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International probates and estates – French expats in London

This information has been prepared by Sykes Anderson Perry Limited as a general guide only and does not constitute advice on any specific matter. We strongly recommend that you seek professional advice before taking action. No liability can be accepted by us for any action taken or not taken as a result of any information or advice given or omitted.

In this season we see lots of adverts saying that no one should be alone at Christmas. Generally, aimed at taking care of the elderly, there is a similar problem we come across in our international probates and estates practice.

People do not only die when they are old and not everyone who dies has family close by. We are approached when French or other non UK families have lost a (relatively) young loved one who lives alone in London (or elsewhere in the UK) and have no idea how to handle their estate. Probate is the legal term used to winding up an estate, and the procedures in the UK are very different from those in France and other European countries.

At this darkest of times, families who are a long way away, have the task of trying to deal with their loved one’s property and affairs, and navigate an alien legal system. The scope for things to go wrong is high, and the family are often left floundering in a foreign language and country. The young energetic expat is unlikely to have shared all their personal arrangements with their family, and their parents may not speak the language of their new, often temporary, homeland.

What can you do to help your family if the worst happens?

  • First accept that things can and do go wrong.
  • Speak to your family in advance.
  • Keep copies of key information in one central place and let the family know where that is.
  • Make a will and appoint an executor. This can be a family member – preferably one who speaks English, or it could be a trusted friend. It can also be a professional specialising in these matters. Make sure it is someone who will be notified if you die. Or tell your family so that they can ask the executor to swing into action.
  • Get expert advice from a firm specialising in cross-border law for individuals. Give copies of their advice and their contact details to your executor and to your family.

Planning for the worst can save your loved ones a lot of time and money, and is a good insurance plan for anyone. Until humans learn to be immortal, making sure that your family and loved ones can manage your affairs after your death is vital to not adding to their woes at a sad time.

November 2015

Nicole Gallop Mildon

Solicitor and diplômée notaire