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Obtaining Probate for someone domiciled outside the UK

View profile for Helen Cohen
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If you are dealing with the estate of someone who has died, you will often need to obtain a Grant of Probate. If the deceased was British and had assets in the UK but was domiciled overseas, you may still need to apply for this.

Whether or not you need a Grant will depend on the value and nature of assets in the estate. Unless the estate is small, it is often the case that a Grant of Probate is needed. There is no exact value for a ‘small estate’ and it will often depend on the individual rules of the banks, building societies or other asset organisations where assets are held. Some banks require a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration (if the deceased did not leave a Will) for total holdings of £15,000 or less, while others have higher limits.


Types of Probate for UK assets in an estate

Where a Grant of Probate is required, there are two main ways this can be obtained:

  • A Grant of Probate can be applied for in the usual way from the Probate Registry of England and Wales; or
  • Where a Grant has been obtained overseas in certain jurisdictions, it can be resealed and used in the UK. This is only possible where the country in question is in Europe or a former commonwealth country. The full list of countries is set out in law.


Applying for a Grant of Probate in England and Wales

The Personal Representative of the estate (Executor or Administrator) will need to establish where the deceased’s country of domicile was. If the deceased’s country of domicile was England or Wales, then a Grant of Probate can be applied for in England, even if the deceased person was living abroad. In some cases, an individual may choose to adopt a new domicile if they move overseas, but they may decide to retain their English domicile of origin.

If the deceased held substantial assets in the overseas country in which they were domiciled, then their personal representative is likely to have to obtain Probate in that country.

Where assets were also held in the UK and would require a Grant of Probate, then the Personal Representative will need to account to HM Revenue & Customs for any Inheritance Tax which may be due before submitting a Probate application to the Probate Registry.

If tax has also been paid overseas, then it may be necessary to obtain a sworn statement from an overseas official confirming that all tax due has been accounted for.


Inheritance Tax

Great care needs to be taken when dealing with estates that include overseas assets because if the deceased was domiciled in England or Wales then, Inheritance Tax will be payable on all of their worldwide assets.

HM Revenue & Customs are likely to look closely at the situation to ensure that all Inheritance Tax has been accounted for.

The situation can be exceptionally complex when someone had a base overseas as well as assets in the UK, and it is highly recommended that personal representatives seek professional help from a Probate lawyer to ensure that all tax liabilities are discharged. If a mistake is made, then Executors or Administrators could be held personally liable for any loss caused to the estate, even where the mistake was genuine.


Contact us

If you would you are the Executor or Administrator of an estate which contains overseas assets, and are unsure as to what steps you need to take to ensure the estate is handled appropriately, please contact our expert Probate lawyers on 01252 733 770 or at