Grants of Probate: A Place in the Sun, but the assets stay?

More than 100,000 Brits move permanently abroad each year, with many upping sticks in search of warmer climates and an escape from the hustle and bustle of life in our grey and crowded cities. Many expats sell up and cash in before making the move, often because this is necessary to finance their new lifestyle. However, many decide to retain some property, investments or accounts in England.

The problem is that many fail to consider what would happen to their English assets after their death. Even if they have made a valid Will clearly stating how their estate is to pass, the process of collecting and distributing these assets is not as straightforward as they may think.

A Grant of Probate is required in England and Wales before the assets of the deceased can be collected and distributed to the beneficiaries of a Will. Usually, when an expat holds assets in their new country of residence and in their country of origin, it will be necessary for a Grant of Probate (or their foreign equivalent) to be obtained in both countries where assets are located. For example, an expat living in Spain will require a Grant of Probate to administer their English estate and a Spanish Deed of Inheritance to administer their Spanish estate. This two-pronged process can be lengthy and time-consuming.

The good news is that for expats living in most Commonwealth countries, the process is simplified because the English estate may be administered without the need for an extra grant. Under the Colonial Probates Act 1892, an application can be made to the Probate Registry for a foreign grant to be re-sealed. Happily, re-sealing is not an intricate legal term – it simply involves the placing of a new seal on an original foreign grant of probate. This gives the grant the same effect it would have had it been granted in England or Wales.

Countries that fall under this Act include Antigua, large parts of Australia, Barbados, New Zealand, Jamaica, Cyprus and Hong Kong. Given that Australia and New Zealand are the most common destinations for Brits moving abroad, the potential benefit of the Act should not be understated.

Whilst re-sealing expedites the process of administering the estate, it is wise to instruct a professional as the procedure is not always simple, particularly when the estate is subject to inheritance tax in the UK. Our experienced team of specialists are able to advise you on whether a Grant of Probate can be re-sealed and assist you through the procedure.

Click here for FAQs on Grants of Probate.

To book a consultation, please contact the Private Client Team on 01189 774 045

Charlotte Drury-Woods
Partner, Head of Private Wealth & Inheritance
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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