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Do You Have International Assets? Then You Need A Will

Date: April 17th, 2012 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

Henry Brookman discusses the implications of not having a will, how owning international assets further raises the stakes and how financial advisers are now becoming part of the process. Published in Wealth Briefing.

According to research conducted by Forbes, seven out of ten of the world’s billionaires are self made, and over 40 percent of those have family members involved in the management of their wealth. With so much at stake, it is likely that those wealthy individuals have their wills up to date.

But what about the rest of us?  Are we so careful to have our wills drafted and up to date?  Research would suggest not.  Half of the UK population does not have a will at all, with possibly many more having a will that no longer reflects their current preferences.

The implications of having a will that is out of date, or incorrectly drawn up, or simply never completed, is that family members could lose out.  An out of date will that does not take into account changes in the testator’s life (e.g. divorce, remarriage, children etc) could be costly. Moreover, taxes and fees could take a needlessly high percentage of the estate.  

International Issues

Complications in fairly dividing an individual’s assets between members of their family often arise when dealing with cross-jurisdictional issues, either where the will is being contested or if there is no will.  For instance, the deceased could have had properties and other assets spread across various different countries which may sit under different regimes when dealing with foreign “forced heirship”, and therefore with different inheritance consequences.

Those individuals who have assets spread across various jurisdictions will of course need a more sophisticated level of advice. This is where the expertise of an advisor who understands the interplay between the regimes of various jurisdictions becomes invaluable.

IFAs and Wills

Some people are adept at using financial planning to protect and maximise their assets in the here and now.  But that same level of rigor should also apply to the writing of the will.  An IFA should ensure they are fully up to speed with their client’s true position regarding international property and assets.  It is too easy to fall into the trap where a client says “I have a property in Ruritania, but the lawyer there sorted the succession out so you can ignore that.” Beware!  In these situations, IFAs and lawyers can work together to press forwards with a solution that is both legally and economically advantageous for their client.

First and foremost, the team will look at:

  • the outcome the testator wants
  • the governance issues that may arise
  • the legal issues that flow from that; and
  • lastly, the financial and taxation implications.

An incomplete approach to the process of planning an estate will lead to trouble, not for the deceased, but certainly for their family.

If you would like to know more about this issue please contact Brookman Solicitors for more information.

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