When you draw up your Will, it is important to ensure you have catered for the distribution of all your assets. Some of those assets may be abroad. If they are, you need to consider whether they should be dealt with in a single Will or whether a second one is required to deal specifically with your assets in different countries.
It is perfectly legal to have two Wills. Usually, people with assets in different countries prepare a Will to deal with their assets in the country where they normally live and where most of their assets are. They will then prepare a second Will dealing specifically with the assets in the second country.
There are also some very good reasons for having two Wills. The first and perhaps most obvious is that the succession laws are unlikely to be the same in every country. The second reason is that the estates in each country can be realised and distributed simultaneously. This avoids having to wait for the formal document giving title to the executors (Confirmation in Scotland/Probate in England and Wales) before being able to start winding up the estate in the other country.
When there are two Wills, each will be used in the country to which they pertain to appoint the executor or administrator of the Will. After the appointment, the executor or administrator will deal with the realisation and distribution of the estate as directed in the Will for that country. The executors or administrators do not have to be the same people. Also, the beneficiaries do not have to be the same. Each Will is independent of the other.
One important thing to bear in mind when making or updating a Will in one country is to ensure you do not automatically revoke your other Will. This can happen inadvertently. Please ensure you inform your solicitor that you have a Will in a different country or jurisdiction.
You do not need a Will in every country where you have assets. However, it may help the speed with which your estate is wound up. When you only have one Will, this needs to be used to have Confirmation (in a Scottish estate) granted in favour of the executor. Once granted, the Confirmation can then usually be used to have authority applied to it to allow you to deal with the assets in the other country. Again, it is important to be aware that the laws of succession are likely to differ across different countries, and a single Will may fall foul of or not fully cater for those laws.
If you have assets in different countries, it is important to seek legal advice in each country on the laws of succession in those countries and if separate Wills are likely to be beneficial. Also, ensure that you deal with a solicitor experienced in dealing with assets in different countries when winding up your estate.
Kathryn Johnston is an Associate within Murray Beith Murray Asset Protection group and is an estate planning specialist. If you would like to discuss any of the issues covered in this article, or if you require assistance with any other matter, please complete our contact form or call us on 0131 225 1200.
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