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Charlotte John
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Very clever and very committed

Chambers UK

Considered and careful in her approach. She is calm with clients and makes well-reasoned arguments to tricky opponents

Legal 500

She displays incredible attention to detail and thoroughness, and understands issues very quickly

Legal 500

Charlotte’s practice focuses on Chancery and property litigation and encompasses both traditional Chancery and commercial work. She has particular expertise in matters concerning the administration of estates and trusts, contentious probate, real property as well as Court of Protection property and affairs matters.

She is recommended in both the Legal 500, where she is ranked for Private Client and Property and Construction, and Chambers UK, where she is ranked for Real Estate Litigation. The editorial praises her for her encyclopaedic knowledge, commitment to her cases and her client care skills.

Charlotte regularly produces articles relating to her specialist areas of practice and blogs at Equity’s Darling on private client and property law. Together with James Kessler QC, she has co-authored the latest edition of Drafting Trusts & Will Trusts (Sweet & Maxwell).

Charlotte was co-opted to serve on the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners (“STEP”) working group, which liaised with the Ministry of Justice during lockdown in the lead up to the introduction of the Remote witnessing of Wills: The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 and which produced guidance for STEP members on the remote execution of wills. She is also presently involved in the STEP working group set up to review the STEP Standard Provisions.

Charlotte sits as a Deputy District Judge in the County Court and Financial Remedies Court.

Contentious Probate & Inheritance Act Claims

Charlotte has considerable expertise in probate matters and estate disputes.

She regularly represents and advises beneficiaries, executors and trustees in a wide range of estate disputes in the High Court and County Court, including cases involving the validity and interpretation of wills and trusts, issues arising in the course of the administration of an estate or trust, disputed life time gifts, and claims for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Selected Cases

  • Successfully acting on behalf of the beneficiaries of an earlier will in resisting a claim to admit a later fraudulent will to probate, in circumstances where a note had been doctored to add testamentary provisions.
  • Acting in a validity claim in which the will was disputed on the grounds that the deceased held false beliefs about the disinherited beneficiary, which she had come to hold either as a result of her dementia, with the result that she lacked testamentary capacity, or as a result of fraudulent calumny.
  • Advising executors in relation to long-running issues concerning the administration of a complex and potentially insolvent estate. The deceased died owning assets with a value of c. £4 million but owing considerable debts in the UK and abroad.
  • Advising in relation to the construction of a survivorship clause and the question of how the running of time should be computed for the purposes of the clause. Charlotte also had to consider the consequential IHT consequences, depending upon the correct interpretation of the clause.
  • Successfully securing an award for a child with autistic spectrum disorder under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
  • Acting in proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 where the deceased died allegedly in two Islamic marriages, neither of which had been formalised under English law and both of which had born children to whom the deceased’s estate passed under the intestacy rules. Both of the mothers brought competing claims for provision from the deceased’s estate, which comprised a number of private companies of uncertain value and assets against which third party claims had been intimated.
  • Advising in a claim concerning a dispute as to compliance with s.9 of the Wills Act and raising a novel issue concerning the application of the order of the signatures of the testator and the witnesses, and the operation of the presumption of due execution.
  • Advising (led by PJ Kirby QC) in a claim to set aside a judgment made in contentious probate proceedings on the grounds of alleged fraud, raising issues concerning the rights of beneficiaries to see legal advice given to executors.
  • Advising in relation to the construction of gift under a homemade will, which could arguably be construed as a gift with merely precatory wording, alternatively as a trust, or an equitable charge or as a gift subject to a condition.
  • Obtaining the court’s sanction to distribute the estate in circumstances where a third party had intimated an arguable claim to the entirety of the estate assets but had failed to diligently prosecute the claim.
  • Successfully resisting a claim to remove a personal representative alleged to have failed to fully investigate the deceased’s estate and to have failed to bring assets in for distribution.

