Thomas Mansfield Solicitors strengthens presence in Tunbridge Wells with a new office at 65 The High Street

We’re excited to share that we’ve opened a new office at 65 The High Street, right in the heart of Tunbridge Wells.

This latest expansion not only reinforces our physical presence in the heart of the town but also underlines our commitment to serving Tunbridge Wells’ community. The new location complements our already established office on Mount Pleasant Road, ensuring clients have greater accessibility to our specialist services.

65 High Street Tunbridge Wells

We’re known for our expertise in wills and probate, and our compassionate approach and meticulous attention to detail means every client’s wishes are well looked after and protected. With family law matters, which involve deeply personal issues such as divorce, division of assets and arrangements for children, our team of solicitors approaches each case with sensitivity, understanding, and unparalleled professionalism.

“We are thrilled to reinforce our commitment to Tunbridge Wells with our second office, 65 The High Street,” said Neill Thomas, Managing Director at Thomas Mansfield Solicitors. He added, “With this new location, we’re ensuring that more individuals can readily access our specialist services and expert advice. Tunbridge Wells, with its spirited community, deserves nothing less than our best.”

Kate Rayner, Head of Family Law at Thomas Mansfield Solicitors, said “Family matters touch the very heart of our lives and, as a Tunbridge Wells local, I deeply understand the nuances of our community.” Kate added, “We’re here to guide, support, and stand by every individual navigating the often complex terrains of family law. Our doors, both old and new, are always open to those seeking expert counsel with a personal touch.”

Emma Howlett, Head of Wills and Probate at Thomas Mansfield Solicitors, said “Whether it’s planning for your family’s future or dealing with a loved one’s estate, our goal is to provide clarity and comfort during these significant personal tasks. With the opening of our new office on the High Street, we’re bringing our friendly, client-focused service to the heart of the town, ensuring that expert help is right at your doorstep for these essential life matters.”

Team at 65 High Street Tunbridge Wells

Left to right: Neill Thomas, Angie Crush, Kate Rayner, Beth Downes, Rhiannon Eyles, Sarah Wood

We are looking forward to welcoming our clients, contacts and the wider community of Tunbridge Wells to 65 The High Street. A schedule of events is in production, but until then please feel free to drop in, meet the team and take a peek at our new space!

Thomas Mansfield Solicitors announces opening of Guildford office

Thomas Mansfield Solicitors has had an exciting start to 2023 with the launch of a new office in Guildford, in response to increasing demand from clients in the city and wider region. 

Neill Thomas, Managing Partner at Thomas Mansfield, said, “Guildford has been a fantastic base for us over the years and we’re delighted to be cementing our position as an accessible law firm in the heart of our local community. Taking on bigger space here reflects not just our commitment to the area, but also our teams’ growth and our exciting plans for the future.”

Thomas Mansfield also announced the promotion of Dalia Sainsbury to Associate Solicitor in March 2023.

Dalia provides bespoke advice on Wills, trusts, probate and complex estate administration, inheritance tax planning, Deeds of Variation, Powers of Attorney and Court of Protection. With over ten years’ experience in the legal field, Dalia is dual qualified in England & Wales and Mexico (National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City). As a fully bilingual solicitor, Dalia has significant experience in dealing with foreign clients and their cultures, as well as estates involving foreign considerations.

 

Season’s greetings & a year in review

As the end of 2022 approaches, we want to say thank you to our clients, contacts, colleagues, families and friends for their support over the last 12 months.

It has been another exceptionally busy year at Thomas Mansfield Solicitors with expansion unabated on the back of delivering exceptional client care in employment, family, private client and dispute resolution law. To cope with the demand for our services, we are opening a new office in Guildford in January 2023 and have been employing more talented legal professionals across all of our teams, including the following senior hires:

  • Alex Kiernan joined as partner in our employment team, previously a director and shareholder in a niche employment practice.
  • Finian Davern joined as partner and head of our Dispute Resolution team, bringing a wealth of commercial litigation experience.
  • Kate Rayner joined as partner in our family team. Kate previously worked for a UK wide niche family law practice as head of the Tunbridge Wells branch.
  • Louise Minifie was promoted to partner and head of our international family team specializing in divorce for British expats in Australia, Europe, the middle East and North America.
  • Jenna Ide was promoted to partner in the employment team. Jenna specialises in neuro diverse disability discrimination cases.
  • Julie Goodway was promoted to partner in the employment team.

