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Wills and foreign assets

Recent research shows that the UK is the biggest exporter of people in the EU. Globalisation means that many people work abroad and many UK citizens choose to retire to sunnier climes. Many of those expatriates will be acquiring assets, including property, outside of the UK and may still own those assets at the time of their death.

Everyone should of course make a Will but those people with foreign assets will often be advised to make two Wills, one dealing with assets in England and Wales and another Will leaving their assets situated abroad. That way the Will dealing with the foreign assets can be drafted by a local lawyer taking into account the rules in force in that country and it will often be easier in due course to implement the Will when the foreign jurisdiction recognises the form in which it is drawn up.

In the UK we have relative freedom of testamentary disposition but it should be remembered that in many other countries, for example, France, a system of “forced heirship” exists meaning that rules are in force determining who is entitled to inherit your assets and in what proportions.

The tax position also needs to be considered. If you remain domiciled in the UK then your worldwide estate will be liable to UK Inheritance tax. There may also be tax payable in the jurisdiction in which the asset is situated, although double tax treaties might be in force with the UK which can help alleviate the situation.

One popular destination for UK expatriates is Dubai but foreigners have been reluctant to leave assets subject to Dubai succession laws given that, as a Muslim country, Sharia law is applicable which would often cause an estate to be distributed in ways that the expatriate would not wish. Recent developments in Dubai have attempted to deal with this issue and you can read our article on this here.