Joe is an experienced litigation lawyer in WBD's Private Capital team, specialising in the resolution of complex disputes about trusts and inheritances. He has wide experience of negotiation, mediation and litigation, having conducted cases in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Court of Protection. He advises private individuals, families, trustees and charities on the full spectrum of disputes which arise in relation to high value and complex trusts and estates. These include Will validity disputes, applications under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, the contested removal of personal representatives and trustees, disputes involving alleged breaches of trust and litigation involving claims under the doctrine of proprietary estoppel. His cases also include professional negligence claims in relation to the preparation of Wills and tax planning advice. Joe also has experience in the Court of Protection in disputes on the Property & Financial Affairs pathway.

Joe is one of the very few full members of Association of Contested Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) based in the North of England. He is also a member of the Contentious Trusts Association (ConTrA) and an Affiliate member of The Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners (STEP). He is also an accredited mediator.


Examples of experience include:

  • Acting for a national charity in the defence of a litigated claim that the deceased lacked the testamentary capacity to execute two separate Wills, both of which left significant farming assets with development potential to the charity. The claim also alleged that the deceased's Wills were procured using fraudulent calumny by one of the other defendant beneficiaries
  • Representing infant children of the deceased (via a litigation friend) in an application for financial provision based on them only being provided with discretionary interest in a trust created by their late father's Will
  • Advising a HNWI in a successful claim that his mother and step-father had executed mutual Wills which effectively precluded the survivor from executing a new Will following the first death
  • Acting for the executor of an estate in a successful Part 8 application to the High Court for an order permitting the executor to distribute the estate following the intimation of a claim against the validity of the deceased's final Will, which was then not advanced by the prospective claimant
  • Advising the remaindermen beneficiaries of a substantial Will trust in a breach of trust claim against the trustees based on allegations of mismanaged property and equity investments
  • Acting in a professional liability claim from a family against their accountants and financial advisers, which involved allegations of negligent tax advice on the consequences of establishing an Employee Benefit Trust
  • Representing a proposed independent deputy in a dispute in the Court of Protection regarding the validity of a Lasting Power of Attorney.

"Joe Kelley is calm, measured and unflappable." 


Chambers and Partners 2022

"Joe Kelley is both very thoughtful and responsive. He is great with clients but also has great tactical nous". 


Legal 500 UK 2022

"Joe Kelley is extremely bright and switched on, legally very knowledgeable, immensely impressive grasp of detail and ability to think through every possible implication at every stage of the case. A client could not be in safer hands. Very approachable and will often answer communications outside standard business hours."  

Legal 500 UK 2022

"Joe Kelley is hardworking, practical and calm".


Legal 500 UK 2022

"A very shrewd litigator".

Chambers and Partners 2021