We have consolidated our rankings in the 2023 edition of The Legal 500, a leading independent legal directory, where Thomas Mansfield Solicitors is described as “a well-oiled machine when it comes to client care and service” and “willing to work during unsocial hours and around busy schedules, to ensure matters are dealt with promptly”.

We were recognised as ‘Best Business’ in the regional Times Business Awards.

We passed our 2022 Lexcel assessment with flying colours. Lexcel is the Law Society’s accreditation scheme designed to recognize law firms committed to legal excellence.

Our people participated in three 10k Legal Walks in London, Guildford and Tunbridge Wells in aid of local law centres that provide much needed free legal advice.

Jonathan Mansfield, one of our founding partners retired in July 2022. We wish him all the best in his retirement with his wife and family.

We look forward to the challenges and opportunities 2023 will undoubtedly bring and wish you a very happy New Year.

Neill Thomas 686x1030

Neill Thomas
Managing Director
Thomas Mansfield Solicitors

Funeral plans as part of Will preparation

How does the thought of planning your funeral sound?

While we’re all encouraged to live ‘in the moment’ as much as possible, thinking ahead is important if we want to make things easier for those we leave behind. Powers of attorney, trusts, Wills, and tax planning are all part of that process, without which loved ones face a less straightforward route to dealing with our affairs and, potentially, inheriting less of the value in our estate.

My question to clients is always: if there are steps you could take now to improve things for those you care about, why not?

Making your funeral wishes known is one way of easing the burden on those who would otherwise have to make decisions on your behalf. Family members tend to take charge of arranging funerals, although this responsibility is technically that of the executors of a Will. In many situations, the executors will be family members, so that by itself may not be a problem. What can cause a problem, however, is where clear wishes haven’t been expressed (perhaps there is no Will, or there is nothing else to suggest what the person who has died wanted for their funeral) and there’s a disagreement within the family about what to do. The division could be over something fundamental, like burial or cremation. Or it could come down to the detail of the service, the location, music, eulogies, or format of the day.

There is nothing to say that funerals have to be mapped out in advance and quite often this isn’t possible. However, doing so needn’t be difficult or time-consuming. Some people choose to factor their funeral into writing their Will, and lawyers like me help them focus on the key things as well as the smaller details that could really make a positive difference to the situation in which loved ones will find themselves. Others might decide to record their wishes as an ‘addendum’ (additional document) to their Will, which means the Will they’ve already made doesn’t have to be changed. And some people simply write their wishes on a piece of paper and file it in their desk drawer. The key point is the people who will need to know about those wishes will discover them and, although they’re not legally bound to, will act in accordance with them.

Clients often ask me if they should tell family members about their funeral plans. This is a hugely personal decision and one for people to take individually. It can be reassuring from both perspectives – there is comfort in knowing that wishes have been made clear and are accepted. However, there is always a risk that certain wishes may spark strong feelings and even conflict within families. You could find yourself under pressure to change your mind about some of the wishes you have expressed, which may or may not be a positive development.

Having a good understanding of the likely responses and reactions will help you decide how best to handle conversations with loved ones. It is something I help clients navigate as part of their future planning, because while this sort of preparation is ostensibly about the person who puts the plans in place, the real impact will be felt down the line. It is the reason people are quite rightly keen to make the best decisions at the right time.

For advice about funeral arrangements, Wills, or any future planning, contact Dalia Sainsbury or a member of the Private Client team on 0808 256 2917.

When Wills are changed

The Express newspaper recently highlighted the turmoil that can ensue when families are locked in a row over inheritance (see article).

The story centred around the entitlement of ‘Lord’ Brett McLean to the £300,000 home left to him by his mother, Maureen. Reports say that in 2017, Maureen and her husband Reginald (who had three children by his previous wife, before Brett was born to him and Maureen) made Mirror Wills, specifying that all four children would share the house and the rest of their joint estate equally after the parents had passed away. When Reginald died, everything transferred to Maureen, but shortly before her death, Maureen changed her Will, cutting out her stepchildren and leaving everything to her only biological son, Brett.

The judge found that Maureen had been entitled to do this. She may have been morally bound not to change her Will, but she wasn’t legally bound not to.

The case demonstrates one of the potential problems with Mirror Wills: there may be nothing to stop a surviving partner from diverting inheritance away from certain family members when their partner is no longer around to have their say.

