From Legal Futures’ Associate Finders International
A recent UK estate involved a woman whose estate included a bungalow on the Costa del Sol in Spain. The solicitor wanted to know how the property should be distributed and what to do next.
When real estate is within a European jurisdiction, the Civil Code succession rules of that jurisdiction apply, and can be very different from common law regimes such as those in the UK. Each heir has to ‘claim’ their inheritance. The executors named on the English Grant of Probate had no real relevance in Spain. The heirs named in the will had to be involved, and co-operate throughout the lengthy process, to ensure the Spanish property was distributed correctly and Spanish succession procedures followed.
Finders International helped get the estate through the process and were the central point of contact while the property was valued, Spanish inheritance taxes settled for the heirs, succession paperwork drawn up and, finally, the title to the property re-registered in the new names.
What if the solicitor acting in the administration of the estate find there are accounts or shareholdings registered in Jersey and/or the Isle of Man? Such a scenario isn’t uncommon anymore; individuals often hold funds offshore in these jurisdictions as there can be tax advantages. They aren’t just for the hugely wealthy, as people can use them to take advantage of saving in different currencies and getting higher returns. Or bank accounts or investments can originate in the UK, but later move to Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, following either an internal restructure by the financial business or upon the instruction of the investor.
Finders International offers a range of specialist international asset services for solicitors dealing with problem estates—obtaining the necessary grants (or resealing a UK Grant or Confirmation) overseas and closing any accounts held there and retrieving the funds, so an estate’s value is fully realised.
In one recent case, we helped a solicitor identify and clarify the position on an estate portfolio of US shares and bank accounts, helping the solicitor deal with initial uncertainty about the value of assets, and ultimately helping them get the money back in-house. Each transfer agent (the equivalent of share registrars in the UK) and each bank had its own requirements for closing accounts – but all were subject to the extreme regulations the USA has in place.
Proper estate distribution
Louise Levene, Finders International’s Assets Service Manager, said: “There are all sorts of different rules and regulations that come into play when people own assets such as property or shares in other countries, and they can prove a minefield. But UK-based solicitors need to take account of these in order to distribute an estate properly.
“We can help sell, transfer or recover overseas assets such as shares, bank accounts, investment portfolios, property and more, assisting the estate with the necessary and legal paperwork.
“Take closing overseas bank accounts as an example. Language difficulties and the increasingly stringent privacy, security and reporting policies operated by the banks and their regulatory bodies can all prove to be a massive headache for Executors. The exact requirements may vary even from account to account. We help close accounts in a variety of overseas jurisdictions—a service many UK solicitors have used and found extremely helpful.”