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Constance McDonnell

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Constance McDonnell

Areas of Expertise

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Year of Call: 2000 cmcdonnell@serlecourt.co.uk

Overview

Constance has a traditional Chancery practice specialising in contentious probate, trust disputes, 1975 Act claims, administration of estates, and removal of personal representatives. She has appeared recently in several highly publicised High Court cases, including Schrader v Schrader (a successful probate claim based on undue influence), VIVA! Campaigns Ltd & The Vegetarian Society v Scott (a successful probate claim by charities concerning a schitzophrenic testator), Sheffield v Sheffield (in which she defended a professional trustee against allegations of breach of trust) and Re Smith (concerning capacity to make a lifetime gift).

Her practice also includes constructive trusts and proprietary estoppel, Court of Protection (property and affairs), and professional negligence.

Constance was nominated as Chancery Junior of the Year in the 2013 Chambers Bar Awards and as Contentious Barrister of the Year in the 2013 ACTAPS Awards.

Areas of Expertise and Cases




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Trusts and Probate

RBC Trustees (CI) Limited v Stubbs [2017] EWHC 180 (Ch): Constance acted for the Settlor in an application by trustees for rectification or rescission of a deed of revocation and new appointment.

Gestrust SA v Sixteen Defendants [2016] EWHC 3067 (Ch): Constance acted for the Trustee in an application for directions as to how to direct companies which were ultimately wholly owned by the trust in relation to proceedings brought against those companies by a third party associated with several of the beneficiaries.  The Court considered whether the companies should be treated as trust assets, and the extent of the Trustee’s Bartlett duties.

Re Smith, Kicks v Leigh [2015] 4 All ER 329: Constance acted for the successful claimants in proceedings to set aside a lifetime gift which had been procured by the donor’s daughter’s presumed undue influence.  The case was reported because of the deputy Judge’s decision as to the applicable test for mental capacity to make the gift.

Bray v Pearce, 6 March 2014: Constance acted for the successful Claimant in proceedings to set aside the last three wills made by an elderly testatrix who lacked testamentary capacity due to paranoid delusions.

VIVA! Campaigns Ltd & The Vegetarian Society v Scott [2014] WTLR 525 and [2014] WTLR 461 [costs]: Constance acted for the successful charitable Claimants in proceedings to prove a will made by a schizophrenic testator.

Sheffield v Sheffield [2014] WTLR 1039: Constance defended a professional trustee against allegations of breach of trust.

Schrader v Schrader [2013] WTLR 701: Constance acted for the successful Part 20 claimant in proceedings to set aside his mother’s will on the basis that it had been procured by his brother’s undue influence.

Tamlin v EdgarThe Times, 23 February 2012: Constance acted for minor and unborn beneficiaries of two family trusts in an application for the Court's approval of a decision of the Trustees.

Wharton v Bancroft [2012] WTLR 693 and [2012] WTLR 727 (costs): Constance acted for the successful claimant in proceedings to prove her husband's 'deathbed' will. The claimant was awarded indemnity costs.

Devas v MacKay [2009] EWHC 1951 (Ch): Constance acted for the successful claimants in proceedings to set aside a will purportedly made by their mother in favour of her carer's son.

Knight v Edonya [2009] EWHC 2181 (Ch): Constance acted for the successful claimant in proceedings to prove her stepfather's will.

Sinclair v Sinclair [2009] EWHC 926 (Ch): Constance acted for the trustees of a family trust in a claim arising out of various breaches of trust by a constructive trustee, involving issues as to his liability to account and whether he could rely upon proprietary estoppel.

Raymond Saul & Co (a firm) v Holden [2009] Ch 313, [2009] BPIR 50: Constance acted for a successful trustee in bankruptcy on the issue as to whether the residue of the bankrupt's mother's estate was payable to the trustee in bankruptcy.

Caudle v LD Law Ltd [2008] 1 WLR 1540, (2008) 11 ITELR 882: Constance acted for the successful Defendant on an appeal as to whether a prospective Administrator of a deceased's estate had locus standi to claim assets of the estate.

Heyman v Dobson [2010] WTLR 1151: removal of personal representative and costs.

Bonham v Blake Lapthorn Linnell [2006] All ER (D) 164 (Oct): breach of trust and solicitors' negligence

Evans v HSBC Trust Company (UK) Ltd [2005] WTLR 1289: Constance acted for the successful claimants in a proprietary estoppel claim against the estate of their friend and neighbour.

Cox v Jones [2004] 2 FLR 1010: constructive trust claim between cohabitees.

