Private client disputes


The private client disputes group combines our pre-eminent private client and litigation practices. The clients we advise are diverse, but what unites them all is the complexity of their circumstances, and their expectation that they will receive legal assistance of the very highest standard.

Our team has a proven track record and the private client team is a regular awards recipient, most recently winning STEP London Legal Team of the Year Award in 2016.

We have particular expertise in resolving difficult and intractable family disputes and managing high value, complex multi-jurisdictional trust claims in a wide variety of jurisdictions, both in Court and in various forms of alternative dispute resolution, particularly mediation.

The litigation we deal with requires both specialist legal expertise and sensitivity to the needs of individual clients in what can often be emotional and difficult circumstances. Similarly, for corporate clients, especially trustees, high-value litigation can quickly become business-critical. Our advice therefore goes far beyond the legal position to supporting our clients in managing reputational, financial and other commercial risks and advising on high-stakes strategy and negotiations to ensure that disputes are resolved in the most appropriate way possible.

The types of litigation and disputes on which we regularly advise include the following:

Trust litigation

  • Variation of trusts
  • Breach of trusts, particularly in relation to investment of trust assets
  • Directions for the administration of trusts
  • Removal of trustees
  • International commercial disputes involving trustees
  • Fraud and asset tracing
  • Pre-emptive cost orders
  • Rights of beneficiaries/creditors
  • Constructive trust claims
  • Knowing receipt and accessory liability
  • Construction applications

Probate litigation

  • Challenges to the validity of wills
  • Claims against professional advisors
  • Undue influence/recovery of property
  • Removal/replacement of executors
  • Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 claims
  • Re Yorke applications
  • Re Benjamin orders
  • Breach of duty allegations
  • Applications to the court for directions


  • "Macfarlanes' contentious trusts team is known as a true leader in the field of sophisticated trust litigation. Clients say: 'They are exceedingly competent and very reassuring people to have on your side' and 'They are slick, professional and nice to deal with'."

    Chambers UK 2016

  • "An impressive team handling contentious probate and trust disputes both onshore and offshore. Sources say: 'You expect high-quality legal advice from a firm of their standing, but what makes the difference is the team's ability to combine this with great diplomacy and the ability to convey advice in a practical and constructive way'."

    Chambers UK 2014

  • "Macfarlanes LLP is a 'top-quality firm for all private client work, including contentious trusts'."

    The UK Legal 500 2014

  • "'The team provides frank analysis of the matter, practical guidance on strategy and superior co-ordination of the assets needed to handle multi-jurisdictional matters.'"

    Chambers UK 2014

  • "Macfarlanes LLP 'provides frank analysis, practical guidance, and the superior co-ordination needed to handle multi-jurisdictional matters'."

    The Legal 500 UK 2013