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About

An International Estate Administration is a legal process that allows a deceased person's assets to be distributed to their beneficiaries. Solicitors can ensure that the process is carried out in accordance with the deceased's wishes and the laws of the country in which they lived.Next steps

How much does help with International Estate Administration cost?

The cost for a licensed solicitor to help with International Estate Administration is dependent on many factors including the complexity and specific requirements of the case. On average it is expected to range from £200-£300 but in some cases it could cost as much as £600.

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International Estate Administration

If you have assets across multiple different countries, you need to be clued up on international estate administration, as things can get very tricky. 

From language barriers to different laws and regulations across countries, many things can complicate the process of probate once you pass away. 

international-estate-administration

Our network of expert international wills, trust, and probate solicitors is on hand to help with international estate administration, whether you're planning for the future or are currently responsible for administrating an international estate. Get in touch today for a free case evaluation and no-obligation quote for help from our lawyers.

What is international estate planning?

International estate planning is a legal process for managing and distributing a person's assets and wealth across different countries in a way that maximises tax efficiency, protects assets, and ensures the smooth transfer of wealth to heirs or beneficiaries upon their death.

International estate planning can be incredibly complex and involves working with laws and regulations both domestically and internationally, including tax laws, inheritance laws, and treaties between different countries. 

If you have assets or beneficiaries located in multiple different countries or areas, knowing what to do around international estate planning is super important. 

What is international estate administration?

International estate administration involves managing and sharing someone's assets like money, property, or possessions when those assets are in different countries.

So, when someone passes away, their belongings need to be taken care of and given to the right people, which is where estate administration comes in. If the person has assets or property in different countries, it can get more complicated.

It involves tasks like figuring out what the person owned, getting legal permission to distribute the assets, and making sure the relevant taxes are paid correctly in each country. 

It also means making sure that the person's wishes, as stated in their will, are followed, even if they have property or family members in different places around the world.

How does the location of death impact estate administration?

Every country has its own laws and rules about how estates are managed and distributed after someone dies.

If someone dies in the UK, their estate will be handled according to UK laws If they die abroad, the laws of that country will usually apply.

First of all, there are matters of probate, which is the legal process of proving a will and administering the estate of the deceased person. Probate rules can vary from country to country. For example, in the UK, the probate process involves applying to the Probate Registry, while in some other countries, it might involve a different court or authority.

As well as probate, different countries also have different tax rules, including inheritance tax or estate tax. Where someone dies can affect how much tax their estate has to pay and which tax laws apply.

And, dealing with an estate always involves a lot of paperwork, such as death certificates, wills, and legal documents. Depending on where someone dies, there may be different requirements for the documentation needed to handle their estate.

Finally, one of the most challenging parts of international estate administration is having to deal with an estate in a foreign country, involving language barriers and differences in legal and cultural practices. 

If you are dealing with an international estate administration, we recommend working with an experienced wills, trust, and probate solicitor who can make sure everything is handled according to the correct laws and rules of the country. 

What role do international probate lawyers play in managing international estate administration?

International probate lawyers don’t just know their stuff in the UK, they also have a deep understanding of the legal systems and procedures in different countries.

They can provide tailored advice on how to work through the probate process, handle the numerous different types of paperwork and legal documents needed, and provide strategic planning advice on how to minimise tax liabilities and maximise the value of the estate across many different countries, ensuring that everything complies with relevant laws and regulations. 

All of the above requires lots of coordination between various legal authorities, financial institutions, and other parties. International probate lawyers help coordinate these efforts, so you don’t have to, and ensure a smooth administration process across borders.

Even when everything seems straightforward, probate disputes can still occur during the administration of an estate, particularly when assets are located in different countries or there are disagreements among beneficiaries. International probate lawyers can help resolve disputes through negotiation, mediation, or litigation, depending on the circumstances.

