Trusts, probate and estates: contentious

We have long been regarded as a leading chambers in the fields of trusts, wills and probate disputes, with our reputation for excellence reinforced by constant recommendations in legal directories.

Our barristers not only have outstanding intellectual ability but also commercial acumen and sensitivity to the needs of clients, with a commitment to providing an excellent quality of service.

Areas of expertise include:

  • The scope of trustees’ powers and duties
  • Construction and rectification of trust documents
  • Probate disputes, including issues of construction and rectification of wills and testamentary capacity
  • Administration of estates, including cross-border issues
  • Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
  • Trusts in a commercial context, including employee benefit trusts and Quistclose trusts
  • International trust and estates disputes, including conflicts of law issues
  • Trust issues in matrimonial proceedings
  • Charitable trusts
  • Advising on and attending applications to the Court of Protection – experience includes but not limited to, acting for Protected Person (via Official Solicitor or litigation friend), interested parties and the Deputy
  • Professional negligence in trust and estates matters
  • Art and cultural property law (more information here)

Our barristers have a wealth of shared knowledge and experience. We are trusted and valued for our skills and know-how in the private client field. Our annual Wilberforce Trust Litigation Conference is a firm fixture for leading private client practitioners, providing a forum in which we can examine and discuss recent trends and developments with our clients.

We are regularly instructed by accountants, banks and financial institutions, as well as solicitors, attorneys and advocates. We are experienced in handling international work in offshore jurisdictions including Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Rankings and recognition

Wilberforce is ranked as a tier 1 set in Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500 for Traditional Chancery and Private Client (Trusts & Probate) work.

Chambers & Partners 2024: Wilberforce Chambers has an impressive group of barristers who handle complex disputes surrounding trusts and estates, and demonstrate multi-jurisdictional knowledge of the law. “The team here is tried, tested, battle-hardened and excellent,” comments a source. Recently, members of the set have appeared in a number of significant matters including Halabi v Equity Trust, which looked at fundamental principles of trusts and insolvency and their interrelationship. As one interviewee said: “Wilberforce is the go-to set for tricky cases that sit at the interface between different areas of law. They are the set to go to when you need someone really skilled and you’re seeking out the best advice.”

The Legal 500 2024: Wilberforce Chambers is ‘a leading set on all matters relating to trusts’ and ‘a real powerhouse in private wealth work’. ‘Trusts expert’ Clare Stanley KC is ‘a persuasive advocate’; sherepresented Simon Halabi in the Halabi v Equity Trust case before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, an appeal from the Jersey courts concerning if trustees have priority over other creditors of an insolvent trust. In addition, Jonathan Davey KC represented HMRC in Levack v Bay Trust International test case concerning the doctrine of mistake, and trustees placing themselves at risk of mistakes as applied to tax structures, in this case one established by the practice of struck-off solicitor-turned-pornographer Paul Baxendale-Walker. Turning to the set’s juniors. Simon Atkinson represented the trustees in Goodrich v AB – a case concerning if provisions in a trust deed drawn up in 1990 should, in the light of subsequent legislation, should be interpreted as including stepchildren as children and civil partners as spouses.

Chambers Bar Awards 2023: Wilberforce wins Chancery Set of the Year

The Legal 500 Bar Awards 2022: Wilberforce wins Chancery Set of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2022: Clare Stanley KC wins Chancery Silk of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2021: Thomas Grant KC wins Chancery Silk of the Year

Chambers High Net Worth Awards 2020: Wilberforce wins of Set of the Year

The Legal 500 Bar Awards 2020: Wilberforce wins Private Client Set of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2018: Wilberforce wins Chancery Set of the Year

Wilberforce Chambers publishes a regular Private Client eBriefing update – if you would like to be added to the mailing list, please email marketing@wilberforce.co.uk.

Notable cases

Hinduja v Hinduja (Court of Protection) [ongoing]

Acting for the Deputy for the head of the Hinduja family (one of the wealthiest families in the world) amidst complex disputes between separate branches of the family in various jurisdictions.

Asturion Fondation v Alibrahim [2023]

The case, one of The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases of 2023, concerns a multimillion-pound property on The Bishop’s Avenue (sometimes known as “Billionaire’s Row”) in North London.

The judgment, in addition to dealing with questions of Liechtenstein, Swiss and Shari’a Law, addresses a number of principles of English property and trusts law and conflicts of laws.

Read the full judgment

Byers v Saudi National Bank [2023]

Acting for the successful respondent before the Supreme Court in the now leading knowing receipt case of Byers v Saudi National Bank [2023] UKSC 51. The Supreme Court has now definitively stated the proprietary basis of such relief, and rejected the submission that it is a remedial response to unconscionability.

Read the full judgment

In the matter of the X Trusts [2023]

Successfully acting for the respondent in Bermuda Court of Appeal in a decision on breadth of standard form consent powers of fiduciary protectors of trusts. The Court reached a unanimous decision following full argument that the role of a fiduciary protector having a power of consent in relation to the exercise of trustee powers is “narrow” rather than “wide”.

Read the full judgment

Equity Trust (Jersey) Ltd v Halabi [2022]

A key Privy Council decision of significance throughout the common law world, concerning the interplay between trusts and insolvency law. It has particular importance in circumstances where the trust fund is ‘insolvent’, in the sense that the trust assets are insufficient to meet the amounts due under the trustee’s right of indemnity.

Read the full judgment

Punter Southall Governance Services Ltd v Benge [2022]

Concerns the circumstances in which the Court might refuse to bless a decision of pension scheme trustees, with particular reference to the meaning of “necessaries of life”, the conflicted position of member-trustees, and the relevance of disputed matters of fact.

