- Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A. Political Science • Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, J.D.
- Admitted: California, 2004 • England and Wales, 2008
- Languages spoken: French
- Year joined: 2008
Geoff qualified in California in 2004 and was a litigator in San Francisco for three years before qualifying in England in 2008 and joining Withers LLP's contentious trust and succession team.
Geoff advises fiduciaries and beneficiaries, as well as creditors or adverse claimants, regarding domestic or multi-jurisdictional trust matters. Also, he frequently advises on succession issues including validity claims, fraud, capacity, undue influence, construction, rectification, constructive trusts, proprietary estoppel, and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
While he was in law school, Geoff clerked in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, conducting committal proceedings for felonies including armed robbery and vehicular manslaughter. He also volunteered with the Los Angeles County Bar Association's Pro Bono Domestic Violence Project.
Geoff has been recognised as a 'Rising Star' by Thomson Reuters in its 2013 London Super Lawyers list.
'He is readily approachable, easy to contact and willing to explain any points or queries that arise'.
- In The Matter of the A Trust  JRC 169A, Geoff and Dawn Goodman acted for the successful beneficiaries in this matter, where the Royal Court of Jersey made new law on the scope of the duties of trust protectors and the grounds on which they may be removed from office. The Royal Court found that, as with trustees, the correct test for removal of a protector arises from Letterstedt v Broers. Due not only to the protector’s misunderstanding his duties to his beneficiaries but also his failure to keep a watchful eye on the trustee’s management of the trusts, the Royal Court suspended his powers and removed him from office. Click here to read our briefing note on this case.
- AB Jnr & Or v MB & Ors (December 2012, unreported), Geoff acted for the defendant trustees of a Cayman Islands trust. The Plaintiffs alleged the trustees committed breach of trust through material non-disclosure; the proceedings included a counterclaim seeking forfeiture of the Second Plaintiff's interest. After a ten week trial, the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands issued a landmark decision setting its guidelines (and making new law) on issues such as the remedy of equitable compensation, the fair dealing rule, and the operation of forfeiture clauses in trust deeds. The decision also provides invaluable insight on questions of estoppel, laches, and acquiescence and will influence succession and trust disputes for years to come. The matter involved substantial worldwide assets and complex valuation and cross-jurisdictional issues concerning disclosure, confidentiality, third-party rights and privilege.
- In Ullmann-Jones v Wolfe and others (2009), Geoff and Paul Hewitt acted for the deceased's two daughters who challenged their father's last will (signed shortly before death) which placed his estate in the control of non-family trustees including their father's co-habitee. The daughters argued that their father lacked testamentary capacity and, alternatively, that he did not know and approve its contents. The co-habitee and her fellow trustees conceded in advance of trial despite three solicitors preparing witness statements in support of the will; the daughters secured virtually the entire estate for the family outright.
- In the Matter of D  CILR 432, Geoff acted in a leading Cayman decision regarding the test for the exercise of powers on behalf of an incapacitated person. The decision established an objective "best interests" test instead of the previous subjective "lucid interval" test, despite the absence of legislative amendments such as those found in The Mental Capacity Act 2005 for England and Wales.
- In the Matter of the Z Trust  CILR 593, Geoff was involved in a landmark Cayman decision, now approved by the English Court of Appeal, which was the first authority for the proposition that a trust fund may be divided into distinct shares on grounds of expediency rather than constitute a variation of the trust. The process is therefore quicker and simpler since neither consent of all beneficiaries is required nor must the court apply the more stringent "best interests" test.
Publications and speaking engagements
- Speaker on Reviewing Trust Structures: Bend Before it Breaks, IBC Stress Testing Trust Structures Conference (October 2014)
- Contributor to Probate Disputes and Remedies (Third Edition) published by Jordans (March 2014)
- Speaker on Attacks on Trusts in a Divorce Context, Channel Islands Trust Forum 2014 (Jersey, April 2014)
- Author of White v Matthys: What to Consider When Leaving Legacies to Political Parties, LexisNexis PSL (February 2014)
- Co-author of Trust Protectors: Above and Beyond the Call of Duty, Trusts and Estates Law & Tax Journal (July/August 2013)
- Author of Protectors: Easier to Remove than Previously Thought, Private Client Business (July 2013)
- Co-presenter at Pernicious Protector, Dangerous Peer (June 2013)
- Author, 'Federal Statutory Interpretation in Contravention of State Law Violates Principles of Federalism', reprinted in Domestic Preparedness: Law, Policy, and National Security 2012
- Speaker at The Solicitors Group's Wills and Probate Conference: Lost, Stolen and Damaged Wills and Trusts Under Attack! (October 2011)
- Contributor to the quarterly legal update for the Institute of Legacy Management
- Author, Multi-billion dollar disputed estate will not go to the dogs. Read more
- Regular speaker at Legacy Labyrinth, Withers' annual conference for those involved in the administration of legacy income in the charity and not for profit sector.
- Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS)
- California State Bar (Member, Trusts and Estates Section)
- Society of English and American Lawyers
On a personal note
Geoff's interests include deep-sea fishing, following American and English football, and cooking. He is also a proud alumnus of the University of California, Berkeley, and is President of the Berkeley Club of London.