There may be trouble ahead…
Are you a UK citizen living in Europe, or an EU citizen with assets in the UK? At the time of writing, nobody knows what’s going to happen post Brexit. There are certain things that everyone should do though, Brexit or no Brexit. Ensure you have up-to-date insurance, keep an eye on currencies and currency fluctuations, and make a will to cover your assets in England & Wales.
Post-Brexit there could be hidden snags and costs to your estate. The position around taxation of your UK and non-UK estate following death if you are resident in another EU country is currently dealt with in accordance with EU rules, with some exceptions (see here for more).
Post Brexit, be it No-Deal, May’s Deal, Soft Brexit, transitional arrangements, or some unholy mixture: these rules could all go up in the air.
image credit: Alex Blăjan
Accessing services across borders could become problematic too. Currently the freedom to provide services means that it is relatively simple to access UK legal advice (link). Post Brexit, the situation could change with barriers or tariffs making it harder or more expensive to access this. Due to the unique nature of English law, it will be difficult to find a suitably qualified practitioner in another member state following Brexit.
Check the law where you live:
If you make an English and Welsh will and you live in another country you need to take legal advice from a specialist in your current jurisdiction first. Whilst our service does not stretch to international advice we can safely say that having an international estate carries legal risks and financial risks.
Legal risks include the fact that different countries can have different rules about what you can and can’t leave to your relatives and loved ones. There may be specific wording you need in your home will or your English will depending on where you live. A practitioner specialising in the relevant law can give you advice as to what to include.
Financial risks relate to administration and tax. For example the risks of double-taxation (i.e. paying inheritance tax in two or more jurisdictions) are currently mitigated by the EU rules. However, post-Brexit the rules could change causing increased uncertainty and risk.
So to summarise: you need to speak to a local specialist in private client, estate planning and international estates and make the necessary arrangements which might include making a will in each jurisdiction.
Many people who own property or assets in the UK are choosing to sell these and find another jurisdiction to invest. The current uncertainty surrounding the value of the pound, ease of trading within the UK, and fluctuations of property prices feed into this decision. However, bear in mind that selling property in the UK can take a long time, often three to six months from the time that a purchase has been agreed. This could take you beyond the date of Brexit!
You might choose to take a longer 5-10 year view and hold onto these assets. Whilst property values might stabilise during this time, access to services such as lawyers might not. Making a will whilst services are accessible and prices competitive has never been a better idea. Doing it online is a convenient and inexpensive option.
Whatever your investment choices, having a will setting out precisely what you want to happen to your estate is always a sensible option. It’s never too early but it can be too late. Last year, 60% of people in the UK died without a will. The administration costs in these cases are more and it takes longer.
A single will costs £29.50 and a pair of wills costs £39.50. Once you’ve taken advice from a local legal specialist on the international aspect of your estate the process of making an English will can take as little as 15 minutes here.