Resealing Foreign Grants
A resealed grant enables the personal representatives of the deceased to administer an overseas estate in England and Wales, giving the original grant force and effect similar to what it would benefit from had it originally been issued in England.
The process of resealing a grant of probate or letters of administration in the English courts is likely to be required where a deceased individual was living in a jurisdiction other than England or Wales, but held assets within those countries.
This process is not, however, possible for all jurisdictions, and there are various pitfalls to watch out for, so care needs to be taken when considering how to start the application.
A definitive list of countries to which the option of resealing applies is available in The Colonial Probates Act Application Order 1965. Most of the countries are British Overseas Territories and have, at some stage, had links to the Commonwealth.
The Resealing Process
A district judge or registrar can issue a resealed grant to the following applicants:
- The person, or up to four persons, entrusted with the administration of the estate by the court with jurisdiction in the place where the deceased died domiciled.
- The person beneficially entitled to the estate by the law of the place where the deceased died domiciled (the heir) or, if there is more than one, to as many heirs that would benefit under the laws of the jurisdiction where the deceased died domiciled
- The executor named in a valid will written in any language.
A grant in a foreign language will not be accepted for resealing. A court certified translation will be needed if the will is written in any language other than English or Welsh.
It is also vitally important that all of the relevant documentation is to hand prior to making the application, to ensure the probate courts can be provided with all the evidence required.
Section 2 of the Colonial Probates Act 1892 authorises the resealing of one of the following:
- The original grant
- A duplicate of the original grant, sealed with the issuing court’s seal.
- A copy certified as correct by, or under, the authority of the issuing court.
If there is a will, it should ideally be physically annexed to the copy of the grant. If it is not, the probate registry may require some extra evidence that the two are linked.
Depending on the value of the UK-situated assets, it will also be necessary to file an estate tax return with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) prior to making the application, even if only to declare that no tax is payable.
If the UK-situated assets are worth less than £325,000, the estate tax return is relatively simple to complete. If, however, the deceased was born in the United Kingdom, or was ever domiciled there, a longer, more complicated estate return form will need to be completed.
HMRC aims to provide the initial certificate required within two weeks of the date of submission, but the time required for processing the estate return varies, depending on the complexity of the estate.
Once the original documents and confirmation of the tax payable have been collated, an application can be made to the probate registry with the appropriate fee.
All being well, the application should be processed by the probate registry within 2-4 weeks of submission. The personal representatives can then proceed to administer the estate in the United Kingdom.
Grants issued in the “Crown Dependencies”, such as the Channel Islands, will not be recognised in England and Wales and are not eligible for resealing. If the deceased had assets in a Dependency, it will be necessary to apply for a separate grant to deal with the assets in England and Wales.
The process of applying for a separate foreign grant is more complicated, and therefore more costly, than for a resealing. An oath with details of the deceased, their domicile, and the entitlement of the person making the application will need to be sworn. Advice should be sought at the outset to ensure that the oath is drafted to fit the particular circumstances.