Following the death of a loved one, the last thing you want is a legal headache, especially on the subject of their will. If they hold assets abroad, it can be tricky to know exactly what the law stipulates, as inheritance laws differ from country to country. To help you with this, we have detailed the following four points, with a particular focus on countries in Europe, to help you know what to expect from the process.
Whether your last country of residence or your home country, the inheritance laws may differ slightly. Find out more about European inheritance laws.
Invest in a local lawyer
To help demystify and simplify the process of inheritance, enlisting the aid of an independent legal professional from the country where the assets are located is the first step. A local lawyer will understand the laws surrounding inheritance in that particular country and will be able to explain them to you.
Whilst some may believe that the assets would be passed to the heirs despite the circumstances, the truth is that it is rarely as simple as this. Often inheritance tax is involved, as well as legal documentation which will need to be completed.
It will be necessary for any beneficiaries to sign over power of attorney to the lawyer involved, for them to sign the required legal documentation. A reliable lawyer will guide you through this process, saving time and providing advice that will prove indispensable in the long run.
English will or second will?
It is highly likely that the deceased would have created a second will in the country where their assets are located. A second will helps to avoid miscommunication and set out their wishes in concrete terms. Not only this, but a second will can avoid the government defaulting to local inheritance laws.
It is a good idea to confirm, ideally with the help of an independent legal professional, if a second will exists and whether it defers jurisdiction to another will.
People often don’t realise that laws relating to wills differ between countries as close as England and Scotland.
The amount of inheritance tax payable can differ depending on the country. Firstly, the value of the assets will be calculated, and only then can the acceptance of inheritance be signed.
Once this documentation has been signed, the tax is payable immediately. This stage can prove tricky in some circumstances, as the funds required to release the assets to the beneficiary may not be readily available. It is therefore important to be aware of this step to better prepare yourself for the eventuality.
In Spain, potential issues can arise from language barriers, documentation and Spanish inheritance tax . Depending on whether there are assets in the UK or in other jurisdictions it may be necessary to obtain documentation to ensure that inheritance tax is not paid twice upon the same assets.
Following the acceptance of the relevant inheritance documentation by the tax authorities, the beneficiary will be able to ask the bank for these funds. This can prove to be a long-winded process, as the banks tend to take their time reviewing the documentation. You will, however, be able to benefit from any interest accrued while the funds were held.
With laws differing from country to country on the topic of inheritance, it can be difficult to know where to start, should you find yourself in the position of dealing with assets abroad. By considering advice from independent legal professionals, ideally from the country where the assets are located, you can avoid a headache and ensure the process is as uncomplicated as possible.