Do you have assets in multiple countries you need to include in your last will and testament? If so, the solution might not be as easy as you think. For individuals or couples with properties and other assets in multiple countries, effective international estate planning requires attention to the laws and regulations of each of those countries. In many cases, that means multiple wills should be created to ensure the authorities of each country will respect the wishes of the document’s author. Here are a few tips about handling international estate planning scenarios to illustrate why you should consult an experienced attorney to manage the process.
Complexities of International Estate Planning and Administration
In the same way contracts may be interpreted differently from one country to the next, so it goes with estate planning documents and wills. The intricate interplay of varied legal frameworks often poses conflicts, rendering a will acceptable in one jurisdiction unsuitable in another. The Washington Convention of October 26, 1973, aimed to establish a framework for international wills, yet its limited ratification by countries has constrained its impact.
A flawless U.S. will, although valid in its origin, might falter abroad. Thus, crafting an estate plan necessitates meticulous consideration of the inheritance statutes in every jurisdiction containing assets. Below are some pertinent issues arising with international estate planning:
Compliance with Will Formalities
Even with what is seen as clear and explicit instructions, a last will and testament drafted in the United States may fail to gain approval if the overseas jurisdiction where the foreign property resides adheres to different drafting and execution prerequisites. For example, there may be questions about the required number of witnesses or whether a notary certification is adequate.
Ineffectual Documents or Clauses
Several countries disregard concepts of revocable living trusts and testamentary trusts. Consequently, a distribution outlined in one jurisdiction might be negated by a judge elsewhere. In some scenarios, recourse to opinion letters and affidavits might be viable but may complicate administration and increase costs. Moreover, specific provisions could be inadvisable in foreign contexts due to unfavorable tax ramifications.
Influence of Forced Heirship
Numerous countries institute forced heirship regulations, mandating designated beneficiaries such as spouses and children to receive a designated portion of assets regardless of the testator’s intentions. Wills with different instructions may not be enforced.
Overcoming Language Barriers
If English isn’t the official language of a foreign jurisdiction, translating a will into the jurisdiction’s language might be essential prior to probate. This process can be costly, and the translated content’s acceptance by the foreign court remains uncertain. You should choose a qualified legal translator, such as those at The Perfect Translation, who have legal experience with international estate planning.
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