Home is where the heart is: wills for expats in the UK and abroad…

Photo credit: Ben White

If you are a citizen of the world you’ll have had the opportunity to sample different cultures, environments and languages.  You’ll also have dabbled in the legal systems: whether it be getting a property to live in, applying the local rules and conventions on the road or knowing what documents you really shouldn’t leave your home without.  As an expat you can make an expat will but there are other things you should always consider.

You might not have thought about what could happen to your property, commercial interests and bank accounts across the world.  Different countries that on the surface appear very similar can have vastly different systems when it comes to inheritance.  France and the UK make a good juxtaposition, with the UK have great freedom on who you can leave your estate to but in France at least 75% of your inheritance is predetermined whether or not you have a will.

This leaves a confusing situation in which local laws, your citizenship and your domicile all come into play.  When making a will when you have interests in multiple jurisdictions you should always ensure you seek the advice of local experts in each of the jurisdictions where you hold assets.  A list of sources of local lawyers in the countries with most British expats can be found in our list of local experts for expat wills.

The dangers for your estate and your beneficiaries range from the risk of double (or sometimes triple or more) taxation on your estate through to your wishes being held to be unenforceable.  When making a will, you need the peace of mind that the wishes you set out can be enforced.

Things to consider are: the Convention on the Conflicts of Laws relating to Testementary Dispositions from 1961 (commonly known as “the Hague Convention of 1961”), “forced heirship” which applies in many European and Islamic countries, and rules around your domicile and residency.

The take home message from this post should be that it is imperative that you seek advice from a specialist in every country where you have a financial or personal interest to make sure there aren’t any problems in the future.