By making a Will you can ensure that the right people inherit from you and do so in the most tax advantageous way. If you don’t leave a Will then the law sets out who inherits from you, which may not correctly reflect your wishes or those of the individuals involved.
If you own property abroad, it is usually in your best interests to make a Will in the country where you own that property, as well as a UK Will. This ensures any difference in inheritance rules between the two countries are accounted for, protecting your estate and making sure it is distributed as you intend when the time comes.
Getting expert advice on making a foreign Will can give you peace of mind that all of the legal details are taken care of and that there won’t be any nasty surprises for your loved ones when you are gone.
With decades of combined experience are legal team have been providing our clients with specialist global legal advice related to property and land overseas. As well as assisting with buying and selling foreign property, we also assist with overseas inheritance planning.
Our international inheritance team can assist with all aspects of foreign Wills and inheritance planning, including:
- Making a foreign Will
- Advice on the effect of your existing Will
- International inheritance tax planning (to minimise the tax burden on your estate)
- Advice for executors of foreign Wills and UK Wills (including assistance with the administration of the estate)
- Advice for beneficiaries (including people who may inherit under forced heirship rules in other countries or under rules of intestacy)
Our overseas Wills expertise covers a wide range of countries, including advice on:
For specific advice on making a foreign Will tailored to your needs, please get in touch with our friendly, expert international inheritance Legal team.
How we can help with foreign Wills and inheritance abroad
Making a foreign Wills
Our international inheritance team can help you get a clear, legally sound Will in place for the jurisdiction where you own property.
Together our legal team offer clear, practical advice on your estate planning options to ensure your wishes are protected after you die. We can also advise on the way your UK and overseas Wills interact, so you know exactly how your estate will be dealt with under the two countries inheritance laws when then time comes.
Advice on the effect of your existing Will or Wills
Our team can provide clear guidance on what will happen to any property in another country or other overseas assets you own under the terms of your current UK Will.
Our foreign Will legal team can also advise you on the interaction between different Wills (i.e. where you already have a UK Will and a foreign Will), so there are no unexpected problems for your beneficiaries when you pass away.
International inheritance tax planning
Our international inheritance legal team can ensure you fully understand all of the implications for Inheritance Tax and potential tax liability in other jurisdictions. We will aim to make your estate plan as tax-efficient as possible, allowing your beneficiaries to inherit the maximum amount from your estate.
Advice for executors of foreign Wills and UK Wills
If you are the executor of an estate that contains foreign property, we can advise you on what you need to do, whether there is a foreign Will or not.
With understanding of both UK inheritance law and the inheritance laws in many other countries, we are well placed to assist where the deceased left a foreign Will and a UK Will.
Where there is confusion over the effects of their Wills or there is no Will, we can access the specialist knowledge to help you unpick the issues and make sure you carry out your role in accordance with all relevant inheritance rules.
Advice for beneficiaries of estates containing foreign property
Where you are the beneficiary of an estate that contains foreign property, we can advise you on your inheritance rights.
If you are unhappy with the effect of a foreign Will or your inheritance rights under the rules of another country, we can advise you on what steps you may be able to take. We can also provide assistance if you have to respond to an inheritance challenge from another party.
Common questions about foreign Wills
Do you need both an English Will and a foreign Will?
Although there is no necessity for this, we think that you do. Inheriting property abroad using an English Will is not only more complicated but takes longer and costs more. An English Will may also be incompatible with the law of the foreign country due to forced heirship laws in that country.
It may therefore be necessary to create separate Wills in the countries in which you own property. However, it’s very important that your new Wills abroad do not invalidate your English Wills.
Our highly skilled legal teams have experience across a range of different jurisdictions and can help you arrange your estate plan in both the UK and abroad so that any further Wills you make are valid and executable everywhere.
Are English Wills valid abroad?
Although most countries have succession laws, Wills and probate rules are vastly different depending on what country you own property in. For example, while under English law testators can leave their property to whoever they want, many European, South American, and Middle Eastern countries operate ‘forced heirship’ rules which restrict how a testator can distribute their property after death. Therefore, an English Will which is valid in the UK may actually be invalid in another country.
Luckily, many countries recognise that non-nationals will want to apply the laws of their home country to their foreign assets and there are options that can be looked at to help deal with this issue. However, the most safest, effective option is usually to make a Will in the country where your assets are.
It is essential to consult a specialist international inheritance lawyer to explain your options depending on the country in which you own assets and where you are resident to ensure your Wills are valid and respected across all relevant jurisdictions.
Will you need a European Will after Brexit?
Until relatively recently, most European countries would allow UK nationals to apply English probate laws to any property they own there. However, the treatment of Wills across Europe has changed dramatically in the past few years with the introduction of a piece of European Union legislation called the Brussels IV.
Brussels IV has been opted into by every EU country (other than the UK, Ireland, and Denmark) and dictates that the national laws of the country in which a testator’s property is situated will apply unless the testator explicitly sets out in their foreign Will that they want to apply English law.
As such, everyone who owns property in an EU country and/or created a foreign Will before 17 August 2015 must create or vary their Will in that country to ensure their wishes are respected. This is particularly important if you own property in countries such as Spain which operate forced heirship succession laws.
How does your domicile status affect Inheritance Tax?
Your domicile status is important as this will affect any Will you make and how it’s executed. Your domicile is determined by several factors:
- Where you were born
- Where your father was born
- Where you have lived
- Where your assets are located
Domicile is different from residence. It is also important to understand that the UK concept of domicile is different from what other countries consider domicile, which is more akin to residence. Unfortunately this can get confusing when dealing with cross border probate unless you are used to explaining this.
Domicile affects your probate status as anyone domiciled in the UK can be liable for Inheritance Tax on their worldwide assets. This includes foreign nationals domiciled in the UK who may be liable for Inheritance Tax even if they are not a UK tax resident.
Similarly, someone who is domiciled in the UK but owns property in another country could be liable for Inheritance Tax for their foreign assets in the UK but also attract tax in the country in which the property is situated.
In some situations, there may be a tax treaty in place with the country which may help alleviate your tax liability. Our international inheritance legal team can provide detailed further advice in relation to this and whether you have any options for reducing your tax liability.
Why choose Judicare for advice about foreign Wills?
Plain English advice
We speak English – when it comes to Wills and probate advice you should never take the chance of instructing a lawyer who doesn’t speak fluent English. As Judicare is based in the UK, we speak English as our primary language, with no unnecessary legal jargon.
UK-regulated solicitors. Real peace of mind.
As a UK law firm, Judicare are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). This means you can be confident we will adhere to the strict standards expected of UK lawyers.
Understanding of how inheritance laws in different jurisdictions interact
Our legal team can provide clear, seasoned expertise on situations other law firms likely won’t have the experience to handle effectively.
Property is one of the most common assets people have overseas, so working with a law firm with strong international property expertise is usually a good idea when dealing with foreign inheritance. This is one area where Judicare particularly excels.
We are a member of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP), which was set up to improve standards of professionalism in a largely unregulated overseas property market. As AIPP members, we have signed up to a Code of Conduct that assures we adhere to the highest standards of honesty and professional integrity.
Decades of collective experience in international inheritance law
Our combined team have many years of experience dealing with all aspects of overseas Wills and cross-border inheritance planning. This means we know all of the issues you need to consider, exactly what needs to be done and all of the common problems you can run into (and the not so common ones).
Drawing on our collective experience, we can help you to plan effectively and make sure every stage of your international inheritance planning goes ahead as smoothly as possible.