Legal Translation for International Probate Matters

Document Translation for International Probate

We’ve blogged about legal translation services for estate litigation. As attorneys, we know that the minute that a legal matter stretches beyond the borders of the United States, then we are dealing with an entirely different kind of case. Indeed, it can be overwhelming to have to consider the laws, rules, and customs of a foreign jurisdiction when even the American law can be hard to decipher.

That conundrum will be present in all areas of the law, including probate law. Yet, as the world is getting smaller, it is likely that you have more and more clients who have assets in other countries, or may be heirs to family members who have assets in other countries.

Accordingly, in this blog we will discuss the two secrets to handling an international probate matter, and then compare and contrast the general probate process in the United States and the general rules in most European countries. After reviewing this blog post, you will be able to better understand why having a legal translator to assist you is one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal when it comes to any type of international probate matter.

Legal Translators for International Probate Matters

There are two important secrets that will be infinitely helpful to you in handling an international probate matter. Regardless of what country is involved, or how complex the probate matter may be, employing these tips will hold you in good stead.

1. Engage with a reliable, professional legal translation service.

You should be aware that it is never in your, or your firm’s best interests to rely on Google translate or a family friend who may speak some of a relevant foreign language when handling an international probate matter. Yet, all too many attorneys make this mistake.

Whether it is for cost savings, or because the attorney may not be aware of the existence of qualified legal translations services, it is not a best practice to rely on ad hoc solutions to translate legal documents that might be in your case. Rather, be sure to have the contact information of a reliable legal translation service to help you translate any documents into, or from, a foreign language.

This advice is particularly true when dealing with probate matters. Last wills and testaments and other sophisticated estate planning documents, whether domestic or foreign, use a number of legal terms of art. It is often the case that a person who does not have any legal training will not understand such terms of art, and may mistranslate them.

That is what makes legal translators, rather than a regular translator, so valuable to attorneys. Legal translation services have the necessary background and experience to properly translate any legal document, and ensure that legal, or other technical, terminology is appropriately translated and will be meaningful in the dialect necessary for the applicable region of the foreign country.

In sum, having a legal document – particularly something as important as a last will and testament – translated appropriately and accurately the first time will be worth the cost of that service.

2. Find an attorney in the relevant foreign jurisdiction to help you through the probate process in that country.

The old adage “two heads are better than one” is true when handling an international probate matter. You can do as much research and due diligence into the processes of a foreign jurisdiction as you want. But, there is no substitute for getting assistance from someone who has practiced in the foreign jurisdiction.

Accordingly, the second secret to international probate is finding a local attorney to assist you. In some cases, if probate assets will ultimately be distributed in the foreign jurisdiction, then having a local attorney in the foreign jurisdiction is a must. Again, when communicating with the local attorney, you will want to have a legal translation service on your speed dial, just in case there are communication limitations without a translator present.

What are the Differences Between Domestic and International Probate?

While the probate process in the United States and in foreign jurisdictions both share a common goal – to properly transfer a deceased person’s assets to parties who are supposed to receive those assets – there are some marked differences between how probate his handled in the United States compared to, say, many European countries.

Generally speaking (of course each state in the U.S. has different rules), the probate process in the United States begins with a filing in court to begin the probate process. Then, an executor must be appointed, and the official death certificate with the decedent’s will (if any) is filed with the court. The probate court then reviews all the filings, and oversees the executor’s job of administering the estate.

By contrast, the general rule on probate in most European countries is that the appointment of an executor is not required. While a person may name an executor in their will, many Europeans do not do so. Rather, the law in many countries can provide for an estate to pass automatically to heirs through the principle of “direct and universal succession.” It is common for heirs to prove that they are proper beneficiaries by filing a “certificate of inheritance.”

Those are just a few of the differences between domestic and international probate, to emphasize how important it is to engage local counsel to assist you, and to ensure that you have a legal translation service that is “on the ready” to help you at any time.

When it comes to the need for legal translation services for international probate matters, we invite you to contact us at All Language Alliance, Inc. for the reliable service you need to get accurate, professional translations. We provide legal translation services from English to any foreign language, including Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, German, French, Persian, Swedish, Dutch, Hebrew, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Norwegian, Korean, Simplified Chinese.

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