Validity of Wills—foreign element
Validity of Wills—foreign element

The following Wills & Probate guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Validity of Wills—foreign element
  • Distinction between movables and immovables
  • Intestate succession
  • Testate succession—law before 1964
  • Testate succession—death on or after 1 January 1964
  • Will preparation
  • International Wills

Distinction between movables and immovables

English law makes a distinction between movable and immovable assets; succession to movables is governed by the law of domicile (lex domicili) and succession to immovables is governed by the law of the country in which they are situate (lex situs). The distinction is between realty and personalty or real property and all other property.

Intestate succession

Movables

Intestate succession to movables is governed by the law of the deceased's domicile at the time of their death.

Immovables

Intestate succession to immovables is governed by the lex situs.

Testate succession—law before 1964

General principles—movables

At common law, a Will of movable property is valid if execution complied with the formalities required by the law of the domicile of the testator at the time of their death.

Wills of real estate made in England whether made by a British subject or a foreigner, had to be executed in accordance with English law if they were to be admitted to probate.

General principles—immovables

At common law, a Will of immovables is valid if execution complied with the requirements of the lex situs.

Whatever the domicile of the testator, in order to be accepted as valid to pass immovable estate in England and Wales, a Will had to be executed in accordance with Wills Act 1837 (WA 1837) (Pepin