Partner | London
Challenging a will (however unfair it may seem) is not an easy thing to do. As one of the only global firms with a team dedicated purely to succession disputes, we offer families, friends, executors and charities guidance on how to reach the desired outcome.
Many people underestimate the difficulty of challenging a will and there is a widespread misconception that a will can be challenged, simply because it seems 'unfair'.For over 100 years the firm has represented successful families down the generations. This means we have the knowledge and sensitivity to handle what can be emotionally charged circumstances.
Even if the validity of the will itself cannot be challenged, there are a number of avenues that can be pursued to right any wrongs. For instance, a claim for financial provision or to enforce a broken promise.
With a team of lawyers dedicated exclusively to disputes over trusts and succession, we can advise anyone who is defending a will or who believes a will is not valid. Our clients include family members, friends of the deceased, executors and charities.
We excel in complex matters, and our geographical reach is particularly useful in disputes with a cross-border element.
We acted for Mrs Bhusate in her claim for financial provision from her late husband’s estate more than 25 years after he passed away. Despite the lengthy delay (the previous record being just under six years) Chief Master Marsh ordered that Mrs Bhusate’s claim should be allowed to proceed. In January 2020, the High Court upheld Chief Master Marsh’s decision. Shortly after, the defendant's stepchildren conceded the claim.
We acted for the successful claimants in overturning a will purported to be that of their late mother and securing recovery of lifetime transfers from their sister and her immediate family. The Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the first instance decision.
Paul Hewitt and Phineas Hirsch worked with Jersey advocates for the RSPCA, Cancer Research UK and RAF Benevolent Fund in securing an order that Mrs Ivelaw had retained her English domicile of origin after many years living in Belgium and that she had not intended to revoke an earlier Jersey will benefitting the three charities when she made a later Belgian will.
We worked with Jersey advocates and advised Macmillan Cancer Support on an application before the Royal Court of Jersey about the correct interpretation of a will. Under the will, two shares of residue were left to Macmillan, but under different former names. The executor considered Macmillan only took one share. The Royal Court, applying English law, held that Macmillan was entitled to two shares.
Acting for Susan Favre, who owns Chettle village in Dorset, England. Susan's brother and nephew claimed that Susan was required to leave the entire village to her nephew, based on a purported 1966 oral agreement. Withers defeated an attempt by the Claimants to amend their pleadings to introduce a new cause of action. The claim involved complex valuation questions, agricultural land tax issues and adverse possession issues.
Advising Swiss trustees and a Swiss bank on the recovery of assets relating to unravelling an appointment upon the discovery of a fraud on a family trust and on the assets in the estate of the deceased settler in the sum of approximately £400m.
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.
Our lawyers brought the highest value Inheritance Act claim to date in Wooldridge v Wooldridge (2016). We were acting for a widow who sought to increase provision under her husband’s will after his death in a helicopter accident. The will had been “homemade”, written without legal advice, and our client felt that her husband had intended to leave her a greater share of his assets.
An eminent physicist, Michael Crowley-Milling who made English and Swiss wills bequeathed our client the Royal Society “all my assets in the United Kingdom”. The technical definition of United Kingdom excluded almost £1 million in bank accounts in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. We successfully argued that the scientific genius had made a geographical error and had also intended to give these assets to the charity.
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