Khiaban v Beard [2003] 1 WLR 1626: Constance acted for the successful appellant in a ‘leapfrog' appeal to the Court of Appeal on the issue as to whether the Court could require a claimant to increase value of his claim.

Carapeto v Good [2002] WTLR 801: Constance acted (with leading counsel) for the successful claimant in proceedings to propound a will made in her favour.  


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Court of Protection

Constance regularly advises on, and appears in Court in, applications in the Court of Protection relating to patients' property and affairs.

All Quotes

Leading Junior (Band 1) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2017): "She is very clear and very authoritative in the area of trusts and probates. Very clear, she is brilliant with clients and understands how to do deals in cases. She's a fighter." 

Leading Junior (Band 2) in the field of Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) by Chambers & Partners (2017): "She is extremely knowledgeable and comes across extremely well in court." "She's very clear, very authoritative and very clever." 

Leading Junior (Band 1) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2016): “A superior junior who concentrates her practice on complex contentious probate and trusts matters, and also frequently handles Court of Protection cases. Her traditional chancery practice also comprises regular instructions regarding Inheritance Act claims and professional negligence suits." "She is excellent and extremely bright. Clear in her advice and very good both on her feet and in conference with clients, she provides a very clear analysis of the law."

Leading Junior (Band 2) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers High Net Worth (2016): "first-class advocacy style and sound knowledge of contentious probate matters." "really fantastic.  I think she will be a star at the Bar.  She comes across as lovely and she is quite steely and ruthless in terms of her approach.  She is really up for a fight, while also giving advice about what the solicitors need to watch.  The presentation to the other side doesn't give an inch.  You just know you are in good hands." "She has a nice style, she oozes competence and really knows her stuff." "She has a wealth of experience of probate and Court of Protection matters.  Her impressive presence in court belies her approachability with clients.  She is a pleasure to work with and always proves herself to be an indispensable member of a team."

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) by Chambers & Partners (2016): “Has a reputation as an effective litigator with experience of contentious chancery and Court of Protection matters. In particular, she is held in high regard for issues dealing with capacity." "I think she is brilliant. She is very bright, sensible, practical and very good with clients. She is very clear and very good at calling how a case is going to go. She gives clients real confidence.”

Leading Junior (Tier 4) in Private Client: Trusts and Probate by the Legal 500 (2016): “She is highly intelligent, thoughtful and robust in her advice, and very effective in court.”

Leading Junior (Band 1) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2015): “A leading junior in the contentious probate world. She is very calm, very clear, and very good with the lay client, and really inspires confidence." "She is an excellent advocate and her preparatory skills are first-class. Takes a very good commercial approach."

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) by Chambers & Partners (2015): “A superb advocate who completely sticks to her guns and fights her client’s corner.” “She combines an impressive knowledge of the law with a calm but persuasive manner.”

Leading Junior (Band 1) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2014): “A firm favourite of both clients and instructing solicitors”, “Incredibly knowledgeable, unflappable and very precise,” “Truly a formidable advocate”, “She has a calm and authoritative manner which is effective with both judges and clients”.

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) by Chambers & Partners (2014): “A sharp, intelligent barrister who is impressive on her feet. She has a concise and to-the-point manner.”

Leading Junior (Band 2) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2013): “extremely bright and very user-friendly”.

Leading Junior (Band 2) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2012): “Constance McDonnell belies her relatively young year of call by the fact that she is rarely led in cases, a number of which are often intimidating wills, trusts and succession dispute instructions”.

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2011): “She has proven herself invaluable to clients who note that she has been ‘comprehensively excellent in all her dealings with us’.” 

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2010): “Solicitors praise Constance McDonnell as ‘one of the best advocates we’ve instructed; she presents well, maintains simple and focused arguments, and remains hands-on rather than at arm’s length.’ Her traditional chancery practice has a specialist focus on real property, trusts and probate.”

Leading Junior (Band 3) in Chambers & Partners (2009): “forthright, incisive and not easily intimidated”. 

Also recommended as a Leading Junior in Chambers & Partners in 2008 and 2007: “exceptionally intelligent” and one “whom clients are confident about instructing on substantial matters as she always rises to the occasion”.

