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Navigating Overseas Probate: effectively managing the pitfalls



Working through overseas probate is never easy nor straightforward due to differing laws and regulations between countries. As a result, unforeseen challenges frequently occur when working on overseas probate cases, making the process strenuous and time-consuming.

Probate and International Investments

It is not uncommon for individuals to have assets abroad or hold international investments. For example, we estimated 3.5% of the global equities market, listed in the United States, is owned by individuals in the UK. Despite the assets based abroad, it is possible to include these as part of the client’s estate.

Billions of pounds of financial investments enter and leave the UK each year. In a 2017 report from the Office for National Statistics, the value of UK investments abroad were worth almost double that of France (£ 5.9 trillion) despite having comparable economies gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately £2 trillion.

From global stocks and shareholdings, residential properties, deposits into savings accounts, most UK investors own estates that include foreign assets in some form.

Overseas Probate

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 60+ age group in the UK  suffered more deaths than the national average. This age bracket predominately owns the wealth in the UK and most likely had foreign assets forming part of their estates.

During the probate process, the executor/administrator is committed to calculating the value of the estate to make it possible to clear all outstanding debts, determine whether inheritance tax is due and correctly distribute the remaining estate to the beneficiaries.

Assets listed overseas demonstrate a challenge due to various laws and regulations in foreign jurisdictions. To sell or dispose of any of these assets, the executor will need to look into different rules and procedures in countries where the assets are located as opposed to dealing with assets in one country.

Closing Overseas Bank Accounts

For instance, closing an overseas bank account can be a daunting task. As part of the estate valuation, the executor is expected to obtain information such as the amount of money held in a bank account and close it down. This process, however, can be complicated and time-consuming as most overseas banks have bureaucratic account closure policies, so it will be challenging to accomplish the closure on schedule.

Banks are legally obligated to keep your account open and continue charging fees when the correct paperwork is not provided or unable to attend in person.

Foreign stocks and shareholdings

When the correct procedures are not adhered to, it can cause complications. To confirm foreign shareholdings, the executor needs to contact foreign registrars and transfer agents. There may be a delay in accessing crucial information required by the executor, this slows down the estate administration process causing frustration and high costs.

Occasionally, the shareholdings might be affected by companies changing names due to mergers, acquisitions, or takeovers. The share registrars or transfer agents will send the paperwork to the address on the records. If the deceased had changed residential address without updating records at the registrar’s office, important information is sent to the old address and may go missing in the process. In such cases, it is advisable to seek expert help to resolve and confirm the present shareholdings.

How can Share Data help?

Share Data has extensive experience managing overseas probate in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of man. Our team of experts can supervise the whole probate process and provide advice on the required documentation, saving you time and money.

Where required, Share Data’s network of worldwide affiliates can facilitate and accommodate local legal work in different jurisdictions. For assistance with overseas probate, contact the Share Data team by email at [email protected]  or call +44 1403 271 170