How do you make a will when you have overseas assets? Can you rely on your Australian will if you have assets overseas? The short answer is “it depends”! Watch my VLOG to find out when you can rely on the Australian will and when you have to step things up a notch and make an additional foreign will.
Hi guys. So, today’s vlog post is about what you need to do for your estate plan if you have assets overseas. So, most of the time when we are doing an estate plan, we just focus on assets that are in Australia. But more and more often people will have assets overseas. Now, I’m really just going to focus my tips today on assets that you have in your personal names that are overseas. So, don’t worry if it’s super or in trusts or something like that.
So, I’m sure the question that you’re dying to know is whether your will that you make in Australia can apply to your assets if you die that are held overseas? And the short answer, the typical lawyer answer, is that it depends. So it largely depends on where they’re held and what type of assets they are. Now most lawyers will prepare a will for you in Australia that purports to apply to your assets all over the world. So, a lot of the time, that issue is not whether your will tries to apply to your assets overseas, but whether it’s actually going to be effective to have the assets transferred to your intended beneficiaries overseas.
So, generally speaking, if you own assets like land, real property, that is held overseas, there will be a process where a titles office or a land registry office will need evidence that you have died, that you have made a valid will and nominating where your property will go. And you can run into a huge amount of bureaucratic issues trying to rely on a foreign will overseas. So, for instance, if you own a property in the UK, but you live in Australia and you have an Australian will, it is possible to try to use the Australian will in the UK to have the assets transferred. But procedurally, it can be a real nightmare. So, if you’ve also got Australian assets, what generally has to happen is that the will is lodged in Australia for probate where the court is officially authorizing your will as the will that third parties can rely upon. So, it has to go through probate in your Australian state. That can take time.
You then use that to process asset transfers in Australia. Once that’s done, you then have to send the will to the UK and then it gets resealed for probate over there. So, all of a sudden, you’ve got time delays in the UK because you’ve got to wait for the Australian process to be completed and then you’ve got complexities with the land registry office in the UK not being familiar with the Australian will and potentially running into some delays and bureaucratic issues because they are going what is this Australian will. So, generally speaking, if you’ve got land overseas, I would suggest to my clients that they actually have parallel wills, one in Australia and one in that foreign jurisdiction. And what that means is that when we’re dealing with a foreign jurisdiction, you can run parallel probate applications. You don’t have to wait for one country to have theirs finished. And then secondly, it should be a much more straightforward administration process because you are lodging a local familiar will.
So, of course, you’ll have to get a lawyer in that jurisdiction to prepare up the will for you. But that can really simplify things in the administration stage. If you have assets like a bank account with a nominal amount of cash, so, say you used to live in the UK, you’re back in Australia, but you’ve kept one bank account for just when you travel overseas, then if it’s below like a significant amount of money, banks will usually set a threshold limit, like maybe $10,000. If it’s below that, then usually you won’t need a probate will to be issued to the bank and they will just talk to the executors or the next of kin. If you’ve got like a pension account, the superannuation fund equivalent overseas, often, you can just nominate a beneficiary in the form again without a will. So, it just depends on the nature of the assets and also the country that you’re dealing with when you have overseas assets.
But the main take away that I want to leave you with is you can’t just ignore your overseas assets when you’re doing an estate plan. You need to think about what country they are, what the assets are and come up with an appropriate plan balancing the simplicity now of just getting your estate planning sorted without having to liaise with overseas lawyers, with the complexity and administrative burden that you’re leaving your beneficiaries and family members if you die without having the foreign assets dealt with appropriately. So any questions, tips, if you’ve got any, practical experience going through these issues, feel free to get in touch. I love hearing from everybody, love hearing your practical insights as well. Thanks for watching.