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Introduction to Citywealth's Top 100 trust litigators and polymaths


Citywealth has a 15 year history of analysing the offshore market with strong relationships with trust companies in jurisdictions like Cayman, Bermuda, Zurich, Geneva, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Through its independent editorial and decade long awards programmes (IFC Awards), our knowledge of the sector is second to none. As the world reels from Covid-19 and a world of litigation awaits us, the global sector has also experienced significant upheaval. Consolidation, private equity investment, changing business models and investment performance pressure from clients. The trust industry has also seen government and OECD oversight and asset tracing from professional parties like 'family' lawyers. So who do trustees turn to when litigation arrives on their doorstep or on the other side of the coin when families or entrepreneurs are no longer happy with their advice or service? Citywealth conducted a research programme over several months to create a Top trust litigator list fit for purpose. One of the key questions asked was: who has impressed you most during current or past litigations? Their answers have revealed a list of peer recommended litigators who have negotiated with the toughest opponents, through the hardest circumstances and with very little on their side but brains, lateral thinking and a will to win. What must be pointed out to the casual observer here though is that litigations, despite sometimes, requiring a formidable approach, can take years to resolve and as one wise New York lawyer once said "running out of money is sometimes the best way to bring a long running dispute to an end". The research on this list and their cases will reveal just such a situation, however as even the best arbitrators and mediators in the world have also said "sometimes everyone needs litigation." This may mean that a case is 90% agreed, but one point cannot be agreed upon. Litigation is a tried and trusted method that has its place in the world even with the most agreeable and mild-mannered lawyer or client. We hope you find this curation a well-considered one, the list is dealing with top of the world cases including Royal families, government bodies and persons of interest accused of fraud. Everyone appearing here is a Citywealth ‘Magic Circle’ selection. As well as this, we ask you, if you use or know these lawyers or barristers to let us learn more by leaving a review on their page to tell us about your experiences and rate them on fees; technical expertise; interpersonal and communication skills. But, if choosing a lawyer from this selection, keep in mind, as one of our respondents said "I don't think there is any lawyer or barrister who is the right choice for every type of case" which underlines the need to be realistic in your expectations:, realise it is risk taking, needs financing, but also that sometimes in life and business there is little choice but to protect your position, even if the cookie, in the end, doesn't crumble your way. www.leaderslist.co.uk a user rating site, from Citywealth, for the wealth management and private client industry. For articles on wealth management please see our sister site www.citywealthmag.com. For the full Top 100 Trust Litigators list click here 

See also: Top 10 Trust Litigation Barristers 

And: Top 10 Powerwomen Trust Litigators 

Joshua Rubenstein

National Chair, Private Wealth

Katten Muchin Rosenman, New York

What do clients and peers say of Joshua Rubenstein: "Unequalled in high profile client advice. Perceptive, conciliatory and innovative in turning around difficult client matters to their clients longterm advantage."


How does Joshua Rubenstein describe himself? "A creative win-win strategist." Ruling as one of New York's most successful lawyers and with a familiy history of musicians it is hard to disagree. And the longest case he has had? "There are two related cases, the first of which took 20 years, and the second of which started 20 years ago complaining about the conclusion of the first, so in total, over 40 years and counting." And, I wonder, Is it always the person with the most money who wins? "While that is often the case," he says, "it is not always so. Frankly, the person with the better lawyer will win just as frequently as the person with more money."

As litigation post Covid-19, is set to rise as people and organistions recover from the disruption, I ask if litigation as a concept will look the same in future? He says no and explains why. "As vast accumulations of wealth continue to grow and then pass hands, battles over inherited wealth will continue and indeed proliferate.  But because so many different structures and types of assets are now involved, the litigation of the future will be highly interdisciplinary and require a team of specialists from multiple areas of the law."

So what case has he been most impressed by in his lifetime? "One of the most impressive and satisfying was a case, a fellow attorney, Bonnie Chmil, and I had where at the time of our client’s divorce from her husband, he was reported to be worth $40 million, and she received a marital award of $20 million.   When her ex-husband committed suicide two years later, he was worth $400 million, and left his entire estate to his children with our client.  Our client was convinced her ex-husband had misrepresented his wealth at the time of their divorce (as opposed to making so much money is just two years), but pressing her claim would make her adverse to her own children, whom she was raising without a father.  Through a combination of litigation with the estate and creative tax planning, we were able to achieve an award for our client of $160 million, take a full estate tax deduction for the claim, and with the tax savings enable the children, between both their parents, to receive nearly double what they would have received had they inherited solely from their father."

