From Beverley Hills to Notting Hill – a short guide to moving to the UK.

Julie Man and Jeremy Duffy provide a short guide to moving to the UK in the American in Britain Summer 2019 issue.


Whether you’re a Hollywood celebrity like Julia Roberts, an intrepid traveller, entrepreneur, expatriate moving for work or simply relocating for love. Moving is always an exciting time and if you are moving to the UK in particular you will no doubt have a list of interesting and exciting things you may want to do on your arrival such as check out the vibrant theatre and gastronomic scene, visit Buckingham Palace to catch a glimpse of Meghan or decide which football team you are going to declare undying allegiance to for the rest of your life.  

Unfortunately (and realistically) understanding your tax status and ensuring your estate planning arrangements are in order is often not a top priority when blinded by so many exciting new experiences and challenges. This article will give you a few pointers as to why you should give these issues some attention and consider whether your existing planning arrangements, such as your Will and nuptial agreements are still effective.  

What happens if you fall ill whilst you are living in the UK? We will explore some key points for you to consider. Furthermore if you take to the British lifestyle and weather you may wish to consider purchasing a UK property and putting down more permanent roots. You should always take advice on your arrangements to ensure that they meet your requirements.

Mundays is a full service law firm, and is able to advise on these issues to ensure that your move to the UK runs as smoothly as possible.

Tax planning

The UK does offer a favourable tax regime for foreign nationals relocating to the UK. This can be particularly advantageous for individuals who have non UK source income and funds held outside of the UK. It is possible to elect to pay tax on foreign income and gains only once it is remitted to the UK as opposed to on an arising basis which UK citizens are charged on.  There is also opportunity to identify ‘clean capital’ prior to your arrival in the UK. These funds can be remitted to the UK without charge. The rules are quite complex and it goes without saying that advice should be sought on this as soon as you are considering relocating to the UK, as the opportunity to identify clean capital may be lost on your arrival.   

Ownership of UK property

With a stable democratic political and financial system compared to many countries around the world, buying a property in the UK can be an attractive proposition. Even more so at this time in light of the relatively weak pound. There are a number of options for owning property and, although it is beyond the scope of this article to consider them all, advice should be sought on these options. Our property team will be able to walk you through the process of purchasing a UK property.

Individual ownership

This is the most common form of ownership. Property can be purchased in your personal name; this can be as a sole owner or if you own a property with another person (such as a spouse) there are two ways this can be achieved. As ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’.

Joint tenants means that each ‘tenant’ owns the whole of the Property, so that when one person dies the ‘whole’ of the Property passes automatically  to the surviving owner, despite any Will they may have.  Married couples often hold Property in this way.

By holding as tenants in common, each party will own a specified share in the Property which will pass in accordance with their Will and not automatically to the surviving co-owner. For people who own property in this way, it is essential that they have a valid Will which covers who their share in the Property should be left to.

The most suitable method of joint ownership for you may be based on your home country’s tax rules and we can advise you on this. For instance where a US citizen is married to a UK national it may be more beneficial for the property to be held in the name of the UK spouse. Circumstances of each family arrangement will need to be considered.

UK property is subject to UK inheritance tax regardless of your residence or domicile status. Briefly, UK inheritance tax is payable currently at 40% of the net value of a ‘death estate’ which exceeds £325,000, the current ‘Nil Rate Band’. If a Property is purchased using a mortgage to acquire it, the mortgage is a deductible liability for inheritance tax purposes as inheritance tax is payable on the net value of an estate.  The rules surrounding the use of debt to reduce the liability to UK inheritance Tax have been tightened therefore if a foreign national is considering the use of foreign debt care should be taken to ensure that the debt will be effective for estate planning purposes.

Corporate ownership

Following the introduction of the annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) and higher rate SDLT charges, corporate ownership of a residential property, worth over £500,000, has become less popular. However, corporate ownership may be tax efficient for properties which are being rented out and are exempt from the ATED charge.

Trust ownership may also be beneficial and all prospective property purchasers should take specific legal advice to ensure that they purchase property in the most tax efficient way for them, taking into account their individual requirements.

Estate planning: Wills

Many people move to the UK and already have a Will in place in their home country. Will it be valid if you die whilst UK resident? Is your Will tax efficient for my needs whilst I live in the UK?

Generally, if a Will is validly executed in the country where it is made, it should be recognised and enforceable in the UK. However, from a practical perspective, if your Will is drafted in a language other than English, the UK probate office will require a certified translation and if some of the estate planning language is different to that used in the UK, it can be more difficult to obtain grant of probate to administer your estate and sell or distribute your UK assets.

When you purchase UK property it can be preferable (and is recommended) to cover this using a UK will which can be co-ordinated with your existing will in your home country (and any other wills in other countries) to prevent any delay.

In any case, having your current documentation checked can prevent problems.  For example, many US citizens have a revocable or living trust. The trust should be reviewed to see how it is treated under English trust laws, as a trust which holds UK assets are subject to the ‘relevant property regime’ – a lifetime inheritance tax charge, which is an expensive trap for the unwary.  Indeed it is often best to take advice on these matters prior to arrival in the UK.

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)

What happens if I become seriously ill or lose my ability to make decisions whilst I am UK resident? Making a LPA ensures that you choose who you trust to make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to.  There are two types of LPAs:

  • A Property and Financial Affairs LPA, which gives your Attorney/Attorneys authority to deal with your property and finances, as you specify;
  • A Health and Welfare LPA, which allows your Attorney/ Attorneys to make welfare and health care decisions on your behalf, but only when you lack mental capacity to do so yourself. You can also decide whether you want them to be able to give or refuse consent to life sustaining treatment.

An attorney (you can have up to 4) basically ‘steps into your shoes’ and makes decisions on your behalf.  Attorneys can be appointed jointly (so that they have to make decisions in agreement) or jointly and independently. LPAs are useful to ensure that if you or your spouse falls ill whilst in the UK, your chosen attorney will be able to make decisions for you and this prevents what is normally a costly, time consuming and stressful formal court application which is the only alternative.

Jeremy Duffy and  Julie Man at Mundays advise on tax, trust and estate planning for individuals and trustees, with an emphasis on advising non-domiciled clients and work with an international element.  Contact tel: 01932 590597

The contents of this article are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.


Disputing a Will #SolicitorChat with The Law Society
15th April, 2021

How can you ensure wishes are followed and should you consider legal action if you feel a loved one’s wishes are not? Michael Brierley discussed this and more live on…

Impact of Uber ruling on the gig-economy
8th April, 2021

Mona Gholami and Phillip Vallon discussed what impact the ruling have for other ‘gig-economy’ businesses?

Marriage: The Later Years – Have you considered a prenuptial agreement?
26th March, 2021

Judith Fitton and Alice Barrett provide an insight as to ways you can protect and future proof the assets you may have built up previously.

Sleep-in shifts and National Minimum Wage
25th March, 2021

Lucy Densham Brown and Phillip Vallon provide insight to the decision made by the Supreme Court last week in relation to the National Minimum Wage Regulation