As international borders reopen and the opportunity to move overseas to take up promotions and international work assignments becomes easier, there are a number of personal administrative matters that need to be attended to BEFORE you take off. Among them is considering an International Will that’s recognised under the UNIDROIT Convention.
When preparing for relocation to work overseas, there are many matters that will need your attention, and often at short notice as you prepare to take up your new position.
Unfortunately, implementing an International Will, Powers of Attorney and other legal necessities relating to your Estate, are very often among the most important documents that fail to make it onto anyone’s pre-departure to-do list.
Even if you have an Australian Will, it will very likely be invalid for assets in other countries or not deal with or consider your overseas property should you be so unfortunate to pass away in another country.
The solution may be an International Will made in accordance with the Convention, and yes, it has complexities too.
For example, an International Will is only considered valid when it has been signed by three witnesses, one of whom must be an authorised representative such as a solicitor or notary public. Additionally, only certain countries recognise International Wills such as the UK, Canada and United States among others.
Even then, an ‘Authorised Witness Certificate’ must accompany it to indicate all requirements of an International Will have been met.
An International Will must also meet the requirements of the relevant Australian State legislation.
Under the UNIDROIT Convention an International Will is recognised and the rights of the testator protected, regardless of where the Will was signed and witnessed, the testator’s nationality or the location of the principal place of residence and other assets.
While an International Will is the preferred method, an alternative is to implement a number of Wills, that would each meet the legal requirements of the jurisdiction in which you live and work.
Importantly, each of those Wills must also explicitly recognise each other and provide a clearly outlined purpose for each existing.
It must be said, this approach generally involves greater expenditure and as is often the case when there are several parts to a solution, there is greater opportunity for misinterpretation and more care and consideration must be given to properly deal with international assets.
If you haven’t done it already, I implore you to consider adding an ‘International Will’ to your pre-departure to-do list.
Should you unexpectedly pass away in another country, being legally underprepared will no doubt be emotionally devastating for family members and may have unintended or unnecessary negative financial consequences to your estate. In their grief, they will be required to sort out complex legal matters across a number of different countries resulting in unnecessary stress and what can be considerable cost.
All of the above applies in the inverse as well i.e. if you have a Will from another Country and you live and work and/or have assets in Australia your foreign Will may not be recognized here. If that applies to you, you should be talking to your financial adviser and your lawyers as there are significant asset and taxation issues to consider.
The information in this blog is intended only to provide a general overview and has not been prepared with a view to any particular situation or set of circumstances. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. While we attempt to ensure the information is current and accurate we do not guarantee its currency and accuracy. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information in this blog as it may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances.