Category Archives: Uncategorized

News-5-Will

Waiving a foreign inheritance

If you are the beneficiary or heir of an estate with assets abroad, it may be that you do not want to receive the inheritance and would like to waive or refuse your right to receive the foreign inheritance.

There are a number of reasons why a beneficiary may want to reject their inheritance, such as:

  • Accepting an inheritance may mean that you inherit not only the assets but also the debts too. This is the case in countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany and many others too. So, in circumstances where the value of the debt outweighs the value of the assets, it can be advisable to waive your inheritance.
  • Inheriting an estate may create an additional inheritance tax liability for you or your own estate and you may feel that renouncing the inheritance in favour of another person (e.g your children) would be more tax efficient.
  • You just don’t need the money or feel that others are more in need and would prefer to disclaim your inheritance so that someone else benefits.

Can you disclaim a foreign inheritance?

The ability to waive a foreign inheritance and the process to be followed all depends on the national law that applies to the estate. Determining which national law applies to the estate is crucial and should be ascertained before you decide whether to accept or decline the inheritance.  The applicable law will determine the effect of the waiver and the process to be followed.

How do you disclaim a foreign inheritance?

It is usually the case that you must take steps to formally renounce the inheritance otherwise, if you do nothing, you may be deemed to have accepted the inheritance after a certain period of time.

To waive your inheritance, some form of formal written waiver or disclaimer of interest is therefore usually required. This waiver/disclaimer will usually be prepared by the lawyer/notary in the country where the estate is located. The formal waiver will usually need to be signed in front of a Notary Public in that country or in your own country or at an embassy/consulate.

There is usually a legally specified time period in which you must submit the disclaimer, which can vary from a few months up to several years depending on the country. The time period can also be different for beneficiaries who live abroad.

What should you consider before waiving a foreign inheritance? 

In some countries, including Italy, Spain and Greece, a waiver of an inheritance must be total and cannot be partial. So, if you choose to reject your inheritance you must waive your right to the entire inheritance. For example, if there are assets in one country and debts in another, you cannot accept the inheritance in one country and refuse the inheritance in another. However, in some instances and some countries, such as France, you may be able to disclaim only some aspects of the inheritance.

Disclaiming a foreign inheritance can have serious implications for your own heirs. For instance, if you wish to waive an inheritance because the estate is burdened with debt, this debt may pass on to the next in line to inherit. If they choose to waive the inheritance, their heirs may inherit the debt and so on. So, you may wish to consider the implications that waiving an inheritance would have on your own children and grandchildren.

If you disclaim an inheritance in favour of another person, in some countries, such as Spain, this would be considered to be a gift and you may therefore be liable for two lots of taxation i.e. inheritance tax on your inheritance and then gift tax on it passing to another person.

Once you have officially rejected a foreign inheritance you cannot usually change your mind. So, you should be certain that you have made the right decision before disclaiming your inheritance.

Needless to say, dealing with inheritance matters in a foreign country can be complex. So, it’s crucial that you seek legal advice before deciding to whether to disclaim a foreign inheritance.

If you need advice on how to accept or reject a foreign inheritance in Spain, France, Italy, Greece or any other country, contact Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470 339 or email us at info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk. Our friendly and knowledgeable team will be able to provide assistance and put you in touch with an English-speaking lawyer in the required country.

 

Tourism Sunset Sea Santorini Greece Oia Island

Buying property in Greece and the Greek Islands – top tips

Greece and its beautiful islands continue to be a popular choice for holiday makers and homebuyers alike, despite not being in a great economic state. In fact, the economic downturn offers those considering buying property on mainland Greece and the Greek islands – including Corfu, Zante, Kefalonia, Lefkas, Rhodes and more – a great opportunity to bag a bargain. The property market is still recovering slowly from the 2008 crash, which means property prices are at all-time low, making buying a Greek holiday home a cheaper option than many other European countries.

With the option to grab a piece of land in Crete for as little as €7,000 to build your own home, bag a renovation project in Corfu for just €40,000 or splurge on a new-build villa with communal pool for a mere €125,000 in Zante, it’s easy to see why buying property in Greece is appealing if you’re looking for your very own place in the sun.

Before getting too excited though, when buying property in Greece you should always do your research and weigh up the pros and cons before you commit to a property purchase. Here are our top tips for things to consider when buying a property in Greece or on the Greek Islands.

Buy to enjoy, not to invest!

