Head of Trusts & Private Client Department
Christopher McKenzie joined O’Neal Webster in May 2013 as a partner and head of the firm’s Trusts and Estate Planning Department. He specialises in advising on all aspects of the BVI’s laws relating to trusts, wills, and estates. Chris is highly recommended by clients, peers, and industry ranking bodies and has a broad range of skills and comprehensive experience in BVI laws that apply to trusts, wills, and estates.
Chris was the founding chair of the BVI branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and was the chair of STEP’s Caribbean and Latin America Region from 2010 to 2013. He is an emeritus member of the STEP Caribbean Conference steering committee and was elected by the Region to serve four consecutive terms as a council member and director of STEP worldwide from 1999 to 2010. He was also vice-president of the BVI Bar Association from 2003 to 2007 and now chairs the Bar Association’s probate reform committee; he was appointed by the Cabinet to serve three consecutive terms on the BVI Government’s Marketing Advisory Committee. Chris has recently been re-appointed by the BVI Government as a member of Team BVI, established to promote the BVI’s distinct financial services brand, as a spokesperson and represent the jurisdiction on the international stage.
Chris chaired the committee, the proposals of which led to the enactment of the Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act, 2003 (VISTA), the Trustee (Amendment) Act, 2003, the Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2003 and the BVI’s regulations enabling exempt private trust companies to be set up; he was also chair of that committee (which is now chaired by O’Neal Webster partner Vanessa King) when it made proposals leading to the 2013 amendments to VISTA and the BVI’s other laws relating to trusts and estates.
Chris is a frequent lecturer at international trust conferences and has contributed to all the most important publications on BVI trusts and estates: he is the author of the chapter on VISTA trusts in Thomas & Hudson’s The Law of Trusts (OUP) and the British Virgin Islands chapters in International Succession (OUP), Trusts in Prime Jurisdictions and Disputes Involving Trusts and is the co-author of the British Virgin Islands chapters in International Trust Laws, International Trust Precedents and The Private Wealth and Private Client Review. He is Trusts & Trustees’ country correspondent for the BVI and has also written numerous articles which have been published in that periodical, the Journal of International Trust and Corporate Planning, Private Client Business and various other industry journals.
After practising in the private client departments of the leading London and provincial UK law firms of Cameron Markby (now Cameron McKenna) and Taylor Walton, he moved to the BVI in 1996 and headed up the trusts team of Harneys until 2004; he was subsequently the partner in charge of the private client department at another major BVI law firm for eight years before joining O’Neal Webster.
Among many accolades, Chris won an open exhibition to St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and was a member of the Trusts Group which won the STEP award for legal team of the year in 2006.
Chambers High Net Worth Guide writes, “The BVI trust industry owes a lot to” Christopher McKenzie, states a source; “he is vastly experienced and has been a big advocate and proponent for the BVI.”
“He has a very comprehensive and detailed knowledge of BVI trust law,” says one market insider, and another adds that “he is very responsive, knowledgeable and meticulous in his approach to his analysis and delivery. He also ensures that your matter is dealt with in a timely manner.”
- Legal500 – Christopher McKenzie is ‘a trusted adviser’ specialising in BVI’s trusts, wills and estates laws. ‘Strongly rated by peers’
- IFLR1000 – ‘Leading Lawyer‘ ‘Singled out for praise by clients and competitors’ and ‘known by the market as the leading trust lawyer in the BVI.’
- Who’sWhoLegal – ‘Private Client Expert‘
- STEP Founder’s Award for Outstanding Achievement
- Ranked in Financial Centres International (FCI) 500 List
- Citywealth Leaders List 2009-2019 – “Leading International Lawyer.”
- Chambers Global Guide – ‘Christopher McKenzie has gained a large following in this field.’ ‘[i]s praised for his academic rigour, seniority and long history with BVI trust law.’ ‘Sources praise the technical and academic prowess of BVI private client chief Christopher McKenzie.’ ‘[h]as a great grasp of the big picture according to interviewees, who note his international reputation as a trust lawyer.’
- PLC Which Lawyer? – Leading BVI Lawyer – “Most well established and respected trusts lawyer in the BVI.”