When someone dies while owning assets in different countries, the estate executor or administrator will need to locate these international assets for probate of the will. Probate courts review wills made by deceased people and decide who will receive all the property that forms part of their estates. Executors must locate all of this property, even if it is in another country.
Before people die, they may not keep careful records of their assets. Sometimes heirs have no idea that their relative owned property in a different country or kept a secret bank account. While administering an estate, an executor or administrator may discover evidence of international assets. He may find a passbook or account statements for a foreign account or a deed for property in another country. As part of his duties as executor, he must investigate further to determine whether the deceased person owned this property.
The executor may need to employ an investigator or researcher to track down the property in another country. He may need to review additional documents left by the deceased person to see if there are more assets in the other country. He may need to have discussions with family members to determine the location and identity of assets. Ultimately, the executor's obligation is to find all of the deceased's property so that the probate court can administer it.
Depending on the jurisdiction in which the assets may be located, you may seek discovery of information about the assets from witnesses and documents. In The Bahamas, for example, the executor or administrator may seek subpoenas from the court to require witnesses to disclose any wills in their possession. (Rules of the Supreme Court.) Other countries have legal provisions allowing document requests and requests for depositions in probate matters. During a deposition, a lawyer could ask a witness questions about the location and disposition of assets that are believed to belong to the deceased person.
Multiple Probate Proceedings?
When assets of a deceased person are located in multiple countries, the estate executor may need to open multiple probate proceedings in the courts of those countries. This depends on the laws of those countries and whether they have treaties regarding probate of assets across jurisdictions. Some countries have mandatory distribution laws requiring that certain property must go to close relatives, no matter what the will says. If you are an executor and you learn that the deceased person held assets in another country, you will need to contact a lawyer familiar with international probate to help you figure out these details.
To find out more about international probate issues, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.