While Greece currently offers a fantastic opportunity to buy property relatively cheaply, if you’re looking for a short-term investment opportunity to make a quick buck it may be wise to consider investing elsewhere as Greece’s housing market is uncertain. If, however, you’re looking for a place away from home to enjoy the weather, food and culture, Greece could be the perfect choice.

That said, with more than 30 million tourists per year flocking to the Greek Islands and Greece, there’s certainly money to be made renting out your property to holiday makers. Just make sure that the property is not subject to any holiday rental restrictions before committing to a property purchase if you intend to rent your property in Greece out as a holiday let.

Research the different regions 

Although, there are many reasonably priced properties in Greece there are of course areas that are more expensive. A luxury city-centre apartment in Athens or swanky pad in Mykonos is likely to set you back £1 million plus, so don’t assume that all of Greece is cheap.

Scouring the online listings is a great place to start to get a feel for what you’re after from a property purchase in Greece (and what you can afford) but nothing compares to actually visiting the property. Pictures can be deceptive and won’t show you what the surrounding area is like. If your serious about buying a property on the Greek Islands or mainland Greece schedule a property viewing trip and get organised beforehand by contacting property professionals (such as a recommended Greek lawyer and currency exchange specialist) in advance, who will be able to offer guidance while you’re out there!

Top tip: Ask the seller/estate agent for an up-to-date property inspection and when viewing a property have the inspection document to hand.

Understand your position as a foreign buyer

Foreign buyers are very welcome in Greece as the country is keen for investment from EU and non-EU property purchasers. Currently there are very few restrictions for EU residents purchasing property in Greece and on the Greek islands. It can be slightly more complicated for non-EU residents who will need to make an application to the Ministry of National Defence to prove their connection to the country and what their intentions are for the use of the property. With the deadline for Brexit set for the 29 March 2019 (with an additional transition period of two years), depending on what your budget is and whether you intend to become a permanent Greek resident it might be worth buying before the Brexit deadline. The reason for this is that under the current negotiations both sides have agreed to maintain existing residency rights. However, this could change after Brexit!

On the other hand, if you have €250,000 or more to spend you could be entitled to a Greek ‘golden visa’, giving you all the same rights as a resident of EU-member states. Greece’s ‘golden visa’ scheme is the most affordable program in Europe, however, ‘golden visas’ are only available for non-EU citizens. So, if you’re considering investing in a property in Greece and are interested in applying for a ‘golden visa’, it may be advisable to wait until the UK is no longer in the EU.

Top tip: Double check your rights regarding the property and whether there are any restrictions. Properties that are designated ‘Alpha’ by the Greek Government (a historic home) are often subject to planning constraints meaning you may not be able to make updates or changes to the property.

Seek independent legal advice

It’s crucial that you seek independent legal advice in Greece when buying a property in Greece or on the Greek Islands from a reputable qualified Greek property lawyer. You will need to be advised as to whether there are any debts attached to the property, whether building regulations have been complied with to ensure that the property is legal, whether any restrictions or advantages for foreign property purchasers apply and much more!

It’s strongly advisable that you do not instruct a Greek lawyer that is connected to the estate agent, seller or developer as this can create a conflict of interest. An independent Greek property lawyer will protect your position and interests. Don’t sign any paperwork or pay a deposit before seeking independent legal advice from a specialist property lawyer in Greece!

Top tip: Ensure that the seller has the legal right to sell the property. It may seem obvious, but your lawyer will need to ensure that the seller is in fact the genuine property owner.

Worldwide Lawyers can put you in touch with an English-speaking independent property lawyer in Greece to assist with your property purchase. Call us on 01244 470339 or email us info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk for more information. 

Don’t lose out on currency exchange

When buying property in Greece, the purchase price will be payable in Euros, so if you’re a UK buyer the chances are your money will be held in Pounds Sterling. Therefore, the funds for the property purchase will need to be converted into Euros.

Many people assume that their high street bank will handle the payment at no charge, however, while there may not be any transfer fees, high street banks do not offer a very competitive currency exchange rate. In fact, offering poor commission rates are one of the ways banks make a lot of money at the expense of their customers!

Therefore, it is highly advisable to make the transfer through a recommended currency specialist rather than transferring the funds through your bank, as they offer a much more competitive exchange rate. Typically, using a currency specialist can save around 3-5 per cent of the transfer value when compared to the banks – which could save you thousands of pounds!

Top tip:  You should ensure you use a recommended currency specialist who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. 

For details of a recommended and regulated currency specialist and to discuss how they can assist you, please get in touch with Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470339 or email us at info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk.

