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Stuart
Accolades
Chambers and PartnersLegal 500
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Leeds 0113 228 5000
Newcastle 0191 221 2121
clerks@parklaneplowden.co.uk

Stuart Roberts

Called 1994

Stuart has a strong practice comprising chancery, probate, commercial and employment work.  He has a calm, impressive Court presence and is a skilled cross-examiner.  He is also very good with solicitors and lay clients, who appreciate his robust but practical approach and no-nonsense advice.  He has been recommended in both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 for many years as one of the top practitioners in his field in the region.

His caseload includes disputed wills and Inheritance Act cases (an area where he has a particular interest); proprietary estoppel; trusts of land/TOLATA; property claims; Court of Protection financial disputes, including statutory wills; partnership disputes; unfair prejudice claims; directors disqualification; guarantee claims; professional negligence (especially solicitors); insurance; restrictive covenants; and general chancery and commercial work.

Stuart deals with employment matters of all types in the ET; and with his broad civil expertise, he is perfectly placed to handle the full array of Court cases with an employment aspect, including: wrongful dismissal of senior employees; contract claims brought in Court for notice and bonus payments; claims involving directors including breach of service agreements and breach of fiduciary duty; and claims and injunctions relating to restrictive covenants, garden leave, confidential information, breach of contract and springboard injunctions.  He is regularly instructed to act on injunction applications at very short notice.

 

"Exceptional with clients. He delivers no-nonsense advice and never fails to get results."

Chambers & Partners 2018
Areas of Expertise
Business and Commercial
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Stuart has a strong practice comprising chancery, probate and commercial work. 

His caseload includes disputed wills, which covers disputes as to formal validity, (ie compliance with the Wills Act 1837); undue influence; lack of capacity; want of knowledge and approval; and forgery.  He also deals with the construction of wills; disputes about the administration of estates; and applications to remove or replace executors.  His probate practice also covers numerous Inheritance Act cases; and Court of protection financial disputes, including statutory wills. 

His general chancery and commercial work covers proprietary estoppel; trusts of land/TOLATA; property claims; easements and restrictive covenants; partnership disputes; unfair prejudice claims; directors disqualification; business sales agreements; asset finance; guarantee claims; professional negligence (especially solicitors); and insurance (life and general).  He also deals with commercial fraud of all types.

Court of Protection
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Stuart deals with Property and Affairs matters in the Court of Protection, where he has been instructed in claims brought against attorneys and Deputies for breach of duty/misappropriation of funds; disputes over the appointment and replacement of Deputies; the ratification/approval of gifts; and cases about the making of statutory wills and their terms.  He has particular knowledge of cases involving statutory wills, an area with very few reported cases.  His expertise in all matters relating to probate disputes and general civil litigation, as well as breach of trust and fraud, means that he is ideally placed to deal with cases involving disputes about property and affairs in the Court of Protection.

Reported Cases:

NT v FS & Others, [2013] EWHC 684 (COP Leeds, HHJ Behrens) – This is the main case quoted in the Court of Protection Practice in relation to statutory wills.  It was a bitterly fought dispute about a statutory will for P, a businessman worth in excess £3 million, but lacking capacity.  Stuart successfully acted for siblings of P, who argued for a greater legacy for themselves than was proposed by the Official Solicitor, by P’s son and P’s partner.  A favourable judgment was obtained after a 3 day trial.  P had lived a double life, co-habiting with his partner for over 25 years, and contributing little beyond the cost of the Sky TV subscription.  However, he was in fact wealthy.  He owned his own large home (unbeknown to his partner) and also owned a number of other properties.

Recent Cases:

January 2018  COP Leeds  -  Defending claims against Husband and Wife, who had been appointed LPA’s for the Wife’s mother-in-law P, and Wife had been left P’s estate in her will.  Allegations were made against them by P’s sons of systematic and substantial misappropriation of P’s funds.  The sons also complained about events following the sale of P’s home (which was in her sole name).  Her new house was put into the joint names of the Defendants – arguably a gift by them, which they had no authority to make.   The sons wished to have the attorneys removed and have themselves appointed as Deputies; to have authority to bring proceedings against the husband and wife; and for P to make a statutory will in their favour, as they argued that P lacked capacity when she made her will. Case was settled with a satisfactory outcome at the FDR.

Employment
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Stuart started working on ET cases via the Free Representation Unit before he was called to the Bar, and has over 25 years’ experience dealing with employment matters of all types, both in the ET and in Court.  He deals with the full array of cases, including unfair dismissal; all forms of discrimination; deductions from wages; whistle-blowing; contract claims brought in Court for notice and bonus payments; claims involving directors including breach of service agreements and breach of fiduciary duty; and claims and injunctions relating to restrictive covenants, confidential information, breach of contract and springboard injunctions.

