Who are SFE?
SFE was set up to be a specialist group of lawyers who support and make a difference to older and vulnerable people
SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) was set up in 1996 and set out to be a specialist group of lawyers to support and make a difference to older and vulnerable people. (By vulnerable we mean people who may not be able bodied and/or who may be mentality incapacitated i.e. they need help to make decisions or they can’t make decisions for themselves.)
SFE is now a national organisation with over 1600 members across the United Kingdom and a separate group in the Republic of Ireland, all of whom are fully committed to our ethos.
We support our members by providing them with expert training and best practice: keep them up to date with any market developments; promote them through our website and press coverage; help them to help each other through our members advice forum as well as running national and regional events and keeping them up to date with the latest case law related to older clients.
We speak out in the press on behalf of our members about any proposed changes and developments which we believe will adversely affect older clients.
We also work hard behind the scenes with various government, legal bodies and other organisations to ensure our voice and the voice of older people is heard.
Only a very select group of people can become members of SFE. They must be fully qualified, regulated and insured Solicitors, Barristers or Chartered Legal Executives and they must spend at least 50% of their time working with older and vulnerable clients.
SFE is a community of trusted advisers – professionally highly qualified and regulated and who also have additional skills to enable them to work with older and vulnerable clients.
SFE is a membership organisation run by its members for its members. It comprises a board of directors, a chief executive officer, a chief legal officer and an administrator. In addition, it has an advisory board and an expert panel.
The SFE Board of Directors
The SFE board is comprised of members of SFE. The board meets four times a year and is responsible for setting policy and strategy for SFE. All board members must be full accredited members of SFE.
Board members are authorised to make statements on behalf of SFE.
The board has a duty to ensure the smooth, professional running of SFE.
The Advisory Board
The advisory board is comprised of a number of SFE’s Regional Co-ordinators, who are themselves all members of SFE.
The Advisory Board is there to help the board with the running of SFE and to input into strategy. The Advisory Board is also there to represent SFE members.
The Expert Panel
The expert panel is made up of experts in the field of Older Client Law and associated areas, who input into the SFE training curriculum and best practice guidelines. The expert panel also helps with the quality assurance process for SFE’s accredited standards and assessments.
Meet the team
SFE Chief Executive
A graduate from King’s College, University of London, Lakshmi is a marketing specialist with over 25 years’ experience in all aspects of marketing in the commercial, public and not for profit sectors. She worked her way up to director level, taking time out to do a full time MBA in 1990 – 91.
A specialist in marketing strategy creation, strategic branding, proposition development, new product and service development and service delivery as well as marketing communications and PR, she has also had many years experience working with creative agencies to help them develop powerful creative work and compelling copy. Clear communication is at the heart of all aspects of her marketing approach.
She spent several years working as a consultant in the legal profession and in 2004, she joined SFE as its Development Officer and in 2010, became its Chief Operating Officer. In January 2014, she was appointed as SFE’s Chief Executive Officer.
David is a partner at Acorn Solicitors a small family firm of Solicitors he set up in 2009 the year in which he was shortlisted for young lawyer of the year by the Law Society.
Acorn Solicitors has grown rapidly under David’s leadership and the firm now owns premises in Taunton and Street, employing 15 staff. It is recognised for its family values.
David has raised over £55,000 for charities through writing Wills for free and completing strenuous physical challenges, such as Tough Mudder.
David has been national director for Solicitors for the Elderly since 2007.
“I am really passionate about Solicitors for the Elderly and promoting best practice in our specialist areas of law. We have a great dynamic team of directors and staff who all get along well and it’s a huge privilege for me to act as the chair for the organisation.
SFE Chief Legal Officer
Karon Walton is SFE’s Chief Legal Officer and was appointed in January 2018. Karon is a Chartered Legal Executive. She was a Partner at Tollers LLP, heading up their Elderly and Vulnerable Client Unit, providing expert advice for the growing problems faced by an ageing population. Karon specialised in Court of Protection and Elderly Client affairs and in particular, contentious issues about finances and property and the abuse of the elderly and vulnerable.
