What is International Probate?

What is International Probate and How Do I Get Started?

Probate is a complicated and time-consuming process—and that’s before you add the international aspect. Trying to manage the probate process internationally can be challenging, but when you know what to expect and have experienced legal counsel representing you, the entire process becomes much easier.


When You Inherit Property Abroad

If a loved one has willed you property or assets in another country, you’ll need to go through the probate process as required by that country’s laws. In general, the probate process involves proving the validity of the decedent’s Will and verifying who receives their property and assets. This process can take months if there are no delays or disagreements among heirs, but it can take years if someone contests the Will or disagrees with other beneficiaries.


What the Process Is Like

The process differs between countries, but in general, you must follow the laws of the country in which you are inheriting property or assets. For example, a US Grant of Probate is not sufficient in Germany and most other European countries. Beneficiaries and heirs must go through the German courts to establish their rights to the decedent’s property and assets.

This process involves a substantial amount of paperwork and verification, which is one reason you may want to have a legal representative in the country where you are inheriting property. Without a legal representative, you may find it difficult to parse the other country’s laws, obtain the proper paperwork, and file it from abroad. This can substantially draw out the probate process.

Typically, all heirs and beneficiaries must prove their right to claim property or assets. Depending on the country, you may provide proof of familial relationships, take a DNA test, or otherwise demonstrate your relationship to the decedent. The court also verifies the validity of the Will. After verifying the Will and its contents, the court will either allow heirs to take ownership of assets or allow the executor to distribute assets.


Your Next Steps

Hiring legal counsel in the country where you are inheriting property should be your next step. Otherwise, studying the laws of the country and finding out how to assert your claim could be a part-time job. When you hire an attorney, you can work with them to figure out what paperwork you need, what fees need to be paid, and your general timeline. If you’re set to inherit property in Germany, England, Switzerland, or Austria, Graf & Partners, LLP is here to help. Contact us to discuss your needs and start the process.