunity.  In the case of private individual owners of the problem tree, it is vitally important that they are placed on notice of the damage as soon as possible.  If they remain unaware of the cause under their control, it is more difficult to convince a Court that they failed to act in a reasonable manner to abate the nuisance.

Subsidence Claims Require Specialist Solicitors

Claims involving subsidence are always a complex combination of Science and the Law.  Taking the correct approach to preparing evidence before the claim is presented will pay dividends and you should always instruct a specialist Solicitor who has experience with the claims process and is capable of dealing with insurers, experts and other third parties.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including homeowners who are worried that their home is suffering or might be at risk from subsidence. If you believe that your property is suffering subsidence damage, it is important to act quickly.

We can help homeowners whose property is damaged through the actions of a third party.  We will explore every legal avenue and our experts in MW’s are not just experienced in the law regarding these matters, but also in the underlying geological and biological causes.

We can advise if you are entitled to bring a claim for the recovery of your insurance excess and any repairs costs and we will act on behalf of your insurer should you wish to instruct a local firm.  We can assist you with any discussions and negotiations with third parties in order to resolve any dispute.  We are keen advocates of mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and we will do all we can to resolve your dispute in a sensitive and cost effective way. 

If you are worried that your home is at risk from subsidence or you need to make a subsidence claim don't delay.  Call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at


A High Court judgment at the end of May 2017 in favour of Sir Cliff Richard against the BBC illustrates how the principle that a journalist must protect their sources has its legal limits.

Ryan Dunleavy
Ryan Dunleavy
Partner & Head of Media Law Reputation Management

In the above case the Court ordered the BBC to disclose whether or not its information that Sir Cliff was under investigation by South Yorkshire Police came from Operation Yewtree, which is the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into historic sex offences.

The background to Sir Cliff’s application was neatly summarised by the judgment in this way:

‘On 14th August 2014 his flat in Sunningdale was raided by the South Yorkshire Police (the second defendant - "SYP") seeking material in connection with an investigation of child abuse. Mr Dan Johnson, a journalist working for the first defendant, had been told of the raid in advance, and as a result the BBC was able to be in place to cover it as it happened, which it did with journalists, photographers and a helicopter. It was thus able to broadcast its occurrence more or less concurrently and did so, giving apparently extensive coverage both at the time and subsequently. In due course the police announced that there would be no further investigation into Sir Cliff.’

The judgment was part of a larger High Court case by Sir Cliff against the BBC for alleged breaches of his privacy rights and his rights under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Sir Cliff has argued in his claim that BBC journalist Dan Johnson found out about the existence of an investigation into him from a person involved in, or from a person associated with, Operation Yewtree. Both Sir Cliff and South Yorkshire Police said that Mr Johnson was able to use information about Sir Cliff being the subject of the Yewtree investigation to get more information out of South Yorkshire Police, particularly to provide Mr Johnson with advance information of the raid.

In relation to protecting its source, the BBC pleaded in its Defence to Sir Cliff’s overall claim,

‘The BBC asserts its right and the rights of its reporter Mr Johnson, to withhold information which may lead to the identification of the Confidential Source… and any information tending to identify the Confidential Source, including whether the Confidential Source was from within Operation Yewtree (which is neither confirmed nor denied)…

‘The source was not an open source. The source provided information to Mr Johnson in confidence and on condition that Mr Johnson would protect the source's identity. These are familiar attributes of a confidential journalistic source.’

The importance of protecting a source is recognised by section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. It is also a right protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression). Protecting a source is regarded as a ‘negative right’ for the purposes of Article 10 – ie, a right not to be compelled to provide information.

The European Court of Human Rights explained in the case of Goodwin v United Kingdom (1996) that, ‘… limitations on the confidentiality of journalistic sources call for the most careful scrutiny by the Court,’ and the judge in Sir Cliff’s case took the above into account, although ultimately ruled that Sir Cliff’s matter was not a Goodwin-type case.

