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Handling an international will

Although Florida is known as a key location for retirees, it is increasingly common for people to own property in other countries. While spending several months of the year in Mexico or Portugal may sound appealing, it is important to think about how owning international assets can affect a will. People should be aware of the different rules that govern wills and testaments, both in their home country and the country in which they own property.


There are many details that people need to pay attention to when they prepare international wills. The Balance says that one is the language in which a will is written. If assets are held in a non-English speaking country, documents written in English will not be accepted. Therefore, people will want to make sure that their will is translated into the language used in that country. Even after translation, a will may be found to be invalid because of a country’s rules concerning wills. Some countries only recognize certain types and require a specific number of witnesses; if a person’s home country has different rules, the will could be declared invalid.  


While steps should be taken to ensure that wills made in one country are valid in others, there is an effort underway to change that. The Uniform Law Commission states that under the Uniform International Wills Act, wills may be valid outside of the country in which they were drafted. Countries that recognize the Act can execute wills that meet the requirements set forth by the Act. This allows international travelers to have a universal will that is enforceable in multiple countries.


In order for wills to be valid in more than one country, both the country of origin and the asset-holding country must have legislation in place addressing international wills. Currently, only 15 U.S. states and 12 countries have implemented the Uniform International Wills Act. Florida is not one of those states.

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