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Trusts, Tax, Probate & Estates
Michael has a busy traditional chancery practice across all aspects of trusts and estates. He is often instructed as sole counsel on both contentious and advisory matters, including those with a foreign element, but is equally happy working as part of a team in substantial disputes. He is often instructed to appear as sole counsel before the High Court, but also has substantial experience of acting as a mediation advocate, and is always pleased to achieve a negotiated settlement for clients who wish to avoid the cost, risk or publicity attendant upon litigation.
Michael’s recent trusts experience includes:
- Acting (as sole counsel) for a minor beneficiary in two sets of contested High Court proceedings, first pursuant to Schmidt v Rosewood Trust Ltd to obtain trust accounts and other information to explain the diminution of the trust fund, and secondly to remove and replace the existing trustees.
- Acting (as sole counsel) in High Court proceedings for a beneficiary seeking to establish his entitlement to a half share in a substantial trust fund, and to value and realise that share.
- Advising on a wide variety of questions arising from the creation and administration of the trusts of a large landed estate. These included the rights of a life tenant to both valuable chattels and real property, the exclusion of beneficiaries, issues arising from earlier IHT planning and previous settlements, and possible breach of trust and removal claims against trustees.
- Advising on the taking of trust accounts in the context of substantial insolvency proceedings
Michael’s recent probate and estates experience include:
- Advising on, drafting and successfully settling claims brought by the administrator of a deceased’s estate against both previous sets of professional personal representatives for the negligent administration of the estate, overpayments made to beneficiaries, and the assessment under the Solicitors Act 1974 of fees paid out of the estate.
- Advising the defendant administrator on claims under the under the Inheritance (Provision for Family of Dependants) Act 1975 concerning overseas property, the validity of UK and foreign marriages and divorces by both claimant and deceased, and the recognition in England of foreign polygamous marriage.
- Appearing as mediation advocate in a probate dispute concerning lack of testamentary capacity and knowledge and approval.
- Advising on the construction of ambiguously drafted will trusts where difficulties arose 40 years after the death of the testatrix.
- Acting for the deceased’s son in linked claims to substitute personal representatives in respect of one estate, and to obtain a grant of probate in a second, against a background of allegations of forgery of a will.
- Advising on and drafting proceedings for an account and inventory.
Michael has particular experience of acting as sole counsel for both claimants and defendants under the Inheritance (Provision for Family of Dependants) Act 1975, including acting for common law spouses and both adult and minor children, in estates ranging from the very small to those exceeding £10 million. He has appeared in the High Court in 1975 Act claims, but also has significant experience of settling such disputes via mediation and negotiation, and often appears as a mediation advocate. He also has experience of advising on 1975 Act claims with a substantial foreign element, and where the validity of marriages and divorces is called into question.
Prior to coming to the Bar, Michael spent six years as a trusts law academic, as Fellow & Tutor in law at Somerville College, Oxford. He has written widely on the law of trusts, and his published work includes the first book on the so-called “rule in Re Hastings-Bass” following the decision of the Supreme Court in Pitt v Holt  UKSC 26: Trustee Decision Making: The Rule in Re Hastings-Bass (OUP 2015) (link to Trustee Decision Making: The Rule in Re Hastings-Bass)