Dawn acted with Sarah Aughwane in the trustee accounting case of Henchley v Thompson [ 2017] EWHC 225 (Ch), advising successful beneficiaries in their claim against the trustee of a family trust for an account dating back over 40 years.
In the New York case of Naxos Art Inc v Zoullas No 16 Civ 7269 (JFK) (S.D.N.Y. Jul 7, 2017), Dawn advised a trust company while Dean Nicyper and Peter Wood acted in the recovery of misappropriated art worth millions of dollars from a custodian.
In the matter of the K Trust, Guernsey Judgment 31/2015, Dawn worked alongside Guernsey advocates and Counsel to advise 11 of 14 adult beneficiaries on an application - the first in Guernsey - seeking removal of a protector whose approach was no longer considered to be in the best interests of the beneficiaries. The Royal Court established the test in Guernsey for removal of protectors and dealt with incidental issues, such as specific indemnities, to which it considered the protector was not entitled in the absence of indemnity provisions in the trust deed.
In the matter of the R and RA Trusts (Guernsey C.A.) [470/2014] Dawn and Sarah Aughwane worked alongside Guernsey advocates advising beneficiaries who were the subject of an innovative application by trustees for disclosure of information against the beneficiaries in the context of an application to the Court by the trustees for the blessing of a trustee decision.
In Durham v Lambton & Others  EWHC 3566 (Ch), Dawn acted for the Earl in proceedings before the English courts in which those claiming pursuant to Italian forced heirship rules fought to stay the proceedings on the basis of forum non conveniens in favour of the Italian Courts.
Dawn and Sarah Aughwane worked alongside Jersey advocates for the successful beneficiaries in The Matter of the A and B Trusts  JRC 169A, where the Royal Court of Jersey made new law on the scope of the duties of trust protectors and the grounds on which they may be removed from office. The Royal Court proceeded to suspend the protector’s powers and removed him from office due to not only him having misunderstood his duties to the beneficiaries but also as a result of his failure to keep a watchful eye on the trustee’s management of the trusts.
Re C Trust Company Limited  JRC 048 was a Jersey case on ring-fencing trust assets from the impact of divorce, in which the Court adopted a novel approach to protecting beneficiaries’ interests from relief proceedings in the family courts.
A Trustees Limited v W,X,Y and Z  JRC 097 was a Jersey case on conflicts of interest and the approval of a distribution to beneficiaries, in which the Royal Court of Jersey confirmed the basis on which it will give or withhold such approval.
Charman v Charman (no 4)  EWCA Civ 503 is an important England & Wales (and to some extent Bermuda) case on trusts as a resource in divorce, where the Court of Appeal found that awarding the former wife £48 million on divorce (36.5%) was not wrong in principle as a result of the special contribution doctrine.
Wood v Holden  EWCA Civ 26, a case regarding the residence of a company for tax purposes.
In Sherrington v Sherrington  EWCA Civ 326, Dawn acted for the deceased’s first family at first instance and on appeal in this English probate dispute case.
Lemos v Coutts (Cayman) Ltd  CILR 381, a Cayman Islands case dealing with no contest clauses and entrenched heirship rights under Greek law coming into conflict with a Cayman island discretionary trust.
Hambro v Duke of Marlborough  3 WLR 341, a case on Settled Land Act powers.
Wahr-Hansen v Bridge Trust Company Ltd [1994-95] CILR 435;  CILR 527 in the Cayman Islands, which brought together a jurisdiction challenge, charity law and questions on the validity of trusts.
Dawn’s non-litigation track record includes numerous situations where settlors from the Gulf, South Africa, Central and Latin America, Russia, CIS and Ukraine or their trustees have sought advice on structuring or restructuring trusts to endeavour to make them more robust in the face of geopolitical risk.
She also combines her experience as a former divorce lawyer as well as a trust and succession litigator to advise families and trustees on structuring wealth to mitigate the risk of damage through divorce, family breakdown or where a clawback claim might arise under entrenched inheritance rules pursuant to Civil or Quranic law.
Dawn advises trustees and other fiduciaries on reducing fiduciary risk and dealing with the consequences should an error occur in such a way as to minimise damage to all concerned. Being a member of a trustee body for an international UHNW family trust since 2014 has given her first-hand experience of the pressures, responsibilities, range and complexity of decisions which trustees need to make. This invaluable insight enables her better to advise on enhancing decision-making and processes to preserve the family’s aspirations, the integrity of the trustees’ decision-making and the protection of the structure.