 

Court of Protection

Charlotte accepts instructions in Court of Protection matters concerning property and affairs and has experience of dealing with matters involving complex estates, assets situated offshore and allegations of financial abuse. She has expertise in cases concerning statutory wills and gifts and advises professional deputies in cases involving complex considerations relating to the administration of P’s estate and prospective litigation.

Selected Cases

  • Successfully securing an order approving the execution of a statutory Will which disinherited a party suspected of substantial and sophisticated financial abuse of P, including the use of offshore structures.  Charlotte also advised in relation to civil recovery options including cross-border asset tracing.
  • Offering urgent advice on the eve of completion to an attorney concerning the exercise of her powers of sale of P’s property in circumstances of a conflict of interest.
  • Advising a deputy in relation to the set aside or appeal of an order adverse to P’s interests made in earlier proceedings where it appeared that the litigation friend acting for P had a conflict of interest and had failed to adequately represent P’s interests.
  • Successfully securing an order calling in a bond following the misappropriation of P’s funds by a former deputy, including expenditure by the deputy on cosmetic surgery for herself.
  • Advising in relation to the exercise of the right to buy the council property occupied by P and issues concerning the proposed co-ownership of the property.
  • Successfully securing orders removing an attorney on the grounds that P had lacked the capacity to make lasting powers of attorney for health and welfare and for property and financial affairs, against a background of suspected financial abuse on a grand scale and including the attempted misappropriation of assets in at least three jurisdictions.
  • Advising in relation to the construction of the provisions precluding certain persons from acting as a certificate provider (which the OPG eventually accepted leading to the dismissal of the application to cancel registration of the power).

 

Trusts Disputes

Charlotte has significant expertise in trust disputes and she handles cases involving assets located internationally as well as domestically. Her experience covers trusts of land and cohabitation disputes, restitution, breach of trust, rectification and construction of instruments.

She regularly represents and advises beneficiaries, executors and trustees in a range of estate and trust disputes in the High Court and County Court.

Selected Cases

  • Acting on behalf of executors in litigation between the executors and various parties asserting competing interests in the estate, including constructive trusts and proprietary estoppel claims.
  • Advising on the construction of a trust deed and whether or not it created a full life interest or a mere right of occupation and as to the apportionment of expenditure between the income and capital of the fund.
  • Advising in relation to the setting aside of a series of negligently drafted “property protection” settlements and in relation to contemplated professional negligence proceedings.
  • Advising in relation to a sale of trust property, at the request of the principal beneficiary of a discretionary trust, to a company owned by the trustee’s wife in potential breach of the rules against fair dealing / self-dealing.
  • Acting for a trustee alleged to have committed a series of fraudulent and negligent breaches of trust in circumstances where the entirety of the trust estate had been sold or repossessed by the bank after bridging finance had been raised against trust assets Charlotte successfully secured the strike out of proceedings brought by the life tenant in the High Court and also summary judgment in associated proceedings brought by third parties claiming an interest in the trust assets in the County Court.
  • You can find details of Charlotte’s trust of land experience and her experience of proprietary estoppel claims and other claims involving equitable remedies concerning land in the Property tab of her profile.

Matrimonial Finance

Charlotte draws upon her property and Chancery expertise in matters in matrimonial finance matters involving trusts and other complex property rights and acts both for and against intervening parties in cases involving third party interests. Charlotte also regularly acts in spousal claims for provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Charlotte sits as a Deputy District Judge in the Financial Remedies Court and is trained to act as an through the Family Law Arbitration Scheme, which arbitrates financial remedy, TOLATA and Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claims.

Selected cases

  • Acting for an intervenor in matter where the assets concerned a working farm in which the intervenor retained an interest pursuant to the terms of a farming partnership and agricultural leases.
  • Advising the deputy of a party lacking capacity in relation to matters arising from the implementation of a consent order made in financial remedy proceedings.
  • Acting for an intervenor seeking to recover substantial sums transferred to her daughter for the purchase of the matrimonial home.
  • Representing adult children resisting a claim that the property transferred to them by their parents is held on trust for their parents and available for distribution in the financial remedy proceedings between them.

