Does my will cover my assets overseas

[ Estate planning for assets outside Australia ]
by Carrie Payne Published

While we may not all have the means of those ‘A list’ celebrities that have holiday homes scattered across the globe, it is becoming more common that people acquire assets in locations outside Australia. Whether through inheritance, living internationally or simply investing internationally, a common question arises about how to ensure these assets are included in your estate plan.

'It depends'

‘It depends’ is probably one of the most common answers you will get from a lawyer and is often cited as an ‘in-joke’ for those in the legal profession.

Discussing whether your will covers your assets overseas is more often than not likely to yield the same answer. This is because determining the answer rests so much on your personal circumstances that it is hard to postulate without looking further into a person’s background and objectives.

Subsequently, we’re going to step through some of the key considerations in determining if your estate plan needs to be reviewed to take into account your assets overseas. As always, specific advice should be sought about your particular circumstances.

Your Australian will

As a rule of thumb (and provided you have an appropriately drafted will), a will you make in Australia should cover your assets worldwide.

This is reinforced by, for example, international law that purports to allow for recognition of international estate planning documents.

Practical issues

While the above may be technically correct, in practice, the conservative view is that you should have a will in each jurisdiction that you own assets. This is largely based around the requirements of third parties having their own requirements to interact with the assets of a deceased held by that third party.

It may be rare that a lawyer doesn’t enjoy a long winded technical debate about the application of the law, however it’s not something that will reduce the burden on your family in dealing with your assets if you’ve passed away.

The two ‘main offenders’ when it comes to not supporting overseas wills are usually land registries and share registries. So, while the conservative view is that you should have a will in each jurisdiction that you hold assets, where there are assets that will require your estate to interact with land or share registries this seems particularly important.

Communication is key

If you do have more than one will for separate assets around the world, you should ensure that your estate planning advisers communicate effectively.

This is important so that the particular will only covers assets in that jurisdiction and doesn’t inadvertently revoke your other will(s).

Again, specific advice should be obtained as to what is required in each case. Your circumstances and objectives will be the key drivers in any discussion relating to estate planning for overseas assets.

If you would like to discuss your international assets and current estate plan, please contact the Legal team.

General Advice Disclaimer

Information provided on this website is general in nature and does not constitute financial or legal advice. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, but information may become outdated as legislation and new government announcements are made. Individuals must not rely on this information to make a financial, investment or legal decision as it does not take into account their personal circumstance. Before making any decision, we recommend you consult a licensed adviser or legal practitioner to take into account your particular objectives, circumstances and individual needs.

Carrie Payne
read more by Carrie Payne
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