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John is a Partner in our Dispute Resolution team, 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 from positions of both strength and weakness and always advises his clients to seek a negotiated or mediated settlement in preference to incurring the costs and uncertainties of trial.

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’).


  • French
  • 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

Reported Cases

  • Bradshaw v Hardcastle [2002] All ER (D) 219 (Nov)
  • Ashkettle v Gwinnett [2013] EWHC 2125
  • Dass v Beggs [2014] EWHC 164
  • Moursi v Doherty [2019] EWHC 830 (Ch)
  • Brown v New Quadrant Trust Corporation Ltd [2021] EWHC 1731 (Ch)
  • Abadir v Credit Suisse Trust Ltd [2021] EWHC 2573 (Ch)
  • Shirazi v Susa Holdings Establishment [2022] EWHC 477 (Ch)
  • Shirazi v Susa Holdings Establishment [2022] EWHC 2055 (Ch)
  • 2006 - Present | Seddons, Partner
  • 1999 - 2005 | Gillanders, Partner and Head of Litigation
  • 1996 - 1999  | John Martlew & Co, Assistant Solicitor
  • 1994 - 1996 | John Martlew & Co, Trainee

‘John Melville-Smith is an exceptional contentious trusts and estates lawyer. He is also very pragmatic in how he approaches matters and very cost conscious, so as to get the best deal for his clients.‘ - Legal 500

‘John Melville-Smith is very sensible and respectful to all parties concerned when dealing with contentious matters. I have no hesitation in recommending him to clients as he is a safe pair of hands.’ - Legal 500

Firmwide awards

  • Solicitors for the Elderly
  • British Italian Lawyers Association
  • Indian Council of Arbitration
  • Super Lawyers
  • Who's Who Legal
  • Legal 500 2019
  • UK Lawyer Top 200 - Listed Firm 2019
  • Chambers 2019
  • Times Best Law Firm 2020

Recent articles by John

It’s all in a single word…

John Melville-Smith, partner of Seddons, and James Kirby, counsel of Ten Old Square, discuss a case in which they successfully secured the validity of...

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More articles from Seddons