Expats and Wills – Why, Where, How and Other Frequently Asked QuestionsExpats and wills

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In my 12 years of working with British expatriates, I have found that writing a will is one of the most common things on the never ending list of things “to do”. This is often for the simple reason that people don’t know where to start.

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Expats and Wills – Why, Where, How and Other Frequently Asked QuestionsExpats and wills

  1. 1. Expats and Wills – Why, Where, How and Other Frequently Asked Questions Wednesday 5th June 2013 In my 12 years of working with British expatriates, I have found that writing a will is one of the most common things on the never ending list of things “to do”. This is often for the simple reason that people don’t know where to start. Do you fall into this category? If you do, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions to help get the ball rolling. Why Make A Will? 1. It lets people know what you want to happen to your money, home and children, if you die. 2. If you die without a will, you leave yourself at the mercy of intestacy rules. These rules don’t always work in the way that you would expect them to. 3. This is especially true if you live and/or have assets overseas. Different countries have different rules. For example, if a married man dies in a country ruled by Shariah Law, all his assets will normally be transferred to his nearest living male relative. 4. Making a will can help reduce the amount that the tax man takes from your estate.
  2. 2. What Are the Consequences of Dying Without a Will? As mentioned above, different countries have different rules. As an example however, here are some of the consequences that would apply based on the law in England and Wales. If you are married or are in a civil partnership and have no children, your spouse/partner will receive your entire estate, tax free, up to a value of GBP450,000. Above that figure, half goes to your spouse/civil partner, the other half to surviving parents. No surviving parents? Then any brothers or sisters get a half share – or their children, if they died while you were still alive. Only if you die with no surviving parents/siblings/nephews/nieces will the entire estate pass to your spouse/civil partner. If you have children, your spouse/civil partner will receive your entire estate, tax free, up to a value of GBP250,000. Above that, they will get a life interest in half of the remainder with the other half being shared by your children. This means that your spouse/civil partner will receive interest/income on their half of the remaining estate but won’t be able to sell or spend their share of the estate (over the original GBP250,000). If you live with someone but aren’t married or in a civil partnership, then your surviving partner will not automatically receive anything. They will probably have to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This isn’t easy. All you have to do is Google Jill Dando or Stieg Larsson (author of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) to see how it could end up. If you have separated but not divorced, your ex-partner will inherit the first GBP250,000 of your estate. Where Should I Make a Will? As a rule, a will in each jurisdiction in which you own assets is the best practice. The primary will should be made, held and administered from your home domicile. Your home domicile is usually from where your passport is issued (there can be exceptions to this, if necessary you should check with a lawyer).
  3. 3. How Do I Make A Will? You can make your own, as long as you get it witnesses and have all of the formal requirements in it. If your circumstances are simple, you could consider using a will writing kit, which is available from most stationers in the UK. Be careful when doing it yourself though as a badly worded will can leave your beneficiaries being saddled with legal fees. The safest option is to go to a professional. In the UK this would be a solicitor. If you use a firm regulated by the Law Society (www.lawsociety.org.uk) then you will deal with someone who is qualified and you will have a degree of consumer protection. November is Will Aid month in the UK. During this month, more than 1,000 solicitors will draft you a will in exchange for a charitable donation. Visit www.willaid.org.uk to find out more For assets outside the UK, then you should work with the relevant professional in that jurisdiction. What Factors Should I Consider When I Make a Will? You should do everything you can to make sure that your wishes are not contested. Make sure you do not ask any of the beneficiaries of your will to help in drafting it. Sometimes, older people may ask grown-up children to help them write a will, but this means the will could be challenged by other potential beneficiaries. Make sure your will is properly signed and witnessed by two people who are not beneficiaries.
  4. 4. You will also need to decide who your executors are. These are the people who will administer your will. You can pay for a bank or solicitor to do this, or a friend can offer to do it for free. If you have young children, you will need to appoint guardians to look after them if you were to die. Where Should I Keep My Will? If a solicitor has made it, they will often store it. You could pay a fee to have it stored at a bank. Alternatively, you could keep it together with your other documents in your death folder. When Should It Be Reviewed? If you get married, divorced or have a child, make sure your will reflects this. Make sure that it is properly changed. This can be done either with an official change called a codicil (if the change is minor) or by making a new will. In either case, make sure the changes are witnessed. [If you found this post useful, feel free to sign up for my regular newsletter which is full of handy financial planning tips for expats. Just fill in your details here and I will add you to the distribution list.]

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