Karon was a Director of SFE before her move over to CLO. She will continue to represent SFE at meetings with the Court of Protection Rules Committee and the Court of Protection User Group. She works closely with The Law Society, Office of the Public Guardian and Ministry of Justice on policy and practice issues. In her role as CLO, Karon will be working on delivering a comprehensive training strategy for SFE and updating law manuals and precedents, together will overseeing the SFE’s accreditation process and exams for SFE membership. Karon has also passed the accreditation award for the Care Adviser Network enabling her to show her ability to provide advice around requirements for care services. Karon works closely with organisations such as The Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, Dementia Action Alliance and ABIF and is a Dementia Champion.
From leaving school at 18 I joined Natwest Bank and worked there for 23 years, in London where I undertook various roles from cashiering, records clerk, foreign and manager’s assistant and then after having my children, locally, at a call centre, where I managed the “Corporate” team of 20 staff.
I joined SFE in April 2007 as the SFE Administrator and manage the day to day running of SFE and cover a wide range of administrative work.
I am married with 3 grown up children.
Outside of the office I enjoy going to the theatre, socialising with friends, enjoying good food and breaks away.
Claire is a Partner at Howells Solicitors based in Cardiff with branches all over South Wales and works within a large team of specialist solicitors in the area of Private Client, Asset Protection and Elderly Client law. She qualified in 1985 and has acted for the elderly and vulnerable for at least 20 years. She lives locally with her husband and two puppies and spends most of her free time looking after them or her grandson. She has a mother with advanced Alzheimer’s disease and therefore has an insight into what it is really like for the families she looks after when worrying about their elderly or vulnerable relatives.
She speaks regularly to carers groups with such organisations as the Alzheimer’s Society, Mencap and Carers groups generally. She has run drop in sessions for Carers when she can. She has been a Director of SFE since October 2010 and enjoys being part of the development of SFE and was integral in developing the need for accreditation particularly in client care. She also represents SFE in Wales.
“Working in this area of law is so interesting and no two matters are the same. It always gives me a huge sense of satisfaction when I can alleviate the stresses and worries of families struggling to come to terms with Ill health and dementia and even more so when I can help them deal with funding for their loved ones care or putting in place wills and trusts that help future generations. SFE has played an integral part in my experience and development of knowledge in this area alongside my personal experiences at home.”
Stephanie Rose is a Partner at the Legal 500 firm Clifton Ingram Solicitors specialising in Wills, Probate and Estate Planning. She is in charge of the smooth running of Clifton Ingram’s Reading office as well as heading our private client team there and being the Partner in charge of the firm’s trainees, from their recruitment to development and mentoring.
Stephanie has particular expertise in elderly client matters including long term care and funding issues, subjects she is passionate about. She gives practical talks and presentations to care and support groups throughout the Thames Valley to help families and carers understand this increasingly complex and ‘niche’ area of the law. Stephanie sits on the Board of Directors of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) and is Regional Co-ordinator of the Berkshire branch. Stephanie is also a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and the Law Society Private Client Section.
Stephanie’s work ethic and desire to go the extra mile is appreciated by both her colleagues and her clients. According to the Legal 500, in which Stephanie was recommend, she provides ‘an excellent, personalised service; nothing is too much trouble’ and she and her colleagues are ‘committed, proactive and approachable.”
Outside of Clifton Ingram, Stephanie is a Governor at a local school and also involves herself with community work
Holly joined Morrisons in September 2006 as a Trainee Solicitor and qualified as an Assistant Solicitor into the Private Client department in October 2008. She was made a Partner in October 2015 and became head of the Private Client department in November 2016.
Holly deals with all manner of Private Client work, including administration of trusts and estates, Wills, declarations of trust and tax matters. She is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, and regularly advises such clients regarding estate planning and long-term care planning. Her particular area of expertise is older and vulnerable adults, dealing with complex issues relating to mental capacity, financial abuse, powers of attorney, advance decisions and Court of Protection applications – including those appointing deputies and trustees over land.