And his most notable case? "Most of our cases either have private settlements or confidentiality agreements or orders preventing publication.  Indeed, most private client matters are just that, private. One notable public case, however, is a great win that Bonnie Chmil, a co-worker at Katten, and I had from the Surrogate’s Court, Westchester County on behalf of the executors of the Estate of Lester Fisher, who was a member of the prominent Fisher family real estate entrepreneurs in New York.  He died in 2015 with a gross estate of $280 million, the bulk of which was left to his wife in a marital trust, the remainder of which would pass to a son from his first marriage and two sons from his second marriage upon her death. His other two children from his first marriage, for whom he made bequests of $2 million each and substantial additional provisions outside of his will, filed a claim against the estate, seeking in excess of $85 million, based on the decedent’s alleged breach of an obligation in a separation agreement with his first wife to make a bequest in his will to the children of that marriage of a sum equal to one-third of his net estate and of his coin collection. Their claim was based on their belief that the bequests were to be divided equally among the children of the first marriage and had to be made outright and not in a remainder interest, and also was inflated by their theories that their brother had irrevocably waived his claim with respect to the decedent’s obligations under the separation agreement, entitling them to the entire one-third of the net estate, and that they are “contract creditors” against whom taxes could not be apportioned and entitling them to 9% prejudgment interest from the date of death. On the petitioners’ motion and our cross-motion for partial summary judgment, the court held that the petitioners were not entitled to their brother’s share of one-third of the net estate because their brother had effectively retracted his waiver of the decedent’s performance under the separation agreement, and that the separation agreement permitted the decedent to make a bequest to one or more of such children as a remainder beneficiary of a trust and, more significantly, did not require that the bequests be made in equal shares among the children. The court further held that the petitioners are not contract creditors but merely have a right in equity to enforce the decedent’s obligation, and therefore, to the extent the court ultimately determines that the decedent breached his obligation to bequeath one-third of his estate to these children, and to the extent the petitioners are entitled to enforce that obligation to the extent of any shortfall, the petitioners must pay their pro rata share of any estate taxes.  This decision dramatically reduced the likelihood of any potential recovery by petitioners of any share at all of the coin collection and any shortfall in the decedent’s bequest of one-third of his net estate.


See who else Citywealth recommends at Katten Muchin Rosenman on their Corporate Leaders List page: https://www.leaderslist.co.uk/leaderslist/katten-muchin-rosenman

See the full Top 100 Trust Litigator List

Methodology: A survey was sent to 18,000 wealth managers and private client advisors to ask for submissions and also recommendations of litigators who had impressed them. Respondents were asked to answer a set of questions which included key cases they had worked on; cases that had impressed them and biographies to examine. The result is a consideration of the names submitted and their recommendations. It also involved editorial research to review key information and compare to produce the final list. 

Bonnie Lynn Chmil


Katten Muchin Rosenman, New York

What do clients and peers say of Bonnie Lynn Chmil:  "Thoughtful, understanding, practical and realistic in expediting clients wishes."


For the full Top 100 Trust Litigators list click here 

Keith Schilling

Chairman, Senior Partner


What do clients and peers say about Keith Schilling: "Top of the world clients and action on their behalf. Stealthy, effective and one of the first people clients call when a crisis hits."

What we know about Keith Schilling is what he wants us to know. Coordinating the legal media strategy on behalf of clients such as Brad Pitt following his high profile separation from Angelina Jolie, Keith, holds confidentiality and reputation control at the heart of his and his staffs protective blueprints.  

Keith took a lead role in coordinating the legal media strategy on behalf of Brad Pitt following his high profile separation from Angelina Jolie. This involved challenging the media on inaccurate allegations and the attempted publication of private information in order to protect the client’s reputation and protect his children’s privacy.


See who else Citywealth recommends at Schillings on their Corporate Leaders List page:  https://www.leaderslist.co.uk/leaderslist/schillings

See the Citywealth Top 100 Trust Litigator list 


Paula Myers


Irwin Mitchell, Leeds

What do clients and peers say of Paula Myers: "Forceful, judicious with great forbearing and insight."

Paula Myers says of herself that she is determined, fair and inquisitive, all of which are important characteristics in a star litigator. Recently recruiting Claire-Marie Cornford in the Irwin Mitchell London team, the pair make an impressive combination to work on any dispute if, as predicted, a post Covid litigation world ensues. Who does Paula recommend? "Jordan Holland at 5 Stone Buildings," she says, "I have recently instructed him and his precision and attention to detail has been absolutely first rate."

Her most notable case? "Howard-v-Howard-Lawson". Reviewing the case write up it involved a painful, long running series of difficulties with a landed estate, which tells of a bankruptcy causing severe debt problems and ensuing sale and further disputes of full disclosure of assets between father and son.

Her longest case? "Six years but htere had been a dispute beforehand which lasted twenty years and involved four sets of proceedings." 

A landmark case that has impressed her? "Crocriani v Crocriani." In this case a wealthy, Mexican-Italian, leaves two trusts with substantial assets and an operating business that become the centre of dispute between Mother and daughters. It is a case of family feuds in legend. 

I ask her if money is the way to win a litigation? "No, there are lots of way to fund litigations now to support cases with merit. Different funding options now allow everyong to litigation and achieve results."   

And how will litigation look in the future? "I see more financial abuse claims aimed at trustee or lawyer mismanagement."


For the full Top 100 Trust Litigators list click here 


Tina Wuestemann

Partner, Head of Private Client

Baer & Karrer, Zurich

What do clients and peers say of Tina Wuestemann: "Dynamic, calculated, tactical yet aligned to clients  synergies in creating prudent outcomes."


For the full Top 100 Trust Litigators list click here

Aurelie Conrad Hari


Baer & Karrer, Zurich

What do clients and peers say of Aurelie Conrad Hari: "Adhering closely to client wishes, acting with vigour and steadfast purpose to achieve impressive results."


For the full Top 100 Trust Litigators list click here 

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