How To Address Property In Other Countries In Your Will
The number of UK citizens who own property overseas has grown exponentially since the early 70s. According to data from the United Nations, there are 1.2 million Brits living in other EU countries, and other sources estimate that the total of Britons living abroad hovers slightly above the 3 million mark. While not every expat owns property abroad, lots do. In addition, a significant number of citizens live in the UK and also own property in another country.
Dealing with overseas property when drafting a will is a complex matter. To begin with, property is not limited to real estate, but the definition also encompasses other valuables such as currency, stock, belongings, and more. For practical reasons, overseas property can be categorised in two main types:
- Immoveable property: real estate
- Moveable property: money, other belongings
As a general rule, immoveable property is subject to the laws that rule each particular country, and those tend to differ a lot from UK law when it comes to inheritance and wills. For cases that comprise immoveable property, official government sources advice to draw up separate wills. That way, the will maker can ensure that those who wish to inherit the property overseas actually do so under the particular inheritance laws that rule the country in which the property is located. On the other hand, you can include moveable property in your UK will, but it would be wise to include it in your other wills as well, in compliance with the local law.
Domiciled in the UK, living abroad
Many Britons choose to simultaneously live abroad and maintain a UK domicile. Tax purposes, tricky foreign bureaucracies, pure distraction; many reasons have been used to explain this situation. When it comes to wills, it is the same: immoveable property overseas will be subject to the local laws in the matter.
However, it’s useful to point out that the UK holds tax agreements with many countries to avoid a situation known as double taxation. For example, if someone in the UK inherits property in another country, it doesn’t have to pay inheritance taxes in both locations (assuming that there is an international agreement between both countries that addresses such issues). This would represent a clear case of double taxation.
Leave it to the pros
It is highly advices to seek professional, independent legal advice when it comes to wills and overseas property. A lawyer and a certified translator will be needed in this cases. Please keep in mind that they must be trustful and independent – keep in mind that foreigners that hold assets in a country that is not theirs are often seen as more vulnerable, and might be more exposed to unscrupulous practices than others. In the best of cases, search for lawyers that are licensed to practice both in the UK and the country where the property is located.