But what are Mirror Wills? And why are they used?

As the name suggest, these are two Wills that reflect each other. Their terms are virtually the same, and so they’re most often used by couples that have the same wishes when it comes to who should inherit their assets. They’re relatively simple to put in place and one of their major benefits is that they can help reduce the amount of inheritance tax that may ultimately be payable. Assets can be transferred tax-free between married couples and between civil partners. The surviving partner will also inherit their partner’s inheritance tax allowance, and when the surviving partner dies, their allowance can be added on. This could give the couple’s children (the next in line to benefit) their parents’ combined tax allowance.

Mirror Wills can be extremely beneficial, but they carry one significant risk: the relative ease with which they may be changed, either during both partners’ lifetime, or after one has passed away. If the surviving partner goes on to form a new relationship, he or she may decide to make their new partner the beneficiary to assets originally intended for children of the first relationship; or they may decide to change their Will to disinherit other family members – stepchildren, for example.

People don’t enter into Mirror Wills thinking this might happen. The couples we advise believe wholeheartedly that they’re on the same page, that things won’t change and the wishes they’ve agreed on will be carried through. For families dealing with the aftermath of a situation that has panned out differently, things can get incredibly complicated and sometimes relationships become damaged beyond repair.

One way of potentially avoiding this problem is by creating Mutual Wills. These are also virtually identical to each other but they’re a lot more difficult to alter. The parties agree not to change the Will without the other’s consent. And when one of them dies, the Will can’t be changed at all – even if the surviving partner goes on to remarry.

Understanding your options, and putting the right measures in place, are key to having peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to ensure your wishes are carried through. Complete certainty may be elusive when it comes to Wills, but there are certainly ways of getting as close to that as possible.

For advice about making a Will, updating a Will, or any other aspect of future planning, contact Dalia Sainsbury or a member of the Private Client team on 0808 256 2917.

Thomas Mansfield Solicitors announces three new partners in latest promotions round

Partner Promotions

Thomas Mansfield Solicitors has announced three new partner promotions at the firm. The promotions have been made in the Employment and Family Law teams and reflect the firm’s continuing growth and success.

Jenna Ide originally joined the firm in 2012 and has been promoted to Partner in the Employment Law team. Jenna is a recognised authority in disability discrimination law, advising clients on work-related matters involving various disabilities.  Jenna has a particular specialism in advising on matters involving neurodiverse conditions, such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia.  Jenna is also an expert on the legal issues regarding mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Julie Goodway originally joined Thomas Mansfield in 2014. Julie has many years of experience advising both employees and employers and is a skilled negotiator.  She is praised by her clients for her pragmatic approach, explaining matters clearly, getting to the nub of an issue quickly and for making tricky problems disappear.  Julie advocates in Employment Tribunals and has an excellent success rate.

Louise Minifie joined the firm in 2019 and is a key member of the Thomas Mansfield’s Family Law practice. Based in London she practises all areas of family law, including divorce and separation, financial settlements and co-habitation. Much of Louise’s work has an international aspect and she regularly advises clients living abroad, with overseas assets or where the case involves the cross-border movement of children. Louise’s promotion to Partner also sees her step into a new role as Head of International Family Law at Thomas Mansfield.

Commenting on the appointments Thomas Mansfield’s Managing Partner, Neill Thomas, said:

“It is extremely satisfying to be able to recognise and reward the contribution and dedication of our people. Jenna, Julie and Louise have been integral to the firm’s success and these promotions are a direct result of their hard work, commitment and achievements. They also reflect Thomas Mansfield’s commitment to supporting our people to progress their careers and developing our capability to assist clients with the most crucial and complex of issues.”

Why family businesses should be more royal

The Firm. Monarchy Plc. The Royal Family’s monikers leave little doubt that underpinning the institution are well-oiled business practices.

This has become increasingly evident in recent years, as plans for succession to the throne have been implemented. The Queen has withdrawn from royal duties; younger royals have stepped up. It means the ‘business’ should transition smoothly through the generations.

But not all family businesses address the future with quite as much care. For some, it’s all about the here and now and ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’. Many of our clients are involved in family businesses, but prioritise arranging their personal affairs: their Will, Lasting Powers of Attorney, trusts. While that’s a great start, it’s really important to think about the business side of life too, and to ensure all of your future planning fits together.

