What to do when someone dies with assets abroad

Many UK residents own either a holiday home, or shares and investments in an overseas company. Dealing with administering the estate of someone who has died is often already challenging. When you discover overseas assets to be dealt with, this can add a layer of complexity and confusion.

We have highlighted some of the main things to consider when you come across overseas assets for a person who has died.

Is there a will which deals with the overseas assets?

Just like with a will dealing with assets and in England and Wales, it is important that you find out if there is a will which deals with the overseas assets. For guidance on how to find a will, please read our guide: How do I find out if my loved one left a will?

A will usually tells you if it covers all worldwide assets, or only assets in a particular country. If you are unsure, you should seek professional legal advice, so that they can explain the terms of any will to you.

Succession laws

Unlike the rules on giving away assets in England and Wales, many countries have fixed laws which dictate who can inherit some or all of your assets when you die. These are known as ‘succession’ or ‘forced heirship’ laws.

These laws still apply even if there is a will dealing with the overseas assets. It is important that you contact a local lawyer in the country where the assets are held so that they can advise you on which assets will be left under the will, and which assets will pass under the succession laws.

Tax on overseas assets

As with assets held in this country, UK inheritance tax will be payable on overseas assets. You may have to pay additional inheritance tax in the country where the assets are held. Again, you should seek professional legal advice on this.


Inheritance tax and succession laws differ depending on if deceased person was domiciled in England and Wales, or overseas.

A person’s “domicile” is the place where they consider to be their permanent home. Often, this is the same place as where they pay their taxes during their lifetime. It may not the same country as their birthplace, workplace, or where they currently live and are resident.

You will need to confirm a person’s domicile to HMRC when submitting any inheritance tax forms. However, HMRC are themselves unable to confirm a person’s domicile. You should seek professional legal advice on completing information needed by HMRC to confirm someone’s domicile.