A life, and Death, in the Sun

Thinking of moving abroad to retire or start a new life? Every year thousands of Brits move abroad for many reasons. A job change, retirement in a warmer climate and fulfilling ones life dream are among many reasons us Brits leave the usually gloomy British weather. The journey is not an easy one and every country comes with many challenges such as a new language, different taxes and making new friends. It is important that in the whirlwind of excitement that one considers how their estate will be treated if they die while living abroad.

There is no easy answer to this. There are many factors to be considered. Firstly the legal concepts of domicile and habitually resident come in to play. These issues can determine which laws are applicable to your estate when you die. Secondly, the way your Will is drafted can assist. For example article 21 (1) of the EU Succession Regulation states that as a general rule the law applicable to an international success shall be the law of the country, or state, in which the person was habitually resident when they passed away. This is unless they had chosen in their will to have their estate dealt with under the law of the country, or state, of which they are a national. So it would be possible for a French National who was habitually resident in the US at the time of their death to have nominated to have their estate dealt with under French law.

Every country, whether EU or non-EU, have their own laws in relation to inheritance and succession which must be considered when ex-pats undertake the task of planning their estate. It is important to seek advice from a lawyer in the country you are now resident of to ensure your wishes are carried out on your death.

In addition to emigrating many Brits also own property abroad which can cause different issues when dealing with your estate. In you are domiciled in the UK and have a holiday home in Spain the value of that holiday home will be taken into account when calculating your estate for Inheritance Tax in the UK on your death and therefore must be considered in any inheritance tax planning undertaken.

If you have assets abroad you will also need to consider your Will. As is the normal structure of a Will, a revocation clause will be included as standard. This clause revokes your former Will to ensure your new Will replaces it. If you have a foreign Will dealing with your foreign property then you need to be sure any future Wills you make do not revoke it. When having anew Will written for you it is important you tell your advisor of any foreign property or Will.