Importance of making a will for British expats

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Importance of making a will for British expats

An English will can be drafted so that it applies to ‘worldwide assets’ including property and moveable assets abroad, but a foreign jurisdiction may not recognise the legal validity of an English will. This is particularly common if it includes a trust. Complicated matters of residency and domicile status can also impact heavily on how a will is drafted if you have assets abroad or you are a British expat living overseas.

If your affairs aren’t in order, you may find your family will spend years resolving cross border issues; it could also be the case that more tax has to be paid than would have been necessary with a correctly drafted will.

Residency and domicile

The amount of Inheritance Tax you (or rather your estate) pays when you die is based on domicile and tax treaties

Knowing your residency status and your country of domicile when you are overseas is important as it has an impact on any Will you make and how it is executed. When it comes to Wills and tax matters for British expats, much of what happens after your death depends on very complicated distinctions around your country of residence and your domicile.

Even if you are a non-resident in the UK for tax purposes, your domicile may well have not changed and you could find your estate would still be liable for UK inheritance tax. A change in domicile is not a simple process and involves meeting criteria and severing nearly all links to your original country. Due to the significant bearing these matters have on the management of your estate, it is vitally important you speak to an expert.

Succession Law and Expats

Without a valid Will in place, your assets could be distributed under the rules of intestacy. More often than not, this results in your assets being distributed in a way that you would not want and your loved ones losing out. Countries have different rules around inheritance, property and tax. You need a Will that protects your assets as much as possible and ensures that your wishes are carried out in regards to your estate.

How Succession Law applies to the distribution of your estate as an expat depends on the scope of your Will. Some Wills can be valid Worldwide, some everywhere except certain countries or only remain valid in one particular country. You must also consider the willingness of any foreign jurisdiction to recognise a Will made in another country and how this influences your succession planning.

In many European countries, including France and Spain, a system of forced heirship is in place. This means that all, or a proportion of an estate, passes to the protected heirs regardless of the details of the Will. These systems can conflict with a UK made Will, whereby you generally have testamentary freedom to gift as you want.

Keebles are experienced in providing solutions for remote clients. We take a client-centred approach and tailor our solutions to fit your individual circumstances. We can provide bespoke advice for clients who live abroad.


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