News | January 11, 2024

Profile: Victoria Mahon

Victoria’s practice includes all aspects of private client work. She has expertise in Court of Protection and elderly client work to include advising on applications to the Court regarding deputyship appointments, mental capacity issues, powers of attorney and protection of assets for vulnerable beneficiaries. She advises individuals on methods of mitigating inheritance tax and capital gains tax through lifetime gifts, trusts and tax-efficient wills, together with advising on the administering of estates and trusts. Victoria also advises on the establishment of new charitable structures, charity mergers / variations and matters relating to the administration of charities.

Tell us a bit about your career?

I joined Wedlake Bell quite some years ago as a trainee before qualifying as a solicitor in the Private Client team. Prior to my training contract, I did a vacation placement (work experience) as a university student at Wedlake Bell – circa 20 years ago. I knew from the outset that it was somewhere I really wanted to work. In fact, there are a number of partners at Wedlake Bell who trained at the firm and continued their careers through to partnership, which is testament to what a fulfilling place it is to work.

What aspects of your practice do you particularly enjoy?

I advise on a wide range of private client areas, such as Wills, trusts and estate planning, which includes planning for vulnerable persons. I particularly enjoy, however, the philanthropic side of client’s estate planning, which involves setting up charities for clients and then advising the trustees of such charities on how to run them. I set up my first charity for a client in 2008, on a pro bono basis, to save green open space in an area of London near where I lived at the time, for the benefit of local schools and sports clubs; this gave me a real taste for charity law. You can really give back to society working in this field and the work can be really far-reaching; it might be work for one client (the founder of the charity) but it will leave a lasting legacy for a wide cross section of the public.

What challenges are charities in particular facing at the moment?

Aside from the ongoing challenge of funding, particularly after coming out of a pandemic, a significant challenge is sustaining good governance. The collapse of some charities in recent years has exposed the results of weak leadership and brings lessons for trustees of all types of charities. The effectiveness of a charity essentially depends on the people who run it; trustees need to foster strong leadership and the right culture within the charity. A strong board will usually be diverse in terms of breadth of skills, experience, expertise and age. Appointing new trustees over time can refresh ideas and key to making this work is recruitment, induction and ongoing training. Trusteeship is a skill that grows over time with experience yet also with formal knowledge development – to keep up with the changing needs of the charity and the environment it works in. Investing in training will therefore offset the adverse costs of ineffective boards.

What advice would you give individuals who are considering philanthropic giving as a way of making a difference and aren’t sure where to start?

Philanthropy has increased hugely in the UK in recent years. I see more and
more clients wanting to leave a larger share of their estate to charity under their Wills on death as well as to give during their lifetime so they can see the impact themselves. The way clients want to give is changing, particularly amongst the younger generation, who want to evaluate where their giving will have the greatest impact. Setting up their own charity, will certainly not be for everyone, but for those who want to have a taste of what they can do in terms of giving, a donor advised fund (“DAF”) can be a great option. A DAF is an account that can be opened with a DAF provider (a charity in itself) to hold funds on behalf of a client who can ask the provider to distribute the funds to certain charities in line with their preferred causes. A number of the DAFs have philanthropy advisers who can guide account holders in respect of charities to consider benefitting and outside DAFs there are a growing number of independent philanthropy advisers. If you are thinking of giving, have an initial chat with your solicitor about it to guide you through options for giving and they can point you in the right direction of where next.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Much of my spare time is spent running my young daughter to her various dance clubs and looking after our little puppy. When I do have the time for myself, I really enjoy cycling and walks in the countryside; I am lucky to live in beautiful countryside amongst many fantastic cycle routes and footpaths.