And most importantly, international probate lawyers work hard to make sure that assets are distributed correctly according to the deceased person's wishes and the relevant laws in each country. They will oversee the distribution process to ensure that it is carried out efficiently and following legal requirements.

Can international estate planning reduce my inheritance tax?

Yes, international estate planning can potentially reduce your inheritance tax (IHT) liabilities, but it requires careful consideration and expert advice to ensure you comply with relevant laws and regulations. 

Understanding your domicile and residence status is crucial for tax planning purposes. Domicile refers to your permanent home country, which can affect your liability to inheritance tax. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim non-domicile status in the UK, which could have tax advantages for your estate.

Many countries also have tax treaties in place to prevent double taxation on estates with assets in multiple areas. These treaties often include provisions for reducing or eliminating inheritance tax liabilities, helping to minimise your overall tax burden.

Making gifts during your lifetime can be an effective way to reduce the value of your estate for inheritance tax purposes. International estate planning can involve strategic gifting strategies, considering the tax implications of giving gifts like property in the UK and any other relevant countries. 

Or you could set up a trust that could help protect assets, provide for beneficiaries, and potentially reduce the value of your estate subject to inheritance tax. And bonus, international trusts may be structured to take advantage of favourable tax treatment in certain countries

How are trusts involved with international estate planning?

Trusts are a versatile and powerful tool in international estate planning, offering asset protection, tax efficiency, privacy, and flexibility in managing and distributing assets across borders.

Asset protection trusts can help you protect your assets from potential risks such as legal disputes, creditors, or political instability in certain countries. By placing assets into a trust, they are held separately from the individual's ownership, which can provide an additional layer of protection.

Trusts can also be used as a tax-efficient estate planning tool to minimise inheritance tax liabilities. Depending on the specific terms of the trust, assets held in a trust may be subject to different tax treatment compared to assets held directly by you. Trusts can also facilitate strategic gifting and wealth transfer during your lifetime, potentially reducing the value of your estate for tax purposes.

Importantly, trusts can offer a level of privacy and confidentiality that may not be available through other estate planning options. Unlike wills, which are typically subject to public scrutiny during probate, trusts can be structured to maintain confidentiality and keep the details of your assets and beneficiaries private.

And when it comes to probate, trusts allow for more precise control over how assets are distributed to beneficiaries. The terms of the trust, as outlined in the trust deed, dictate how and when assets are distributed, providing flexibility to accommodate beneficiaries located in different countries or with varying financial needs.

Not only this, but trusts simplify the administration of an international estate by avoiding the need for probate in multiple locations. Since assets held in a trust are owned by the trust itself rather than the individual, they may not be subject to the probate process, which can be time-consuming and costly, especially when dealing with assets in different countries.

If you want to set up a trust to protect your assets, contact our legal assessment team to find out how our network of the UK's best solicitors can help.

How are overseas assets handled during estate administration?

Handling overseas assets during estate administration involves several steps to ensure that these assets are properly identified, managed, and distributed according to the deceased person's wishes and the relevant laws of each country or area. 

The first step is to identify all overseas assets owned by the deceased. This may include properties, bank accounts, investments, businesses, and other assets located outside the country where the deceased was domiciled.

In most cases, a grant of probate or its equivalent is needed to administer the deceased person's estate, including overseas assets. If the deceased person had a valid will, the executor named in the will can apply for probate in the country where the deceased was domiciled. If there is no will, the process may vary depending on the laws of that country.

Administering overseas assets may involve dealing with foreign authorities, such as probate courts, tax authorities, and government agencies. This may require submitting legal documents, getting certificates or clearances, and complying with local laws and regulations.

Overseas assets then need to be accurately valued as part of the estate administration process. Valuation may involve obtaining professional appraisals, obtaining market valuations, or using other acceptable methods to determine the value of the assets.

If overseas assets are denominated in a foreign currency, currency exchange issues may arise during estate administration. Executors or administrators may need to convert foreign currencies into the currency of the deceased person's domicile for distribution to beneficiaries.