In addition, Holly is a practising notary and deals with a wide range of multi-jurisdictional issues.
Holly is a panel deputy for the Office of the Public Guardian and the Court of Protection and a director of the national organisation, Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE). Holly is also a registered STEP Trust and Estate Practitioner and a full member of STEP – an internationally recognised organisation for solicitors working in the area of Private Client.
Holly was named one of ePrivateclient’s Top 35 under 35 practitioners in 2015 and 2016. This list is considered to be the definitive list of young private client practitioners and the market leading guide to rising stars and the next generation of leaders in the Private Client sector in the UK. She is also named in Chambers and Legal 500, with particular recognition for her work with older and vulnerable adults.
Holly has competed at a national level in eventing and show jumping. She also enjoys numerous other sporting activities and travelling.
Jenny is an equity partner and head of the Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team at Wards Solicitors which covers Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset from 11 offices. Jenny has worked at Wards Solicitors since 1999 specialising in Will writing, probate,trusts, long term care planning, capital tax planning, elderly client law and the law relating to mental incapacity. Jenny became an equity partner in 2007. In that time she has overseen the Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team grow from just two people to a legal staff of 23, becoming one of the biggest and most respected in the South West.She brings a wealth of expertise to her role – in 2015 she was appointed to the Office of the Public Guardian’s prestigious Panel of Professional Deputies and is frequently appointed as a Professional Deputy for Property and Affairs for vulnerable clients who lack capacity.
In the most recent edition of the prestigious Legal 500 guide for 2017, an independent publication which recommends legal firms and individual lawyers based on merit, Jenny’s knowledge is highlighted as ‘exemplary’ with clients praising her ability to ‘explain everything in a manner that is easily understood’. She also has a STEP Advanced Certificate in Advising Vulnerable clients, is a member of the Law Society’s Probate Section, a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and the winner of the Association of Women Solicitors 2010 award for the Best Woman Solicitor Managing a Probate Practice. Jenny has been involved with Solicitors for the Elderly since 2002 and has been SFE’s Regional Coordinator for Bristol and Bath for several years.
Carol is a Director and Head of Private Client at Hugh Jones Solicitors, Manchester, a boutique legal firm which specialises in acting for vulnerable clients.She has specialised in elder law since qualification in 2002, and has particular expertise in mental capacity and Court of Protection law and practice, powers of attorney, trusts, wills, care funding and related legal work. She acts for a wide range of individuals, many of whom have disabilities, or whose loved ones have disabilities. She has particular expertise in the legal issues affecting people with dementia and their families, and has been a Vice Chair of the Salford Dementia Action Alliance since 2014. As befits someone who was born in Northern Ireland, but has spent many years living in England, Carol is particularly interested in cross-border aspects of capacity law.
As well as being a qualified solicitor, Carol joined SFE in 2011 and is a Full Accredited Member. She is recognised as a Recommended Individual by the Legal 500. She is recognised as a Recommended Individual by the Legal 500. Carol is also a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (‘STEP’) and the Court of Protection Practitioner’s Association (CoPPA). She is also a trustee of charity Sibs UK, which provides support for the brothers and sisters of disabled children and adults.
In 2014 Carol was awarded a masters degree with distinction in mental health and capacity law. She has recently finished a six-year term on STEP’s Mental Capacity Special Interest Group steering committee, and lectures and writes on her areas of interest.
Micheal has been a member of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) for the best part of a decade and joined the board of directors in January 2018. He is a Partner and head of the Wealth and Estate Planning team at Bolt Burdon Solicitors in Islington. He has a wealth of experience in dealing with elderly client matters including making wills, advance decisions, tax planning, the administration of estates, lasting powers of attorney, statutory wills and other applications to the Court of Protection, care home funding and contentious probate and challenging lifetime gifts. He has been on the Court of Protection’s Panel for Professional Deputies for approaching 3 years now, enabling him to manage the financial affairs of those clients who are unable to manage matters for themselves or in cases where there is not a suitable relative to manage such matters for them.
