Trust, Inheritance and Succession Disputes

Increasingly individuals have assets in more than one country which can create complex cross border succession and taxation issues on death.

Helen Teffere, head of the Trust, Inheritance and Succession Disputes Team at Giambrone is a specialist dealing with cross border estates.

Her wealth of experience involves her advising clients on many legal issues related to contested estates with assets located in many international countries including the UK and Europe (mainly Spain, France and Italy), Australia, Canada, The United States and Brazil.

With 12 offices around the world including London, Milan, Barcelona, California, Florida and Las Vegas, we are especially well placed to advise on cross-border issues. According to the European Commission, 450,000 cross border successions occur in the EU every year, representing an estimated value in excess of €120 billion.

Trust and estate disputes are often complicated and highly stressful, especially when a deceased’s wealth is spread across the world in trusts and other assets and competing sides of the extended family are still grieving for a loved one.

Where a person dies leaving assets in two or more countries, it is frequently necessary for probate or the equivalent to be obtained in both or all countries where the assets are situated. For example, if a person dies domiciled in Italy holding assets in England and Italy, it will be necessary to go through two separate procedures to distribute the inheritance to the beneficiaries. In Italy, the beneficiaries of the Italian estate will need to obtain a Certificate of Inheritance known as a “Dichiarazione di Successione” to enable the Italian estate to be distributed. A separate Grant of Probate, or Letters of Administration if there is no Will, will need to be obtained in England to secure the release or transfer of the English assets.

But what happens if a dispute arises between the heirs? How do we reconcile different legal principles in competing foreign jurisdictions? These are some of the most frequent issues that our lawyers in the Trust, Inheritance and succession disputes team deal with on a daily basis:

  • what happens if the beneficiaries have lost faith in a trustee or protector controlling a trust? 
  • What are the rights of the immediate family members if a vulnerable or elderly parent was persuaded to draft a will disinheriting them?
  • How is it possible to challenge a foreign Will if contrary to local rules of inheritance such as fixed heirship rules that are mandatory in some jurisdictions?

International disputes often involve conflicts of laws between the UK and foreign jurisdictions. Overseas jurisdictions are involved if the parties are resident and domiciled there or if the disputed assets are situated there. Conflicts of laws tend to arise in relation to succession, administration and taxation of an estate or trust and lifetime giving. Our International Trust, Inheritance and Succession Disputes Team frequently deal with the following:

  • Applications for the removal of an executor;
  • Bringing and defending claims on behalf of an estate;
  • Citations to accept or refuse probate;
  • Subpoenas to produce testamentary documents;
  • Applications to issue and warn off caveats;
  • Applications to the court for directions regarding the administration of an estate.

If you would like advice on  an estate administration dispute or any other inheritance or trust dispute, please contact our Client Services Team on 0044 207 183 9482, or by email for a free, no obligation chat to see how we can help you.