What to Consider When Drafting a Will with Overseas Assets

As we embrace diversification in the modern world, it has become common – even commendable – to buy and own assets abroad. However, due to the complexities of estates and estate planning and the discrepancy of legal systems in different jurisdictions, this has raised concerns over the issue of succession, particularly writing a Will during estate planning. Is it appropriate to have a separate Will for every country, or is it better to draft one Will for all the assets based outside the domicile country? 

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this, as it ultimately comes down to your personal circumstances. However, here are a few things to keep in mind. 

If you own assets outside of the country or are a beneficiary of an overseas estate, you will probably need to conduct probate in more than one country. The European Union Succession Regulation does not apply to the U.K., much less to the USA, so applying for a Single European Grant is not an option in these cases. Even more, the estate may be prone to a number of inheritance tax regimes which creates the real risk of double taxation. 

To avoid a complicated succession process, it is important to draft your Will in a way that facilitates a seamless transfer of assets. U.K. and U.S Wills are often difficult to interpret in countries such as France, Germany, Spain, and Austria, and vice versa. As such, the Will should address all the jurisdictions involved to prevent any legal uncertainties or disputes between the executor and beneficiaries. 

Making one Will for all of your overseas assets is certainly simpler and cheaper than preparing multiple Wills for different assets in different countries, but this approach has several gaps. For starters, every country has its own unique set of laws that must be followed for a Will to be validated. Your Will might be valid in the U.S., for example, but it may not meet the requirements of a country like Spain. 

Furthermore, in some jurisdictions, the law distinguishes between movable and immovable assets when establishing whether a Will is legally valid. When it comes to movable assets such as shares and bank accounts, the Will must comply with the formalities of the home country at the time of the testator’s death. For immovable assets such as land, the law of the country where the asset is located takes precedence. If these factors come into play during the administration of your estate, the process can be tremendously slow and relatively costly. 

If you find yourself in an international succession situation, you should familiarize yourself with the inheritance regimes of the different countries involved. It is especially easy to forget that some jurisdictions charge an additional inheritance tax to claimants outside of the country. Professional, experienced estate planning attorneys can be able to mitigate the inheritance tax reasonably fast. 

For specialist guidance and/or advice on Wills and estate planning, please feel free to reach out to our team of legal professionals at Graf & Partners, LLP. We have a wealth of experience in estate planning, and we will ensure that your assets are disposed of according to your wishes. Contact us now. 

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International Probate by Graf Legal

The team at Graf & Partners, LLP offers extensive experience in many areas of international law, putting them in a unique position to help American clients who own property in multiple countries or inherit property from loved ones abroad.

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