It has become increasingly common for individuals to own assets in different parts of the world. Whilst this can provide great financial opportunities, it also presents unique challenges when it comes to estate planning. Simply including all your worldwide assets in one Will is not the answer because the administration of assets in each foreign country differs based on the laws of that jurisdiction.

This means that even if a Will is valid in one country, there is no guarantee that it will be recognized or enforced in another. Foreign probate courts may question the document or reject its terms altogether, leading to delays and potential legal battles. In addition, language and translation barriers, cultural and religious differences, as well as your nationality, domicile, estate taxes and double taxation can complicate the administration of your Will.

In order to ensure that your assets are not crippled by different taxes and are distributed according to your wishes, it is important to make a Will in each of the countries where your assets are situated. A few decades ago, a number of governments tried to avoid having to make a multitude of Wills by creating the 1973 Washington Convention (‘Convention’) that aimed to create a uniform Will that would be recognised and enforced across different jurisdictions. Although a good idea which has been ratified by some countries, the Convention has not been widely adopted. And even those countries that have ratified the Convention, they have not implemented it into their legislation and so many jurisdictions still require separate Wills for assets located within their boundaries.

However, having multiple Wills comes with its own risks. If the Wills are not drafted and executed properly a number of issues could arise, the main one being the danger of revoking all your Wills previously made in other jurisdictions. This is why it is crucial for individuals with assets in different jurisdictions to seek expert legal guidance to navigate these complexities. And although it may seem costly and overwhelming, it is important if you want to ensure that legal and financial complications for your heirs are avoided and your final wishes are carried out.

– Private Client Executive, Alisa Morrison