When a person dies owning assets in England and Wales, somebody has to deal with their property. Who and what documents or authorities will they need? Answers to these questions are not easy, especially when there is an international context to the deceased’s affairs.
If the deceased died domiciled in England and Wales and left a valid will, the person or persons entitled to deal with the estate will be named in the will. They will be called the executors.
If the deceased died domiciled in England and Wales but left no valid will, then statute determines who is entitled to deal with their financial affairs. They will be called the administrators.
Unless the estate is very small or consists of only jointly owned property, the executors or administrators will need the Grant to be able to act. The Grant is a formal document, sealed by the Probate Registry, which confirms the person or persons named in it are to represent the estate, i.e. collect all the assets, pay all liabilities and debts and distribute the balance to beneficiaries named in the will or entitled under the intestacy rules. A Grant issued to executors is called a Grant of Probate. A Grant issued for intestate estates is called a Grant of Letters of Administration.
For information on how an application for a Grant is made please see an article on our website or contact our expert Probate Team.
A Grant obtained in England and Wales will entitle the estate’s representatives to deal with and collect all assets (both movable and immovable) located in England and Wales. It will be required to close and withdraw monies from bank accounts, liquidate insurance policies and sell properties held in the name of the deceased.
Depending on the country concerned and the value of the assets held there, the English Grant may be sufficient to collect property located abroad. Advice should always be sought for legal specialists in the country concerned. In case of Poland, an English Grant certified by an apostille will normally be sufficient to collect movable property, e.g. cash assets. When the English domiciled deceased left however an immovable property located in Poland, the English Grant will not be sufficient to deal with it. For beneficiaries to be able to deal with a real estate located in Poland, they will need to apply for an order of the Polish court confirming their entitlement to inherit.
When a person dies domiciled abroad, but owning assets in England and Wales, the foreign Grant will entitle the estate’s representatives to collect assets located in England and Wales only when it is a Scottish or Northern Irish Grant. In case of some other countries (mostly former British “colonies”), the foreign Grant, provided it is in English, may be re-sealed in England. The procedure is relatively straightforward. The re-sealed Grant will entitle the representatives named on it to collect both movable and immovable English or Welsh possessions. Unfortunately, in all other instances, a separate application for an English Grant relating to the English estate will be necessary.