Advice across the borders

  • Author : Louise Polcaro
  • Date : August/September

Tony Fulton TEP is the author of the new STEP Advanced Certificate in International Succession and Probate. Tony has over 40 years’ experience as a probate practitioner and is Probate Manager at Carey Olsen, where he administers estates, prepares wills and undertakes probate for foreign domiciliaries. As well as being a full member of STEP, Tony is a Fellow of the Institute of Financial Services.

I recently caught up with Tony and put a few questions to him about this new cross-border qualification.

What is the geographical and cultural reach of the STEP Advanced Certificate in International Succession and Probate?

It has a very significant cultural and geographical reach: with increases in family wealth and mobility, a person’s assets may be located in any number of different jurisdictions and it can be difficult to decide which country or countries’ laws and tax rules govern the administration of their estate.

An understanding of estate-planning techniques and the effectiveness of particular types of wills enables practitioners to identify possible solutions to these problems. An understanding of the way that estates are dealt with under common-law, civil-law or Shariah-law systems will help estate administrators to successfully administer and distribute estates involving foreign domicile, foreign assets and foreign beneficiaries.

From Argentina to Zimbabwe there are more than 300 legal jurisdictions that have different succession laws and procedures that the estate practitioner needs to be aware of when dealing with cross-border estates. The deceased might die domiciled in any of these countries whose laws determine who can administer the estate, which beneficiaries receive assets and what taxes are payable.

“International legal and taxation factors are becoming more complicated. They are subject to continual change”

Common-law, civil-law, Shariah-law or some hybrid common/civil-law systems may apply. Each of these has very different requirements. Often there are conflicts between legal jurisdictions.

Who would you consider the prime professional audience for the certificate?

The course has been designed to be of benefit to lawyers, executors, trustees and accountants who deal with cross-border estates of foreign domiciliaries and local estates with foreign assets. The highly specialised subject matter is geared towards the needs of partners and directors of law firms and trust companies, as well as full-time estate administrators.

What would you say are the primary drivers for developing the broader but also more detailed type of knowledge you will get from studying this programme?

International legal and taxation factors are becoming more complicated. They are subject to continual change. There is, therefore, an increasing need to be able to solve complex cross-border problems. But first you have to be equipped to analyse these situations, and that requires having advanced knowledge. That is where the certificate comes in. Once a participant has absorbed the knowledge they can analyse and problem-solve more effectively and efficiently.

What will practitioners, and practices, be able to offer clients that they couldn’t offer before?

Of course, participants may come to this with very different levels of experience and knowledge. But certainly, after studying the course, practitioners will be better placed to identify the important factors that need to be taken into account before advising on wills, inheritance rights, probate procedures, estate taxation and the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. So practitioners will be able to offer more qualified advice, and that involves identifying opportunities for the client, as well as the risks.


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