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Michael Furness QC

Call: 1982    QC: 2000

+44 (0)20 7306 0102mfurness@wilberforce.co.uk

Trusts, Tax, Probate & Estates

Michael began his career at the bar as a private client trust lawyer, and this work still forms an important part of his practice.

Recent UK cases include:

  • Labrouche v Frey, [2015] a long running piece of trust litigation, which culminated in a 7 week trial in late 2015. Was handed down in February 2016, and Michael’s client was acquitted of all the breaches of trust alleged against her. The case raises issues about trustee accounting, the meaning of wilful default, and tracing, as well as issues regarding the succession to founder’s rights in a Liechtenstein Anstalt.
  • Rawstron v Freud [2014] represented the executors of Lucian Freud in a dispute about a secret trust created by his will.
  • Day v RCM [2013], appearing in the Court of Appeal in linked appeals concerning an enduring power of attorney, inter vivos gifts of chattels and the rule in Strong v Bird.

He advises on and conducts international succession and trust disputes, and has appeared in five major pieces of litigation in Bermuda in the last five years. He also conducts and advises on litigation in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas. In 2015 he appeared on two trustees summons in Cayman and one in the Bahamas, all concerning court approval for trustee exercises of discretion.

He has appeared in overseas courts as an expert witness on English trust law issues, in the Netherlands and Canada.

Michael also undertakes tax litigation on behalf of both HMRC and taxpayers.

Recent cases include:

  • Morgan Lloyd v HMRC [2016] challenging the convention compatibility of the regime for taxing the acquisition of interests in taxable property by registered pension schemes
  • Hargreaves v HMRC [2015]. Appearing in the Court of Appeal (alongside David Goldberg QC and Claire Montgomery QC) on an appeal which raises the issue of the right of a taxpayer to require HMRC to justify making an out of time assessment before the taxpayer is required to make his defence on the merits.
  • Proteus and Samarkand v HMRC [2015]. Representing the taxpayers in an appeal to the UT, combined with judicial review of HMRC practice concerning partnerships investing in films. This is now going on appeal to the CA.
  • Re Travers [2013]. Representing the estate of P L Travers in a successful challenge to HMRC’s attempt to impose the special rate of income tax for trusts on royalties from the Mary Poppins stage musical.
  • Mayes v HMRC [2010] Successfully defending a tax avoidance scheme in the Court of Appeal.
  • DCC Ltd v HMRC [2010] Successfully representing HMRC in the Supreme Court in an appeal on the taxation of gilt repos.

He also advises, and appears for the Hong Kong Commissioner of Inland Revenue. He has appeared in the Court of Final Appeal in Shui On Credit Co Ltd v CIR [2010] and Nice Cheer Investments [2012] and has made several appearances at first instance and in the Court of Appeal.

He undertakes contested probate litigation (see Carapeto v Good [2002] and Re Fitzgerald [2014])

Before taking silk Michael appeared regularly for the Attorney-General in charity matters, and since then he has continued to advise charities on trusts and tax issues, and to undertake charity litigation (in the HSBC case referred to above he appeared for the Attorney-General of the Cayman Islands on charity aspects of the litigation – and see also Bayoumi v Womens Total Abstinence [2003] (CA)).

Recent work includes:

  • Assisting a major UK charity in in obtaining a Charity Commission order under S105,
  • Advising a religious charity on how to respond to a Charity Commission contention that its objects are not charitable and not for the public benefit, and
  • Advising the trustees of a charity which had past involvement in a large scale tax avoidance scheme
  • Advising a charity which had concerns about the way it had administered its gift aid donations
  • Advising on the legality of political donations made by wholly owned trading companies
  • Advising on the terms on which a major property development to further the charity’s objects should be undertaken