Wills and Foreign Assets

Foreign property brings an additional layer of complexity to the making of a Will and general estate planning. In recent years the ownership of property abroad by British Nationals has become an increasingly common factor to consider in the preparation of a Will. British law allows a person to leave their property in Britain to the beneficiary of their choice with only a few exceptions, for example where an interest property is already held subject to an existing trust arrangement of held with another person or persons as joint tenants.

This position does not necessarily apply in relation to non-domestic property. Other legal jurisdictions have forced heirship rules which require property to be passed to specific people (for example entirely to a surviving spouse or only to male heirs). Such rules can often override the provisions of any Will you may make, whether that Will is made in Britain or not.

If you are considering making a Will in Britain and you hold the property abroad you should seek advice in the jurisdiction in which you hold property. You should make particular enquiries as to whether it is possible under the law of that jurisdiction to leave the property in the way you intend. If it is not possible to do so then you may need to make different arrangements in your British Will. Where for instance property abroad may only go to male heirs you may wish to give a greater share of your British estate to your daughter(s) if you want to achieve overall equality in the distribution of your estate between your children.

In many if not all cases it will also be appropriate to have an additional Will in that jurisdiction, but care must then be taken to ensure that the Wills are harmonised so that one Will does not override the other.