To download or complete our international Will questionnaire online, please click here.
What is an international Will?
An “international Will” often refers to a Will that is intended to take effect in more than one jurisdiction. Where an international Will is intended to cover a person’s worldwide estate, it may be referred to as a “worldwide Will”.
A similar term is “offshore Will”, which may refer to a second Will that has been prepared to deal with an individual’s foreign assets only. For example, an individual domiciled in South Africa may also have assets located in the British Isles. In this example, the individual may decide to have one Will in South Africa, and a second, separate Will to deal with the succession to the “offshore” assets in the British Isles.
For the purposes of this note, we will use the term “international Will” to encompass similar terms such as a separate Will, foreign Will and offshore Will.
Who might need more than one Will?
In many cases, it will be appropriate for a person to have one Will. However, where a person has assets situated in more than one jurisdiction (otherwise known as “offshore” or “abroad”), it may be appropriate for them to consider more than one Will.
A person may acquire assets in another jurisdiction for a number of reasons – for example, they may move from one country to another or may decide to invest money offshore for a variety of reasons. Common examples of offshore assets include bank accounts, investment portfolios and holiday homes.
What are the main advantages of an international Will?
One of the main advantages of having an international Will is that it will facilitate the simultaneous administration of the estate. This means that instead of waiting for a Will to be submitted in the home jurisdiction before the offshore assets can be administered, the separate/ international Will can be submitted at the same time as the other Will. In theory, this should speed up the overall time it takes to finalise the estate.
Another advantage is that where the offshore asset is a property, an international Will can minimise complications with the succession to the property. This is because the Will would have been drafted in the language of the offshore jurisdiction and using their terminology. This will help to facilitate the succession process.
Thirdly, it is possible that an international Will that has been drafted in accordance with offshore estate planning advice can utilise any available tax planning opportunities.
There are certain disadvantages associated with having more than one Will. However, the risks of accidental revocation and partial intestacy can generally be mitigated by careful drafting. In addition, whilst it may initially cost more money to have two Wills rather than one, in our experience, the additional costs are offset by the money that the estate saves due to a more streamlined estate administration.
How can our solicitors help?
Our international solicitors can advise on the following:
- When it would be appropriate to have one worldwide Will, and when it would be appropriate to have more than one Will.
- Where an international Will is suitable, we can advise the appropriate territorial scope of the Wills.
- Where a person already has a Will (or Wills) we can advise whether the existing structure of Wills is appropriate, and whether there are any existing risks of accidental revocation or partial intestacy.
- We can provide UK estate planning and UK inheritance tax advice for individuals domiciled in the UK and those domiciled outside of the UK.
- We can draft worldwide Wills, Wills for use in the UK and British Isles, and Wills for use outside of another jurisdiction (for example, a Will in relation to a person’s estate outside of South Africa).
How do I make an international Will?
We recognise that it is not always possible for us to meet physically with our clients, and we can conduct the entire process set out above remotely by email, letter and telephone.
Here is an outline of the process and considerations that we take when preparing an international Will:
- The first step is to understand our client’s family, assets and wishes. Where our client is located abroad, we can arrange a video call or telephone call to discuss their wishes. A good starting point to compile the information that we require is to complete our international Will questionnaire. To download or complete the international Will questionnaire online, please click here.
- The next step is to analyse whether preparing an international Will is appropriate for the client. For certain foreign assets, it may be more appropriate for a client to just have one worldwide Will.
- We will analyse what the best Will structuring for the client would be.
- Once we establish what jurisdictions the Will should cover, we will then quote a fixed fee for the client’s approval. Once the fee is approved, we will then send our compliance documents to the client for their approval. Our compliance documents will outline the identification documents that are required from the client.
- Once our terms have been agreed and the client has been identified, we will then prepare a draft Will with an accompanying commentary for each clause. The commentary is designed to assist the client with understanding and approving the draft Will. If the client has an existing Will (or Wills), the draft Will that we prepare will be carefully worded to fit alongside the existing Will. Following approval of the draft Will, a final version will be prepared for the client to execute (sign in accordance with the law).
Frequently Asked Questions
Depending on the client’s domicile, nationality, location of the assets and the jurisdiction where the Will is being executed, we will advise on the correct way of executing the Will, so that it is recognised as valid in the relevant jurisdictions.
You can keep your Will at home or store it with a professional that offers the storage of Wills. If we act for you, we will happily store your Will for you in our archives facility free of charge, giving you security and peace of mind.
It is important that the client’s family and executors are made aware of the existence of the Will and that the executors have access to a copy and know where the original is kept.
If a second Will has been prepared and the client plans to subsequently update the Will in their home jurisdiction, they should always advise the person who drafts the Will that they have a second Will and to present a copy. This is to avoid the updated local Will containing a clause which accidentally revokes the second Will.
If circumstances change in the future, for example, testamentary wishes change, or the nature or location of the foreign assets change, please let us know and we will consider if any updates to the Will are required.
Mirror Wills are virtually identical Wills prepared for partners or spouses.
A jurisdiction is an area with its own legal system. We distinguish between countries and jurisdictions because one country can contain more than one jurisdiction.
For example, within the United Kingdom, there are three separate jurisdictions: England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In addition to this, the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man (which make up part of the British Isles but are not part of the United Kingdom) are three separate jurisdictions.