International Asset Services1

Why would estate practitioners need this service?

Estates in the United Kingdom are much more likely to contain at least one overseas asset these days. From a bank account opened in Australia for work, to a holiday home purchased while on holiday in Spain, to tax planning investment accounts opened in the USA and offshore in places like the Isle of Man and Jersey, to accounts in Ireland or beyond, to shares that, due to corporate action, have ended up listed in all sorts of places worldwide – it’s quite possible that an estate may feature one or more of these scenarios. What unites them is that they’re often surprisingly time-consuming and challenging to deal with – whether that involves closing an account, liquidating a portfolio or selling an individual shareholding. Numerous legal and bureaucratic obstacles spring up which must be navigated before the value can be restored to the estate in the UK. The sheer variety of scenarios is something that an estate practitioner may not have encountered often, or at all. Another scenario is that they may be pressed for time and anxious to progress multiple aspects of the estate administration at once. That is where Finders’ International Asset Service comes in.

Luoise levene international asset service

What we do

Finders’ International Asset Service provides consultative and practical support to Private Client and Wills and Probate practitioners, offering a variety of services to help deal with the existence of foreign assets in an estate. Louise Levene brings sixteen years’ experience in probate support services and asset recovery, applying a practical, problem-solving approach to a range of asset services, helping to sell, transfer or recover a range of overseas assets including shares, bank accounts, and investment portfolios, assisting estates with the necessary administrative and legal paperwork. With a combination of specialist knowledge, contacts, and experience, Finders will get the job done.

  • Many estates feature shares that were once listed on the London Stock Exchange and have delisted years ago. Often, the portfolio of shares has not been actively managed for some years. All kinds of corporate action, from listings and delisting’s to the acquisition, buyout, stock splits, reverse stock splits, and takeovers might change the nature of the stock owned.
  • Meanwhile, many foreign share registrars or transfer agents will continue to send information about the shareholding to an address they have on file, which could be years out of date due. We know it’s not uncommon for an elderly shareholder with failing health to go through multiple changes of address in the closing years of their life, so that by the time the estate representatives are involved, they have no chance of finding share statements as those are being sent to a property that was sold years ago.

This can lead to uncertainty, when a shareholder dies, about what exactly they did own.

Everything about dealing with foreign share registrars and transfer agents can be alien and frustrating. Starting from the language used (such as ‘decedent’ for the Deceased, and references to procedures largely unknown to UK Executors such as the Medallion Guarantee stamp and escheatment of assets), to the variable quantity and quality of information made available to “third parties”, due to the strict personal security and privacy restrictions to which registrars or agents are subject in their country of operation: the process can be draining to Executors unused to such involved processes, and unable to understand why they have been denied meaningful information about the nature of the assets, and what exactly to do about them.

Finders’ International Asset Service can step in here to offer help:

  • We can sort through old paper share certificates and statements, and contact transfer agents to help you identify value.
  • We can liaise with the transfer agent to sell or transfer listed shares in an estate for you, including obtaining Medallion Signature Guarantee stamps in the USA and Canada – a securities anti-fraud compliance measure that affects millions of UK-resident shareholders, and their estate representatives. We can obtain IRS tax clearance (a Federal Transfer Certificate) for the estate, where the US assets exceed the $60,000 USD tax exemption threshold at the date of death.

Once the account holder has died, bank accounts and investment accounts and portfolios in the USA and beyond are often much harder to close than they were to open. Even when they are located in English speaking jurisdictions, it’s as if a shutter comes down, blocking the estate representatives from taking action. Differing laws, and strict privacy and security restrictions at both the national and bank-level can conspire with opaque and changeable account closure requirements to turn what seemed like a straightforward matter into a time-consuming process, fraught with challenges and disappointments for estate representatives.

We can help! We regularly assist with the process of closing these accounts and are familiar with the problems that can arise. We provide tailored advice and support throughout what can be a lengthy process, walking the estate representatives through the maze of bureaucracy and form-filling, acting as a central point of contact and using patience and determination to help you recover the account monies and liquidate securities portfolios.

Each US State has escheat laws where assets thought to be dormant are passed to the relevant State’s Unclaimed Property department. Executors and heirs can claim escheated assets in perpetuity, but some States have lengthy and obscure claim procedures which can be draining for estate representatives to see to completion. Finders is experienced in this field and always happy to discuss the feasibility of providing support.

When an estate has shares in Australia, each registrar sets its own threshold for requiring Australian Probate (or a reseal of the UK Grant or Confirmation there). We are often asked to provide assistance, and because we undertake this work on a regular basis, we can keep the costs reasonable.

We also regularly reseal UK Grants and Confirmations in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. The work can be quite involved as the Courts in these jurisdictions can be very exacting. Once Grant is obtained or has been resealed, we can sell shares and close bank accounts for the estate.

We can also assist in obtaining local Grants of Probate in other jurisdictions including offshore (Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland) and farther afield.  We know what to look out for, to help you manage your clients’ expectations regarding the likely progress of the work and what potential hurdles might lie ahead.

Estate practitioners don’t have to spend time and energy becoming experts in these specialist areas: Finders can step in to take the reins in this work or provide a useful sounding board if you aren’t sure yet what you’ll need. And if you haven’t seen what you’re looking for here, or want to discuss any estate in more detail, please contact Louise Levene at Finders International for an initial, informal discussion about costs and feasibility, without obligation. We’re always happy to talk.

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