Can You Handle UK Probate from Overseas? What You Need to Know

An overseas executor faces a specific challenge when handling the estate of someone who was British and had UK assets. In these situations, the executor will likely need to obtain a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration from the UK Probate Registry. This additional step can feel daunting, so let’s break down the process of an overseas will executor dealing with probate in the UK.

Winding up someone’s affairs after their death is never easy, especially when dealing with complex legal matters. Add an international element to their estate, and it can complicate matters further. When assets are left in the UK, they need to be liquidated (sold or converted into cash) and then passed on to the beneficiaries named in the will.

What is a UK Grant of Probate?

A Grant of Probate is a legal document allowing executors the necessary legal authority to deal with a persons affairs after their death. Including selling and distributing assets in accordance with the Will. Where there is no Will for the UK assets, the personal representatives can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration instead.

When is UK probate needed?

There’s no one-size-fits-all definition of a “small estate” in the UK, but generally, if it doesn’t include property, you might avoid probate.

Here’s the catch: Banks have their own limits. They control whether you need a Grant of Probate to access funds. This limit can vary widely, from as low as £5,000 to as high as £50,000.

A larger estate containing property or other valuable assets, requires a grant. If you are unsure whether a grant is needed, seek professional advice.

Obtaining a UK Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration

If the executor appointed overseas obtains a legal grant (like probate) in another country, you may be able to have it resealed in the UK. Essentially this makes the foreign grant usable by institutions holding UK assets, recognizing its validity within the UK.

However, if resealing isn’t possible or the overseas grant itself can’t be obtained, you’ll need to apply for a UK grant.

The first step involves valuing the estate. This means figuring out the worth of all the assets and liabilities. Once you have this total value, you can calculate any Inheritance Tax that might be owed. Here’s a key point: If the deceased lived in the UK (considered domiciled here), Inheritance Tax applies to all their worldwide assets.

Let’s say a similar tax was already paid overseas. In this case, you can provide an official statement of that payment when dealing with the UK tax. This amount might potentially be deducted from the UK Inheritance Tax owed. However, it’s important to note that this depends on the specific country involved.

If Inheritance Tax is due, you need to write to HM Customs & Excise (HMRC) in the UK. Request an Inheritance Tax reference number from them.

A range of HMRC forms will need to be completed and Inheritance Tax paid.

Normally, around two to three weeks after the payment is made, an application can be made to the Probate Registry for a grant. It usually takes around three months for this to be issued.

Once you receive the grant, you can collect in the deceased’s assets and sell their property.

Help in dealing with UK assets

Calculating Inheritance Tax and obtaining a Grant of Probate can be complex, particularly if you are based overseas. Therefore you may ask a UK probate solicitor to deal with this on your behalf, if necessary. This includes:

  • Obtaining a valuation of the UK assets and liabilities
  • Calculating the amount of Inheritance Tax due
  • Completing all necessary HMRC forms
  • Arranging payment of Inheritance Tax from UK-held funds, where possible
  • Applying for a UK Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration
  • Finalising the administration of the UK estate
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