Do your maths

Before committing to a property purchase it’s important that you fully understand all the associated costs, so you can manage your finances accordingly. In addition to the purchase price you should budget for the following:

Estate agent fees – 1-2 per cent plus 24% VAT

In Greece it is common for the estate agent fees to be split between the buyer and the seller. Sometimes this is factored into the agreed sale price, which in effect means the buyer pays these fees.

Notary fees –  0.65-1 per cent plus 24% VAT

To complete a property purchase in Greece it must be notarised by a Greek notary public, who acts as an independent, impartial and objective advisor to all parties involved in a property purchase in Greece and ensures the legality of the contract.

Legal fees – 1-2 per cent plus 24% VAT

Lawyer’s fees are charged as a percentage of the purchase price. Greek law sets a minimum charge that your lawyer has to make for acting in a property transfer but there is no maximum.
There may be an additional cost if Power of Attorney is required and/or you need legal assistance applying for your tax number (AFM), for instance, which is mandatory when buying a property in Greece.

Transfer tax – 3.09-24 per cent

Transfer tax in Greece is charged at 3.09 per cent of the of the property value (or value of the property as calculated by the Tax Authorities, whichever is higher). However, when buying a “new build” property you pay VAT at 24 per cent instead of transfer tax. Sometimes this is included in the purchase price, when buying a new build property, so it is worth checking before making a formal offer.

Land registry fees – 0.3-0.5 per cent

Land registry fees area based on the assessed value of the property. There will also be a small additional charge for stamp duties (which is different to Stamp Duty in the UK) and certificates.

If you’re considering buying a property on mainland Greece, Worldwide Lawyers can put you in touch with reputable independent English-speaking Greek lawyers covering Athens, Thessaloniki Corfu, Zante, Kefalonia, Lefkas, Paxos, Ithaka, Kythira, Rhodes, Symi, Halki, Karpathos, Kasos, Tilos and Kastellorizo. Contact our friendly team on 01244 470339 or email info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk.

You can also download our full Buying Property in Greece Guide for more information!

 

 

Currency mailer WWL

When should you consider using a currency exchange specialist?

When dealing with overseas assets such as property, shares and banks accounts, for instance, it can be a minefield knowing where to start. Instructing a reputable foreign lawyer in the country where the assets are held will almost certainly be a necessity. However, once you’ve instructed a foreign lawyer to handle the legalities it can be tempting to assume that they will manage everything efficiently and cost-effectively, including the financial side of things. But not all lawyers are clued up on the impact of currency exchange, especially if they do not regularly deal with international matters.

If you are handling any of the following transactions for yourself or as a lawyer acting on a client’s behalf, using a currency exchange provider can save you or your client thousands of pounds:

  • Buying a property overseas
  • Selling property overseas
  • Inheritance of foreign assets
  • Debt recovery where assets are located overseas
  • Acquisition of a foreign company
  • Making regular payments to a foreign account

Why is this? Because when it comes to transferring money between countries that use different currencies, the funds must be converted from one currency to the other. However, how to get the best exchange rate and the impact of currency exchange fluctuations are issues which are often not properly considered, which can inadvertently and unnecessarily cost several thousands of pounds.

The most cost-effective way to transfer funds between countries and currencies is to use a currency exchange specialist (also known as a currency broker, foreign exchange or Forex) rather than transferring the funds through the high street banks. This is because the bank’s exchange rates tend to be very uncompetitive and may also be accompanied by commission charges just to transfer the money overseas. Currency specialists, however, typically offer currency exchange rates that are 3-5 per cent better than high street banks meaning 3-5 per cent more of the funds will be preserved. For example, if you need to transfer the equivalent of £100,000, transferring the funds directly into your bank account and allowing the bank to convert the currency could cost up to £5000 more!

So, how do currency exchange companies save you money?

The reason that currency specialist companies are able to provide much better exchange rates than the banks is due to the volume of foreign currency transfers they make and the fact their sole aim as a business is to offer much better exchange rates compared to the banks. The currency markets change second by second but the banks often set their exchange rates at the start of the day. This means that banks have to build in a lot of ‘fat’ in to the rates offered to their customers to provide a large profit margin to cover them in case of adverse currency exchange fluctuations throughout the day. Currency brokers, however, offer exchange rates which are updated every second so they do not have to build in these high profit margins, unlike the banks, and can offer much more competitive rates.

Currency specialists can also advise you about the timing of the currency transfer and ‘fix’ rates to help you ensure the maximum amount of funds are received.  Using a recommended foreign exchange specialist is not only cost effective but also very time efficient. You can set up an account and send a payment within minutes. It is simply a case of transferring funds to a separate account where the money can be exchanged, and the relevant currency forwarded on to the desired account.

