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MICHAEL ASHDOWN

Call: 2013   

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

Practice Overview

Michael has a busy chancery practice, with a particular focus on trusts and estates, pensions, and professional liability matters. He appears regularly in the High Court and County Court, as sole counsel and as a junior, and is also an experienced mediation advocate. In recent years many of Michael’s instructions have had an international element, including in Jersey, Guernsey, Bermuda, the Isle of Man, and BVI.

Michael’s trusts and estates practice includes all aspects of litigation, advice and drafting relating to private, commercial and, offshore trusts, estates and cross- border succession, and related private client tax. His pensions practice builds on his trusts expertise, and encompasses both occupational and private pensions, as well as regulatory and ombudsman matters. He has extensive experience of advising employers, trustees and members, and of being instructed in large-scale pension litigation, including in some of the most important recent cases such as British Airways and the Silentnight regulatory matter. Michael also has wide experience of professional liability disputes (both for claimant and defendant), typically arising in connection with trusts, estates and pension schemes, and including setting up domestic and offshore trust structures, and negligent tax advice.

Alongside his practice Michael also speaks and writes widely on the law of trusts, is lecturer in law at Somerville College, Oxford , and is the author of Trustee Decision Making: The Rule in Re Hastings-Bass. Before coming to the Bar, Michael spent six years as an academic in the law faculty of the University of Oxford, working on trustees’ powers and duties and remedies for breaches of trust, with a particular focus on Hastings-Bass and mistake claims, and teaching the law of trusts, land law, and Roman law.

What the directories say

For his trusts, private client & offshore work Michael is ranked as a Leading Junior in Chambers and Partners High Net Worth 2022 (Chancery: Traditional) and The Legal 500 2022 (Offshore), and as a Rising Star in The Legal 500 2022 (Private Client: Trusts and Probate). For his pensions work, Michael is ranked as a Leading Junior in both The Legal 500 2022 and Chambers and Partners 2022.

  • ‘He is my go-to for complex trust matters and never disappoints. He always appears to relish the challenge presented by complex or unique points of law. With regards to Michael, work is completed on time and is always presented in a professional and polished manner. Clients are left feeling they have received an exceptional service.’
  • ‘Has extraordinary technical knowledge and a keen eye for detail – he has an exceptional understanding of trust law in particular and is able to grasp and advise upon extremely complex matters quickly.’
  • ‘Exceptionally bright far beyond year of call.’
  • Technically excellent, hugely enthusiastic and extremely diligent.’
  • His intellect, attitude and accessibility are extremely impressive.

Michael was recognised by the Legal Week Private Client Global Elite 2018 as “One to Watch”.

Recent notable instructions include:

  • In the Matter of the X Trusts. Advising and acting for one branch of the family in a complex Bermuda private trust dispute, which is now the leading authority on the role of trust protectors (with Brian Green QC and Anna Littler).
  • FSCS and others v Estera Corporate Trustees (Guernsey) Ltd. Acting for a Guernsey trustee company in relation to claims for breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty and negligence arising from the failure of the Freedom Bay resort development in St Lucia (with John Wardell QC).
  • British Airways v Airways Pension Scheme Trustee Ltd. Acting for British Airways in a long-running claim against the trustees of the Airways Pension Scheme for alleged breaches of trust in the exercise of discretionary powers, culminating in a 7-week trial before Morgan J, followed by a successful appeal to the Court of Appeal (reported at [2018] EWCA Civ 1533) (with Michael Tennet QC and Sebastian Allen).
  • Acting for an offshore trustee in a complex multi-jurisdictional trust dispute involving allegations of breach of trust, reliance on professional advice in accordance with Pitt v Holt, and setting aside trust transactions for mistake (with Andrew Mold QC).
  • Acting for the settlor-beneficiary of offshore trusts in a contested blessing and trustee removal claim (with Robert Ham QC).
  • Silentnight Group DB Scheme. Acting for the trustees of the Silentnight occupational pension scheme in a regulatory investigation by the Pensions Regulator (with Jonathan Hilliard QC and Jamie Holmes).
  • Gaskin v Chorus Law Ltd [2019] EWHC 616 (Ch) Appearing for the claimant in a claim for the removal of an administrator which was radically reshaped when a valid will was discovered appointing one of the defendants as sole executor. A two-day High Court hearing was required just to resolve the complex costs consequences.
  • Advising (as sole counsel) an offshore trustee on closing an employees’ income protection scheme which had run out of money to pay benefits, and acting for the trustee in defending breach of trust claims subsequently brought by members.
  • Acting (as sole counsel) for a pension scheme trustee in its successful application to the High Court for summary judgment in a dispute about the independent advice requirement in section 48 of the Pension Schemes Act 2015.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Advising trustees on their powers and duties, the disclosure of trust documents, sale of trust property, the appointment and removal of trustees, the validity of past actions and decisions, and applications to court under the Variation of Trusts Act 1958 and section 57 of the Trustee Act 1925.
  • Drafting trust documents, including new trust deeds, deeds of appointment, release and assignment, and resolutions exercising powers of advancement (including by way of settled advance).