If you live abroad and have lost loved one who is a UK national we can assist in obtaining Probate or Letters of Administration for you in England and Wales.
We can also assist foreign nationals with UK assets. We can assist both individuals or overseas lawyers looking for assistance in the UK.
We deal with international probate matters for clients are looking for a UK lawyer to deal with your relatives estates.
This will includes:
- Ex-pats who still have assets in the UK e.g. a family home or investment property;
- Foreign nationals who owned assets in the United Kingdom.
When someone dies who fall into the above categories, their estate must be managed or ‘administered’ in a formal process known as Probate. The estate is normally managed by the Executor or Administrator but even if that person is an individual he/she is entitled to obtain professional advice in assisting them in that role.
What is Probate?
This is basically the process of organising and collecting the deceased’s property (which includes real property like houses and flats and other assets based in the UK), submitting inheritance tax returns (whether or not the estate is liable to pay tax), paying the inheritance tax and then distributing the inheritance or passing this to the “executors” of the estate to distribute in accordance with the Will or rules of intestate (if the deceased died without a will).
What is an Executor or Administrator?
The role of both the Executor or Administrator is essentially the same.
An Executor is chosen by the deceased in their Will to administer their estate. A number of Executors may be named in the Will – not all of them need to apply for Probate. The executor’s role is formal and they are required to transfer the assets or money from the sale of those assets to the “beneficiaries” i.e. those people named in the Will to inherit those assets.
If there is no Will there is no Executor instead there is an Administrator who is chosen by Intestacy Rules. There role is to distribute the assets of the estate according to the Intestacy Rules.
What is International or Cross-Border Probate?
International or cross-border probate is basically where a deceased lives in one country but owned assets in another country.
What steps do you take in International Probate work?
International Probate matters are carried out in the same way as the standard UK Probate process.
The key steps for the Executor are as follow :
- Obtain the original Will
- Gather the full details of the estate’s assets and debts
- Complete an inheritance tax return and pay any tax due
- Upon receipt of the Inheritance Tax receipt prepare the probate application and pay the appropriate fee for the HM Courts and Tribunal Service
- Obtain the Grant of Probate
- Repay any of the deceased’s outstanding debts
- Sell any assets which are required for distribution (e.g. via stockbrokers or estate agents in the UK)
- Distribute the remaining estate according to the instructions left in the Will.
The process is similar of an Administrator where there is no Will save for you are obtaining a Letters of Administration rather than a Grant of Probate.
We assist in each stage of this process in particular we will prepare collate details of the assets and debts, deal with the inheritance tax returns, prepare and make the application for probate and prepare estate accounts to show the distribution of those assets.
This process can change depending on which country the deceased had connections with and which countries their assets are in. Different countries have different probate and intestacy laws. Conflicts between these laws can complicate probate when an estate has assets in different countries. Inheritance tax laws also differ between countries which can cause extra difficulties.
Are there any exceptions to these procedures?
Yes – a slightly different process can apply in ex-Colonial Countries. This includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, St, Lucia, Jamaica and the Bahamas.
The Colonial Probate Act permits the “resealing” in the UK of a Grant of Probate made in these countries. This means that the Executors avoid having to apply for a full Probate again in the UK.
The procedure is as follows:
- Obtain the original Colonial Grant or a Court sealed and certified copy of the Grant and a Court sealed and certified copy of the Will;
- Obtain a written request from the personal representatives named in the Grant asking for the Grant to be resealed;
- Complete the appropriate HMRC form. The forms varies on the value of the estate and domoicile of the deceased.
- The appropriate fee payable to HM Courts and Tribunal Service.
How long does it take to obtain Probate or Letters of Administration and distribute the assets?
Probate will take between six months and two years for most estates. No two estates are the same so the amount of time required will depend on the size and complexity of that persons estate.
Obviously disputes (which can be between between the executors and beneficiaries (typically) or queries from the Inland Revenue or other government authorities) will invariably cause additional delays.
What other matters can you assist with?
It is possible to take some steps (time limits apply) to mitigate some of the inheritance tax by entering into a deed of variation – this can redistribute the assets which in some cases can be used to mitigate against inheritance tax.
As well as collecting the deceased property we can assist in the sale of those assets within the UK and where necessary act on the sale of those assets.