It is however recommended to contact a currency specialist as soon as you know you will need to make or receive an overseas payment as a good currency specialist will also be able to advise you regarding the timing of the transfer to help you get the most from your money. A good currency specialist will also be happy just to give you some information about how they can help.

The service provided by currency exchange specialists are usually free but can save a significant amount! 

 

Example 1 – repatriating foreign funds from an estate with overseas assets 

You are dealing with an estate where there are shares in a German company worth €200,000. You are based in the UK and need to receive the funds into your (or your UK client’s account). You will therefore need to convert your €200,000 into Pounds Sterling.

High Street Bank Rate Currency Specialist Rate
€200,000 @ £1.15 €200,000 @ £1.12
Amount received in £ £173,913.04 £178,571.43

By using a currency specialist instead of a bank, you or your client would have received £4,658.39* more!

It is recommended that anyone repatriating foreign assets or arranging to transfer money to or from abroad, contacts a currency specialist rather than risk leaving the transfer to the bank. A good currency specialist will be happy to give you some no-obligation information about the best way to deal with the currency exchange and how they can help you save money.

 

Example 2 – transferring funds for a property sale in Spain 

You or your client is selling a property in Spain for €150,000 but the funds will be received in Euros and you/they want to transfer the funds back to the UK, so the €150,000 will need to be converted into Pounds Sterling first.

High Street Bank Rate Currency Specialist Rate
€150,000 @ £1.15 €150,000 @ £1.12
Amount received in £ £130,434.78 £133,928.57

By using a bank instead of a currency specialist, you or your client would have lost £3,494.79* from the property purchase price.

 

Example 3 – buying a business in Australia 

You or your client based in the UK is buying a business in Australia valued at $1,000,000 AUD. The funds for the business purchase are held in Pounds Sterling but will need to be converted into Australian dollars before completing the acquisition.

High Street Bank Rate Currency Specialist Rate
$1,000,000 @ £0.59 $1,000,000 @ £0.57
Total cost in £ £590,000 £570,000

By using a currency specialist rather than transferring funds for the business acquisition it would save you or your client £20,000*.

*Exchange rates are subject to change.

As set out in the examples above, a small amount of research and planning can make a vast difference to the amount of money actually received and can add a considerable amount of value.

Currency exchange specialists help individuals, businesses and law firms save money on their overseas money transfers. As a lawyer, by helping your clients send or receive payments in the most cost-effective way, you can often save them more than the cost of your fees, adding real additional value for your clients!

 

For details of a recommended currency exchange specialist and to discuss how they can assist you and your clients, please get in touch with Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470339 or email us at info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk 

All Currency Exchange Specialists recommended by Worldwide Lawyers are registered and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority as well as fully regulated by HMRC and protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Worldwide Lawyers can also assist should you require details of a recommended foreign lawyer to assist you in dealing with legal aspects of your international matter. 

 

 

affidavit of foreign law probate

Need an affidavit from a foreign lawyer?

If a person who is domiciled outside of the UK dies owning assets in the UK, the probate registry will usually ask for an affidavit of foreign law (also know as declaration of heirs or certificate of heirs) before issuing the Grant of Probate/ Grant of Letters of administration to the executors or administrators of the estate.

What is an affidavit of foreign law?

An affidavit of foreign law (also known as an affidavit of law or evidence of law) is a sworn statement clarifying the inheritance laws of the country where the deceased was domiciled. It must prepared by a suitably qualified/ experienced lawyer familiar with the laws of the country where the deceased was domiciled or by a notary practicing in the country of the deceased’s domicile.

The affidavit of law should set the relevant inheritance law of the place of domicile in relation to the succession/ distribution of the assets, and who is entitled to apply for the Grant of Representation. 

Why is an affidavit of foreign law required?

An affidavit of foreign law is usually required in order to obtain a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration (collectively known as a Grant of Representation) where the deceased died domiciled outside of the country where the probate application is being made.

The Probate Registry requires the affidavit of foreign law so that they can ensure that they will issue the Grant of Representation to the person entitled under the relevant laws.

An affidavit of law will not usually be required where it is possible to re-seal a Grant of Representation that has already been issued by another country.

How do I get an affidavit of law?

If you are a lawyer or personal representative of an estate where an affidavit of law is required from a foreign lawyer for an application for a grant of probate or letters of administration whether in the UK or elsewhere, Worldwide Lawyers can help.

We can put you in touch with a suitably-qualified English-speaking foreign lawyer who can provide an affidavit of law to support a probate application.