Stuart has delivered talks and seminars on a variety of employment topics including restrictive covenants and injunctions; unfair dismissal; whistle-blowing; protected conversations; and employment cases updates; and he has acted as both Counsel and Judge in mock tribunals.

Family: Property & Finance
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Stuart has a large caseload of Inheritance Act claims, acting for both Claimants and Defendants, and many of which involve the spouse, ex-spouse, partner and/or children of the Deceased.  These are often high value claims and require specialist attention which Stuart can provide: claims with a foreign element (such as property abroad, or Claimants who are based abroad); disputes as to whether the Deceased was domiciled in the UK; and claims involving complex property, shareholdings, partnerships, farming businesses and the like, which may require expert valuation evidence.

He also has particular experience (on both sides) in dealing with claims brought out of time, both at first instance and on appeal.

Insurance
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Stuart deals with disputed insurance claims, covering both life and general insurance.  He has dealt with numerous such claims including:

  • Initially, a claim on life insurance by a wife, whose husband died on a visit to family in Yemen.  Disputed by insurers who were not satisfied that H had in fact died.  Solicitors were instructed but failed to issue on time, so eventual claim was against solicitors in negligence.  They raised the same defence as the insurers, so claim depended on the loss the chance of litigation against the insurers being successful.  Settled close to trial.
  • Claim for life insurance by husband after suicide of his wife.  Insurers disputed claim, alleging incomplete disclosure of W’s previous medical history.  Settled before issue.
  • Defending ongoing claim (to be tried in August 2018) for over £270,000 damages for a helicopter on hire, written off in a crash.  Defendant was told that there was insurance for all pilots hiring the helicopter, but in fact the policy only cover loss sustained whilst on the ground.  D, who was flying the helicopter when it crashed, relies on representations about the inclusion of insurance; a warranty by implication that it would be insured in flight; and estoppel based on those facts.
  • Acting for Claimant in claim for damage caused by subsidence at his home.  Disputed by insurers who alleged that the problem was pre-existing and/or caused by faulty building work.  Settled after issue.
  • Acting for Claimant in relation to fire damage at her property.  Initially declined by insurers on basis that claim may be fraudulent/ fire may have been started by Claimant.  Settled after issue.
Probate, Inheritance & Trusts
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Stuart deals with the full spread of Probate, Inheritance and Trust work. 

He has particular expertise with disputed wills, and has dealt with the following disputes:

  • Lack of capacity - many cases involving elderly clients suffering from dementia or Alzheimers, but also:

     

    • alleged lack of capacity due to recent bereavement - Wood v Greatrex [2012] ChD Cardiff.  The elderly testatrix made a new will in favour of a lay preacher, even though this was very shortly after the unexpected death of her only son, and after she had had to move out of her own home into a care home.

    • alleged lack of capacity due of painkillers and other drugs administered to terminally ill Deceased prior to his death - see White v Phillips [2017] EWHC 386.

    • lack of capacity due to alleged delusions and schizophrenia.

       

  • Lack of knowledge and approval, including:

    • claim where the Deceased was not seen by her Solicitors but gave instructions to vary her Will via the main beneficiary.  He was then given the amended Will by the Solicitors and took it to the Deceased for her to execute.  Execution took place, with the main beneficiary present, on the day before the Deceased died.  Lack of knowledge and approval was raised based on the suspicious circumstances.

       

  • Lack of formal validity – including

    • Hall v Hall [2013] ChD Leeds HHJ Langan QC. Case where the only witness to a Codicil who came to give evidence at Court, stated in cross-examination (and contrary to her witness statement) that she had not been present when the codicil was signed but had been in another room. Other issues including undue influence and lack of knowledge and approval therefore fell away. Case was abandoned by Claimant.

       

  • Lack of testamentary intention – for example:

    • In the above case, the ‘Codicil’ was written by the Deceased on a piece of paper and purported to give one of her six children the right to remain in the family home for life. The family home constituted almost the entirety of the estate. Dispute (inter alia) about whether the Deceased had the necessary testamentary intention to make the home-made Codicil.

       

  • Fraud and/or forgery – for example:

    • Pratt v Kingsley [2016] ChD London. Successfully acted for beneficiary under a Will, which did not come to light for five years after the Deceased’s death, and was challenged as being forged.  Challenge was brought by a struck-off solicitor, who had drafted another will for the Deceased close to his death, which left the estate for his benefit.  Case featured disputed handwriting evidence, on whether the signature on either will was genuine.

       

  • Undue Influence – including:

    • Wood v Greatrex (above), where the Lay Preacher used his influence over the Deceased as a firm churchgoer to persuade her to change her will so that it benefitted him, his family and church charities in which he was involved.

