Beneficiaries and heirs

Some of the key questions facing you as the beneficiary of an estate are how to deal with the tax liabilities, how to protect and preserve the legacy for the future and how best to deal with any contested claims on the estate.

Regardless of whether the bequest consists of land and property, a business, cultural assets, a financial endowment or a mixture of several of these, you will want to know how best to safeguard the value of it. We are proud to act for new wealth creators as well as generations of successful families since we were founded in 1896. As a result, there are few issues we have not encountered and advised on.

Managing tax liabilities

Gift tax, estate tax, transfer taxes, wealth taxes and other forms of capital tax could all be due on an estate, depending on the circumstances. Our international team is one of the leading groups for advising on the structuring of estates to manage tax. Trusts and foundations are hugely useful for efficient wealth and succession planning if they are properly set up and managed and, with 17 offices around the world, we can provide a truly global perspective.

Resolving inheritance disputes

Succession disputes are unfortunately all too common, and it is frequently the case that the larger the estate in question, the more sources of contention tend to emerge. 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. International inheritance fights can be particularly complex, and must be handled very carefully to avoid a host of unwanted and unforeseen consequences. Using tools such as prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are also effective ways of ensuring that an estate is protected.

Philanthropic purpose

When you have secured your bequest, you may want to give some thought to ways in which it can be used to benefit your community and others around the world. We can advise you on the variety of options for establishing a philanthropic enterprise and the right way to structure your giving to avoid triggering punitive legal and financial implications.

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Defining moments

What does it take to be successful and how do we navigate key moments in our lives? We explore stories of success with the FT.

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25 June 2018 - Article

Beneficiaries denied information about their own trust

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Ranked in top tier for personal tax, trust and probate

Top ranked firm for private wealth disputes

Top tier firm for contentious trusts and probate

Top ranked firm for contentious trusts


The team at Withers worked tirelessly to ensure my well-being and future of all levels when faced with hostile and aggressive opposition. I am deeply, deeply grateful to all of them.

Paulina Moggach

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Track record

Sons of the late Lynda Bellingham

Acting for Michael and Robert Peluso, the two adult sons of the late Lynda Bellingham. The dispute over her estate received extensive coverage. In May 2017, we reached an agreement with her widower, Michael Pattemore.

UK child entitled to cross-border estate

We acted for the son of a deceased German businessman who was entitled to a share of a cross-border estate worth in excess of £35m. The case raised complex conflict of law issues over the deceased's Will and arguments from some of the heirs that the son had no entitlement. We co-ordinated simultaneous proceedings in England and Germany and the case was ultimately settled out of court.

Broadhead v Spread Trustee Company (Guernsey)

We acted for a beneficiary in proceedings concerning trustee negligence in relation to investment losses. It is believed to be the first case in the Channel Islands courts to consider the question of what degree of knowledge will prevent a beneficiary bringing a breach of trust claim beyond the time period required by statute.

Settlement agreement between heirs

Negotiating and implementing a settlement agreement between heirs, based both in the UK and in Italy, for a high net worth individual in the context of a succession whereby Italian forced heirship rules applied.

Henry Yeo

Acting for Henry Yeo in a highly contentious probate dispute widely reported in the Singapore media. Henry Yeo is a third generation descendent of the founder of Singapore's well known food and beverage company, Yeo Hiap Seng

Estate of a 32 generation family

We advised a family on the most appropriate structure to hold an estate that has been in the family for 32 generations. A complex matter, the family wanted the estate to be held by all of their children rather than one ‘heir’ but for the ‘rules’ of ownership and transfer to be clear and fair and ensure that the family asset is retained.

The F Trust and the A Settlement (Bermuda)

We acted for the beneficiaries of two trusts in this ground-breaking application under newly-enacted Bermuda law provisions dealing with mistakes by trustees and other power-holders in relation to trusts. Despite the application being contested by the UK tax authority it was successful and the adverse consequences that the trusts had suffered were unwound.

An art heir

We represented the son and heir of a well-known American painter in cases arising out of a major art fraud worth an estimated $100 million. Our client had been among numerous victims of a Manhattan dealer who had committed the deceit to fund his extravagant lifestyle.

Beneficiary/trustee dispute over luxury brands

We advised a beneficiary of a trust who was in dispute with another beneficiary and the trustee who was holding shares in a luxury fashion brand worth over Euro30m. Court proceedings were ongoing in England and Italy, involving our London and Milan offices, before the trustee was successfully replaced and the other issues between the parties compromised to avoid publicity over the businesses involved.

Heir to a publishing fortune

Withers represented one of the heirs to a publishing fortune in a case arising out of a dispute with his children over the administration of various family trusts. Withers successfully resolved the dispute through alternative dispute resolution in California avoiding a costly court battle and prolonged family discord.

Vindis v Collins & Ors

We act for the adult children of the late Nigel Vindis whose will left most of his estate, including his 50% share in the highly successful Vindis plc on discretionary trusts for a class of beneficiaries. Nigel's sisters claimed to be entitled to half the share. At the same time his estranged widow issued a claim for financial provision. Working with their mother's solicitors we secured the 50% shareholding for the nuclear family.

Beneficiaries of the K Trust

Acting for the adult beneficiaries in the matter of the K Trust with local advocates. The Guernsey Royal Court sanctioned removing a protector for the first time (following similar principles established in Jersey, where we acted, in the matter of the A Trust and the B Trust).

Preparing a Will

Preparing a Will in respect of a terminally ill individual with assets in jurisdictions including Hong Kong, Singapore and the US (value in excess of US$500m). The Will created a testamentary trust that, following the administration of the estate, allowed for assets to be decanted to a US trust. Following the testator’s death, we oversaw the administration of the estate.

Cross border cases involving Chinese third party interests

Our team regularly assist in cross-border issues, particularly in cases involving the People's Republic of China (PRC), leading the team in cases involving complicated legal argument and third parties’ interests in assets both in Hong Kong, the PRC and overseas.

Dispute over matrimonial property

We were involved in a well-known case frequently cited in subsequent cases in Singapore and beyond. We successfully acted on behalf of the husband in a dispute over matrimonial property, whereby the court exempt the Trust setup by the husband from the pool of matrimonial assets. The trust provided protection towards their children, including a son who has special needs as he suffers from Williams syndrome.

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