Does it really matter where someone dies? Yes, it can do. It really depends on what assets they have and where those assets are, as well as where their permanent home was at the time of their death.
If someone dies on holiday, but all of their estate is in England and Wales, then the fact that they died abroad will not make any difference. Their English Will, or the English Intestacy Rules, will apply to their estate in the same way as if they had died at home.
If someone is living abroad, and they have assets in that country, then it becomes more complicated if they die and are buried or cremated there. They may have Wills in both England and the country where they lived – or the country where they lived may have different Intestacy Rules which state where the assets in that country go (this is often called ‘forced heirship’ in Europe). NB. This post does not deal with foreign estates.
What do I do if there is a foreign Will?
The first thing to do is to get a copy of the foreign Will and, if it has not already been done, get a quality translation so that you understand it fully.
Next, seek advice from a lawyer qualified in the law of the country in question. You need to find out whether or not the deceased person’s English assets are covered by their foreign Will, or whether they are instead covered by an English Will or the English Intestacy Rules.
What if there is only a UK Will?
You will also need to find out whether or not there is a Will prepared in England and Wales, or indeed any other UK nation, and seek advice on what assets it applies to and how it deals with the estate.
If there is an English Will, then the Executor(s) named in that Will can use this to apply for an English Grant of Probate to administer the estate.
What if there is no Will at all?
If there is no English Will, and no foreign Will that deals with the English estate, then the appropriate person or people will need to apply for an English Grant of Letters of Administration instead.
Who can apply for this type of Grant differs depending on the circumstances of the particular person who has died and who they have left behind – for instance if they have a surviving husband, wife or civil partner, then that person will be the one who has the best right to apply for the Grant.
There are several sets of rules that apply when there is no Will, and your solicitor will be able to discuss these with you.
How do I get an English Grant?
If there are no foreign assets, and no foreign Grant of Probate (or equivalent), then you simply apply for a Grant in England as you would if the person had died at home. You can do this online if you are comfortable dealing with it yourself, or you can seek assistance and advice from an English solicitor.
If there are foreign assets, then there are two options for dealing with English assets if there has been a foreign Grant of Probate (or equivalent document in that country).
- Seek a formal “Re-Seal” of the Grant by the English Probate Court; or
This option is only available for Grants (or equivalent) issued in certain other countries, which are set out by the Government in three different pieces of legislation.
Countries in the EU are included, as well as a number of former British colonies, territories and states. Your English solicitor will be able to tell you if the country where the foreign Grant in your case was issued is included in the list.
- Apply for a separate English Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
This option is available for estates where there are assets in England and Wales, whether or not there are foreign assets as well.
You will still need to declare the assets abroad, and these will be included in the value of the estate for Inheritance Tax purposes - but they will not form part of the estate that the English Grant covers.
Want to know more?
For advice specific to your circumstances, please contact one of our specialist solicitors. They will be able to review the situation you are in and advise you on the options available to you and the best way forward.
☎️ Call our Wakefield office on 01924 290 029
☎️ Call our Garforth office on 0113 246 4423
☎️ Call our Sherburn in Elmet office on 01977 350 500
☎️ Call our Mapplewell office on 01226 339 009
☎️ Call our Ossett office on 01924 586 466
About Melanie Pickering
Mel joined Thornton Jones Solicitors in November 2021 having worked in Law since 2004 occupying various positions from junior posts through to becoming a fully qualified solicitor.
In 2009 Mel completed her studies at law school and subsequently completed her training contract and in October 2017 qualified as a solicitor specialising in Private Client, Contentious Probate and Missing Persons Law. Mel admits that she “loves Law because it’s always changing and there’s always something new to learn”.
Outside of work, Mel lives with her husband and cat. She is a keen supporter of Cancer Research UK ‘Race for Life’ having taken part every year since 2010 and raising much needed funds in the process.
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