As well as being a Full Accredited Member of SFE, He is a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS). Michael is currently studying with the Chartered Institute of Taxation to become a Chartered Tax Advisor and hopes to gain this qualification in 2018.
In his spare time, Michael likes to snowboard or wakeboard depending on the time of year, whilst spending as much time as possible with his baby daughter.
Ruth Pyatt is a Senior Associate in the Wills and Advisory Team within the Private Client Department of Birketts. She is a full accredited member of SFE and a STEP Technician. Ruth has over 10 years worth of post qualification (University of Edinburgh) experience in advising in relation to the affairs of the elderly which she has obtained through practicing in both Scotland and England. She advises elderly clients, carers and families in relation to Wills, Enduring and Lasting Powers of Attorney, paying for care and NHS Continuing Care Funding.
Ruth also has experience in contentious and non-contentious estates including cross border and disputed domicile, trust administration including advising trustees and beneficiaries in disputes, succession and inheritance tax planning. She writes for the London Gazette and has had work published by ACTAPS (the Association of Contentions Trust and Probate Specialists). Birketts is a full service top 100 UK law firm and their Private Client Team was winner of ‘Private Client Firm (Regional) of the Year’ at The Legal 500 UK 2017 Awards. Ruth is based in the Norwich Office of Birketts but also works out of Ipswich, Cambridge and Chelmsford.
Trevor Lyttleton MBE MA LLM (Cantab) practised for many years as a solicitor, advising elderly clients in London.
He was a Court of Protection specialist and panel member with particular expertise in handling dementia cases relating to the elderly.
He is the founder of the national charity Contact the Elderly, which provides a regular lifeline of support for thousands of lonely older people through a nationwide volunteer force of over 6,500 people. The charity celebrated its golden jubilee in 2015.
Denzil Lush is now retired but was a solicitor and Master of the former Court of Protection and became the Senior Judge of the recently established Court of Protection.
He is the author of ‘Cretney & Lush on Enduring Powers of Attorney’, ‘Elderly Clients – A Precedent Manual’, Jordans Publishers, ‘Cohabitation: Law Practice and Precedents’ (2nd edition, 2001), and the General Editor of Heywood & Massey’s ‘Court of Protection Practice’ (Sweet and Maxwell).
SFE was the brain child of a small group of solicitors who had attended a conference on the ‘Elderly Client’ in the mid 1990’s.
They realised there was a need for a specialist group of lawyers who could advise older clients, in particular on the issues surrounding capacity, delegated decision making and long term care.
For many firms it was an adjunct to probate, wills and tax planning but for some they were developing the area as a specialism within their Private Client Department.
The name for the group was agreed upon as it was accepted that most older people would seek advice through a solicitor’s practice, although our members comprise of solicitors, legal executives, barristers and others who work within a legal practice.
Finally in 1999, SFE was officially launched at the first National Conference in London. Over 100 people attended from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to hear speakers talk on some of the current issues affecting older clients.
From that small group, SFE now has in excess of 1500 members. Members receive monthly newsletters to keep them in touch with the issues that affect older clients; regional and national training provides focused cost effective educational development and members can also use a private members forum to post questions about issues they have, which can provide solutions for the not so common problems encountered in legal practice.
SFE aims to support members in the work they do and continues to be run by members for its members.
An initial meeting took place at The Law Society to discuss a way forward. An initial steering group was set up, comprising of Danny Carter (formerly SFE Treasurer), Anne Edis (SFE President), Richard Smithies, Jan Wright and Michael Orr.
The core group, put in a total of £450 into a kitty to get the ball rolling. This funded the initial activities of the group, which quickly grew.
Those involved during this period gave up lots of their own time and never claimed any expenses to enable the group to get off the ground. It developed its aims and objectives, which essentially remain the same today.
By focusing on sharing information between professionals, training and establishing best practice, older people, their family and carers will get good legal advice.