Shan Warnock-Smith QC - 5 Stone Buildings
King's counsel / Mediators

Shân Warnock-Smith KC

Call to Bar:1971

Appointment to Silk:2002

Widely regarded as one of the leading names at the Chancery Bar, Warnock-Smith is described as a joy to work with and a highly client-conscious lawyer.

As both English King’s Counsel and as a Cayman Islands attorney, Shân is both an adviser and a litigator with an equal enthusiasm for both. She specialises in trusts, succession and other private wealth issues often involving a number of different jurisdictions. Shân has a truly international practice which takes her around the world from her London base at 5 Stone Buildings and her Cayman base at International Chancery and Trusts Chambers. She has a particular interest in wealth structuring and protection for international families from both the advisory and the litigation standpoints.

5 Stone Buildings - building sign
Legal 500 2024

"Shan is at the absolute pinnacle of her profession in the trust world. She is 100% class and provides expertise on the full range of trust matters from advisory work through to highly contentious trust matters."

Legal 500 2020

"She knows Cayman trust law like no other, she is loved by attorneys island-wide."

Legal 500 2020

"Has the ability to cut straight to the heart of the problem and to think creatively to find commercial solutions which fit neatly within the client's expectations."

Chambers and Partners High Net Worth 2019

"She is incredibly personable. She is impressive not just in dealing with solicitors, but client-facing as well. Her advice is easy to digest and she has the best manner"."

Chambers and Partners High Net Worth 2019

"If something comes up, she's seen it before, and if not she rolls her sleeves up and works it out - she's truly wonderful with clients, in a way that is very rare in such an eminent QC."

About Shân Warnock-Smith KC

Professional Reputation

Shân is highly recommended as a leading Silk in the current editions of Chambers UK, The Legal 500, and Legal Experts.

“A powerful advocate who knows how to catch and keep the judge’s attention, and a good technical chancery lawyer who will really get involved in tough cases.”

“She has an outstanding reputation in trust work and is one of the foremost experts in offshore matters.”

Chancery Traditional: Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2018

“She is a powerful advocate, who knows how to captivate judges.”

“She is very commercial and understands the business needs of her clients.”

Offshore: Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2018

“A really good advocate with a fantastic style, who is able to engage the court and hold its attention. She has a lot of gravitas and clients love her because she’s so approachable and easy to get on with.”

“Has an impeccable and in-depth knowledge of all things trusts, as she has done so many obscure trust cases.” “She is very commercial and understands the business needs of the clients.”

Trusts: Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2018

‘Her legal analysis is incisive and she has a great courtroom manner.’

Charities: Legal 500 (2017) 

‘The doyenne of the London offshore cohort.’

Offshore: Legal 500 (2017) 

‘She is the perfect combination of utterly charming and totally persuasive.’

Private Client: Trusts and Probate: Legal 500 (2017) 

The Legal 500 (2016) notes that her “track record on many leading cases is second to none.”

“She commands the floor and judges follow her and listen to her. They have a great deal of respect for her. She is a really, really important member of the English Bar.” “She’s highly responsive and willing to jump in at a moment’s notice. She’s very good on her feet, very well known to the judges offshore and very well respected.”

Chambers 2017 Chancery Traditional

“A dominant presence in high-profile offshore litigation who has outstanding credentials in private client and wealth structuring work.”

“What she does is bring clarity to a case; she makes complicated cases very simple, and it’s a great skill to have. Judges love it and clients love it.”

Chambers 2017 Offshore

“She is supremely skilled in complex onshore trust and estate work. She has the ability to see a complex set of problems in the round and produce a speedy and practicable answer.”

London (Bar), Trusts (Chambers UK) and Private Wealth: Trusts (The Bar) Chambers Offshore – Band 1

“She is a big player in the world and simply everywhere.”

London (Bar), Offshore Chambers UK – Band 1

Trusts and private client – Domestic and International

Shân’s practice involves all aspects of trusts and estates, both contentious and non-contentious. She is equally at home advising on wealth structuring for clients around the world or on cooperative variations of trust as she is in hotly-contested trust disputes. Shân is at the forefront of developments in the private client field and as a result she has been consulted by governments in connection with proposed legislative revisions to trust law. She appeared in Re Yorke (deceased) [1997] 4 All ER. 907, the test case on estates of Lloyds Names, and is the author of the subsequent Practice Direction permitting paper applications to the court in such cases.

Some of Shân’s other notable cases are:

  • Re Mrs L (Grand Court of the Cayman Islands) – the approach of the Cayman court to the property and affairs jurisdiction under the Mental Health Law.
  • MEP v Rothschild Trust Cayman Ltd (Grand Court of the Cayman Islands) – the jurisdiction of the court under section 63 of the Trusts Law (in similar terms to section 57 Trustee Act 1925) to confer a power to partition a trust fund.
  • Sutton v England [2010] WTLR 335, [2009] EWHC 3270 (Ch)(Court of Appeal, England and Wales) the jurisdiction of the English court under section 57 Trustee Act 1925 to confer a power to partition a trust fund.
  • A v Rothschild Trust Cayman Ltd [2006] WTLR 1129 (establishing the availability of the Hastings-Bass jurisdiction in Cayman).
  • Re Carapiets Trusts [2002] WTLR 989 (foreign charitable purposes).
  • IRC v Mallender [2001] WTLR 459 (availability of IHT business property relief for Lloyds underwriter).
  • Trustee 1 v Attorney-General of Bermuda [2014/15](Bermuda Supreme Court and Court of Appeal): several novel applications concerning Bermuda purpose trusts.
  • AN v Barclays (Grand Court of the Cayman Islands) – the validity of “no contest” clauses.
  • Re Alpha Beta Trusts (Bermuda Supreme Court) – variation of trusts under section 47 of the Bermuda Trustee Act 1975.
  • Re Y Trusts (Grand Court of the Cayman Islands) – rectification of a trust where protector improperly appointed.
  • Appleby v Citco (BVI Commercial Court) – breach of trust by trustee for failing to supervise investment manager.

Shân has also appeared in numerous important and often sensitive unreported cases dealing with variations of trust, construction and rectification proceedings, breach of trust claims and applications for directions by trustees, particularly those concerning the sale or management of family companies and divorce orders affecting offshore trusts.

International presence

Shan is admitted to practice in England and Wales, the Cayman Islands and Trinidad and Tobago. She has also been admitted on many occasions in Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands. She often assists in cases in Hong Kong, Singapore, Jersey, Guernsey, the Bahamas, the Isle of Man and all other jurisdictions in which her expertise is relevant. Her Cayman chambers provides an international base from which she is particularly well placed to advise clients for whom the Caribbean time zone is convenient, particularly those from the US and South America. She is able to make herself available, often at short notice, in whatever jurisdiction is most convenient for her professional and lay clients.


Shân is an accredited mediator and a specialist in the mediation of trust and probate disputes, particularly those with an international dimension.

Professional Memberships

Shân is a member of STEP, ACTAPS, the International Academy of Trust and Estate Law and the Chancery Bar Association. She is an Emeritus Bencher of Lincolns Inn. Shân also sits on the editorial board of the Wills and Trusts Law Reports.

Publications and lecturing

Before coming to the Bar Shân lectured for some years in the law of trusts and property. She contributes regularly to professional journals. She is a highly-regarded and frequent speaker at professional conferences around the world and has chaired the highly successful Trusts and Estates Litigation Forum in Provence since its inception eleven years ago.

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