If you are an executor of a UK Will living abroad, you need to know your options. As an executor, under UK law, you can be personally liable for mistakes that cause a loss to the estate, so making the right decisions from the start is crucial.
Winding up someone’s affairs after their death is often very time-consuming and can also be complex. While it is possible to administer a UK estate while living overseas, it is likely to make matters considerably slower and more complicated. And that’s where our experienced team of probate solicitors can often help
So to help you, this page looks at the bowl of an executor and how an overseas executor can deal with estate administration, including appointing someone to represent them.
Been appointed executor after losing a loved one? Unsure whether to handle probate on your own, or need legal advice? Call our experienced solicitors on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 for FREE initial phone advice – with no strings attached.
What does an executor actually do?
After someone dies, the executor or executors named in their Will need to finalise the deceased’s financial affairs. This process often involves applying for a Grant of Probate, which is the document that gives an executor the legal authority they need to deal with banks and sell any property the deceased may have owned.
The role of an executor in Probate includes the following:
· Register the death – or a relative can do this
· Find the Will
· Arrange the funeral – a relative can do this, but the expenses will be paid from the estate by the executor
· Value the estate – identify all of the assets and liabilities and obtain a value for them
· Calculate whether Inheritance Tax is payable
· Pay Inheritance Tax, if this is owed
· Apply for a Grant of Probate, unless the estate is a small estate. If a property needs selling, a Grant of Probate is always necessary
· Once the Grant of Probate is received, collect the deceased’s assets, including selling them where necessary
· Collect in the estate assets,
· Pay any money owed by the deceased and their estate
· Prepare detailed estate accounts
· Send a copy of the estate accounts to all of the residuary beneficiaries for approval
· Distribute the estate as specified in the Will and obtain receipts
Can I apply for a Grant of Probate if I am an executor of a UK Will living abroad?
If you are an executor of a UK Will living abroad, you can still deal with an estate administration, including applying for a Grant of Probate. However, the job of executor involves a lot of correspondence, and you will need to sign many documents. Living overseas can make estate administration difficult and much slower than usual.
As an executor, you should ideally distribute the estate within one year after the date of death. If it has taken longer to sell a property, you may be able to delay, but it is essential to deal with matters as soon as possible.
There is a deadline for paying Inheritance Tax. This is by the end of the sixth month following the death. If you pay Inheritance Tax late, the estate may have to pay a penalty and interest. As the estate executor, you would be personally liable for this.
This means that if you are overseas, you must move quickly to deal with an estate to avoid legal difficulties.
How do I administer a UK estate if I live abroad?
It is always best to have someone in the UK deal with an estate, if possible.
If more than one executor is appointed, you can consider having power reserved. This means that the other executor or executors will apply for a Grant of Probate. The grant will note that you have power reserved. You will not need to participate in the estate administration. If you want to be an executor in the future, you can ask the Probate Registry to appoint you. In the meantime, the other executor will wind up the estate on their own.
Alternatively, you can appoint an attorney in the UK to deal with matters on your behalf. This is often the easiest and quickest way for an overseas executor to deal with an estate administration. It means that someone will be available in the UK to apply for the Grant of Probate, arrange for documents to be signed and deal promptly with any enquiries raised by HM Revenue & Customs or the Probate Registry.
The very real risks of handling probate yourself
DIY probate is perfectly legal and is sometimes the best option – especially with very small estates. But it does come with risks – which are likely to be increased if you are based overseas and the deceased was based in the UK, with property here.
Click here to read about the risks of DIY probate
I am an overseas executor – how can someone administer the estate for me?
To appoint an attorney to act as your representative to deal with an estate administration, you must fill in the government’s form PA11 – Power of attorney (Will). This allows you to appoint up to four attorneys to deal with the estate administration. You will not usually need more than one or two.
- If the deceased did not leave a Will, then the person entitled to deal with the estate administration can also appoint an attorney. In this case, they would fill in form PA12 – Power of attorney (Intestate).
- The form needs to be sent to HMCTS Probate once it is complete.
- The attorney will then have the authority to apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of representation.
It is important to select someone you know will be able to deal with the job of estate administration as you may be personally liable if mistakes happen and the estate suffers a loss because of these mistakes.
Your attorney will need to be able to calculate the Inheritance Tax and prepare estate accounts. They will also need to understand that the role of an attorney is likely to be time-consuming.
If you do not have anyone suitable, you can ask a UK probate solicitor to deal with the estate administration on your behalf. They will be able to let you have the form to be signed and will send it to HMCTS Probate for you. They will then deal with the whole administration, including preparing estate accounts and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.
Your solicitor will keep you updated as to the progress of the estate administration, but delays are far less likely as you will not need to sign documents.
Click here to read more about Estate Administration and how our Probate Solicitors can help you
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