The Court when making its decision struck a balance between the journalist’s Article 10 rights and Sir Cliff’s Article 6 right (right to a fair trial) and Article 8 right (right to respect for private and family life). It decided that the risk that the answer to Sir Cliff’s question would lead to the source of the BBC’s information being identified was very low but could not quite be regarded as non-existent. The Court also considered that the information was likely to be something that the source would be uncomfortable with having disclosed (ie, that there would be a ‘chilling effect’). This was diminished however by the fact that Operation Yewtree had already been suggested as the source.

Balanced against the above was the fact that the journalist’s knowledge of the source was of real significance, which will not be fully revealed until the trial of this case. The Court ruled that the information is something that Sir Cliff may well need in order to be able to make his case, or to rebut one of the BBC's defences, or to improve his chances of success. The Court also weighed in the balance that Sir Cliff had a procedural right to the information under normal principles of disclosure. The Judge ruled that, ‘A fair trial, with the benefit of being able to argue that which can legitimately be argued, requires that the question [posed by Sir Cliff] be answered.’

In striking a balance between the above competing points, the Court found that the balance came down clearly in favour of the question being answered.

The lesson for journalists to take from this judgment is that there are limits to how far they can protect their sources.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors, our mission is “To make quality legal services accessible to everyone” including Journalists and other media professionals who need representation in Court or wish to protect the anonymity of their sources of information.

If you are worried about having to divulge your sources in an impending legal case or need representation talk to one of our team today, call us on 0203 551 8500 or email us at


Business Race

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25th May 2018 leaving businesses less than 12 months to become compliant with a host of new rules and regulations.

What is New in the GDPR?

Ryan Dunleavy
Ryan Dunleavy
Partner & Head of Media Law Reputation Management

The GDPR will:

  • Raise the cap on fines for breaches of data laws from £500,000 to €10,000,000 or 2 per cent of global turnover
  • Apply to data processors not just data controllers
  • Introduce more expansive definitions of data
  • Impose new notification provisions
  • Strengthen the concept of obtaining a data subject’s consent
  • Increase the rights of data subjects
  • Impose other obligations upon businesses.

Is Your Business Ready for GDPR?

The Information Commissioner's Office, the UK watchdog of the data protection regime, has heavily publicised the need for businesses to take steps to ensure that they are compliant. In her YouTube video address to corporate boardrooms, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said that there is no time to delay in preparing for

the biggest change to data protection law for a generation’.

She added

‘If your organisation can’t demonstrate that good data protection is a cornerstone of your business policy and practices, you’re leaving your organisation open to enforcement action that can damage both public reputation and bank balance.’

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including businesses trying to keep up with the burden of ever changing legislation imposed upon them.

Our specialist solicitors can assist in re-drafting your data protection policies and procedures, as well as giving direct training to you and your staff via seminars and on-demand advice. We specialise in helping you to navigate through the requirements of the GDPR leaving you to focus on what you do best.

Our team are also expert litigators who specialise in conducting cases on behalf of clients in disputes over data protection and privacy laws. If you are are worried about GDPR compliance or wish to discuss a data protection or privacy dispute call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at

Tug of War

It is becoming more and more common for friends and family members to own property together.  Hayley Prideaux, Solicitor MW's Estate and Trust Dispute Team, discusses the difficulties which can be experienced when joint owners disagree about what to do with a property and how our specialist team can assist to resolve the dispute.

Joint Ownership is a Trend on the Rise

Friends ‘clubbing together’ in order to get onto the property ladder, parents lending money to their child and perhaps their child’s partner to enable them to purchase a property, and siblings inheriting a property under a Will or on an intestacy.  The reasons behind this growing trend are many and varied but joint ownerships often come with a much greater potential for a complex and distressing ownership dispute in future years. 

How Joint Owner Disputes Occur

A dispute may arise when the relationship between joint owners breaks down or when one joint owner wants to sell their share of the property and the other does not want to sell or if they cannot agree the value or size of their share. The more joint owners that are involved the more chance of a dispute occuring.

This often happens when property is inherited under a Will or intestacy and when one owner wants to sell the property and the other wants to keep it. This can be particularly distressful at a time when you are also suffering bereavement and coming to terms with the loss of a loved one.

If agreement cannot be reached, a stalemate can arise which may go on for many years, during which, the property must be maintained and other outgoings must be paid for.

