English and Welsh grants of probate for non-domiciles

Posted by Laura Harper on
The non-doms taxation reforms in 2017/18 mean that non-domiciled individuals owning property in the UK, whether in their own name or through a trust or company, will be subject to inheritance tax on that property. These same non-doms are also likely to be hit by the steep proposed increases in probate registry fees when applying to reseal a foreign grant in the UK or applying for a separate English and Welsh grant of probate. 

A grant of probate is the document that confirms the legal authority given to an executor of a deceased's Will, to act in the administration of a deceased's estate. It allows the executor appointed in the Will, or if there is no Will, the administrator, to deal with the assets in a deceased's English and Welsh estate, for example to close bank accounts, sell property and pay debts and expenses.

At present, there is a fixed fee of £155 for probate applications made through a solicitor and a fee of £215 for personal applications. However, these fees are set to increase significantly for estates in excess of £50,000 in accordance with the table below which will apply to non-domiciles as well as those domiciled in the UK. The fee is calculated from the net value of the estate after deducting liabilities or debts from the total of assets and gifts.

Value of estate Fee required
0-£50,000 Nil
£50,001-£300,000 £300
£300,001-£500,000 £1,000
£500,001-£1,000,000 £4,000
£1,000,001-£1,600,000 £8,000
£1,600,001-£2,000,000 £12,000
£2,000,001 or more £20,000

Therefore, if you are likely to need a grant of probate to release the English and Welsh assets of the deceased, it is worth making the application sooner rather than later, as these changes come in to force in May 2017.

Now is also the time that non-domiciled individuals or families may want to think about how they hold their UK assets and look at transferring these into joint names so that the higher fees can be mitigated. Caution needs to be exercised though as the impact of joint ownership may be a risk in itself.

Obtaining a grant

The process for resealing a grant from a country or territory listed within the Colonial Probates Act Application Order 1965 is actually fairly straightforward. Where the country does not fall within this list, or where there was no Will, a separate grant is likely to be required to allow the personal representative to deal with the English and Welsh estate. Whilst this process is a little more complex and time consuming, Blake Morgan's experience in this area means that we can make the process quick and painless.

Prior to applying for the grant, it will be necessary to complete an inheritance tax return to confirm whether any tax is due in relation to the English and Welsh assets. These forms are lengthy and can be time consuming if you have not experienced them previously.

In the vast majority of cases, where the grant was issued by the court of domicile, the person(s) named in the grant (up to a maximum of four) can apply for it to be resealed. Notarised copies of the foreign Will and grant/certificate will also be required as evidence in the probate process. Advice as to what you will need to submit with your application should always be sought from a professional because the probate registry is strict and more than ready to reject copies that it considers insufficient.

The main point to note is that the copy of the grant should bear the original seals and/or certification of the court that issued it. The same applies to the copy of the Will, which, ideally, should also be physically annexed to the copy of the grant. If it is not, the probate registry may require some extra evidence to confirm that the grant and will refer to the same deceased, and to each other.

If the Will is not written in English, a translation will be required and will only be admissible if actually produced and sealed/certified by the issuing court.

It is not necessary to file a sworn oath with an application for resealing, but it will be required if the Will cannot be resealed because the country of domicile is not within the Colonial Probate territories and we can assist with the wording that will be required in the oath and the appropriate person to sign off.

Blake Morgan regularly act as attorney for foreign executors who are unable to make it to the UK to sign off on paperwork, meaning that the process can be very straightforward and hassle free for anyone involved.

If you need help with obtaining a grant in the UK, please contact Laura Harper in the London Succession and Tax team for more information.

About the Author

Photograph of Laura Harper

Laura advises on a range of private client issues specialising in tax and succession planning for individuals and families based in the UK and with foreign assets.

Laura Harper
Email Laura
020 7814 5456

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