International Wills - will it work for me?
One of the most common enquires we receive is a request for an international will.
Since 1973, the Washington Convention on the Form of International Wills
has allowed for the possibility of a globally accepted will. The requirements are simple and apply wherever the will is drafted and irrespective of asset and testator location. The document must be signed in the presence of 2 independent witness and a legal qualified authority (notary or lawyer). The notary or lawyer will then sign a certificate confirming the Convention rules have been adhered too.
This all seems very straightforward and simple. So nearly 50 years later, why are international wills not more common?
- Only 21 countries have signed up to the convention and an international will would only be recognised in these countries. Not all of the countries are currently enforcing the law.
- In a lot of countries, local inheritance law will require that certain shares of your estate must be left to your dependants. The international will could be ignored in favour of the local laws of intestacy if your responsibilities were not met in your will.
- Other territories will only accept wills in their language. If you have assets in multiple countries, a translation and authentication may be required in each, a timely and costly exercise.
- A simple international will may not be tax effective in countries were the recipient of a gift is taxed.
- Probate law varies greatly from country to country. It is likely that your assets will be frozen on your death, but any debts will continue to accumulate, which can leave loved ones in difficult circumstances. In matters of estate administration, the original will is usually required by courts and authorities to grant powers and administer your wishes. The will may have to make a global tour to deliver your wishes, delaying the release of funds.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the problem of international estates and expat wills, as each individual’s circumstances are unique and will require bespoke solutions. The circumstances in which an international will would be a recommended estate planning tool for an international individual are rare.
That is why we would always advise seeking expert legal guidance from our network of legal professionals. After all, you work for a lifetime to amass your estate, so it makes sense to take the time to ensure as much of your legacy as possible is passed on to the people you wish to benefit from it.
Here at Wills Worldwide, we have the relevant expertise as well as experience of the issues to consider when making a will and particularly those relevant to expats caught between residency and domicile in more than one jurisdiction. Wherever you are in the world, our UK certified adviser and partners can help you make the most of the tools available to you to leave a lasting legacy for your loved ones. Please contact us to find out more.… read more