Why a Will is important
Your Last Will and Testament is one of the most important documents you will ever write. Unfortunately, most people associate the act of writing a Will with their dying days, and as a result, it is one of those tasks that never quite gets done.
You may feel that the end result is the same whether or not you have a Will; assets will pass to the next of kin. Sadly, this is rarely the case, and the distribution of your assets without a Will varies significantly from country to country and even across jurisdictions within the same country.
A Will not only describes the distribution of your assets, but also allows you to appoint an Executor, or estate administrator who takes responsibility for gathering up your assets and distributing them according to the instructions in the Will.
It is true that your Will only comes into effect after you have died. But that doesn’t mean you should wait until just before you die before getting your estate planning documents in order. Writing a Will is a part of responsible financial planning which saves your loved ones a bureaucratic headache after you are gone.
Wills for assets held in different countries
Writing a Will is even more important if you have assets in more than one country. Estate planning and inheritance laws vary across countries, so rather than accept the plan that the government has created, you can make your own appointments and distribute your assets according to your wishes, by taking the time to write your own Will.
Even with straightforward estates, people tend to procrastinate; the majority of adults have not written their Will. With assets in multiple countries, estate-planning requirements seem overwhelming for most people, and it becomes a task that can wait. It never seems to make it to the top of the To Do list.
However, the approach is actually quite simple, and new tools make the preparation of a Will more affordable and convenient than you may think.
If you live overseas, but still own a home, or have other assets in your country of origin, we generally recommend that you prepare a Will for each country in which you have assets.
For a long time this has been easier said than done.
Traditional approaches to preparing a Will under the laws of a country in which you are not living were problematic. Each country has its own estate planning laws, and although there can be similarities between countries that operate under English Common Law, there are critical differences. For example, a Will written under the laws of Australia would probably not be accepted by the courts in Canada.
There is a legal concept of an International Will, but not all jurisdictions accept an International Will, and the laws that govern how these Wills are written, are not prescriptive enough to prepare a well drafted Last Will and Testament.
The process of writing a Will
A common misconception is that you need a lawyer to prepare a Will. But a lawyer must be licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction in which they are living. You cannot approach a lawyer trained and working in Dubai and ask them to prepare a Will to cover your assets in the UK (unless they specifically offer that service).
Fortunately, an overseas trip is no longer required to prepare a Will for assets held in another country. With the emergence of online Will preparation software, you can prepare a Will for your country of origin from the comfort of your own home conveniently and affordably.
There has in the past rightly been some scepticism with do-it-yourself Will services. A standard Will template (that you may order through Amazon) will generally not work for assets held in multiple jurisdictions. Most significantly, they start with a revocation clause that cancels all other Wills and codicils. So you could find yourself preparing a Will for your UK assets and cancelling the Will you wrote for your South African assets.
The service at ExpatLegalWills.com allows you to prepare a Will to cover your assets in the UK, the US and Canada, written to deal exclusively with those assets. It differs from other Will preparation services in that a Will created at ExpatLegalWills.com can work together with a Will written for your new country of residence.
Taking 20 minutes now to prepare your Will for your assets in the UK, Canada and US can save your family a great deal of heartache and stress. It really is much easier than you may think.
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