South Africans who are emigrating or buying property in other countries may end up with assets both locally and abroad and need to ensure that they have appropriate Wills drafted to suitably protect their estate and heirs.
“Different countries have different legislation in place when it comes to heirship laws,” cautions Alex Simeonides, co-founder and CEO of Capital Legacy, a company that specialises in the drawing up of local and international Wills. “Irrespective of whatever you may think you have in place in South Africa in terms of your Will, you need to educate yourself as to how your assets in other countries Will be impacted on your passing.”
According to the laws of different countries, not all Wills are created equal. While certain countries follow the same rights of inheritance that South Africa recognises, there are others that are vastly different. However, a worldwide Will or an offshore Will can protect your estate if you’re intending to relocate or if you’re thinking of buying property abroad.
For example, a worldwide Will works very well if you live in South Africa but have assets in a country with similar heirship laws to our own, such as the UK. Like South Africa, the UK has freedom of testation and acknowledges an individual’s right to bequeath assets to whomever that individual chooses to name in a Will. The drawing up of a worldwide Will is completely appropriate in a situation such as this as your wishes will be acted upon, provided that your Will is lodged in both countries.
An offshore Will, on the other hand, is a Will dealing with specific jurisdiction; in a country with different laws to South Africa. Examples would be Spain, Portugal, Italy and France which recognise statutory rights of forced heirship. While these countries may allow some testamentary freedom – you can usually bequeath one-third of your estate to whomever you choose – the balance of your estate will be split between your surviving spouse and children according to the law of the country. This will supersede any conditions you may have stipulated in your South African Will.
“In these cases, it is best to have an offshore Will in place that specifically deals with your assets in line with the law of that country.”, says Simeonides. “This way you can at least dispose of the one-third over which you have testamentary freedom, as you wish.”
Another very important factor to consider is whether the Will that you draw up to deal with assets abroad revokes any other Wills which may still exist, such as your South African Will.
“It is common practice for a Will to state that it is the final Will and that it revokes any others that may be in place,” says Simeonides. “If you are drawing up a Will to cover assets in other countries, but you still have assets in South Africa, you want to ensure that the complementary Wills remain valid over the respective assets in each country. This clause should therefore not be included; however, each Will should be very clear on which assets it deals with.”
In other words, if you intend moving to France but will be keeping assets in South Africa, such as a holiday home, you would update your South African Will to make sure it deals with your South African assets only and does not revoke any other Wills. You would then have a Will drafted which deals only with your French assets, but again in such a way that it does not revoke your Will in South Africa.
“Be informed and seek the assistance of qualified professionals.” concludes Simeonides. “This is vital as, clearly, not all inheritance laws are the same across the globe. This also applies to Estate Duty and Inheritance Tax. Understanding these may help you to make educated decisions about where it is best to invest in foreign assets.” Capital Legacy has a Trust Advice Centre, that provides invaluable advice to anyone who may have complicated testamentary requirements. The efficiency with which an estate is wrapped up depends largely on the accuracy and validity of a Will, so ensuring your Will is up-to-date and valid is very important – hence why Capital Legacy makes it so convenient to draft your Will. A specialist consultant meets each Client where and when it is convenient for the client, accommodating their busy schedules.
In addition to having a valid and up-to-date Will is ensuring that it is placed somewhere safe. Capital Legacy provides safekeeping to everyone who drafts a Will with them, at no cost. This ensures convenient access to your Will when it is needed or when you wish to update it. As part of its Wills Month campaign, Capital Legacy has pledged to donate R 25 per Will placed in safe custody through its trusted courier, CCD Couriers, to the Dempsey Foundation. Once you have finalised your Will, you can arrange for it to be collected and placed in safe custody at the click of a button, and at no cost to you.
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This post and content is written, sponsored and provided by Capital Legacy.