How do I get probate for UK assets?

As a British citizen owning a house and living in France but with some liquid assets in UK, how does one get probate for the UK assets if one has a French will? I presume it is best not to have both French and English wills?

12 November 2017
By Connexion journalist

Solicitor Barbara Heslop replies: As you have mentioned an English will, I assume the liquid/moveable assets are in England or Wales. The first step would be to contact the company/bank which holds the movable assets to establish their requirements and whether it will, in fact, be necessary to produce a grant of probate so the cash / investments can be claimed by the deceased’s estate. Unless the will made use of the EU inheritance regulation to choose English law, the company/bank will need to determine the domicile of the deceased in order to know which law applies to the assets. Although France and the UK apply different tests to determine domicile/habitual residence, you have stated French residency so it can be assumed that the deceased will have been habitually resident in France at the time of death.

This means all of the assets you have mentioned – a house in France and liquid assets in the UK – will be subject to French inheritance law.

A French will can govern the inheritance of your movable assets, assuming it is a valid French will drafted to include the English liquid assets – but, according to French inheritance law, it will only apply once the entitlement of any children as reserved heirs and the surviving spouse have been taken into account (this requirement does not however apply if you specified English law is to apply).

In our experience, in order to obtain the release of UK liquid assets many UK companies/banks will require a grant of probate and for this a certified translation of the French will must be provided to the Probate Registry together with an Affidavit of Law confirming the validity of the will and how it operates given that the deceased was resident in France.

While it is possible to have professionally drafted, mutually compatible wills in each jurisdiction, for a Briton resident in France such as you, we believe a French will dealing with worldwide assets is all that is required.

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2017 Inheritance Law guide (PDF version) - For expats or second home owners - 48 pages
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The guide, to be published on September 25, 2017, includes a chapter on the formalities following a death in France, issues of dependency, and reviews changes to French inheritance law affecting expatriates and second-home owners, which came into force on August 17, 2015
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