Including offshore assets in an estate plan

Published 07 Jan 2014

The best way to prevent inheritance disputes and contesting wills cases is to cover every possible angle in a will that could be seen as ambiguous and leave room for anyone to make family provision claims.

While most people are aware of how they will need to divide up their financials, properties and assets between family members, there are several gray areas when it comes to leaving items for heirs in a will. One of the most often misunderstood parts is how to leave behind assets that are spread out between multiple countries.

Australians are increasingly choosing to live and work overseas, and as they do, they are amassing wealth and assets that are held in various countries. This can create unforeseen challenges when it comes to estate planning, and these areas require extra attention when writing a will.

However, it should be noted that the bulk of the issues stemming from assets spread throughout multiple countries will fall on the person the deceased has intended to handle the estate. This can be quite a burden for a family member if the will is not constructed properly.

Writing a comprehensive will

The biggest issues in managing assets found in multiple countries are the laws that are unique to each region. Many legal systems simply don’t mesh, making it difficult to work out an acceptable plan. This includes linking up common law, civil law, Sharia law and customary law. This can lead to extremely complex problems, high costs and anxiety in the deceased’s relatives.

What’s more, all laws around the world are subject to change at any time. It’s long been established that governments can see huge tax revenue through the estates of the deceased. It isn’t unlikely for governments around the world to start putting laws in place that make assets in various regions taxable, taking away from the final amount given to the beneficiaries.

While this all may sound very daunting, the reality is that there are several solutions that can help you out. In many cases, simply writing two separate wills that cover all assets in every location may be the best estate planning option.

However, no matter how much planning goes into it, there is always the chance that inheritance disputes will arise. In these matters, it will be crucial to get in touch with contesting wills lawyers with years of experience.

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