What does business succession planning mean?
It’s about how you’ll keep the business going, once key people step back, retire or pass away. Who will take over their role(s)? How will the right skills and knowledge be retained in the business? Who will rise through the ranks to become your next leaders?

These are questions that all businesses should have in mind and should be addressing long before the plans need to come to fruition.

What does succession planning look like in family businesses?
A family business has all the usual attributes of a business. Future planning should therefore involve an analysis of what the business will need in the months and years to come, and a plan to achieve those things. However, a family business has additional characteristics – some beneficial, but some potentially more problematic. It means succession planning in this context is likely to involve considerations that may not be in play in other businesses.

One incontrovertible factor is: relationships. Families are bound together in different ways to those who are simply in business together. Business partners can walk away. Families remain tied together, and they’re usually heavily invested in the company they’ve started or taken over from previous generations. The stakes may be higher in family businesses – the entire family may depend on it financially; families can be damaged when things go wrong. And the idea that the business is wholly owned and controlled by the family, with wealth generation, family reputation and legacy entirely in their hands, can mean there is even greater pressure on some family businesses to ensure they will continue for years to come.

Where to start with succession planning
Every business is different and so the baseline for planning will not be the same for all; some companies will have some level of exit planning mapped out (or at least contemplated), while others won’t have anything in place. But some of the things that will need to be discussed during the succession planning process are:

  • What is the vision for the business’s future?
  • What do the company documents say about succession?
  • What are the relevant tax considerations?
  • Timescales. When are key people looking to step back or to retire completely?
  • What will the terms of those exits be (eg what will leavers be due from/looking to take out of the business)?
  • How can exits be managed so that the business withstands the financial and practical consequences?
  • Who will take the place of those leaving? Do they have the right skills and experience, or will they need to be trained up?
  • Are the earmarked successors in it for the long haul? What terms would they want, and how should those be negotiated, agreed and formalised?
  • What additional gaps may exist and how could they be filled?
  • When should the process of handing over roles begin, and what should it involve?

In practice, the scope of succession planning is usually far wider, bringing in many more elements and drilling deeply into the types of issues I’ve highlighted. And getting this right – formalising a succession plan that will stand your business and your family in good stead for the future – takes time and expertise. That is as true in respect of a family-run business as it is in any other, even where the business has historically operated on the basis of trust and informality. In fact, I would argue that those businesses are potentially in more urgent need of proper planning, as the expectations of those running them, and those looking to take over, may be at odds.

First steps
Raising with your business partners the subject of succession planning is the obvious starting point. Next, get in touch with a lawyer who can help you work through the planning process. Make sure to give them all the information, including company documents. And do bear in mind that it’s so important to bring your personal planning in line with your business planning to protect your own position, as well as your company’s.

For advice about business succession planning or personal planning, contact Emma Howlett or a member of the Private Client team on 0808 256 2917.

Thomas Mansfield takes to the streets in support of the London Legal Support Trust

 

Guildford London & TW Legal Walks 2022

Staff at Thomas Mansfield Solicitors are participating in not one, but three 10km Legal Walks in May and June, in support of The London Legal Support Trust, an independent charity that raises funds for free legal services in London & the South East.

The Legal Walks are just one of several fundraising events organised by the London Legal Support Trust and carried out around the country annually. The walks help to increase awareness of the challenges that some of the most vulnerable people are facing as they struggle to get access to justice and raise money for not-for-profit agencies that help these people by offering free specialist legal advice.

Thomas Mansfield recognised as “best business” at the Times Business Awards

Thomas Mansfield Winner Photo

Thomas Mansfield Solicitors has been announced as the winner of the best business 26+ employees category at the Times of Tunbridge Wells Awards 2022.

Neill Thomas, Emma Howlett and Anthony Kiernan represented the firm with a submission showcasing the range of initiatives which have contributed to the firm’s consistent growth and strong financial performance. Thomas Mansfield was also shortlisted as a finalist in the “resilient business” category in recognition of the firm’s response to the challenges presented by the pandemic and Brexit.

The winners were announced at an awards ceremony at Salomons Estate on 24 March 2022. The Times of Tunbridge Wells Awards seek to celebrate the success of businesses across the region and the evening was attended by over 200 people from over 100 businesses.