Read the full judgment

Goodrich v AB [2022]

An important decision concerning the construction of settlements created prior to the Human Rights Act 1998, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Read the full judgment

 

Financial Services Compensation Scheme Ltd and others v Estera Corporate Trustees (Guernsey) Ltd [2020]

A high-value trusts dispute arising from the insolvency of the Freedom Bay property development scheme in St Lucia. The case raises important legal questions about trustees’ ability to rely on investors’ contributory negligence as a defence.

 

 

Spitalfields Open Space v The Governing Body of Christ Church Primary School and Others [2019]

In the wake of the multi-million pound restoration of Hawksmoor’s masterpiece, there was a long-running legal dispute over the consecrated churchyard which forms the setting to the Church, a World Heritage Site.

 

Children’s Investment Fund Foundation v HM Attorney General [2018]

Heard in the Court of Appeal, this case concerns a registered charity, which sought approval of making a grant of $360m to a new charity established by one of its trustees. It marks the first time that the question of duties owed by members of a charitable company has been considered by the courts, and has significant implications for members of charitable companies.

British Airways plc v Airways Pension Scheme Trustees Ltd [2018]

Widely regarded as one of the most important in the pensions industry. It relates to the exercise discretionary powers and the proper purposes for which those powers can be exercised by trustees.

Read the full judgment

Akers v Samba [2017]

A successful appeal to the Supreme Court on the application of section 127 Insolvency Act 1986 and the Recognition of Trusts Act 1987 to a disposition of legal title to Saudi shares held under a Cayman Islands trust.

Read the full judgment

 

Labrouche v Frey & Ors [2016]

A long-running claim for breach of trust, which principally concerns the relationship between an English Will trust of a Swiss resident and a Liechtenstein Establishment and issues regarding remuneration of the trustees.

Read the full judgment

Futter v HMRC and Pitt v Holt

The seminal Supreme Court decision on what had become known as the rule in Re Hastings-Bass and on the ability to set aside voluntary dispositions on the ground of mistake.

Read the full judgment

Day v RCM

Linked appeals concerning an enduring power of attorney, inter vivos gifts of chattels and the rule in Strong v Bird.

Marley v Rawlings

The Supreme Court decision on the construction and rectification of wills.

Read the full judgment

P L Travers Will Trust Trustees v HMRC

Whether the royalties from the Mary Poppins stage musical were income or capital receipts for trust law purposes, and their correct tax treatment.

Read the full judgment

 

CIR v Nice Cheer Investments

A Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal case on whether unrealised profits of a trader in investments were liable to profits tax.

MHI v Cayman Island Tax Information Authority

Representing companies in a judicial review which established the obligations of Revenue Authorities seeking to enforce Tax Information Exchange provisions under the OECD model or double taxation treaties.

Insights View all thought leadership

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    Articles

    Upper Tribunal decide tax and trusts appeal in respect of gilt strips

    Watts v Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs [2024] UKUT 00168 (TCC) Jonathan Davey KC has received judgment from the Upper Tribunal in an appeal concerning a claim for tax relief on losses said to arise on the sale of gilt strips.... Read more

    By Jonathan Davey KC
    Friday 14 June 2024

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    Articles

    Trust me, I’m a dolphin!

    Joseph Steadman has written an article in which he considers McHale v Dunlop, a recent claim for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty, arising from the loss of pension assets transferred into a SSAS and invested in an overseas investment... Read more

    By Joseph Steadman
    Thursday 13 June 2024

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    Articles

    Eternal life, or dead and buried – which claims survive death?

    Article by Lemuel Lucan-Wilson, 23rd May 2024 To read or download this article as a PDF, please click here. Lois McMaster Bujold once wrote “the dead cannot cry out for justice. It is the duty of the living to do so... Read more

    By Lemuel Lucan-Wilson
    Thursday 23 May 2024

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    News

    Wilberforce shortlisted for Set of the Year at the High Net Worth Awards 2024

    We are delighted to announce that Wilberforce Chambers has been shortlisted at the High Net Worth Awards 2024 for Set of the Year. Chambers and Partners’ criteria for this nomination reads as follows; “These award nominations and the ultimate winners are the... Read more

    Thursday 2 May 2024

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Upcoming events View all events

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    External Conferences

    Transcontinental Trusts: Bermuda

    Thursday 20th June 2024
    Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, Bermuda

    Speakers:
    Robert Ham KC

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Fraud, Trusts & Asset Recovery Conference 2024

    Thursday 4th July 2024 | 12.30pm - 5.25pm, followed by drinks and canapés
    The View at The Royal College of Surgeons

    £135 + VAT | 3.5 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    Private Client Breakfast Briefing: Wills, probate and capacity – the latest updates

    Tuesday 16th July 2024 | 8.30am - 9.45am
    Wilberforce Chambers, Lincoln's Inn, London, WC2A 3QP

    Free to attend | 1 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Civil Fraud Conference 2024

    Wednesday 6th November 2024 | 12.30pm - 5.30pm, followed by drinks
    The Westin London City

    Price TBC

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Past events View all past events

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    External Conferences

    Junior Litigators’ Forum

    Thursday 9th May 2024
    The Grand Hotel, Birmingham

    Speakers:
    Simon Atkinson

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    External Conferences

    Chancery Bar Association Geneva Conference

    Thursday 18th April 2024
    Novotel Geneve Centre, Geneva

    Speakers:
    Thomas Robinson

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    External Conferences

    Informa Connect and ConTrA Trusts in Litigation Conference 2024

    Thursday 21st March 2024
    Budapest Marriott Hotel, Budapest

    Speakers:
    Lemuel Lucan-Wilson

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    External Conferences

    ACTAPS South East Seminar

    Tuesday 12th March 2024
    Charles Russell Speechlys, Guildford

    Speakers:
    Fenner Moeran KC | Tiffany Scott KC | Elizabeth Houghton

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