Time to review your overseas affairs

Whatever the outcome of Thursday’s Referendum on EU membership, now is a good time to review what overseas property you have and what plans you have in place for dealing with it on your death.

Most of us consider ourselves to live in the United Kingdom – that is what it says on our passports, after all.  But from the solicitor’s perspective we more accurately live in the jurisdiction of England and Wales. 

If you have property in Northern Ireland or Scotland, therefore, then you need to consider these assets as “foreign” as different laws apply, even though those places are within the UK.  The point is even more pertinent if you own property further afield, whether in France, Spain, Portugal, Poland, India, Pakistan, the USA, Canada, or indeed anywhere that is not England and Wales. 

So what should you consider when reviewing your overseas affairs?

  • Take local advice – As solicitors in England & Wales we are only able to advise you on the law of this jurisdiction, unless we are specifically qualified in another jurisdiction.  Taking local advice is very important.  Many countries, for example the USA and India, have federal systems where laws vary state by state.  Some jurisdictions are easier to deal with than others.  Generally speaking, Commonwealth countries tend to have similar laws to England & Wales and operate a ‘Common Law’ legal system which can help matters.  But other countries have very different laws and may have rules about automatic inheritances.
  • Consider when it is best to deal with assets – England and Wales is fortunate to have an efficient, computerised Land Registry and Probate Court.  Death is generally a good time to pass on property through a solicitor drafted Will and transferring a property after death is largely a straightforward affair. 

Anecdotal evidence from our clients suggests otherwise when dealing with lawyers and legal systems overseas.  All of us have heard horror stories from our clients of mind-boggling bureaucracy, corruption and transactions taking place in geological timescales.  Many clients consider that, as they get older and become less likely to visit their overseas property, it is best to sell-up in lifetime rather than burden children with a foreign legal adventure and the costs which might ensue.

To book a review of your affairs, or to speak with one of our expert solicitors, please call 0113 2014900 and find out how we can help you.

Helen Gott

Written by

Helen Gott

Director & Head of Wills & Probate

Helen is a solicitor, Director and Head of the Wills & Probate department at Emsleys Solicitors. Since qualifying in 2010, Helen has specialised exclusively in the area of Wills & Probate and is described as "very knowledgeable" in The Legal 500 2018-19. Helen is an expert in wills,...

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