Making a will when you have assets abroad

Jun 1st, 2021

Amy Allison, Partner

Increasingly we are seeing clients who own assets situated abroad, be that a holiday home, bank accounts with a foreign bank or even shares in an overseas company.  We are also seeing more and more people who have a foreign citizenship but who are permanently living and owning assets in the UK.

4 tips for succession planning and writing a will with foreign assets

  • You should take advice on whether you will need an English will as well as a will in the jurisdiction in which you have assets.  This will depend on the nature of the assets and the country in which they are situated.
  • You should consider if that country has forced heirship rules which may conflict with your wishes in relation to who inherits your estate – this is particularly common in civil law jurisdictions such as France, Spain and Italy.
  • At the same time as reviewing your will, you should also consider your tax position.  If you are treated as domiciled in the UK, you will pay inheritance tax on your worldwide assets (even if those assets are situated outside of the UK).  This  may result in tax being paid twice on those assets – both in the UK and abroad.
  • If you are a foreign citizen living and owning assets in the UK, it is sensible to consider having an English will (even if you already have a foreign Will).  On your death, it is certainly much easy to prove a will in the UK which is written in English and complies with the legal and formal requirements in the UK.

Lastly, if you decide to put a will in place in the UK as well as a foreign will in a different jurisdiction, it is important that your legal advisers in the UK and abroad work together to ensure that the wills are consistent with each other.  We have seen situations where the foreign will has revoked the English will by mistake or vice versa.  Equally, to avoid ambiguity and confusion, each will should clearly set out its remit – for example, the English will should apply only to assets based in the UK and the foreign will to the assets situated in that jurisdiction.

What does this mean for you?

If you are resident in the UK and own assets abroad or if you have foreign citizenship and own assets in the UK, it is important that you take advice on making a will and consider your tax position carefully. 

To find out more and discuss your own personal requirements, don't hesitate to get in touch with the team.

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Amy Allison


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