International and Multiple Wills: Owning Estate in Different Countries

If you own estate in different countries, it may be possible to prepare a single international will to cover your various estate assets situated in different countries. However, there are limitations to the use of an international will and clients will be able to opt for it. Another more practical option would be to prepare Multiple Wills.

International Will

The different countries in which your estate assets are situated in must all be a i) signatories to the 1973 Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will, and ii) the Convention must have been ratified in the signatories' jurisdictions. The list of signatories to the Convention is very small. For example, it cannot be used if you have estate in the US, Hong Kong and the UK, to name a few.

Alternatively, a foreign will that has been granted probate in a Commonwealth jurisdiction may be "sealed" in the Ontario Court (s.52 of the Estates Act) and will be treated as if it were granted probate in Ontario. For clients residing in Hong Kong, this option is not available after the colony ended ties with the Commonwealth in 1997.

Multiple Wills

Another way to deal with international assets is to prepare multiple wills in each of the jurisdictions in which your assets are situated in.

For example, some of my clients in Hong Kong own estate in Hong Kong and Ontario. They may prepare a will in Hong Kong to deal with their Hong Kong estate. They may arrange for an Ontario lawyer overseas to prepare a will to deal with their Ontario estate. The Ontario lawyer may provide instructions on how the Ontario will may be properly executed in Hong Kong so that it is valid for probate in Ontario.

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Disclaimer: This article does not contain legal advice and only provides general information. It is not intended to replace advice from a qualified legal professional and should not be relied upon to make decisions. In all cases, contact your legal professional for advice on any matter referenced in this article before making decisions. Use of this article does not establish a lawyer-client relationship.

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