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Two Wills, Two Different Countries

International Will Issues

As our world continues to grow and technology allows us to move places once never thought imagined, many individuals have the opportunity to live abroad throughout the course of their lives. After spending time in a specific area, whether it is for the majority of your life or for a shorter time, you may acquire property in that new place. However, when it comes to estate planning, issues may arise for a citizen who has acquired property in another country and has executed multiple wills for their multiple properties.

If you have property in another country, having a will in that jurisdiction disposing of that property generally will make it easier than if the property’s disposition is listed in a will in a different country, since it will increase the efficiency of estate administration for the property in that jurisdiction. However, if the testator has multiple wills in multiple countries, covering multiple pieces of land, he must write the most recent will in a way as to not revoke the previous foreign wills and subject the land to differing dispositions.

One way to avoid revocation is to have the attorneys who worked on both wills collaborate and work together to have the wills read as to compliment the other. Also, the testator can have a supplemental will executed along with the domestic will that only covers the immovable property in that foreign country. This would ensure that the foreign property is taken care of in a specific way as is the domestic. When transferring property rights, avoiding double taxation in the foreign country’s estate tax system and the United States’ estate tax system is key here.

The Importance of Domicile

Ideally, the testator will want a will executed in a jurisdiction where property is owned to be in compliance with the laws of the place the testator is currently domiciled. A person is considered to be domiciled in the place where they live and intend to reside. Domicile can change multiple times throughout your life, thus, making sure your will is updated in accordance with where you identify as intending to reside is critical.

Once you are domiciled, the easiest way to update your will to be read effectively is to list in the most recent will a section regarding the existence of the foreign wills and the location of the immovable property, and that the foreign property excluded from the assets being disposed of under the new will. Additionally, the most recent will should declare it to be the last will, as to not call into question the existence of additional documents or which comes first.

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