Making a TOLATA Claim

Where the joint owners of property cannot agree, any one of them may apply to the Court to resolve the situation.

Applications are made to the Court under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA). The Court has wide-ranging powers under the Act and can make an order that the property be sold and/or an order that one party living in the property pays the other owner an occupation rent, if those orders are applied for.

However, there is no guarantee the Court will make such orders where they are applied for.  The Court will take a range of factors into account when deciding whether to make them, such as:

  • the intentions of the parties at the time the property was purchased (if relevant)
  • the purpose for which the property is held
  • the level of rent that would ordinarily be payable on the open market
  • the parties’ respective beneficial interests in the property

We Can Help

At McMillan Williams, our mission is “to make quality legal services accessible to everyone” including those who find themselves in dispute with a co-owner of a property.  We can act for clients who have inherited a property under a Will or on an intestacy, or who bought a property with a loved one or friend. 

We can advise you as to whether you may be entitled to bring a claim under TOLATA and we can assist you with any discussions and negotiations with your co-owner in order to resolve the dispute. We are keen advocates of mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and will do all we can to resolve your dispute in a sensitive and cost effective way.  Our specialist Estate and Trust Dispute Solicitors are here to offer a helping hand and to guide you though the process of making a claim as quickly and painlessly as possible.  If you would like to take advantage of our FREE CASE REVIEW, call us today on 020 3551 8550 or email us at

In England and Wales, unlike other countries, a person can leave their estate to whomever they choose. Therefore, if you want to leave your whole estate to Charity and not to your spouse or children, you have every right, legally, to do that. This right is known as Testamentary Freedom.

Adult Child Claims

Wendy Rixon
Wendy Rixon
Associate – Estate & Trust Disputes Specialist

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows for certain people to bring a claim against the estate if they can show that reasonable provision was not made for them under a Will or an intestacy.
The 1975 Act widened the scope for adult children to make such claims, albeit that they have to show a real need for maintenance from the estate. Therefore, if they are capable of earning a living and have no real mental or physical disabilities they would, you would think, find it difficult to mount a claim.

The long awaited and widely reported judgment from the Supreme Court of Ilott -v- Mitson has made people question if it is still worth writing a Will if the terms of that Will can be so easily overturned.

3 Ways You Can Protect Your Testamentary Freedom

If you are intending to omit a child from your Will, you should think very carefully about how you document your decision.

  1. Leave a Note - It is sensible to leave a note with your Will explaining your reasons for not leaving them anything. The note should be a true and accurate record of the reasons but should not take the form of throwing everything at it. It should be remembered that the Will may be made many years before the death (and Inheritance Act awards are subject to the facts at the time of the court hearing, not at the time the Will was made or even on the death). Therefore, just because you think, today, that your son or daughter is doing very well for themselves and does not need your help thank you very much, does not mean that this will be the case at the relevant time. If there has been a fall out, this should be documented, emotionally, and the reasons or perceived reasons given. The letter will not prevent a claim, but it will provide background as to whether leaving your child out of your Will is reasonable, which is the basis of the 1975 Act.

  2. Leave a Small Legacy - Some testators are encouraged to leave a small legacy rather than nothing. This shows that they have considered any moral claim that they may have and, again, can go some way towards indicating that you have left reasonable provision (in all the circumstances) for your child.

  3. Add a No Contest Clause - You can put a no-contest clause into your Will which states that if the legacy left to them is challenged, they forfeit the right to anything. Although not legally binding, it can have the effect of making the challenger think twice before taking the risk of losing whatever legacy they were left. This can particularly be the case if the legacy left to them is significant enough to make them think twice about challenging it.

It is important to appraise your will writer fully and comprehensively about your family background and family members, particularly if you are not intending to leave them anything, so that they can provide you with the best advice about how to prevent a challenge to your Will after your death.

We Can Help

At MW,our mission is “to make quality legal services accessible to everyone” including those who find themselves embroiled in a 1975 Act claim.

