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.
Making a foreign Will should allow you to take advantage of legal tax planning to minimise the amount that your beneficiaries have to pay as inheritance tax when you die.
A foreign Will can also make sure that your beneficiaries have an easier (and more cost effective) experience when dealing with your inheritance. Inheritances of assets abroad can be complicated, particularly if there is no Will made in the country where the asset is located.
Many an inheritance dispute has arisen between family and loved ones due to testators failing to make adequate plans for their assets across different jurisdictions. So, ensure you start thinking about the future now.
Our foreign Wills and inheritance abroad expertise
Our highly specialist legal team can assist you with estate planning when you own property overseas and handling every aspect of creating, varying, and executing Wills abroad and in the UK, including:
- Legal advice from a lawyer qualified in the UK and the country in which you own property and other assets.
- Clear, practical advice on your estate planning options to ensure your wishes are protected after you die including implications for Inheritance Tax and potential tax liability in other jurisdictions. We’ll aim to make your estate plan as tax-efficient as possible, allowing your beneficiaries to inherit as much of your estate as possible.
- A multi-faceted approach to your estate plan, including ensuring consistency between multiple Wills made in the UK and abroad.
- Advice for executors of foreign Wills and UK Wills including assistance with the administration of the estate.
- Advice to beneficiaries, including people who may inherit under forced heirship rules in other countries or under rules of intestacy.
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 team have experience across a vast 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 countries, 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. For example, in Spain, all property owned by foreign nationals is subject to Spainish laws except inheritance where the laws of their country of nationality can apply.
It’s essential to consult a specialist lawyer to explain your options depending on the country in which you own assets to ensure your Wills are valid and respected across all relevant jurisdictions.
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.
Domicile and 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 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. We 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?
Below are some of the reasons why you should trust Judicare for your foreign Wills needs rather than instructing a lawyer based in the country you are dealing with:
- Our legal team are skilled in both UK law and the laws of the country you are dealing with. This means you only have to instruct one lawyer for your foreign Wills needs and we can help you create Wills in both the UK and abroad.
- Our team are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and have indemnity insurance. This means you can trust that your experience with us will be protected by rigorous regulations whereas this may not be the case with a lawyer based abroad.
- 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 we’re based in the UK, we speak English as our primary language.