John is a litigation solicitor with over 20 years’ experience, particularly in challenges to wills, contested probate and inheritance disputes, commercial partnership and contract disputes, professional negligence, insolvency and debt recovery.
John has a reputation for giving his clients candid and clear advice both on the prospects of success in law and on the commercial realities of the situation. He is experienced in negotiating settlements, both from a position of strength and one of weakness. Wherever possible, he conducts his own advocacy, in both the County and High Courts, and has conducted many trials himself, mainly of fast track contract disputes in the County Court.
John is a member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (‘ACTAPS’).
Listed in The Legal 500 as "a very safe pair of hands".
- Successfully challenging a homemade will made by the deceased leaving her estate to (and drafted by) her occasional gardener six months after another, professionally-prepared one, leaving it to her closest friend.
- Securing the removal of an executor who had moved into the deceased’s house and was failing to administer the estate for the benefit of all its beneficiaries.
- Acting for the daughters of the deceased faced with a claim by their brother under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Defeating the claim by reason of the will being found to have provided reasonably for the brother who had a chronic gambling addiction.
- Acting for the foreign-resident beneficiaries of a UK estate in defending proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 brought by a woman who claimed that her exclusion from his will was unreasonable in that she had been both maintained by the deceased and sexually abused by him as a child. Negotiating a settlement of the claim.
- Advising the widow of a deceased man with regard to her rights under a discretionary trust set up during his lifetime.
- Acting for a private prep school in the recovery of fees from parents who claimed that the fees were not due by reason of their having been waived and failure to provide a bursary. Conducting the trial of the matter personally, obtaining judgment for the school and recovery of 95% of its legal costs.
- Defending a partner in a defunct property development partnership. Successfully proving that the partnership had been loss-making with the result that no sums were due to the ex-partner and obtaining indemnity costs for the whole action.
- Acting for a major mortgage lender seeking judgment for the account shortfalls post-sale and defending allegations of undervalue sales
- Bradshaw v Hardcastle  All ER (D) 219 (Nov)
- Ashkettle v Gwinnett  EWHC 2125
- Dass v Beggs  EWHC 164
Recent articles by John
John Melville-Smith considers the lessons to learn as a home-made will is contested by three charitiesRead now
John Melville-Smith discusses the limits of solicitors' liability regarding a discretionary trust in the case of Joseph v Farrer & CoRead now