Two important questions to ask when dealing with foreign assets in Probate

When someone passes away leaving behind foreign assets, administration of their estate can become complicated.

The need to deal with assets held abroad is increasing, with more of us working abroad, setting up bank accounts in other countries or purchasing holiday homes.

Laws and rules surrounding probate can also differ between countries and you should factor in whether the individual left a Will.

To give you an idea of how the Probate process might play out if you are dealing with the estate of someone with foreign assets, we’ve outlined two vital questions that will need to be addressed.

Where did the deceased live before they died?

The first thing to be clear on is your loved ones’ legal permanent residence before they died.

Having this information will determine which country’s law applies to the Probate process. It will also determine who will inherit their estate.

A valid Will left by the individual should detail all assets, including those held overseas.

The law in England and Wales usually means that things like immovable assets (land or property for example) are subject to the laws of the country they are located in.

On the other hand, moveable assets like bank accounts are subject to the laws of the individual’s country of permanent residence.

Dealing with assets held in multiple countries can cause further complications.

As the rules on Probate are specific to each country, there can sometimes be a conflict.

What do I need to do with foreign assets in the first instance?

All assets located abroad will need to be valued. The estimated value will be from the date the individual passed away.

Certain asset holders, like banks, could ask for proof of a valuation before giving you the required paperwork for handling assets.

As mentioned, assets held in multiple countries, often referred to as cross-border estate, can become complicated.

The first thing to do in this instance is to obtain a Grant of Probate. This will give you the legal authority to deal with the estate.

Certain countries will accept a Grant of Probate issued in England. If they do not accept an English Grant of Probate, you may also be required to obtain the equivalent from the country the asset is held in.

As a founding member of Mackrell International one of the leading global legal networks with more than 4,500 lawyers worldwide we can help you to access advice and support in more than 60 countries. To find out more about our international Private Client services, please contact David Maxwell by calling +44 (0) 20 7240 0521 or emailing

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