Probate For UK Ex-patriots

Probate For UK Ex-patriots

by Caleb James on 6 Feb, 2012

More and more British people are choosing to live abroad, many of them still owning property and assets in the UK. If a person in this situation dies, there are special probate processes that must be followed to enable the executors of the Will or beneficiaries to administer the UK portion of the estate.

If the ex-patriot’s estate is administered abroad, a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration document may still be needed for the UK. But if the UK assets are valued at less than £5,000, this is not usually required and banks will normally hand over the assets when they receive the death certificate and the Will, if there is one. Money or property that was jointly owned may automatically pass to the co-owner, again without needing a Grant. However, if the UK estate is worth more than £5,000, or is worth less but includes shares held in UK companies, the executors or beneficiaries will need to obtain a Grant of Probate.

If a Grant is needed, the next steps will depend on where the deceased person lived. Some countries, including South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, are recognised under the Colonial Probate Acts. This means that the Grant of Probate issued in that country can be ‘resealed’ by the Probate Registry in the UK and used to administer the UK estate. If the country is not recognised under the Colonial Probate Acts, the probate process becomes more complicated – especially if there is no UK Will. For overseas Wills, the executors may need to provide an affidavit of law proving the Will is legally valid in the relevant country. If there is no Will at all, an affidavit of law must be provided to show who is entitled to inherit from the deceased’s estate under the law of the overseas country.

As well as the complexities around applying for probate, there are also specific rules around Inheritance Tax (IHT) liability on the ex-patriot’s UK estate. Usually, if this is worth less than £150,000, it will be an ‘excepted’ estate for Probate purposes and not subject to IHT. If IHT has already been paid on the UK estate overseas, it may fall under the ‘double tax treaty’ rules, meaning that IHT does not need to be paid again in the UK.

Probate services from Specialist Legal Companies.

Probate is complex at the best of times, but especially when the deceased person lived abroad. Probate experts will help you identify and carry out what needs to be done to administer the estate. They can offer free advice on all probate-related issues, from intestacy to Inheritance Tax.

About the Author

Caleb James


Caleb James is a financial advisor and journalist, who contributes regularly to financial blogs and industry publications.