Estates & Wills & Trusts

Consider a second will if you own foreign property

By Suzana Popovic-Montag

If you own property in the U.S. or another foreign jurisdiction, having a valid and up-to-date will that complies with the laws in your province may not be enough to protect your estate. The reason? Your Canadian will may not be recognized if it doesn’t comply with the laws of the foreign jurisdiction.

In some cases, you may need to prepare a second will covering only the assets located in the foreign jurisdiction. Your foreign will can also address foreign tax laws that may differ from Canadian tax laws. For example, some countries, unlike Canada, impose death or inheritance taxes, and your foreign will may help you minimize the impact of those taxes. In other cases, your Canadian will may be all you need, but you may need a resident of the foreign country to act as executor for your foreign property. In that situation, your Canadian will can appoint two executors – one for your Canadian property and one for your foreign property.

Get professional advice

If you own foreign assets, play it safe. Consult a professional in the foreign jurisdiction to make sure your will distributes your foreign assets the way you intend.

If you do need two wills, it’s important that they be professionally drafted so that the provisions of the wills are coordinated with each other. In addition, the wills should provide that neither revokes the other.

Although there may be additional costs in preparing a second will, it will make settling your estate easier and faster, and will ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. This article provides an excellent case study showing why a separate will for foreign assets can be so important.

Other reasons for multiple wills

Owning foreign assets isn’t the only reason that one or more additional wills may be advantageous. From a need for privacy to a desire to save on probate fees, we explore many of these other reasons here.

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