Dawn Goodman

Senior counsel

Dawn is senior counsel in the trust, estate and inheritance disputes team.

Dawn has a wealth of experience litigating and working proactively with wealth-holding structures across the trust world, Europe, South America, Russia & CIS and the Middle East. She is tri-qualified (England & Wales, BVI and Eire) and acts in and advises on litigation spanning the whole range of trust and probate or estate and cross border succession issues. Once a problem has arisen she advises on ways to defuse contention, risk mitigation and alternative dispute resolution as well as on proceedings if necessary, ranging from consensual or prophylactic litigation to the most hostile of cross-border and multi-jurisdiction cases. As a recognised expert in this area, she co-authored Probate Disputes and Remedies, 3rd Edition, Jordan Publishing, a clear and practice guide to resolving contentious probate disputes.

Dawn is CEDR (Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution) accredited and is on the ACTAPS (Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists) panel of mediators. She has represented trustees, executors, beneficiaries and heirs in mediations to resolve probate and estate administration disputes, international succession claims and a wide variety of English and international trust disputes; she has also participated as a party to a mediation. Her experience inspired Dawn to become a mediator. She believes passionately in the benefits of mediation not only as a swift and efficient way of resolving a dispute but also because it give the parties the opportunity to explore a range of options to settle their differences in a way which minimises damage to family and other relationships.

Previously a divorce lawyer, she also advises trustees and beneficiaries caught up in divorce proceedings. She is co-editor with Mark Harper of International Trust and Divorce Litigation, 3rd Edition, Jordan Publishing.

Garnering her experience as a litigator and fiduciary, including for a UNHW family, Dawn advises families, family offices and businesses, trustees and other power holders on governance as well as reduction and management of fiduciary risk. She applies her understanding of conflicts of laws, geopolitical risk, family tensions and succession to wealth and businesses to help clients create or restructure robust trust and succession vehicles with sufficient flexibility to continue through to succeeding generations.

Dawn is recognised across legal directories for her expertise, ranked as a star individual for private wealth disputes in Chambers HNW and listed in the Hall of Fame for contentious trust and successions disputes in Legal 500.


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)

Dawn and her team work tirelessly and demonstrate complete dedication to their client’s interests. Always approachable, giving first rate advice, highly effective and results driven, Dawn’s incisive grasp of facts and law is impressive. A hard act to follow! 

Ingrid & Geoffrey Dale

Dawn is a doyenne of the industry who is tough and very effective at what she does, she is famous. Dawn is regarded highly – she is an excellent lawyer and exceeds on really complex matters.

Chambers Global 2019

Undoubtedly a star and the doyenne of trust litigation.

Chambers HNW, 2020

She has extensive experience in both domestic and offshore private wealth disputes and is described as absolutely top-notch.

Chambers HNW, 2020

She’s extremely level-headed, practical and considerate…Dawn builds trust with us and with her clients, and her knowledge, experience and professionalism are exceptional – she makes her clients feel safe.

Chambers HNW, 2020

Dawn Goodman has almost legendary status in this world. Opponents quake when they know she is instructed.

Legal 500 UK, 2021

Dawn is definitely a star, she has an absolutely fantastic reputation.

Chambers HNW, 2021

Dawn is always extremely professional and calm during all situations, clearly demonstrating she has listened to her client’s opinion, thoughts and concerns before providing a detailed reply. Her approach to all matters is comprehensive, honest and straightforward.

Chambers HNW, 2021

Dawn’s skills in dealing with cross-border contentious issues and resolution goes above and beyond any I have experienced in my years in this industry.

Chambers HNW, 2022






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.

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

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


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.



  • English





Regularly works with...