Competent legal assistance is a vital part of your overseas property purchase and a good lawyer could save you untold hassle and expense when it comes to proceeding with a purchase.
Finding the right lawyer can sometimes be tricky but it’s a good idea to start by asking friends and acquaintances for recommendations. Alternatively, the nearest British Consulate in the region where you are buying will email or fax you a list of qualified English-speaking lawyers in the area.
A few points to remember:
- Always get a qualified, independent, English-speaking lawyer. The language of law is complicated enough, without being written in a language that is not native to your own.
- Lawyers are obliged to check out the contracts you are expected to sign (both the Reservation Contract and subsequent Private Sale Contract) and confirm that all the documents for signature are correct and will not prejudice you unduly as the buyer.
- Be sure never to sign a contract that you do not fully understand and, if two versions are provided (one in English), make sure your solicitor certifies in writing that the English version is a true translation of the facts.
- If you are offered the services of an in-house lawyer by the estate agent or developer, we would advise you to be very wary or even decline the offer. You will never be sure of in-house lawyers’ independence as they could well be tempted to draw up contracts in the interests of the company, not yours.
- To avoid a nasty surprise, be sure of the legal fees/approximate hours involved before you contract your lawyer.
- Don’t take it for granted that upon your death, your property will be inherited by your partner. In some countries, the law states that by default the heirs are your children or other beneficiaries and the national law will apply to your assets in the country. To protect your family from all eventualities, it is highly advisable therefore to get your lawyer to arrange a will stating your particular wishes in the country in which you are purchasing.
- Your lawyer should inform you of approximately how much inheritance tax will be charged to your estate, along with any legal alternatives that could be employed to reduce taxes upon death.