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Wills here and there - international estate planning

Tony Bartel discusses the estate planning challenges faced by Australian residents with assets held abroad

Australia has a high percentage of immigrants and children of immigrants. Many of them own assets in other nations as well as Australia.

If you're fortunate enough to own assets in Australia as well as overseas, when it comes to estate planning it is important that you ensure that both your Australian and overseas assets are provided for in your wills.

This is an area for caution. Inheritance laws can vary significantly in other countries. For example, some countries restrict gifts of real estate to family members. Other nations have different rules for gifts to sons as opposed to gifts to daughters.

In addition, foreign jurisdictions may not recognise an Australian will or give it limited say in how assets are distributed.

At R.B. Flinders we frequently draft wills for people who own property in other countries. Our general advice is that:

  • two separate wills should be prepared, one for Australia and one for the other country;
  • an Australian lawyer should draft the Australian will and a lawyer who practices in the law of the foreign country should draft the foreign will. For example, we work closely with John Tripidakis Greek Lawyer in Oakleigh for our clients with assets in Greece;
  • care should be taken so that one will does not invalidate or cancel out the other;
  • it may be appropriate to appoint different executors in foreign countries who will be better placed to deal with the assets; and
  • tax advice should be sought about the effect of leaving Australian property to people who live overseas or overseas property to people who live in Australia.

If you are one of many Australians who have property in other places, it is important that you seek appropriate legal advice to ensure that your wishes are carried out after you pass away. For more information or assistance with your estate plan or to discuss protection of assets held overseas, contact Tony Bartel.

This is general advice about estate planning. You should seek professional legal advice about your specific circumstances.
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