As we have discussed, administering overseas assets may have tax implications in both the country where the assets are located and the deceased person's country of domicile. Executors or administrators must understand and comply with the tax laws of each jurisdiction, including any applicable inheritance taxes, capital gains taxes, or other taxes related to the transfer of assets.

And finally, once all necessary legal and administrative requirements have been fulfilled, overseas assets can be transferred or distributed to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the deceased person's will or the intestacy laws of the relevant jurisdiction.

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What issues can arise when tracing internationally held assets for probate?

Tracing internationally held assets for probate purposes can be complicated and may involve several common issues. 

Some of these issues include:

  • Lack of information about the deceased person's assets

  • Language and cultural barriers

  • Navigating unfamiliar legal processes, including probate or equivalent procedures, tax laws, and inheritance laws in multiple different countries

  • Determining which jurisdiction has authority over the administration of internationally held assets 

  • Currency exchange and valuation

  • Tax implications in both the country where the assets are located and the deceased person's country of domicile. 

  • Overseas assets may be subject to risks such as fraud, theft, or political instability in certain countries.

So, tracing internationally held assets for probate purposes requires careful coordination, legal expertise, and diligence to overcome common issues and ensure that all assets are properly identified, managed, and distributed following the deceased person's wishes and applicable laws.

How do multiple wills in different jurisdictions affect international estate administration?

Different countries have their own laws and regulations controlling wills and probate. When multiple wills exist in different jurisdictions, it can create conflicts regarding which will takes precedence and how the estate should be distributed. 

Executors or administrators may need to work through complicated legal principles, such as conflict of laws, to determine which will is valid and how to proceed with estate administration.

The validity of a will may vary depending on the laws of the jurisdiction where it was executed. Executors or administrators may need to assess whether each will meets the legal requirements of its respective jurisdiction, including formalities such as witness signatures and notarisation.

It's also important to consider whether any of the wills have been revoked or amended. Executors or administrators may need to look into the circumstances surrounding the making of each will and any changes made by the deceased person to make sure that the most recent and valid will is followed.

They must also identify all assets covered by each will and determine how they should be distributed. This may involve tracing assets located in different jurisdictions and coordinating with legal authorities, financial institutions, and other parties to facilitate the transfer of assets to beneficiaries.

And yes, multiple wills can also have tax implications in terms of inheritance tax, estate tax, and other taxes applicable to the transfer of assets. Executors or administrators must consider the tax implications of each will and coordinate with tax advisors to ensure compliance with the tax laws of each jurisdiction.

If you are an executor or administrator, you may need to work closely with an international probate lawyer, tax advisor, and other professionals to work through these complexities and carry out the estate administration process.

Who is responsible for administering an estate with international assets? 

If the deceased person left a valid will, they may have appointed an executor(s) to administer their estate. The executor is responsible for carrying out the deceased person's wishes as outlined in the will, including identifying assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. 

If the estate includes international assets, the executor may need to coordinate with legal professionals and other advisors familiar with international estate law to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations in each jurisdiction.

If the deceased person did not leave a will or if the appointed executor is unable or unwilling to act, the court may appoint an administrator to manage the estate. The administrator has similar duties and responsibilities as an executor, including identifying assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. 

Like an executor, an administrator may need to get help from legal professionals with expertise in international estate matters when dealing with overseas assets.

In both cases, whether it's an executor or an administrator, the individual responsible for administering the estate must act in the best interests of the deceased person's beneficiaries and comply with all relevant laws and regulations, including those governing international assets.

Can Grants of Representation be issued by courts in Commonwealth countries for estates with international assets?

Yes, grants of representation can be issued by courts in Commonwealth countries for estates with international assets. A grant of representation is a legal document issued by a court that authorises the executor or administrator to administer the estate of a deceased person. 

Commonwealth countries share similar legal systems, often based on English common law, which allows for the recognition and enforcement of grants issued by courts in other Commonwealth jurisdictions.

