Making a British expat will? Speak to an expert
UK expat wills - where to find local experts
Each jurisdiction has a different set of rules around who can draft and legalise wills. It is always worth speaking with a local specialist lawyer: either solicitor, notary, advocate or whoever is the local best expert.
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Australia
Each territory of Australia has its own Law Society where a list of solicitors with expertise in the territory’s wills and probate laws can be found. These are:
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in the US
As with Australia there are different bar associations for each state. There are too many to list here but you can find a list of different law societies/ bar associations where you can find a list of lawyers with expertise in drafting wills here: https://www.hg.org/bar-associations-usa.html
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Canada
Like the US and Australia: Canada has different law societies for each state. A list of these can be found here: https://flsc.ca/about-us/our-members-canadas-law-societies/. As with other jurisdictions, you should seek someone with experience of drafting wills and with expertise of inter-jurisdictional matters.
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Spain
Spain is split into ten regions each of which has its own legal regulatory body. A list of “Consejos Autonómicos de Colegios de Abogados” can be found here: https://www.hg.org/bar-associations-spain.asp. You should ensure that you speak with an abogado who knows how to draft wills and is aware of the issues surrounding ownership of property and assets in multiple jurisdictions. With Spain’s large expat community there are a number of lawyers who have a good understanding of this.
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in New Zealand
A list of solicitors in New Zealand is here: https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/.
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in South Africa
If you live or you are domiciled in South Africa you can find their Law Society here: https://www.lssa.org.za/
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Ireland
In Ireland, the Law Society website can be found here: https://www.lawsociety.ie/
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in France
To find a notaire in France you can go here: https://www.notaires.fr/en and to an avocat: https://www.cnb.avocat.fr/. Choosing the right lawyer for your needs is important. Avocats specialise in disputed matters. A notaire specialises in non-contentious matters such as drafting wills and transactional advice.
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Germany
The German Federal Bar Association has a website listing lawyers here: https://www.brak.de/
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Channel Islands
Lawyers in Jersey can be found here: https://www.jerseylawsociety.je/public/lawyer-search/, Guernsey lawyers here: http://www.guernseybar.com/about-the-bar/useful-info/links.aspx and it’s worth noting (although it’s not necessarily a Channel Island) the Isle of Man’s list of solicitors can be found here: https://iomlawsociety.co.im/
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Italy
A list of avvocati can be found at the National Bar Association (Consiglio Nazionale Forense): https://www.consiglionazionaleforense.it/web/cnf/ricerca-avvocati
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Netherlands
The Netherlands Bar Association (Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten) has a list of solicitors here: https://www.advocatenorde.nl/vind-een-advocaat
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Switzerland
Lawyers in Switzerland can be found here: https://www.sav-fsa.ch/en/anwaltssuche.html
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in Singapore
Experts in will drafting can be found here: https://www.lawsociety.org.sg/For-Public/Find-a-Lawyer-Law-Practice/Find-a-Law-Practice
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in UAE
Each Emirate has a slightly different system. Dubai has the most UK expats and a list of notaries can be found here: https://moj.gov.ae/web/ejusticesite/notary-submission
Where to find a wills and probate specialist lawyer in elsewhere in Europe
Participating states have a searchable list of lawyers in each EU jurisdiction here: https://e-justice.europa.eu/content_find_a_lawyer-334-en.do
The law for making wills in England and Wales (n.b. not Scotland):
In England and Wales in order to make a will fully legal the will needs to be in writing, you need to sign it and it needs to be signed in front of two unrelated adult witness who are not beneficiaries under the will. Further information can be found with the instructions that we provide you with once you’ve completed your will.
The law in Northern Ireland is slightly different and Scotland follows Scottish law. Whilst there are some similarities the process differs in several important ways.
Outside of the UK different jurisdictions have other formalities required for completing a will including notarisation of a will, public reading of wills, hand-written testaments (rather than printed), registration of a last will and testament and any combination of the above formalities and others. It is never safe to assume that just because something is legal in the UK it will be so further afield.
What is the difference between “domicile” and “residency” for expats making wills:
If you live abroad for some or all of the time you should consider the country of your legal domicile and residency. In some jurisdictions these are one and the same, but in others (including the UK) there is a more international outlook: the legal system recognises that someone may live in a country for a period of time without it becoming their permanent home. It is beyond the scope of this note to set out the subtleties of this arrangement. However, if you are resident abroad you should take expert advice on any inter-jurisdictional matters arising.
In a worst-case scenario you could find yourself leaving behind legal problems including (but not limited to) wishes that are incompatible with the laws of your main domicile or taxation of your estate (or elements of it) in more than one jurisdiction – i.e. double-taxation. With UK inheritance tax standing at 40%, this could considerably reduce your estate.
What restrictions might I face when making a will in another country?
In many European countries (including France, Italy and Spain) as well as in a number of Islamic countries there is a concept of “Forced Heirship”. Unlike in England and Wales, countries with Forced Heirship have a legally binding obligation for some or all of a deceased person’s estate to be divided between spouse and/or children. In these countries the rules around heirship overrule the expressed wishes of the deceased. You should speak to a local lawyer where there is a conflict between your expressed wishes and any rules around forced heirship.
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