People who inherit overseas holiday homes may have to wait years before they receive the value of the properties, specialist asset repatriation company Title Research has warned.
According to the company – which is a Legal Futures Associate – repatriating overseas assets can hold up probate and cause real hardship, with delays of as long as three years before assets are distributed to dependents. Even “experienced family solicitors often struggle to have assets returned to the UK quickly”, it advises.
Many EU countries have ‘forced heirship’ laws under which a proportion of residential properties, including those owned by foreigners, must go to a blood relative. Countries where this applies include France and Spain, the two most popular destination countries for Britons buying second homes, with an estimated 57% of the total between them, says Title Research.
Another problem often encountered is that a solicitor or executor is not aware of short cuts in official processes, with language difficulties hampering progress still further.
Julia Szczepanski, Title Research’s general manager, says: “Solicitors who are asked to recover overseas assets when someone dies are normally juggling a lot of other jobs. They often have to familiarise themselves with local laws and it can be difficult for them to understand the administrative processes they have to follow.”
She adds: “Cases need to be process chased on a regular basis and you need to build up experience and contacts in a lot of countries. It is the same principle in the UK – a UK tax lawyer or accountant will know how to get a very quick decision from HM Revenue & Customs.”