Dealing with an estate’s international assets

With more people than ever working and living aboard, opening bank accounts in foreign countries and buying property in Spain, Europe and other places, the need to deal with foreign assets after someone has died has increased significantly in recent years.

However, unlike in cases where someone’s estate is located solely in the UK, foreign-owned assets can be a challenge. Probate is dealt with differently according to the country where the asset is located, which makes the overall probate and administration process much lengthier.

The first step is to confirm the deceased’s permanent home is this is likely to affect the tax position of the estate and the laws that apply. The person’s nationality and residence may also need to be confirmed.

Overseas assets

If the person left behind a will, that might specify their intentions for how they wish their overseas assets to be distributed. In England and Wales, the law that sets out immoveable assets such as land and property must be dealt with according to the laws of where they are located.

For bank accounts and other moveable assets, the law of wherever the deceased person resided when they died applies. But many European countries have different laws, where residency and nationality count, which can sometimes lead to conflicting laws.

Probate process

The probate process for foreign assets works like so:

  1. Executors and administrators need to value the assets on the date of death
  2. They then submit the valuation to the asset holder (a bank, say) and that institution confirms what is needed in order for the asset to be disposed
  3. If a grant of probate (or whatever its equivalent is in that country) is needed, the administrators or executors will need legal advice that applies to the country where the asset is held so that all applicable laws are complied with and that if there is any tax liability in that country, it is taken into consideration.

Legal advice

When the Grant of Probate (or its equivalent) is needed, administrators or executors must seek legal advice in this country and the country where the asset is held to ensure all the applicable laws are complied with and that any tax liability in either country is considered.

Louise Levene, Finders International’s international assets services manager said: “One effect of our globalised world is how relatively easy it has become to acquire assets all over the world – a bank account opened in one country to facilitate a property purchase; paid by a multinational in part with shares, and so on.

“But once the owner has died, executors quickly find themselves contending with a raft of bureaucratic and sometimes legal hurdles, to close those accounts and dispose of those shares. Every account and institution has its own rules, and executors face the need to become instant experts at navigating each one. More used to UK services, estates can struggle with the time-consuming work.”


You can find out more about Finders International’s international assets service here. In addition, for an informal, no-obligation conversation, phone us on freephone 0800 085 8796 (UK only) or +44(0)20 7490 4935.