Does an Australian Will Cover My Overseas Assets?

If you have recently moved to Australia, then you must have a few questions about what happens to the assets you have acquired. Or if you have recently acquired an asset that is based overseas, then you maybe wondering how you can enter this into a will. It can be quite daunting to try to understand the technicalities behind having a valid will when your assets are not based only within Australia.

Generally, assets held in any given country are subject to the laws of that country and are not affected by Australian law, unless consented to. However, a foreign country can agree to have an Australian will be binding on an asset.

If you have assets outside Australia, it is advisable to have ‘concurrent Wills’. A concurrent will is where the will-maker creates a separate will for each country where the respective assets are owned. It is also possible to create a number of concurrent wills for different countries. If you do decide to make Wills for each separate country, then it is vital to advise each of your lawyers of your intention to do so or if it is already made, the existence of these wills. This will ensure that the existing Wills do not contradict each other or accidentally cancel each other.

Furthermore, Australia also recognises an International Will to be valid after the Convention providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will, opened for signature 26 October 1973, [2012] ATNIF 1. This allows clients to have one Will that deals with assets in multiple countries. However, it is only a solution where the other countries also recognise International Wills.

A list of countries that have signed onto this convention can be found here:

Moreover, despite having an ‘International Will’, an Executor would still need to seek advice from a lawyer in each country with regards to the administration process. There is the possibility that with an international will, there is an increased chance of a foreign court incorrectly interpreting it, especially if there are differences in the language or law.

When dealing with administering wills, time is valuable. When there are two separate wills where one deals with assets based overseas and the other with assets in Australia, the Executors of these wills may obtain a grant of Probate in each jurisdiction, independently. However, when there is one will for all assets based in multiple locations, a grant of Probate would need to be obtained in one jurisdiction before obtaining another grant. This is one reason why concurrent wills are considered more favourable

With all this information to process, it might be quite overwhelming to decide. Therefore, to make it easier for you, if you have international assets or are planning on acquiring some, let us help you draft the documents to reflect exactly what you wish for.

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