       

  • Fraudulent Calumny – rarely arising but it does crop up. For example:

    • Claim brought by only daughter of the Deceased, challenging her will which left entire, large estate to daughter’s ex-husband. The ex-husband had been close to the Deceased, who sided with him over the divorce. However, he had poisoned her mind over a period of time against the daughter, by telling her lies relating to their relationship and their finances. These lies came to light in the Deceased’s diary, where she recorded various matters she had been told by the ex-husband, but which were false. Claim settled prior to trial.

 

Stuart also deals with the full array of matters relating to wills, trusts and estates, and their administration, and in particular:

  • issuing arising as to the construction or effect wills and trusts
  • removal of personal representatives and trustees
  • Part 64 applications for PRs and trustees
  • the rectification of wills
  • claims brought against estates by creditors
  • claims against PRs and trustees
  • claims for the taking of accounts

In addition, Stuart deals with Court of Protection finance and property applications – in particular, applications for statutory wills, and the validation of gifts. He also deals with claims brought against Deputies, and attorneys under LPAs and EPAS, relating to their conduct, and especially regarding challenges gifts and the like. He also deals with applications to remove attorneys and to appoint and remove Deputies.

 

Inheritance Act Claims

Stuart has a large caseload of Inheritance Act claims, acting for both Claimants and Defendants, and many of which involve the spouse, ex-spouse, partner and/or children of the Deceased. These are often high value claims and require specialist attention which Stuart can provide:

  • claims with a foreign element (such as property abroad, or Claimants who are based abroad)

  • disputes as to whether the Deceased was domiciled in the UK;

  • claims involving complex property, shareholdings, partnerships, farming businesses and the like, which may require expert valuation evidence;

  • claims brought out of time, both at first instance and on appeal;

  • disputes as to whether the Claimant was being maintained by the Deceased;

  • disputes as to whether the Claimant was living together as husband and wife with the Deceased for two years prior to the death;

  • other claims where eligibility to bring a claim within the terms of the Act is in dispute – eg whether a step-child was treated as a child of the family;

  • disputes about whether the Claimant was in fact for example a child of the Deceased (ie where DNA evidence may be required).

Stuart deals with a large number of claims under the Act. Although most claims end up with a settlement, some still proceed to trial, and Stuart has broad experience of trials in such matters, and dealing with:

  • expert forensic evidence – regarding high value and complicated estates – especially with farming or commercial aspects etc;

  • use of the Ogden tables and Duxbury tables – particularly when dealing with claims brought by the spouse of the Deceased;

  • exaggerated or dubious evidence put forward to support a claim, which requires detailed scrutiny and cross-examination;

  • late changes of circumstance – as the claim is determined based on the financial position as at the date of trial.

Professional Negligence
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Stuart deals with professional liability claims against solicitors, surveyors, architects and other professionals.  He has particular expertise in dealing with claims against solicitors and other legal or quasi-legal representatives in the areas in which he practices, including:

  • Failing to issue claim in time against insurers who refused to pay out on life policy;
  • Claim against union for failing to prepare and issue ET claim in time against employers following dismissal of long-standing employee;
  • Claim against will-writing company for failing to give proper advice to testatrix that the making of mirror wills did not prevent her husband changing his will after her death, with the result of that not a penny of her estate went to her children;
  • Claim against solicitors for failing to advise H and W testators that the gift in their wills of the residue on the second death in equal shares to their ‘grandchildren’ would exclude the step-grandchildren of the second to die, whom they meant to benefit equally;
  • Claim against English-based solicitors specialising in Italian property deals, for failing to advise house-buyers that they were not buying the freehold, but something akin to a long licence, and that the freeholder could in theory terminate their interest on reasonable notice;
  • Claim against conveyancing solicitors for failing to ensure that client, who was buying land with planning permission, who have the necessary wayleaves to allow for utilities and services to be laid so as to reach the building land.
Property
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Recommendations
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Legal 500 – Recommended at Tier 1 for chancery and commercial work every year since 2011;

Legal 500 2018/2019
"Smooth, charming and good on his feet."

Legal 500 2017
"A very good advocate with sound client-care skills."

Chambers & Partners - Recommended at Tier 2 for chancery work every year since 2011

Chambers & Partners 2019

"He always pleases clients in terms of his approach. He is very client-friendly and his advocacy is very accomplished. He's got a good manner, he's not shy to take the difficult points and he will relish the challenge, which is quite refreshing really."

Chambers & Partners 2018
“Very thorough and concise in his written work as well as very persuasive on his feet.”
“Exceptional with clients. He delivers no-nonsense advice and never fails to get results.”

Chambers & Partners 2015
"He is just absolutely brilliant with clients. He is very charming and understands how to deal with clients in different emotional
situations."
"He is very experienced, practical and good on his feet."

