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International Probate

Rowlinsons Solicitors has an extensive network of International Probate Solicitors who can help you deal with the administration of an estate which includes assets held abroad. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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Probate with International Assets

When an individual dies leaving assets in more than one country the probate process may be more complex than usual.

Our team at Rowlinsons are connected to a network of dedicated professionals who can provide international probate advice to deal with cross-border estates and manage international assets effectively.


When Would You Need to Consider International Probate?

When someone passes away, a grant of probate is often required. A grant of probate is a document issued by the court giving the executor the authority to distribute the estate according to the will.

If the deceased owns assets in two or more countries the executor may need to go through a separate process for each local court. It is often necessary for probate - or the equivalent - to be obtained in both or all the countries where assets are held.

The administration of the estate may require international probate if the deceased person was:

  • a UK national domiciled abroad
  • a UK national living in the UK, but owning assets abroad
  • a foreign national who owned UK assets
  • an individual living in the UK whose official home was abroad, known as ‘non-domicile.’

The UK probate process is well-established and relatively straightforward, but foreign courts will have their own process which may be significantly different or even conflicting. Successful estate administration requires in-depth legal knowledge, which is why you may need specialist advice.

Our partners are experienced international probate professionals who understand the different laws and tax systems in each territory so that your case can be handled as quickly, efficiently, and affordably as possible.

How do International Probate Laws Differ?

Different countries have their own laws when it comes to dealing with assets on death and sometimes these conflict with each other.

For example, some countries such as Spain and Germany don’t recognise the concept of a personal representative or estate administration. In these jurisdictions, there is no executor to administer the estate, which is what happens in the UK. Instead, when someone dies, the heirs usually appear before a notary to accept the inheritance directly.

Different countries recognise different concepts which influence succession to the deceased’s assets. The concept of forced heirship applies in France and Germany. In these countries specific parts of the estate have to pass to particular beneficiaries - usually the surviving spouse or children – even if this goes against the will.

The interconnection between different legal concepts is complex. That’s why you need to appoint an advisor with specialist knowledge of the succession rules of each country and how they interact with each other to clarify and understand how they affect your unique circumstances.

Will my UK Grant of Probate be Applicable Abroad?

The Grant of Probate you receive in the UK may not automatically be recognised by the local court where other assets are held. This means the executor can’t deal with bank accounts, investments, or land held abroad until the local courts grant them the authority.

Likewise, a grant of probate or equivalent from outside the UK might not be recognised in England and Wales.

In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain a separate grant of probate to release the assets held in a foreign jurisdiction.

For an estate with assets in multiple jurisdictions, several different court authorities may be required to administer assets.

Resealing a Grant of Probate

Resealing a grant of probate is an efficient way for probate documents to be recognised in a foreign court.

Resealing Foreign Grants

If a foreign national dies with assets in the UK, the grant of probate issued by their local court will not necessarily be recognised by the financial institutions in England and Wales. The foreign grant of probate may need to be ‘resealed’ or formally recognised by a probate registry in the UK. Resealing the grant of probate will allow the executor to deal with the assets registered in the UK.

The Colonial Probate Acts permit the resealing of the grant of representation in England and Wales if the grant has been obtained in Commonwealth countries and territories covered by these acts. These include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, St. Lucia, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.

Resealing a UK Grant of Probate Overseas

Correspondingly, other Commonwealth territories will accept a resealed UK grant of probate. The executor of the estate in the UK applies to the foreign court for the grant of probate to be resealed. The grant issued in England and Wales would have a seal added to become valid. This gives the representative or executor the authority to deal with the assets in that jurisdiction.


How Can an International Probate Solicitor Help?

At Rowlinsons, we don’t deal directly with international probate matters, but we can put you in touch with international probate specialists. You’ll get access to a global network of legal and financial professionals experienced in effectively handling complex cases.

Our contacts are familiar with the legal requirements of foreign courts and asset companies in countries throughout the world. They can provide support with managing and administering estates with assets in more than one country.  They’ll advise on compliance with complicated foreign laws and taxes and handle applications for probate in the UK and overseas to make the process go as smoothly as possible.