 

TOLATA claims

Charlotte is a recognised expert in trusts of land and is frequently instructed in the County Court and High Court on TOLATA and proprietary estoppel matters. She has substantial experience of co-ownership disputes, claims for orders for sale and complex accounting issues. Charlotte also accepts instructions in cases involving property claims under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

Together with James Kessler QC, Charlotte contributed to a new chapter in the latest edition of Drafting Trusts & Will Trusts (Sweet & Maxwell) on co-ownership trusts of land in addition to six new precedents including trusts of land and charges to protect contributions to purchase.

Selected cases:

  • Successfully resisting a constructive claim brought in the context of a family farming dispute and associated financial remedy proceedings, including full recovery of her client’s costs.
  • Advising in relation to the enforcement of rights of pre-emption in an express trust of land.
  • Securing orders for sale and for the payment of an occupation rent in the context of a dispute concerning an investment property held on trust between business partners.
  • Acting for a party with the benefit of a charging order in proceedings and securing a declaration that an alleged declaration of trust was a sham and an order for the sale of the property.
  • Successfully resisting a claim by the estranged wife of the deceased to a beneficial interest in property in the deceased’s estate valued at c. £5 million on the basis of a constructive trust or proprietary estoppel.
  • Successfully resisting a claim for an order for sale by a former cohabitee in conjoined TOLATA and Schedule 1 proceedings.

Charlotte is presently instructed through Advocate in a long running constructive trust dispute concerning 12 investment properties (see further details under Commercial Chancery).

Real Property

Charlotte has experience of disputes concerning real property including the sale of land, boundary disputes, adverse possession, mortgage possession claims, proprietary estoppel and claims to set aside disputed lifetime gifts on the grounds of vitiating factors such as undue influence or lack of capacity.

Selected Cases

  • Advising clients who wished to avoid completing an off-plan property purchase and in associated professional negligence claims against the conveyancing solicitors.
  • Advising in relation to breach of covenant in a dispute between neighbours concerning the construction of freehold covenants and in associated professional negligence claims.
  • Advising in a complex dispute arising from High Court proceedings brought by a mortgagee for orders that residential leases had not been validly forfeited and consequential issues, including rectification of the Land Register to the prejudice of the client who was the registered proprietor of a subsequently granted lease.
  • Advising in a proprietary estoppel dispute between siblings relating to a family farm where, contrary to the intentions and assurances of the deceased and his wife, unequal provision had been made for the siblings.
  • Recovering possession of land and successfully resisting a claim to adverse possession of unregistered land, in proceedings where the title-holder had serious mental health difficulties which raised the question of whether or not time could have run against her under the Limitation Act 1980.
  • Setting aside a purported gift of residential property made by P, in circumstances where the gift was found by the court to have been procured by undue influence on the part of P’s son at a time when P’s capacity was waning.
  • Securing an order awarding Charlotte’s client a life interest in property on the grounds of proprietary estoppel, in circumstances where Charlotte’s client had been encouraged by her daughter to give up her own home and had given away the proceeds of sale. Securing a substantial award for damages and costs on the indemnity basis against the personal representatives of the daughter’s estate, who had wrongfully evicted Charlotte’s client.
  • Advising in relation to title issues arising in an estate where the deceased had been convicted of property related frauds and involving Patel v Mirza illegality issues.

Commercial Chancery

Charlotte accepts instructions in a broad range of commercial Chancery disputes and has acted in matters concerning corporate and personal insolvency, mortgages, debt recovery, breach of fiduciary duties and partnership disputes.

