Trust disputes

As one of the few global law firms with a team dedicated solely to trust and estate disputes, our standing in this area is unrivalled. Two partners in our team, Steven Kempster and Dawn Goodman, are co-authors of the leading textbook on international trust disputes.

We are renowned as tactical thinkers who see several steps ahead, even in the most complex cases. Our combined experience acting for trustees, beneficiaries, settlors, heirs, creditors, divorcing spouses and others, means that we understand the whole range of issues you may be facing.

‘Very often people come to us initially because they’re being stonewalled,’ says Jeremy Mellitz, a partner in our US office in New Haven, ‘If you think you’re entitled to something, but the trust administrators aren’t replying to your calls or letters, that’s really frustrating.’

Our lawyers are highly experienced in attacking and defending high-value trust structures and foundations, whether onshore or offshore. We handle both ‘internal’ and ‘external’ claims challenging the validity of a trust, and have helped trustees to recover losses caused by negligent advice they received.

Experience few can match

We have acted in a number of very high-profile court proceedings; however, the majority of our cases settle privately. In one case, we acted for a successful entrepreneur who consulted us because he had put property and savings into a trust structure he had originally acquired as part of an employee benefits scheme. When a director of the offshore trust company was convicted of fraud, our client became concerned. With our help, he retrieved most of his assets and settled a claim against the trust company for loss of value.

We represent HEH VIII Nizam of Hyderabad in an ongoing dispute over £35 million held in a London bank. The dispute originated in 1948, when a sum of money was given by the finance minister of Hyderabad (at the time an independent state) to the High Commissioner of Pakistan in London for safekeeping. A legal technicality recently brought the sum into the jurisdiction of English courts and we are working to retrieve it for our client and his family. However, the governments of India and Pakistan also claim it, in a dispute riven with history.

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05 August 2020 - Article

Attacks on Trusts in Hong Kong

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09 February 2017 - Article

iPad and remote controlled helicopter lose a £250,000 inheritance (plus costs)

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2021 Chambers High Net Worth, top ranked for private wealth disputes (Band 1)

Top ranked firm for contentious trusts

Top ranked firm for private wealth disputes

Top tier firm for contentious trusts and probate

Contentious trusts and estates team of the year (2015-2017)


Dawn Goodman and the contentious team at Withers have consistently delivered on instructions to bring clarity and context to our enquiries in a timely manner and on budget, which has been invaluable to our Client Service Directors in running and transitioning a large and diverse client base. We have been particularly impressed with the responsiveness of the team, which is sometimes required to advise on matters across languages and borders whilst acting seamlessly as correspondent to our own retained local advisers. My overall experience has been that for cases with large inherent or potential risks which may become contentious, Dawn’s team at Withers is a go to source of advice and support.

Phillip Ainslie, Technical and Compliance Director - Dominion (Geneva)

Meet the team

How the team can help

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.

Truro Trust and the PF Life Interest Trust

Advising the Trustees in the recently reported Jersey case of the Truro Trust and the PF Life Interest Trust as to whether or not they should submit to the jurisdiction of the English Court in divorce proceedings between a husband and wife. The Royal Court of Jersey endorsed the decision of the Trustees not to submit to the jurisdiction and approved their stance in relation to the provision of information.

The estate of Walter Henchley

Acting for three of the six children of the late Walter Henchley in proceedings concerning two trusts settled in September 1960, our clients sought an order that the sole surviving trustee (or de facto trustee) of both trusts provide an account in common form of his dealings with the trust assets during the period of his trustee.

Charman v Charman

In collaboration with our family law experts, we advised in this high profile and complex divorce case which may be seen as the apogee of the English divorce jurisdiction's robust attitude towards offshore trusts. It marked the widening gap between the trust industry on the one hand and the family division on the other as to the respect to be accorded to trusts, and it remains a seminal case in this field today.

HEH Nizam VIII of Hyderabad

Acting for Prince Mukkaram Jah, His Exalted Highness Nizam VIII of Hyderabad, in a dispute with India and Pakistan over funds held at Natwest Bank for over 50 years. The High Court decided in Pakistan v Natwest and Ors [2015] EWHC 55 (Ch) that the Nizam's claim to the funds may now proceed. The High Court recently gave Judgment on various strike out applications and the case is now proceeding to trial.

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).

Offshore trustee in divorce proceedings

Advising a blue-chip offshore trust company on its involvement in English divorce proceedings concerning attacks on trusts worth over £25m. We handled the disclosure issues for the trustee and eventually the case was concluded without the trustee being formally joined to the English proceedings.

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.

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.

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