England and Wales, 1980
British Virgin Islands, 2008
Irish Practicing Certificate, 2019
CEDR accredited mediator, 2020
‘To reserve or not to reserve? What can possibly go wrong – Part II’‘ in Trusts & Trustees, Vol 26, issue 6 - July 2020
‘International Trust and Divorce Litigation’ (3rd Edition) (Co-author and co-editor), Jordans – 2019
‘To reserve or not to reserve? That is the question – Part I’‘ in Trusts & Trustees, Vol 25, No 10 - December 2019
‘If Boris were a trustee, would the public trust him?’ in E-PrivateClient - 5 December 2019
‘What if Boris were a trustee?’ in Financial Times Adviser - 22 October 2019
‘Trusts and settlors – can a settlor have too much power?’ in International Family Offices Journal, September - 2018
‘Chapter D5 Disclosure of Information’ in ‘Planning and Administration of Onshore and Offshore Trusts’, Bloomsbury Professional – 2017
‘Chapter G1- Authority to Trustees to Incur Costs of Litigation’ in ‘Administration of Trusts’, LexisNexis - 2016
‘Chapter H1 - Action by Disgruntled Beneficiaries’ in ‘Administration of Trusts’, LexisNexis - 2016
‘Protection from protectors’ in STEP Journal - November 2015
‘Trustees and the Family Business’ in STEP Journal – January 2015
‘Probate Disputes and Remedies’ (3rd Edition) (Co-author), Jordans – 2014
Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP)
Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS)
‘The impact of divorce on trustees and beneficiaries’, ThoughtLeaders4 Virtual conference – July 2020
‘Troubleshooting in the Trust World’ – Church House Investment Management – November 2019
‘Trustees and the Family Business’, STEP Essex – October 2019
‘Private Client case update’, International Trusts & Private Client Forums: Jersey & Guernsey – March 2019
‘Whither privilege – attorney client confidentiality in the Cayman Islands, the USA and the UK’, STEP Cayman International Wealth Structuring Forum – 31 January – 1 February 2019
‘Trusts & Divorce – an overview for trustees and practical tips’, Butterfield Trust (Bahamas) Ltd – Bermuda
‘Trusts of the Future’ , Private Investor: Middle East – September 2018
‘Trusts & Companies caught in the cross-fire of Divorce?’ Transcontinental Trust Conference Bermuda – June 2018
Il mio profilo in un minuto
I wished to become an opera singer.
The reluctant litigator.
One miserable day longer ago than I care to remember I attended an interview with the Law Society who were to decide whether, as one of the youngest students and in a minority of 10:1 men to women at law school I was a fit and proper person to be admitted to the profession.
Uninspired by the inevitable ‘ Why do you want to become a solicitor?’ I replied that I didn’t: I wished to become an opera singer. Shocked, the interview panel searched for an explanation for my presence there, eventually lighting on my engagement ring and enquiring, ‘ Your fiancé- he is a lawyer?’
‘No. He’s a conductor!’
After this inauspicious start I decided that perhaps it was worth trying and found that I took to the law. Having begun my career in a country practice as a commercial litigator and divorce lawyer (sometimes known as Surrey’s Iron Lady) I was fortunate enough to join Withers and to set up and develop the Contentious Trust and Succession Team, now called the Trust, estate and inheritance disputes team.
At Withers life has rarely been dull: some cases resemble an opera libretto or a Greek tragedy. Withers is all about people: how they live, marry, look after their children, buy property, migrate, create and run businesses, set up charities, interact with each other and need help when that interaction breaks down. The work is intense and demanding but fascinating: complex legal issues often crossing cultures and borders; difficult family or business relationships giving rise to dispute and the rigour of the justice system (or several concurrently in a multi- jurisdiction dispute).
In recent years I have taken on fiduciary appointments, enabling me to see life as a charity trustee or director of a private trust company from those very different and instructive angles. I also advise on risk reduction and mitigation for trustees and other fiduciaries, using my experience of what goes wrong to help avoid it. Stress testing is another example of a poacher turned game keeper: having had a reputation as a trust buster it is not difficult to see the fault lines in a proposed or existing structure and advise on how to strengthen it.
Outside Withers I spend most of my time with my family doing almost anything creative or artistic, particularly renovating ruined properties.
Occasionally, I still sing.