Chambers & Partners 2014
"He has a relaxed approach and builds an excellent rapport with clients. You get a real sense that he enjoys what he does, so
the clients warm to him and he will sit down with the client to get a real understanding of the case without watching
the clock."
"He is very good under pressure, really client-friendly and a very good advocate.”

 

Notable Cases
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Recent and ongoing cases 

Brewis v Brewis & Lee Leeds 2018

Successfully defended a five day trial in Leeds High Court in high value property case.  Judgment given November 2018.  Bitter family dispute about the validity (or otherwise) of an agreement to sell part of a large estate – which raised issues of an agreement ‘subject to contract’, intent to create legal relations, compliance with the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989; transfers held in escrow; and proprietary estoppel.  

Successfully defended (trial in August 2018) claim for over £270,000 damages for a helicopter on hire, written off in a crash.  Issues arising include the negligence of the pilot and causation of the accident; construction of the online terms and conditions; incorporation of such terms; representations about the inclusion of insurance; and a warranty that the machine would be insured in flight (which it was not).  Claimant withdrew on day of trial after detailed and devastating cross-examination of Claimant's witnesses, after which it was clear that the Company had failed to put proper insurance in place, and both it and the main director were at risk of serously adverse findings, which could lead in turn to criminal proceedings.

Ongoing - defending an ongoing claim for breach of warranty and related personal guarantees in a business sale agreement, valued at £450,000.  Claims follows an initial (successful) application to set aside judgment for £170,000.

Ongoing - representing a claimant, living on state pension and benefits, seeking an award from the estate of her partner of 30 years who died leaving left his entire estate (worth just under £1m ) to his daughter.  Preliminary issues include whether the Deceased was maintaining the Claimant; and whether they lived together for at least 2 years prior to death in the same household as husband and wife (they each had their own properties, but always stayed together overnight). 

2018 Defended a claim by a former director and shareholder of Defendant company – including claims for unfair and wrongful dismissal, breach of contract, unfair prejudice as a minority shareholder.  Claimant sought damages of over £1m.  Settled favourably at mediation. 

White v Philips [2017] EWHC 386 (Ch)

Successful defence of a challenge to a Will on a number of grounds including undue influence, lack of capacity and lack of knowledge and approval – inter alia on the basis that the Deceased was rendered incapable by the drugs he was prescribed for his terminal cancers.  Expert evidence called on both sides – the expert for the other party ended up conceding at the end of cross-examination that the Deceased probably did have capacity at the time the will was made. 

Pratt v Kingsley 2016 ChD London

Successfully acted for beneficiary under a Will, which did not come to light for five years after the Deceased’s death, and was challenged as being forged.  Challenge was brought by a struck-off solicitor, who had drafted another will for the Deceased close to his death, which left his estate to a Limited Company, of which the same solicitor was the main shareholder.  Case featured disputed handwriting evidence, on whether the signature on either will was genuine. 

RBS v Billany 2015 London

Acting for Defendants in successful defence of claims for £7.7m on guarantees, following a 15 year invoice discounting fraud.  Summary judgment dismissed, and claim later settled favourably at mediation. 

2015 defending a claim for £7.5m plus, brought by 2 high net worth individuals against the MD and main shareholder in a network of investment funds based in the Isle of Man.  Claimants alleged misrepresentation, fraud and systematic misappropriation of funds.  Case settled favourably at mediation shortly before trial.

Coope v Ward

Successfully representing Defendants at trial in claim relating to the collapse of a large retaining wall. Case turned on the application of the 'measured duty of care' between neighbours, regarding the use of their land.  Ruling on costs was successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Easylocums v Akhtar & Others, Leeds High Court 2014.

Defending a complicated, high value claim alleging breaches of a business sale agreement, of a disputed warranty, of restrictive covenants, and of an alleged agreement to repurchase the business; and claims of misuse of confidential information, passing off, and misappropriation of company funds. After a 10 day trial, before HHJ Raeside QC, the claims were dismissed in full. 

NT v FS & Others, [2013] EWHC 684 (COP) HHJ Behrens

Court of Protection dispute about a statutory will for a businessman worth a total of £3m, but lacking capacity.  Now quoted as the primary case on statutory wills in the Court of Protection Practice 

R (on the application of Golding) -v- HMRC and Milton [2012] EWHC 222 (Admin) HHJ Behrens

Successful defence of application for a third party costs order against a non-party.

Scholarships/Awards
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Entrance Exhibition, Balliol College, Oxford, 1984

Campbell Foster Prize, Middle Temple 1993

Lectures
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Stuart has given seminars on a range of topics including:

  • Will disputes;
  • Inheritance Act claims;
  • Undue influence;
  • Proprietary estoppel;
  • Solicitors negligence;

Restrictive covenants and springboard injunctions.

Personal Details
Education

Balliol College, Oxford Modern History BA 2:1

Professional Associations

Chancery Bar Association

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