Each country has its own legislation regarding inheritance and signing of wills. It would therefore be possible that your South African will does not comply with all the requirements of the country where your foreign assets are located. This may result in the non-inheritance of your foreign assets in terms of your last will and testament. It is therefore imperative that you should have two wills if you have foreign assets; one for your South African assets and one regarding your foreign assets according to the regulations of the country where these assets are located. It is always important to plan your estate carefully; should you have foreign assets, however, you must take extra care to ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant country’s legislation.
The aim with planning an estate is ultimately to reach your goals in the distribution of your assets and liabilities. These goals should make provision for the management of your estate during your lifetime, but also after your passing.
A further consequence of the increasing exposure to international investments is that South Africans are also exposed to foreign fiduciary services, including wills for their foreign assets.
Whether it is truly necessary to draw up a separate foreign will or just one global will depends on the following:
- where your foreign assets are located;
- the nature of the assets and the type of products in which these assets have been invested; and
- who takes care of the administration of your foreign assets/investments.
Should your South African will be drawn up in Afrikaans, it may be necessary to have it translated and sealed before sending it to the foreign executor/agent. This could be time-consuming and very costly.
A separate foreign will also has other advantages: your foreign will is administered in line and simultaneously with your South African assets; an executor/agent who is familiar with the required procedures in the relevant country where your assets are located will save you time and money; and someone who draws up wills professionally within the jurisdiction of the relevant country can provide you with advice regarding the possible dangers in relation to tax accountability and hereditary succession when it comes to assets outside the borders of South Africa.
Although we would recommend drawing up a second will with reference to foreign assets, we suggest that, should there be any mention of foreign assets, your South African will must be drawn up in English and it should not pertinently refer to the fact that the document is only applicable to your South African assets.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.