Recommendations

Traditional Chancery (Chambers & Partners and Chambers High Net Worth)
Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) (Chambers & Partners)
Private client: trusts and probate (Legal 500)

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Constance McDonnell

Constance McDonnell

Year of Call: 2000
Email: cmcdonnell@serlecourt.co.uk

Overview

Constance has a traditional Chancery practice specialising in contentious probate, trust disputes, 1975 Act claims, administration of estates, and removal of personal representatives. She has appeared recently in several highly publicised High Court cases, including Schrader v Schrader (a successful probate claim based on undue influence), VIVA! Campaigns Ltd & The Vegetarian Society v Scott (a successful probate claim by charities concerning a schitzophrenic testator), Sheffield v Sheffield (in which she defended a professional trustee against allegations of breach of trust) and Re Smith (concerning capacity to make a lifetime gift).

Her practice also includes constructive trusts and proprietary estoppel, Court of Protection (property and affairs), and professional negligence.

Constance was nominated as Chancery Junior of the Year in the 2013 Chambers Bar Awards and as Contentious Barrister of the Year in the 2013 ACTAPS Awards.

Areas of expertise

Recommendations

Traditional Chancery (Chambers & Partners and Chambers High Net Worth)
Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) (Chambers & Partners)
Private client: trusts and probate (Legal 500)

Quotes

Leading Junior (Band 1) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2017): "She is very clear and very authoritative in the area of trusts and probates. Very clear, she is brilliant with clients and understands how to do deals in cases. She's a fighter." 

Leading Junior (Band 2) in the field of Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) by Chambers & Partners (2017): "She is extremely knowledgeable and comes across extremely well in court." "She's very clear, very authoritative and very clever." 

Leading Junior (Band 1) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2016): “A superior junior who concentrates her practice on complex contentious probate and trusts matters, and also frequently handles Court of Protection cases. Her traditional chancery practice also comprises regular instructions regarding Inheritance Act claims and professional negligence suits." "She is excellent and extremely bright. Clear in her advice and very good both on her feet and in conference with clients, she provides a very clear analysis of the law."

Leading Junior (Band 2) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers High Net Worth (2016): "first-class advocacy style and sound knowledge of contentious probate matters." "really fantastic.  I think she will be a star at the Bar.  She comes across as lovely and she is quite steely and ruthless in terms of her approach.  She is really up for a fight, while also giving advice about what the solicitors need to watch.  The presentation to the other side doesn't give an inch.  You just know you are in good hands." "She has a nice style, she oozes competence and really knows her stuff." "She has a wealth of experience of probate and Court of Protection matters.  Her impressive presence in court belies her approachability with clients.  She is a pleasure to work with and always proves herself to be an indispensable member of a team."

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) by Chambers & Partners (2016): “Has a reputation as an effective litigator with experience of contentious chancery and Court of Protection matters. In particular, she is held in high regard for issues dealing with capacity." "I think she is brilliant. She is very bright, sensible, practical and very good with clients. She is very clear and very good at calling how a case is going to go. She gives clients real confidence.”

Leading Junior (Tier 4) in Private Client: Trusts and Probate by the Legal 500 (2016): “She is highly intelligent, thoughtful and robust in her advice, and very effective in court.”

Leading Junior (Band 1) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2015): “A leading junior in the contentious probate world. She is very calm, very clear, and very good with the lay client, and really inspires confidence." "She is an excellent advocate and her preparatory skills are first-class. Takes a very good commercial approach."

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) by Chambers & Partners (2015): “A superb advocate who completely sticks to her guns and fights her client’s corner.” “She combines an impressive knowledge of the law with a calm but persuasive manner.”

Leading Junior (Band 1) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2014): “A firm favourite of both clients and instructing solicitors”, “Incredibly knowledgeable, unflappable and very precise,” “Truly a formidable advocate”, “She has a calm and authoritative manner which is effective with both judges and clients”.

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Court of Protection (Property and Affairs) by Chambers & Partners (2014): “A sharp, intelligent barrister who is impressive on her feet. She has a concise and to-the-point manner.”

Leading Junior (Band 2) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2013): “extremely bright and very user-friendly”.

Leading Junior (Band 2) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2012): “Constance McDonnell belies her relatively young year of call by the fact that she is rarely led in cases, a number of which are often intimidating wills, trusts and succession dispute instructions”.

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2011): “She has proven herself invaluable to clients who note that she has been ‘comprehensively excellent in all her dealings with us’.” 

Leading Junior (Band 3) in the field of Traditional Chancery by Chambers & Partners (2010): “Solicitors praise Constance McDonnell as ‘one of the best advocates we’ve instructed; she presents well, maintains simple and focused arguments, and remains hands-on rather than at arm’s length.’ Her traditional chancery practice has a specialist focus on real property, trusts and probate.”