Our dedicated Estate and Trust Dispute Team are specialists in navigating the tricky waters of such claims to help ensure the best outcome for our clients. Our specialist lawyers have experience in helping both Claimants and Defendants to adult child 1975 Act claims and we are best placed to guide you through the process as quickly and painlessly as possible.

f you would like to take advantage of our FREE CASE REVIEW, call us today on 020 3551 8550 or email us at

News stories are not all about celebrities, politicians, and famous people.

Ryan Dunleavy
Ryan Dunleavy
Partner & Head of Media Law Reputation Management

A cursory glance through the newspapers or viewing the television news on any given day shows that probably most news items focus on ordinary people who may be doing extraordinary things, or who may find themselves in an unusual situation.

Take the example of 22-year-old Marcus Hutchins, credited with halting the global spread of a massive international ransomware attack, WannaCry. It was estimated that Mr Hutchins prevented more than 100,000 computers across the globe from being infected by WannaCry.

Yet, despite being feted as a hero in the Press, there was a negative side to all this publicity for Mr Hutchins, a person who used the alias of ‘MalwareTech’ to avoid being identified. He was propelled into a Media spotlight that often brings with it unwanted attention. It has been reported, for instance, that Mr Hutchins has said that he will have to move house after a newspaper identified him and published his full address, resulting in him being hounded.

As part of the WannaCry story, it was not just Mr Hutchins who was targeted by the Media, but also those who knew him.

Media attention can often be short lived, but like a tornado that rips through a town, the duration of the event is not always as significant as the damage it leaves behind.

We Can Help

If you become the focus of unwanted Media attention, it is important to act quickly.

At MW Solicitors we can help individuals who receive unwanted Media attention. There are various legal avenues that can be explored to counter this attention, and our experts in MW’s Media Law and Reputation Management Department are not just experienced in the law regarding these matters, but also in how to communicate with the Media in an effective manner.

By way of contrast to Mr Hutchins’ situation, if a client wishes to obtain Media attention for a brand, event, or simply because they have a newsworthy story, we also assist with how, when, and on what terms information is conveyed by clients to the Media. That way clients can speak to the Media in the knowledge that Press intrusion will only go so far.

If you are seeking legal and reputation management assistance in relation to Media attention, call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at


Solicitor and member of MW's Estate and Trust Dispute Team, Jane Flaherty, discusses the Governments recently announced plans to increase probate fees.


On 18th February 2016 the Government launched the Consultation - Fee Proposals for Grants of Probate canvassing public and professional opinion regarding an increase in fees when making an application for a Grant of Probate.

As a general rule, any estate which includes property requires a Grant of Probate,  and most estates with shares require a grant of probate.  The current fee is £155 where you obtain a grant through a solicitor and £215 where a personal application is made.  Where an estate is below £5000 there is no fee.

The Result of the Consultation

Despite an astounding 97.5% of respondents expressing that they were against the proposed increases, the Government has announced its intention to proceed with its plans to increase the fees at some point in May 2017. 

A date has not yet been set and any changes which come into force will effect applications in accordance with the date the application is lodged with the probate office and not by date of death. 

What are the New Charges?

The fees will be charged in accordance to the size of the estate as follows:

Value of estate (before Inheritance tax)  Proposed fee
 Up to £50,000  £0
 Over £50,000 but under £300,000  £300
 Over £3000,000 and up to £500,000  £1,000
 Over £500,000 and up to £1 million  £4,000
 Over £1 million up to £1.6 million  £8,000
 Over £1.6 million up to £2 million  £12,000
 Over £2 million  £20,000


The government claim that the majority of estates, those being valued at less than £50,000, will not be charged at all.  In practice, most estates valued in that threshold do not include property and therefore would not require a Grant of Probate in any event.

The reality of the changes to costs is that most estates requiring a grant will see a huge increase in the probate fees.  Beneficiaries will see costs escalate sharply between £300 and £20,000 despite there being no link between the value of the estate and the amount of work involved.

A really good analogy that has been put forward is to consider the cost of a passport.  We all pay the same price for a passport because the same amount of admin is required for each application.  Could you imagine the uproar if passport costs were based on each applicant's income?

When do The Charges Come into Force?

