Is an overseas Will needed?

Produced by Tolley in association with Emma Haley at Boodle Hatfield LLP

The following Trusts and Inheritance Tax guidance note Produced by Tolley in association with Emma Haley at Boodle Hatfield LLP provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Is an overseas Will needed?
  • Domicile
  • Location of property
  • Moveable and immoveable property
  • Foreign forced heirship rules
  • Guidelines for using an overseas Will
  • Clients with a foreign domicile
  • Clients with an English domicile owning assets abroad
  • Practicalities
  • International Wills
  • More...

Is an overseas Will needed?

It is not uncommon to encounter clients with a foreign element to their affairs. When preparing a Will for such a client, it is necessary to consider whether an English Will is sufficient or whether an overseas Will is needed. Even if an English Will is valid in a foreign jurisdiction, there may be practical reasons to use an overseas Will.

The interaction of laws of more than one jurisdiction can be complex. This note deals only with the law applying in England and Wales (English law) and only considers the broad rules of thumb as to when an overseas Will is needed. Advice from overseas is usually required where there is any foreign aspect.

From an English law perspective, an overseas Will generally becomes an issue when one or both of the following foreign elements exists:

  1. the client is domiciled abroad

  2. the client has property abroad


The English law concept of domicile is explained in detail in the Domicile for UK inheritance tax guidance note. Domicile is determined by many factors but generally the country which a person considers his home and where he intends to live permanently or indefinitely will be his domicile. This may be different to a person’s place of residence or his citizenship. Everyone acquires a domicile at birth. This may change but it is only possible to have one domicile at any time.

The concept of domicile may differ under foreign laws; it is not uniform even across Europe. Furthermore, whilst domicile is a relevant determining factor for Wills under English law, other jurisdictions may apply different criteria such as nationality or residency.

The general law of domicile is relevant to determining issues concerning Wills and succession. A client’s domicile under the general law may differ from his domicile under tax law. For example, a client may be deemed to be domiciled in the UK for inheritance tax purposes and yet actually be domiciled abroad under the general law

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