It is becoming increasingly common for individuals to own assets in more than one country as more and more people own holiday homes abroad or have bank accounts, shares or other investments overseas.
When a person dies owning assets in multiple countries, it can be difficult for the executors and lawyers to know how to deal with the overseas estate administration. With cross border inheritance and taxation issues to consider, foreign estate administration can be hard work and extremely complicated.
So how do you deal with the estate of a deceased person who owned property, bank accounts. shares, insurance or investments abroad?
Working out how to deal with foreign estate administrations and international probate can be difficult and will usually require a specialist international probate lawyer to assist or at least assistance from a lawyer qualified in the relevant country with experience of dealing with cross border estate administrations.
Where a person dies owning assets in two or more countries, it is usually necessary for a document known as Grant of Probate or its equivalent to be obtained in both or all of the countries where the assets are located. The process required varies from country to country and the steps that will be necessary depend on various factors, such as they type of assets and in which countries the assets are located.
For example, if a person dies with assets in England and Spain, it will usually be necessary to go through two separate procedures to release the assets. One, the probate process in Spain where the beneficiaries of the Spanish estate will need to arrange for a Spanish Deed of Inheritance to be prepared and filed with a Spanish Notary before the Spanish estate to be released to the beneficiaries. For the English part, a separate procedure will need to be followed to obtain a document called a Grant of Probate, (or Grant of Letters of Administration if there is no Will) in England to release or transfer of the English assets.
A different approach would be taken if a person dies with assets, say, in New Zealand and England as it is not usually necessary to go through the entire probate process in each jurisdiction. If a Grant of Probate or other Grant of Representation has been obtained in New Zealand, the Colonial Probate Acts allows that Grant to be ‘re-sealed’ in England and Wales rather than having to go through the entire process separately. The countries covered by the Colonial Probate Acts and where resealing is possible include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, Jamaica, Malaysia and the Bahamas. Likewise if the Grant of Probate has been obtained in England and Wales it can be resealed in any of these countries without the need to go through the entire process in each country.
Why is dealing with an estate with assets in more than one country so difficult?
When someone dies and they have assets in more than one country, it is possible that more than one countries’ laws will apply to their estate. It is also possible that more than one Will would apply to their estate.
Not only that, the laws of different countries often conflict one another or apply different laws to different parts of the estate.
The probate and estate administration process in Spain, Italy and Germany will be different to the probate process in England as these countries do not recognise the concept of personal representatives so do not recognise the role of an executor or administrator.
There is also the concept of forced heirship in some countries such as in France where certain specified parts of an estate pass to particular beneficiaries (usually the surviving spouse and children) despite the contents of a will.
For each of the different countries in which the deceased owned assets, the applicable concepts, laws and inheritance tax rules need to be considered and applied in relation to each country and this can get complicated! It will usually be necessary to contact an international probate specialist or experience local lawyer in the relevant country. If you would like details of a recommended lawyer who can assist, contact Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470 339 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am the executor of an estate with assets in multiple countries- what should I do?
If you are appointed as executor where the deceased had assets abroad in two or more different countries, it is very important that you take advice from a international probate solicitor who understands how to deal with these complexities. You should act quickly to find an appropriate lawyer with experience with foreign assets and cross-border estates in the relevant countries to ensure that you do not miss any important deadlines that could result in costs to the estate through fines or interest on any taxes due. If the estate is not dealt with properly from the outset it is likely only to run up unnecessary legal costs in the long run which will inevitably lead to conflict with the beneficiaries- further increasing costs and prolonging the estate administration.
If you are an executor, administrator, beneficiary or a lawyer or other professional dealing with a cross border estate administration or international probate matter, Worldwide Lawyers can help. Contact us on 01244 470339 or at email@example.com for a no obligation discussion about how we can assist.
How can Worldwide Lawyers help with an estate with assets in multiple jurisdictions?
Worldwide Lawyers can assist you in dealing with a cross-border estate whether there is just one overseas asset or several. We can assist wherever you are located, so if you are the UK needing assistance with an asset abroad or if you are outside of the UK needing assistance in the UK and/or elsewhere.
Worldwide Lawyers will discuss the matter with you and if required, put you in touch with an appropriate lawyer with experience of dealing with cross border estates and probate matters in countries all over the world including the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, India, Thailand, South Africa, Isle of Man, Channel Islands (including Jersey and Guernsey). We can assist with any of the following:
- Obtaining or resealing letters of administration and grants of probate or equivalent
- Administering deceased estates involving assets situated in the UK and in other countries/ jurisdictions
- Arranging for affidavits of UK law
- Arranging for affidavits of foreign law
- Advising on UK inheritance tax, conflicts of law, domicile, succession and cross-border issues
- Obtaining valuation of assets
- Advising on UK succession law and will structuring
- Arranging for the sale, transfer and or repatriation of foreign assets.