Are Your Overseas Assets Automatically Safeguarded by Your Last Will and Testament?

If you've lived a long and happy life and been relatively successful in your financial dealings, then there is a chance that you have a number of assets that are situated outside of Australia. If you're getting ready to create your will so that you can pass on all of your assets to your loved ones, can you be sure that all of these overseas assets will be covered properly? What do you need to look at if you want to head off any problems when your estate is executed?

Figure out What's Included 

The more complex your asset bank, the more you need the services of an attorney that specialises in wills and estates. As you consult with this solicitor, you will undoubtedly be asked to itemise all your assets, such as property, superannuation, shares and bank accounts. You will need to be very clear about how many of these assets are international.

Know the General Principles

As a rule of thumb, you cannot automatically assume that your overseas assets will be protected just because you give such instructions in your last will and testament. While many countries are signatory to the Hague Convention (which allows for a common recognition of any legal instruments), many others are not. They will have their own rules that determine how any assets situated within their borders may be handled. This is particularly the case in relation to immovable assets like property. In these cases, the laws of the country that relate to succession will need to be primary.

Do Research

If you hold assets in a number of countries that are not part of the Hague, your attorney will need to do a lot of research in order to figure out the international private law that is applicable. This will undoubtedly vary from country to country and may differ in relation to moveable versus immovable assets. Furthermore, you might have to consider whether or not the land in question will need to levy an inheritance tax following your passing.

Do Planning in Advance

If it is found that certain overseas laws can be particularly punitive in your case, you may find it better to repatriate the funds, or cash out your assets before you finalise the will.

As this can be a very complicated (and potentially costly) scenario, you are advised to consult with an attorney specialising in both will preparation and international law.