When dealing with international assets located in Commonwealth countries, the executor or administrator may need to apply for a grant of representation in each relevant jurisdiction where assets are held.

This process typically involves submitting the necessary legal documents and information to the local probate court or registry, demonstrating the authority to administer the estate and distribute assets per the deceased person's will or the intestacy laws of that jurisdiction. 

What is the process for resealing overseas probate in a UK court?

The process for resealing overseas probate in a UK court involves several steps to get recognition of a foreign grant of representation (such as probate or letters of administration). 

You should:

  1. Determine eligibility: Not all foreign grants can be resealed in a UK court. The grant must have been issued by a court with jurisdiction over the estate in the country where the deceased was domiciled, and the deceased must have owned assets in the UK at the time of death.

  2. Get certified copies: Obtain certified copies of the foreign grant of representation and any other supporting documents, such as the deceased person's death certificate and will (if applicable). These documents will need to be submitted to the UK court for resealing.

  3. Complete application form: Complete the application form for resealing overseas probate, which is typically available from the Probate Registry or online. Provide all required information, including details of the deceased person, the foreign grant, and the assets located in the UK.

  4. Submit the application: Submit the completed application form, along with the certified copies of the foreign grant and supporting documents, to the Probate Registry of the High Court of England and Wales. There may be a fee payable for the resealing application.

  5. Wait for processing: The Probate Registry will process the resealing application and review the submitted documents. This process may take several weeks or months, depending on the workload of the court.

  6. Notification to HMRC: If the resealing application is successful, the Probate Registry will issue a sealed reseal order confirming the recognition of the foreign grant in the UK. The executor or administrator may need to notify HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) of the reseal order and provide details of the estate for inheritance tax purposes.

  7. Administer estate: Once the foreign grant has been resealed, the executor or administrator can proceed to administer the estate in the UK following the terms of the foreign grant and the laws of England and Wales. This may involve collecting and distributing assets, paying debts and taxes, and settling any claims against the estate.

How do language barriers or wills written in a language other than English impact international estate administration?

When dealing with a will written in a language other than English, it may be necessary to have the will translated into English to facilitate the probate process in English-speaking jurisdictions.

Translating the will ensures that the content and intentions of the deceased person are accurately understood by the relevant legal authorities, beneficiaries, and other parties involved in estate administration.

Translating a will involves more than just converting words from one language to another. It requires careful consideration of legal terminology and nuances to ensure that the translated document accurately reflects the legal meaning and intent of the original will. Legal professionals with expertise in international estate matters may be consulted to assist with the translation and interpretation of the will.

In jurisdictions where English is not the primary language, language barriers may also complicate the probate process, as legal documents and court proceedings may be conducted in the local language. Executors or administrators may need to engage translators or legal professionals proficient in the local language to navigate probate procedures and communicate effectively with local authorities.

Some jurisdictions have specific requirements regarding the language and form of wills for them to be recognized and enforced. Executors or administrators may need to ensure that foreign wills comply with these requirements to avoid potential challenges or disputes during estate administration.

Wills written in different languages may also reflect cultural norms and legal practices that differ from those in English-speaking jurisdictions. Executors or administrators may need to consider these cultural differences when interpreting the provisions of the will and administering the estate, particularly when dealing with issues such as inheritance rights and family relationships.

How can probate solicitors help with Islamic wills and probate matters in the UK?

Islamic inheritance laws differ from the laws of intestacy and wills in the UK. Probate solicitors with expertise in Islamic wills are familiar with the principles of Islamic inheritance (Faraid) outlined in the Quran and Sunnah. 

They can advise clients on how these principles apply to their specific circumstances and help them draft wills that comply with Islamic law while also adhering to UK legal requirements.

How can Lawhive help?

Our network of expert international wills, trust, and probate solicitors is highly knowledgeable on the laws across different countries and can help you to ensure that your international estate planning journey goes as smoothly as possible.

Get in touch today for a free case evaluation. 

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