Skip Navigation Links

Making a Will

If you own assets in a country it is usually a good idea to have a specific Will (or the local equivalent of a Will) which deals with those assets.

It is just as important to make sure that your Wills - however many there may be - are drafted in such a way that they work together with each other. One of the biggest possible disasters is preparing a new Will in, say, France which accidentally cancels all of your previous Wills anywhere else in the world or which contains provisions which contradict those Wills.

Why do I need a Will?

It is only by the use of a Will that you can make sure that the people who you want to inherit your property when you die actually inherit it.

In most countries in the world there are strict restrictions on who has the right to inherit what and your Will is the tool to either avoid or minimise the effect of those restrictions.

Your Will is also an essential part in your battle to reduce your tax liabilities to the minimum necessary.

See our guide to 'Inheritance Planning and Minimising Taxes'.

Do I need to make a Will?

No. You do not need to make any Will - but it is foolish not to.

You do not need to make a special Will in each country where you own assets - but it is usually expensive not to.

If you make a Will in your home country then, usually, that Will will be effective in dealing with your assets overseas. However, there are three very good reasons why you would not want to rely on this:

  • What your 'home' Will says as far as the inheritance of your property is concerned may simply not be permitted in the country where the property is located. In this case your Will will not work.
  • Even if the gifts set out in your Will are legally acceptable in the country where the property is located, they are likely to be disasterous in terms of the inheritance tax that will be payable. A simple local Will can easily reduce your tax burden by tens or hundreds of thousands of £/$/€.
  • Giving effect to our 'home' Will in another country is likely to cost a lot of money. The whole Will and all of its supporting documentation will need to be officially translated into the language of the country where the property is located. You are likely also to need special legal documentation required for use in that country. The cost of the translation alone is usually several times the cost of making a local Will. In addition, it will usually not be possible to do anything about the administration of your estate overseas until the arrangements for the administration of your home estate have been finalised. This can take several months. During this period you may well find that the time limit for paying the taxes due overseas have expired and that you, therefore, have to pay an expensive surcharge on your tax bill.

How do make a Will for use in a foreign country?

The first thing is to discuss with your legal advisors what you would like to happen to your assets in that country. If there are any problems as a result of legal restrictions in that country, you need to discuss how to solve or minimise those problems.

Your legal advisor will then be able to tell you about the various ways in which a Will can be made in that country (there are usually several) and discuss with you the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Your lawyer will then arrange for the preparation of the Will and for you to sign it.

This is all, in theory but not in practice, pretty simple.

How long does this take?

Making a Will can be done very quickly. In urgent cases we can make an emergency Will in a few hours. That Will may not be in the usual form and may not have all of the tax and cost saving contents of a normal Will, but it is a great deal better than no Will.

Generally, however, the process of making an international Will is likely to take a minimum of two or three weeks and sometimes - largely dependent upon your availability to sign it - 2 or 3 months.

We strongly recommend, that if you have not made such a Will, you start that process now!

Next steps

Please look at the Legal Guides, videos, MP3 seminars and other materials set out to the right of this page.

If you would like us to help you, please complete our Client Pack and send it back to us. We will contact you to clarify your requirements and then introduce you to the person most appropriate to deal with your case.

If you do not find the information that you need, please send us an email explaining your problem and we will contact you.

© The International Law Partnership Ltd. Page last revised 5 Feb 2010

P  Please think of the environment. Do you need to print this page?