Selected Cases

  • Defending proceedings in which a claimant was seeking to fix the defendant with personal liability for the debts of a company, in circumstances where it was alleged that the defendant had given an oral assurance that would have been void as a guarantee but valid if construed as an indemnity.
  • Defending possession proceedings in the High Court brought by an insurer in circumstances where a double subrogation to the rights of discharged mortgagees was sought and involving issues of limitation and adverse possession.
  • Securing favourable terms of settlement in a case involving the fraudulent transfer of property, breach of fiduciary duty and economic torts including unlawful means conspiracy.
  • Acting in proceedings for the recovery of commission payable to a property agent.
  • Acting for the surviving shareholder in an incorporated firm of solicitors, which had entered into administration following the death of the other principal fee earner. Charlotte successfully resisted the claim brought by the personal representatives of the deceased’s estate for an order that the proceeds of a life insurance policy, of which Charlotte’s client was the named beneficiary, was held on trust to be applied to the debts of LLP which had been guaranteed by the shareholders. Charlotte further secured orders requiring the deceased’s estate to contribute to the guaranteed liabilities and for the transfer of the co-owned business premises to Charlotte’s client.
  • Acting in proceedings concerning the construction of conditional fee provisions in a contract for the provision of estate planning advice.
  • Charlotte is presently instructed through Advocate in a constructive trust dispute concerning 12 investment properties, which her property developer client seeks to establish are held on trust for him by his former mortgage broker. The claim involves an allegation of forgery and issues concerning fair dealing between trustee and beneficiary, undue influence, and compliance with the formal requirements for assigning beneficial interests.

Professional Liability

Charlotte accepts instructions in professional negligence matters associated with her other areas of practice. These matters usually involve legal professionals.

Selected Cases

  • Recovering damages against a firm of solicitors on behalf of a child in a case concerning a missed limitation period under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
  • Advising the deputies of P in relation to contemplated negligence proceedings where solicitors acting in the transfer of a property had purported to act for both sides of a transaction despite an obvious conflict of interest and grounds for suspecting undue influence.
  • Successfully recovering damages against a firm of solicitors who acted in relation to a mortgage procured by undue influence, where the solicitors had accepted instructions from the party exercising undue influence over P, a mortgage broker, and had transferred the proceeds of the mortgage to the broker’s personal account.
  • Advising a firm of solicitors alleged to have been negligent in the handling of financial remedy proceedings and alleged to have failed to advise their client in relation to the suitability of a litigation loan.
  • Advising in relation to a prospective claim against solicitors acting in financial remedy proceedings, who were alleged to have failed to take steps to prevent the respondent from dissipating assets.

Directory recommendations

Charlotte is recommended by Chambers UK for Real Estate Litigation in the South East. The directory notes:

  • Her knowledge is terrific.” “She is very thorough, responsive, approachable, highly capable and completely client-focused.”
  • “Highly personable, meticulous and consistently good. Technically proficient and great with clients. She goes the extra mile.”
  • Her knowledge is encyclopaedic and clients love the thoroughness of her approach.”
  • “I am very impressed with her. I found her to be very confident and self-assured but also realistic.”
  • “Very clever and very committed to her cases. Very personally involved.”

Charlotte is also recommended by the Legal 500 for Property and Construction in the Regional Bar South Eastern Circuit, and for Private Client in the London Bar. The directory notes:

  • She displays incredible attention to detail and thoroughness, and understands issues very quickly.”
  • Is considered and careful in her approach; she is calm with clients and makes well-reasoned arguments to tricky opponents.”

Judicial Appointments

Deputy District Judge

Publications

Drafting Trusts & Will Trusts (Sweet & Maxwell)

Charlotte blogs on private client and property law at Equity’s Darling.

Professional associations

  • Chancery Bar Association
  • Property Bar Association
  • Society of Trusts & Estates Practitioners
  • Court of Protection Practitioners Association
  • Contentious Trusts Association

Qualifications

  • STEP Diploma in the Administration of Trusts and Estates (England and Wales)
  • College of Law, Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists Diploma
  • BPP BVC (Outstanding, first in order of merit)
  • BPP GDL (Distinction, first in order of merit)
  • Sussex University, MA International Relations (Distinction, third in order of merit)
  • University of Southampton, BA (Hons) Archaeology (First Class, first in order of merit)

Awards

  • Baron Dr Ver Heyden de Lancey Prize, Middle Temple (best performance in the Bar exams by a student of Middle Temple) (2008)
  • Diplock Scholar, Middle Temple
  • John Scott Montague Prize, University of Southampton
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