Assets abroad, foreign domicile and international WillsWith ever increasing access to global investments, emigration and marriages between people of differing domicile, it is more and more common for families in England to have assets abroad.
These could include bank accounts, shareholdings, second homes, and businesses.
This can create significant problems when it comes to leaving your estate in your Will, or administering an estate during probate.
Whilst under English Law a person is free to leave their estate to whomever they wish, some countries have forced heirship succession rules, which impose certain mandatory requirements on how the estate is administered and to whom.
If a person is domiciled in England and they have a valid English Will, then the assets that are held here will pass under their Will, in accordance with English Law.
If a person is domiciled in England but has assets abroad, then whilst their Will can be drafted to include assets worldwide, the ability of the English Will to deal with those assets, will depend of the law of the country where those assets are located. This is particularly relevant to immovable assets such as land.
If a person is domiciled abroad and has a foreign Will, but has assets in England, then under English Law their English estate would have to be administered under English Law. Their foreign Will would also need to be admissible for probate in England. If the Will is not admissible for probate here, or they died without a Will, then further evidence will be required. This evidence could include affidavits covering domicile, a professional translation of the Will, as well as a grant from the country of domicile.
It is possible to have a Will in each legal jurisdiction, covering the assets held in that jurisdiction. The Will would need to have provisions limiting the scope of the Will to that jurisdiction, or risk inadvertently revoking the other Wills.
Whatever the situation, when foreign assets are involved, or a person is domiciled in a foreign jurisdiction, we would always recommend consulting a legal expert in that jurisdiction. Apart from ensuring the asset is covered under a valid Will, there are also tax implications to be considered. If a Will in a foreign jurisdiction should be required, we would recommend the lawyers in differing jurisdictions liaise with one another, to avoid potential issues.