We have been informed that the changes will be in force in May 2017. The probate registry is set to raise £300 million pounds of revenue to support the costs of the wider Court and Tribunal services.  The increases are being labelled as ‘stealth tax’ or a ‘death tax.’

Whereas the Office of the Public Guardian announced that their fees are going to be reduced from April 2017.

The cost to register a single lasting power of attorney or enduring power of attorney will fall from £110 to £82 pounds.  The reason given for this reduction is that due to the increased amount of applications it is receiving it does not need to charge as much per application to be fully self funding.  

What are the main objections to the proposals?

  1. The fees are disproportionate to the cost to the Court in providing the probate service.

  2. The cost to the Court does not vary depending upon the size of the estate. The same amount of work is required for most matters.

  3. The cost does not take into account any inheritance tax that also has to be paid.  It is based on the gross estate.

  4. There will be no exemptions to this charge, whereas there are exemptions in place for estates passing to the surviving spouse or to charity or where the estate qualifies for business or agricultural relief. When you consider the value of property, particularly in areas such as London, some estates may be asset rich but cash poor and may have difficulty paying the probate fee.  Families that hold their property as tenants in common because they want to provide for children from a previous marriage or want to ring fence the amount of capital going towards care fees may find themselves in financial difficulty.

  5. Solicitors will not be able to fund this payment for clients and that might lead to executors having to take out bridging loans, particularly if there are insufficient funds in cash to cover the cost.

  6. The legal profession feels that this is another form of death tax

  7. People may make unwise decisions about their assets, without seeking advice, to prevent the probate fees.

  8. Unscrupulous companies may miss sell products to vulnerable clients on the basis of probate avoidance. Such companies don’t give advice in the whole to enable you to make an informed decision as to whether their products are in your best interests because they are sales people not professional advisors.

Let the Government Know What You Think

We believe that parliament should reject this unreasonable tax by the back door and start again in its consideration of increasing the probate fees.

To sign the petition please click on the link below



Kristi Ashworth, Trainee Legal Executive in the Estate and Trust Dispute Team discusses how paternity tests play a role in Inheritance claims.

DNA Tests are not just for Criminal Cases

Thanks to great crime dramas, it seems that we are all familiar with DNA and have some idea of how it works.  Questions of paternity can often arise after someone dies, and frequently do when there is a child or other relative claiming to be entitled to  a share of the deceased’s Estate.  What you may not know, are the different types of DNA tests that are available to help determine parentage and other familial relationships.

If your paternity, or that of other family relations, is being disputed there are several DNA tests that can be undertaken which could assist with your claim and thus help you succeed in securing your rightful inheritance as follows:

  • Maternity DNA test
  • Grandparent DNA test
  • Sibling (full sibling or half sibling) DNA test
  • Aunt/Uncle DNA test
  • Y-STR Genetic Test (or Y-Chromosome DNA test)  - males only, to show male lineage

Painless Procedure

DNA tests are painless and can be undertaken using saliva swabs or hair samples; blood tests are not necessary.  If other family members who could participate in DNA testing refuse, it may be possible to ask the Court to make an adverse inference (that the DNA test is likely to result in your favour) as a result of that refusal or, in extreme circumstances, it can be arranged for DNA samples to be taken from the remains of the Deceased.

Scientific Advances

A Y-Chromosome test is a much more recent development in the science of DNA testing which can be used as an alternative to the more traditional options listed above if you have male heirs in the family willing to participate in a test to assist your case. It can also be performed in conjunction with one or other of the more traditional tests to support the findings. The Y-Chromosome test doesn’t show direct paternity but it shows with certainty whether two individuals share the same male lineage – which can amount to the same thing if you are sure, for example, that a grandfather or uncle couldn’t be the father.

If family members continue in their refusal to accept the result of the test(s) then an application to the Court can be made for a Declaration of Parentage under section 55A of the Family Law Act 1986 which is binding on all institutions, and thus would bind a Personal Representative of an Estate to distribute inheritance according to the findings of the Court as to your paternity.

