International Wills, Overseas Properties and Australian Law

Does your Will include overseas property?

A will can be one of the most complex and difficult documents to write, especially where assets or beneficiaries are located across several jurisdictions.

To simplify succession law in Australia, the Australian Government acceded to the Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will 1973 which entered into force for Australia on 10 March 2015. All states and territories have passed legislation to give effect to the convention.

The convention was developed by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), a forum which aims to develop international instruments to assist in the harmonisation of private international law principles between member countries. Australia has been a member since 1973.

What does this mean ?

The NSW Parliament (and other states and territories) have passed legislation that enables an International Will to be executed by a testator dealing with assets both in NSW and overseas. This International Will is then considered valid in any of the Contracting States to the Convention. The International Will incorporates aspects of both civil and common law jurisdictions in a unique manner and may be drawn up in any language that a testator may choose.

An International Will can assist testators to plan and manage assets in jurisdictions in which they are not domiciled, eliminating uncertainty, stress and unnecessary costs associated with duplicated estate planning.

Preparing and executing an International Will may obviate the need for fresh applications for Grants of Probate or Letters of Administration in foreign countries, which will in turn provide greater legal certainty for a testator that his or her Will will be recognised as valid in a  Contracting State. For example, if a person owns assets in NSW and France, he or she may elect to execute an international will in NSW. This international will would be recognised as valid in both NSW and France and would enable the testator’s wishes to be properly carried out in the most efficient and cost effective manner in both jurisdictions.

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