Leading Junior (Band 3) in Chambers & Partners (2009): “forthright, incisive and not easily intimidated”. 

Also recommended as a Leading Junior in Chambers & Partners in 2008 and 2007: “exceptionally intelligent” and one “whom clients are confident about instructing on substantial matters as she always rises to the occasion”.

Trusts and Probate

RBC Trustees (CI) Limited v Stubbs [2017] EWHC 180 (Ch): Constance acted for the Settlor in an application by trustees for rectification or rescission of a deed of revocation and new appointment.

Gestrust SA v Sixteen Defendants [2016] EWHC 3067 (Ch): Constance acted for the Trustee in an application for directions as to how to direct companies which were ultimately wholly owned by the trust in relation to proceedings brought against those companies by a third party associated with several of the beneficiaries.  The Court considered whether the companies should be treated as trust assets, and the extent of the Trustee’s Bartlett duties.

Re Smith, Kicks v Leigh [2015] 4 All ER 329: Constance acted for the successful claimants in proceedings to set aside a lifetime gift which had been procured by the donor’s daughter’s presumed undue influence.  The case was reported because of the deputy Judge’s decision as to the applicable test for mental capacity to make the gift.

Bray v Pearce, 6 March 2014: Constance acted for the successful Claimant in proceedings to set aside the last three wills made by an elderly testatrix who lacked testamentary capacity due to paranoid delusions.

VIVA! Campaigns Ltd & The Vegetarian Society v Scott [2014] WTLR 525 and [2014] WTLR 461 [costs]: Constance acted for the successful charitable Claimants in proceedings to prove a will made by a schizophrenic testator.

Sheffield v Sheffield [2014] WTLR 1039: Constance defended a professional trustee against allegations of breach of trust.

Schrader v Schrader [2013] WTLR 701: Constance acted for the successful Part 20 claimant in proceedings to set aside his mother’s will on the basis that it had been procured by his brother’s undue influence.

Tamlin v EdgarThe Times, 23 February 2012: Constance acted for minor and unborn beneficiaries of two family trusts in an application for the Court's approval of a decision of the Trustees.

Wharton v Bancroft [2012] WTLR 693 and [2012] WTLR 727 (costs): Constance acted for the successful claimant in proceedings to prove her husband's 'deathbed' will. The claimant was awarded indemnity costs.

Devas v MacKay [2009] EWHC 1951 (Ch): Constance acted for the successful claimants in proceedings to set aside a will purportedly made by their mother in favour of her carer's son.

Knight v Edonya [2009] EWHC 2181 (Ch): Constance acted for the successful claimant in proceedings to prove her stepfather's will.

Sinclair v Sinclair [2009] EWHC 926 (Ch): Constance acted for the trustees of a family trust in a claim arising out of various breaches of trust by a constructive trustee, involving issues as to his liability to account and whether he could rely upon proprietary estoppel.

Raymond Saul & Co (a firm) v Holden [2009] Ch 313, [2009] BPIR 50: Constance acted for a successful trustee in bankruptcy on the issue as to whether the residue of the bankrupt's mother's estate was payable to the trustee in bankruptcy.

Caudle v LD Law Ltd [2008] 1 WLR 1540, (2008) 11 ITELR 882: Constance acted for the successful Defendant on an appeal as to whether a prospective Administrator of a deceased's estate had locus standi to claim assets of the estate.

Heyman v Dobson [2010] WTLR 1151: removal of personal representative and costs.

Bonham v Blake Lapthorn Linnell [2006] All ER (D) 164 (Oct): breach of trust and solicitors' negligence

Evans v HSBC Trust Company (UK) Ltd [2005] WTLR 1289: Constance acted for the successful claimants in a proprietary estoppel claim against the estate of their friend and neighbour.

Cox v Jones [2004] 2 FLR 1010: constructive trust claim between cohabitees.

Khiaban v Beard [2003] 1 WLR 1626: Constance acted for the successful appellant in a ‘leapfrog' appeal to the Court of Appeal on the issue as to whether the Court could require a claimant to increase value of his claim.

Carapeto v Good [2002] WTLR 801: Constance acted (with leading counsel) for the successful claimant in proceedings to propound a will made in her favour.  

Court of Protection

Constance regularly advises on, and appears in Court in, applications in the Court of Protection relating to patients' property and affairs.

Qualifications

MA in Classics, Oriel College, Oxford

Memberships

ACTAPS (Committee member)
STEP
Chancery Bar Association

Publications

‘Uncertainty as to testamentary capacity’: The Law Society, May 2016


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