Neill Thomas, Managing Director at Thomas Mansfield Solicitors, said “we have expanded rapidly since 2017, adding three new service lines (family, private client and dispute resolution) to the firm’s original employment law practice. We believe that at the core of our success is our people and our clients. We are exceptionally proud of who we are and ensuring the culture of the firm stays true to its roots – a friendly, flexible and productive firm is very important to us”.

He continued “we have worked hard to differentiate ourselves from the competition and our key focus is and always has been providing excellent client care and the very best outcomes for our client. Our clients tell us our accessibility and responsiveness are major factors in selecting a lawyer, so we established new client onboarding procedures and a new team to enable our lawyers to focus on providing on the needs of our clients, without getting pulled into administrative and routine tasks”.

For more information about the awards, visit the Times of Tunbridge Wells Awards website.

Season’s greetings & a year in review

As the end of 2021 approaches, we want to say thank you to our clients, contacts, colleagues, families and friends for their support over the last 12 months.

It’s been another challenging year as the pandemic continues to run its course, but we want to share some of the positive news and exciting innovations which have been taking place at Thomas Mansfield Solicitors.

It has certainly been a story of growth for all our teams, with the number of people at Thomas Mansfield increasing by more than 60% to meet client demand. What has been particularly pleasing is the huge amount of positive feedback we have received about our client care. This is only made possible with our talented lawyers and dedicated support staff, who strive to achieve the best possible outcomes for clients and provide the best possible service.

2021 has also seen the firm launch a new dispute resolution service. Headed by new partner Paula Kumar, who has brought a wealth of expertise to the firm, the Dispute Resolution team advises on general commercial disputes across a wide range of industries, and is experienced in all forms of dispute resolution including litigation, arbitration and mediation. Our work covers a wide range of areas, including shareholder disputes, breach of contract claims and High Court injunctions.

Under the leadership of Susi Gillespie our Family team expanded significantly across London, Surrey and Kent and broke into The Legal 500, a leading legal directory which analyses and ranks law firms across the UK on the quality of their expertise, client service and standing in the market. Building on the success of our French office, opened in 2019 to support British expats struggling with the France’s complex divorce laws, we have grown our international family law services and now offer both family and private client services in countries with large expat communities across the world.

Our Private Client team, headed by Emma Howlett, is now six people strong and has launched a fixed price ‘Simple’ range of services, which includes Wills, LPAs and Probate. Increasingly, our clients have an international connections of some sort and we regularly advise on cross-border probate matters and Wills and estate planning with an international dimension.

The employment law webinar programme we developed in March 2020 has gone from strength to strength under the direction of the joint heads of the Employment team, Angie Crush and Meredith Hurst. HR managers and directors of national and multinational companies are regularly tuning in to be updated on the latest developments and we are currently working on our new webinar schedule for 2022.

Re-opening our London office at new premises on 1 November has been a highlight of 2021. Our office in the Grade 2 listed building of Token House, next to the Bank of England in the heart of the City has been instrumental in bringing the teams together to benefit from shared learning and collaboration.

We have also welcomed the arrival of two new senior managers – Claire Wood as Marketing and Business Development Manager and Bradley Shortall as Finance Manager, both bringing a huge amount of experience and stability and becoming the bedrock of the firm’s future plans.

We look forward to the challenges and opportunities 2022 will undoubtedly bring and wish you a very happy New Year.

Neill Thomas 686x1030

Neill Thomas
Managing Director
Thomas Mansfield Solicitors

Thomas Mansfield Solicitors welcomes new lawyer to its private client team

Specialist law firm Thomas Mansfield Solicitors has welcomed a new lawyer with a background in education to its rapidly expanding private client team.

Vicky Mansell joins the private client team as a senior associate. Before starting her legal career, she worked as a qualified special needs teacher, accruing a wealth of experience in protecting the rights and promoting independence for vulnerable people, including children, the elderly and those with mental and physical disabilities.

Vicky is a specialist in wills, probate, special educational needs and disability law and a passionate advocate for those with learning, mental and physical issues resulting from brain injury, including brain tumours. She is an accredited mediator by the College of Mediators in Civil and Commercial Mediation and is a registered SEND Mediator.

Neill Thomas, Managing Partner at Thomas Mansfield Solicitors said:

I am pleased to welcome Vicky to our fast-growing team. It is important for our firm to recruit lawyers with diverse skills and backgrounds. Vicky’s knowledge of the education sector will further enhance the wealth of experience and specialist knowledge that we can use to provide all our clients and contacts with the very best advice and service.”