Worldwide Lawyers Managing Director, Sara Janion, attended the annual Law Society Cross Border Conference in London on 7th March 2019 and provides the following round up of the day’s events.
For those who aren’t aware, the annual Law Society Cross Border Conference is aimed at private client practitioners who wish to learn more about dealing with cross border estates and international clients with foreign interests.
Part of the focus this year was on the new EU Matrimonial property and Civil Partnerships regimes. Matrimonial property regimes are a completely alien concept to most UK solicitors but something that ought to be considered when dealing with clients with assets abroad, especially when it comes to succession planning, wills, probate and divorce.
A matrimonial property regime (MPR) is a formal, binding contract between spouses (and in some cases civil partnerships), which sets out the ownership of the couples’ assets on death or divorce.
The relevant regime usually takes effect before any assets devolve under a will (a bit like the way rights of survivorship relating to assets held as joint tenants do). It is therefore necessary to know about the existence and application of an MPR prior to preparing a will or dealing with an estate administration. For succession planning MPRs can also be quite a helpful tool and can be recognised in English law for moveable assets. (Watch this space for more information about Matrimonial Property Regimes and the new regulations in our upcoming article).
As is traditional at the conference, the afternoon consisted of a case study of a deceased estate administration where there were assets in multiple jurisdictions. The scenario was analysed by a panel of foreign lawyers from Spain, Italy and France with participation from the audience, which included legal practitioners dubbed as ‘Cross-border Royalty’. The study highlighted the different approaches by each country and the application of the EU succession regulations.
I was fortunate to be able to catch up with a number of the foreign lawyers within the Worldwide Lawyers international legal network at the conference. Many had travelled from their respective jurisdictions specially to attend the conference which highlights the dedication, expertise and experience these lawyers have with regard to advising English clients and law firms in relation to cross border wills and probate matters.
Take away points to note:
• When dealing with succession planning or administration of an estate with foreign assets make sure you seek advice from a foreign lawyer in the relevant jurisdiction.
• Don’t forget to check if your clients are subject to a matrimonial property regime and the effect of this before preparing any wills or dealing with inheritance.
• Consider the effect of the EU succession regulations on choice of law when dealing with estates with foreign assets. The regulations have retrospective effect and choice of law can be implied. Often the applicable law is therefore not completely obvious.
• The concept of universal succession in other countries means that estates are inherited ‘warts and all’ and beneficiaries are liable for the deceased’s debts from their own funds. It is possible to waive an inheritance in many jurisdictions (in whole or in part depending on the jurisdiction) but this must be dealt with properly with assistance from a foreign lawyer.
If you are dealing with a case which requires assistance from a foreign lawyer, or any case where there is an international legal aspect, please do not hesitate to contact Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470 339 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to provide initial guidance and, where required, put you in touch with a recommended law firm who can assist you with your overseas and cross border probate.