Bank fined £25,000 for failing to apply for a Grant of Probate

There are several steps you need to follow if you are administering the estate of someone who has died whilst holding foreign assets which are not dealt with by a Will in that country. You will usually need to provide the following documents to the appropriate court of the foreign country: the death certificate, the Grant of Probate or equivalent, and a copy of the Will if applicable.

Depending on the country where the deceased held their foreign assets, you may have to apply in that particular country, or it may be possible for the court to “re-seal”, which means it will recognise and validate, the Grant of Probate (or similar) you have obtained in this country.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (the “Bank”) has been fined by the Royal Court of Jersey (the “Court”) for transferring a deceased client’s Jersey assets to a foreign court without requesting a Jersey Grant of Probate. The Bank recently appeared in Court after pleading guilty to the offence of ‘intermeddling’.

The account holder, Mr Varghese Abraham, died on 1 June 2017 and held several accounts with the Bank including a savings account in Jersey.

Following Mr Abraham’s death, the Bank attached a standard ‘no debit’ instruction to his accounts. However, a court in the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) ordered his money, in the sum of $401,103, to be transferred to the court’s treasury to be distributed as per UAE probate law.

Shortly after, a senior officer at the Bank realised Mr Abraham’s account had been emptied and notified the Jersey Financial Services Commission about the error.

The Court agreed that the Bank had not acted fraudulently and that changes to the Bank’s systems and procedures had since been arranged. The Court ordered the Bank to pay a fine of £25,000 and £2,085.27 in compensation.

A Jersey Grant of Probate should have been applied for in the Court and presented to the Bank, with advance instructions about where to transfer the funds before they were paid out.

This case is a reminder that if you are required to deal with foreign assets which form part of an estate, you should seek legal advice to ensure that you comply with probate requirements of all of the relevant countries.