The Pringle Baronets of Stichill

In the very interesting case of the Baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill (referral under section 4 of the Judicial Committee Act 1833)[2016] UKPC 16, the Privy Council considered the reliability of a Y-Chromosome DNA test to determine the rightful heir to the Baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill. Although decided in the context of Scottish law the Privy Council made clear throughout the judgment that the outcome would have been no different under English law.

In this case, there were two claimants, Simon Robert Pringle (“Simon”) and Norman Murray Archibald MacGregor Pringle (“Murray).  Each maintained that he was the rightful heir to the Baronetcy.  Following a Y-Chromosome test (which was conducted for unrelated reasons), the results showed that the profile of Simon’s father Steuart (and his brother) did not match that of the profiles for Murray and all of the other male heirs tested in the family.  As such, Murray claimed that Simon was not the rightful heir because Simon’s grandfather Norman (who was enrolled as the ninth baronet) was not the son of the eighth baronet. This meant that the baronetcy had, up to that point, passed down incorrectly to unrelated males since the 8th baronet. Murray claimed that his father was the rightful male heir of the first baronet (the test for enrolment as the current baronet) and, as a result, upon his father’s death it was Murray who was now the male heir of the first baronet.


The diagram below illustrates the male lineage of the Pringle family.

 The Baronets of Pringle of Stichill

The Result

The Court accepted expert evidence presented at trial as to the accuracy of Y-Chromosome testing and ruled that the DNA test showed a “high degree of probability” that Norman H Pringle, was not the son of the eighth baronet.  On 27th June 2016 Sir Ronald Steuart Pringle and his son Sir Norman Murray Pringle were admitted onto the Official Roll of the Baronetage, as the rightful 9th and 10th Baronets of Stichill respectively.

The case confirms that the Court will accept the reliability of Y-Chromosome DNA testing (even in the absence of other forms of DNA testing) to make an order relating to an inheritance.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is “to make quality legal services accessible to everyone” ” including those who seek to prove their entitlement to an inheritance via DNA tests.

Our specialist Estate & Trust Dispute Team are currently assisting several clients in relation to inheritance claims where parentage is being disputed. If you would like more detailed advice on whether a DNA Test and a Declaration of Parentage could help you with your inheritance or would like to take advantage of our FREE CASE REVIEW, call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at


In the recent High Court case of Seery v Leathes Prior (A Firm) Judge Sir David Eadya judge has thrown out a professional negligence claim lodged against a law firm by a former client.

Dan Carter
Dan Carter
Partner & Head of Professional Negligence

On the 24th January 2017, the Judge said "he had ‘no alternative’ but to dismiss the claim, brought by the former client against a full-services firm".

The claim

The former client brought the claim against the firm after a settlement agreement that stemmed from a dispute with two colleagues.

Among the claims made by the Claimant was that the Solicitor with conduct of the matter could have encouraged litigation, which might have led to a more favourable outcome.  However, the judgment said that although the option would have been considered by the firm, it would have been ‘a costly, acrimonious, long-drawn-out fight’, which was exactly what the former client wanted to avoid.

Why the claim failed

The Court said there was no evidence that the former client would have received a better outcome had he been encouraged to sue.

Importantly, the former client also suggested that he had suffered from stress and was unable to take on board the legal advice he was given, in particular, that which he had previously received from his former Solicitors (which pre-dated the defendant firm).

However, the Court said the former client did not tell his Solicitor at the time that he did not understand the advice and that much of the advice was in writing and could have been re-read at any time.

He added that a Solicitor will have fulfilled his duty of care to his client if he gives an explanation in terms the client reasonably appears to him to be able to understand, and to have understood, even if the client later alleges that he did not in fact understand what was said.

Concluding, the Court said that there was nothing to be gained by exploring the case on contributory negligence by the former client, or entering further into the arguments about expert evidence, an exercise which would have been in its view too speculative to have been of much practical use anyway.  The Court added that the former client received a ‘very good service from the firm in the difficult circumstances in which he found himself’.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is  is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" and we strive to ensure that clients have complete understanding of what can in some cases be complicated advice.  A client who does not understand the advice given to them will place themselves at risk in litigation in particular.

If you or anyone you know has received advice on a critical matter that they have not understood or has left them confused, call our specialist professional negligence lawyers today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at

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