Trustees, executors and fiduciaries

It's a great honor and responsibility to be entrusted to manage and dispense wealth on behalf of others. As the rules regarding investments, accounting and taxes get ever more complex, it's vital that you understand what powers and responsibilities you do or don't have.

This is particularly critical when interests in multiple jurisdictions around the world are involved, as hasty decisions can trigger punitive tax consequences which could otherwise be prevented.

Global experience

We have acted for many generations of executors and trustees and our team is available to guide you through the different rules and decisions you must deal with. With 17 offices globally, we are particularly skilled on cross-border matters involving complex questions of tax, as well as advising trustees and executors on claims brought against them by beneficiaries or third parties.

Given your fiduciary duty to the trust’s or the estate’s beneficiaries, you may be particularly vulnerable to claims of breach of duty, and in certain circumstances, this can lead to personal exposure to a claim. We help manage risk for a wide cross-section of trustee clients. We act in ‘friendly’ disputes, where the court simply gives guidance on how best to resolve a particular trust or estate problem; but if the matter cannot be sorted out or the parties are ‘hostile’, we prosecute or defend on behalf of our client as necessary.

Our in-house trust corporation, WITCO, has a full-time team who can act as executor or trustee for UK wills and trusts, and we have extensive contacts throughout the onshore and offshore world of trust management.

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27 June 2018 - Video

International trusts: Control and protection

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Finalist for STEP Philanthropy Team of the Year 2020

Ranked in top tier for personal tax, trust and probate

Finalist: Contentious Trusts and Estates Team of the Year (large firm) (2020)


Withers understands the complexities of US domestic and international planning, and provides sophisticated guidance on navigating the complexities of both tax and international planning.

Jackson Hole Trust Company

Withers is the law firm we look to for legal issues for our US/UK clients; often with a complex tax background.  The firm’s depth of knowledge and experience is excellent, on all trust and tax related legal issues, including tax controversy.

Julian Nelberg, Director - PwC

We have developed one of the premier independent trust companies in the US and we value Withers’ unparalleled record in sophisticated trust structuring and their ability to meet our clients’ needs.

South Dakota Trust Company

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Track record

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.

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.

Hawksford Executors

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.

An estate executor

Withers has extensive experience and knowledge of inheritance tax issues around the world. This means that we are often called to step in when problems arise. One executor of a will came to us when he wanted to take action against his late spouse's solicitor. We were able successfully to argue that the solicitor had failed to effectively advise about US tax liabilities on the spouse's worldwide assets during the making of her UK will.

Wee Chiaw Sek Anna

Representing the sole executor of the estate of the late Ng Hock Seng, we successfully defended a claim by Ng Li-Ann Genevieve for a share of alleged matrimonial property, based on fraud, breach of trust and unjust enrichment.

Defending a Cyprus-based trustee

We are defending a Cyprus-based trustee who faces beneficiary claims of USD$150 million in the British Virgin Islands Commercial Court.

A Jersey trust

Advised the trustee of a Jersey trust, working alongside US colleagues, on the conversion of that trust to a grantor trust for US tax purposes while walking the fine-line to preserve the favourable tax regime of the trust for UK tax purposes and avoiding triggering UK tax issues on the conversion.

Non-domiciled clients

We advised many clients and trustees on the steps to take prior to the non-dom reforms, particularly in relation to trusts established by individuals who became deemed domiciled for all tax purposes on 6 April 2017.

Private fiduciaries

We represented numerous private fiduciaries in matters related to the management, leasing and sale of trust real estate assets.

Swiss Trustees and a Swiss Bank

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.

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.

New Zealand trustees

Assisting New Zealand trustees on the implications for the trust arising from an underlying multi-million litigation between the beneficiaries.

Mexican multigenerational trust

Using insurance, we worked on the tax-deferred dissolution of our client's substantial multigenerational trust structure alongside Mexican counsel.

Misrepresentation to Swiss trustees

A Protector misrepresented to Swiss trustees that the primary beneficiaries had agreed that very substantial trust assets should be appointed out to a secondary beneficiary who was a close relative of his on the basis that he would provide for the primary beneficiaries. Later the primary beneficiaries requested the trustees for help. Withers advised the trustees on taking steps to set aside the transfer to him. The matter was settled swiftly.

Advice following the Madoff investment scandal

Following the Madoff scandal we advised the investment arm of a bank trustee with numerous Central and Latin American settlors / beneficiaries who had exposure to Madoff.

Murakami Takako v Astoeti Gunanto

Acting on behalf of an executor of an estate and obtaining a Mareva injunction over assets in Singapore on the basis of a claim for the return of sales proceeds by a solicitor acting for the estate.

Hong Kong

Acting for trustees of Cayman trusts in relation to a banking transaction, amending loan documents to include provisions reflecting the position of the trustees as borrowers. We also provided advice on the position under English law regarding the administrative powers under the terms of the trusts. As part of this, we also revised the Enforcer and Appointor arrangements in respect of the trusts.

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