Making a Will

Wills for Overseas Assets

There are different inheritance and tax laws for every country. If you are a British National living in the UK, but with assets abroad, it is vital that you ensure your Will covers your overseas assets.

If you are an expat living abroad, read our guide for expats here.

If you own any kind of asset abroad, whether it be a home to spend your holidays in or bank accounts in different countries, then your estate will be considered a ‘cross border’ estate when you die. Even if you live in the UK, the assets that you own abroad might be subject to the inheritance laws of the country or state the asset is in.

It is very important, if you have such assets, that you consult a solicitor whose expertise can ensure that your Will is written to carry out your wishes. If you leave this to chance and do not cover your overseas asset(s) in your Will, it is very unlikely that your wishes will be followed.

Why would I need an overseas Will?

After his first marriage ended in divorce, Mr Smith met his second wife, Mrs Smith, fifteen years ago. Shortly before they married, Mr Smith bought a holiday home in France, where he and his new wife subsequently spent many years and happy memories.

Unfortunately, before he passed away, Mr Smith didn’t take the time to make provisions for the French property in his Will. Under French inheritance laws, the home did not go to Mrs Smith, as he would have wished. Instead, French law dictated that it must be split between his wife and his adult daughter from his first marriage. His daughter never visited the property and insisted that it be sold so that she could inherit the proceeds. Quite understandably, Mrs Smith was upset, and she and her stepdaughter became embroiled in a dispute about whether to sell the property.

This example, sadly, is relatively common. Making a Will that covers your assets and ensures that your wishes are made clear can avoid many financial, legal, and emotional problems for your loved ones.

If Mr Smith had spoken to the Burt Brill & Cardens overseas Wills team, he would have received personalised legal advice on how to write his Will to ensure that Mrs Smith could inherit the property, or at least continue to live in it until she decided to sell.

What is a foreign Will?

‘Overseas Will’, ‘cross-border Will’, or ‘foreign Will’ are all terms used to describe a Will that covers assets from multiple countries or states. Writing a Will to cover assets across multiple countries involves specialised legal knowledge and skill.

Our clients range from those with a holiday home abroad, to people who have worked and travelled abroad for years and find themselves with bank accounts, properties, and even children in several different countries.

Can I have Wills in different countries?

The simple answer to this is yes, you can have Wills in different countries to cover the assets in these countries. Whether it is advisable to create multiple Wills depends upon the assets you have, the countries that they are in, and the laws of the different countries.

In some cases the laws of different countries conflict, or do not allow for assets in their jurisdictions to be inherited under the laws of England and Wales, even if the owner of these assets lived in in England and Wales. On top of this, matters can be further complicated if there are beneficiaries and Executors living in different countries.

If you have assets in different countries, our legal team will look at all the elements involved and provide you with specialised advice. It might be that the best step to take is to make separate Wills in different countries. If this is the case, we will speak to you about your options and, if possible, work with lawyers in other countries to ensure that your affairs are in order.

David Edwards

David has been a Director in the firm since 1986. In addition to his role as Managing Director, David is also Head of the Private Client team.

Read More About David

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