Trust & succession disputes
As wealthy families get larger and issues become more complex, there is a growing need to resolve some of the issues by means of alternative dispute resolution and sometimes, by referral to the courts.
We have one of the largest international teams dedicated to dealing with such issues as they arise, or with such disputes where no internal resolution is possible.
We deal extensively with such claims before probate, surrogate's and chancery courts in the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and certain offshore jurisdictions, and in other offshore jurisdictions, where we are not admitted to the courts, we work closely with local lawyers to provide a seamless service to our clients.
Claims take numerous forms, but areas of concentration include working with families to avoid these problems in the first place. In a number of circumstances, issues relate to the performance (or non-performance) of trustees, their relations with beneficiaries, or claims by non-beneficiaries with respect to trust assets.
In many cases we help clients resolve issues without the need for personal details to be made public through litigation.
"Withers LLP is also noted for its collegial approach: 'the team brain-storms until it sees what works'."
'Absolutely top tier.'
Legal 500, 2013 & 2014
'Withers displays a keen grasp of all areas and problems that arise when dealing with this complex and fraught area of law. Additionally, the firm has good resources and contacts to call on when necessary.'
'The team has very specialised knowledge. It displays good tactics and is very good at keeping witnesses on board.'
'They respond quickly with clear and concise advice.'
'They are very good with clients and make sure things are done in an orderly fashion.'
Chambers, 2014 & 2015
- In the matter of the K Trust, Guernsey Judgment 31/2015, Dawn Goodman and Emma McCall worked alongside Guernsey advocates and Counsel to advise 11 of 14 adult beneficiaries on an application – the first in Guernsey - seeking removal of a protector whose approach was no longer considered to be in the best interests of the beneficiaries. The Royal Court established the test in Guernsey for removal of protectors and dealt with incidental issues, such as specific indemnities, to which it considered the protector was not entitled in the absence of indemnity provisions in the trust deed. Click here to see Dawn and Emma's briefing note for WealthBriefing.
- In Bourke v Favre  EWHC 277 (Ch), Paul Hewitt acted for the owner of Chettle in Dorset, one of a handful of privately held villages in England, in response to her nephew's claim that she was required to leave him the entire village based on a purported 50 year old oral family agreement. The Court rejected the nephew's attempt to add a significant new cause of action, proprietary estoppel, after exchange of witness statements. Click here to see the decision. The substantive dispute settled shortly thereafter.
- Dawn Goodman and Sarah Aughwane, acted for the successful beneficiaries in The Matter of the A Trust  JRC 169A, 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.
- In Hawes v Burgess, reported at  EWCA Civ 74, the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the first instance decision. Click here to view our briefing.
- In Burgess v Hawes, reported at  WTLR 423, Paul Hewitt and Natasha Stourton acted for the successful claimants in overturning a purported will of their late mother's and securing recovery of lifetime transfers in favour of their sister and her immediate family. Click here to view our briefing or visit the Daily Telegraph article.
- AB Jnr & Or v MB & Ors  (1) CILR 1, Emma McCall 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.
- Paola Fudakowska advised the Settlor bringing the application in the matter of the Representation of R  JRC 117 in which the Royal Court in Jersey has confirmed that the test for mistake is different from that established by the English Court of Appeal in Pitt v Holt and Futter v Futter  EWCA Civ 197.
- In Clark v World Wildlife Fund and others reported at  WTLR 961 Paul Hewitt and Natasha Stourton represent the charities who successfully argued that English law governs the validity of a will dealing with English immovable property (thus confirming the rule in Dicey for the first time). The court also held that England rather than Alabama is the appropriate forum for the dispute, despite the testatrix's nephew, Mr Clark, having obtained letters of administration in Birmingham County, Alabama.
- Paul Hewitt and Stephen Richards acted for the charity in RSPCA v Sharp and Others before the Court of Appeal, which unanimously upheld the RSPCA's case that its benefactor, the late George Mason, intended his estate to pass free of inheritance tax. Click here to view our briefing or visit the Civil Society website. The first instance decision is reported at  WTLR 855. The appeal is reported at  STI 253 and  WTLR 311.
- Paul Hewitt and Beatrice Calderbank acted for the trustees in the Hastings Bass matter of Futter v Futter in their application to set aside an advancement as a result of incorrect tax advice which went to the Supreme Court. The first instance decision is reported at  WTLR 609 and the Court of Appeal decision is reported at  2 All ER 450. Click here to download the Supreme Court decision.
- In Re MN, reported at  WTLR 1355, a dispute over the enforcement of a Californian Order that MN be returned to California, Paul Hewitt and Stephen Richards represent MN's niece. It is the leading authority on cross-border welfare disputes in the Court of Protection.
- In Natalia Morley-Clarke v MT Brooks & Others, reported at  WTLR 297, Paul Hewitt and Stephen Richards represented Mrs Natalia Morley-Clarke, whose husband had died intestate. The judgment is the first on a widow's successful application to capitalise her life interest. The application was contested by one of the husband's sons from a previous marriage, who was subsequently ordered to pay costs of the entire application.
- In Esson v Esson and Others, reported at  WTLR 187, Paul Hewitt and Isabel Moreton, acted for the successful claimant in an application for construction and rectification of his mother's homemade codicil. The Judge agreed that the words ‘should I predecease him' in the codicil were not intended to be a condition of the gift of a bank account to the testatrix's grandchildren.
- In ITW v Z, M, and various charities, reported at  WTLR 1791 Paul Hewitt and Stephen Richards represented the charities in support of ITW's application for a statutory will.