Contact us on (+44) (0)1244 470339 or at info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk for more information and to get a quote.

We can assist with affidavits of foreign law for England, Scotland, Spain, France, Turkey, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, Greece and more.. 

Buying property in Spain after Brexit

What is a reservation contract and do I need one when buying property in Spain?  

When you put an offer in on a property in Spain and the seller accepts your offer it is common to be asked to sign a reservation contract (Contrato de Reserva) and pay a reservation fee to secure the property. This process may seem unusual to UK buyers as it is not a customary practice in the UK, however it is often a common part of the buying process in Spain.

Here’s everything you need to know about reservation contracts and reservation fees in Spain.

Why should I seek legal advice before signing a reservation contract in Spain? 

It’s crucial that you seek independent legal advice before signing a reservation contract and/or paying a reservation fee to ensure that you are adequately protected. Instructing an independent Spanish lawyer who is not linked to the estate agent, developer or seller will help ensure that your lawyer is solely acting in your best interests to protect your position and your investment.

We strongly advise that you do not sign a reservation contract until:

  • a valuation of the property has been carried out, if necessary
  • you have secured a formal mortgage offer (if you require a Spanish mortgage)
  • the basic property background checks have carried by your Spanish property lawyer

Are reservations contracts in Spain obligatory?

Reservation contracts are customary when buying property in Spain, however they are not mandatory. Estate agents are often keen for buyers to sign a reservation contracts and pay reservation fees as it signifies a firm commitment to the property purchase. You are not obliged to sign a reservation contract though (although some estate agents might suggest you have to) and should not be pressured into doing so.

Are there any benefits to signing a reservation contract in Spain?

Signing a reservation contract with regards to a Spanish property purchase, ordinarily ensures that the property is not actively marketed for an agreed period (usually up to 30 days) which gives your Spanish lawyer time to run all the necessary background checks to ensure there are no issues regarding planning, land registry, debts attached to the property etc.

However, you should be aware that if the property is being marketed by more than one agent it may not be removed from all marketing platforms. It’s worth asking the question before you sign anything!

The reservation contract also outlines the agreed sale price, which means the seller cannot ask for a greater sum once both parties have signed the contract.

If you choose not to sign a reservation contract, the seller can decide to keep the property on the market and may receive a higher offer for the property. So, you need to weigh up the pros and cons carefully. If there is a lot of interest in a property and you’re keen to secure it, a reservation contract can be a good way to ensure you don’t lose out on your dream property in Spain.

Are the terms of the reservation contract fixed? 

In Spain it’s commonplace for estate agents to request that you sign their own reservation contract. However, the reservation contracts drawn up by Spanish estate agents are usually quite vague and focus on protecting the seller, so they offer very little protection to the buyer. The terms of Spanish reservation contracts are negotiable though, which is something your Spanish lawyer can assist with.

How much are reservation fees?

Typically, reservation deposits in Spain are usually between €3,000 and €6,000. Usually, you’ll be expected to pay a lower fee for a low-value property and a higher fee for high-value properties (although this is not always the case). However, you can negotiate the amount of the reservation deposit. The reservation deposit is usually deductible from the agreed purchase price – but don’t assume this, double check and make sure that the agreement is detailed in the reservation contract!  

Are reservation fees refundable?

A Spanish reservation fee is usually non-refundable as the purpose of a reservation fee is to make a buyer commit to the property purchase. So, unless there is a valid legal reason for you to withdraw from the property purchase you will not be able to claim the money back. Therefore, you need to be certain that you want to proceed with the property purchase at this stage and ensure that the full funds for the property purchase are secured. If there are any agreed conditions, make sure that your lawyer sets these out in the reservation contract before you sign it.

In exceptional circumstances, where there is a legitimate legal problem relating to the Spanish property purchase, the reservation deposit may be refunded. However, this will be dependent on what was agreed in the reservation contract, which is why it is wise to ensure you get guidance from an independent Spanish before you sign it.

Can I buy the property if I don’t sign a reservation contract? 

It’s possible to completely bypass the reservation contract step when buying a property in Spain and move straight to signing a purchase contract, providing all the necessary checks have been made and your Spanish lawyer is satisfied that there are no risks regarding the property purchase.

Being prepared and contacting an independent Spanish property lawyer before you go on any viewing trips can be helpful, so that they can advise from the outset.

For more information about buying a property in Spain or for assistance from one of our recommended Spanish lawyers and a no-obligation quote, give us a call on 01244 470 339 or email info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk

You can also download our FREE Buying Property in Spain guide.