Probate and estate administration

We have acted for many generations of executors, trustees and beneficiaries to distribute assets in an efficient and sensitive way.

At this difficult time for families, we see it as our role to make the process as smooth as possible.

Our size and global reach mean that we are able to project manage very complex estates. Where property and family members are spread across different jurisdictions, where there are disputes, tax issues or other complications, the probate team routinely consults with colleagues in other departments and countries to offer sophisticated and practical advice.

Services include drafting applications for grants of representation so that if necessary you can manage assets before probate is completed, and coordination of different tax regimes to avoid ‘double tax’ on your inheritance. We can also act as executors and trustees, either individually or through WITCO, our UK trust corporation.

In one notable case we advised executors for the 11th Duke of Marlborough in the largest ever claim of heritage exemption from UK inheritance tax. We argued that Blenheim Palace – designated a Unesco world heritage site – should be preserved for the nation. Like many Withers clients, the Duke owned assets in multiple jurisdictions and we were able to advise on foreign succession laws, estate and inheritance taxes and filing deadlines.

In a less high-profile case, an American family recently consulted us upon the death of their British father. Having worked in London for many years, he had various types of foreign investment that, while acceptable in the UK, would carry a punitive tax charge for his US family. Commercially it did not make sense at the time to sell these investments so we were able to restructure the asset base to comply with tax and procedural rules across both jurisdictions.

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Private client news - summer edition: wills and privacy


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Recognition

Ranked in Band 1 for private client for the last 16 years

Leading firm for private wealth

Ranked in top tier for personal tax, trust and probate

UK top 25 private client law firm 2017

Meet the team

How the team can help

Track record

The untimely death

This involved dealing with immediate ownership, probate and compliance issues following the death of a key family member midway through a major restructuring of family business interests. We handled the interplay between the estate and the family's existing wealth management structures to ensure a timely and tax efficient succession process and the successful completion of the wider business restructuring.

Post mortem globe trotting

A typical case involved co-ordinating multi-jurisdictional succession and probate processes in a large international estate that had a global spread of beneficiaries with individual tax and asset allocation requirements. We successfully defended a challenge by HMRC to the deceased's domicile status, dealt with the presentation of a complex double tax treaty claim relating to immediate estate and Inheritance taxes, advised on the management of cross jurisdictional income and capital gains tax exposure during the administration period and on conflicts of laws issues impacting on the burden of tax liabilities, generally.

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.

Post death tax planning

Following the unexpected death of the principal of a large trading business, post death tax planning to maximize inheritance tax reliefs, both on death and on the death of the surviving spouse in due course. This has involved complicated tax, trust and corporate issues to avoid significant tax charges on the restructure and a number of clearance applications with HMRC.<br />

Executors of multi-jurisdictional estate

Advised the Executors of a complex multi-jurisdictional estate on its administration and securing Business Property Relief from inheritance tax on private family company shares.

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.

Italian forced heirship rules

Advising a UK high net worth individual who inherited an estate with worldwide assets settled in trusts and corporate structures in relation to a claim put forward by his siblings on the basis of the Italian forced heirship rules.

Litigation against former business partner in Vietnam

Represented the court-appointed administrator of an estate in litigation against the decedent’s former business partner in Vietnam. We brought a derivative action on behalf of an entity the decedent co-owned with his business partner, obtained a preliminary ruling transferring half a million dollars from the entity to the estate, and ultimately settled the case.

Trust beneficiary

Represented a trust beneficiary who obtained a million dollar judgment and an award of attorney’s fees against a trustee who breached her fiduciary duties in the administration of a family trust.

Designated beneficiary of a retirement account

Represented the designated beneficiary of a retirement account and obtained summary judgment defeating the claim of an adverse party seeking a portion of the retirement account.

Private professional fiduciaries

In several different matters, successfully defended private professional fiduciaries against claims of alleged breach of fiduciary duty.

The estate of a leading British retailer

We assisted in the probate and estate administration of a member of the family behind a successful British retail business. The deceased was UK resident ‘non dom’, but with arguable common law domicile, and survived by a spouse, children and grandchildren. He held assets globally, some within a complex web of lifetime trusts, and had made wills in different jurisdictions. We managed the difficult domicile claim, co-ordinated probate applications globally and balanced the dynastic plan for the business.

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