In a global world, it is common for individuals to own assets in multiple countries, as well as to name friends and family members residing around the world as beneficiaries of their estates. Distributing assets in foreign jurisdictions and naming beneficiaries residing abroad requires careful and coordinated estate planning and administration to account for legal complexities of applicable jurisdictions.
To ensure a smooth transition of international assets and to avoid future legal problems and potential disputes, a well-considered estate plan must consider the various strategic, legal, and administrative aspects of each jurisdiction. These considerations must be specifically tailored according to the type of foreign assets and intricacies of the succession, tax, family, and estate administration laws of the applicable jurisdictions.
Ultimately, a decision must be made of whether to prepare one testamentary document (a multijurisdictional will), which disposes of all assets or whether to opt for a separate will in each jurisdiction (separate situs will). If preparing separate situs Wills, each Will should refer to the Wills in other jurisdictions so it is clear that the most recent Will does not revoke prior Wills in other jurisdictions.
In general, when disposing of real estate located outside of Ontario, one must ensure that the testamentary document:
(i) is valid in the foreign jurisdiction;
(ii) reflects the intentions of the testator clearly;
(iii) avoids ambiguity especially in cases where a translation is required; and
(iv) does not conflict with the applicable foreign family and estate planning laws.
Additionally, a coordinated estate plan provides for efficient estate administration process in all jurisdictions. It accounts for practical issues of multiple probate processes and allows to avoid unnecessary fees associated with probating the will in multiple jurisdictions.
Another crucial aspect to consider when developing an estate plan that deals with international assets is the exposure of the estate and beneficiaries to tax and other liabilities. This involves ensuring there are sufficient assets to cover liabilities, minimizing tax exposure and avoidance of disproportionate tax liabilities imposed on various beneficiaries.
The team of lawyers at Malicki Sanchez has extensive experience in effective and unified estate planning and estate administration. We assist clients with international assets and create estate plans that take into account the legal complexities of various jurisdictions. We can ensure that an estate is distributed according to the wishes of the testator. Our team efficiently aids in the process of estate administration where beneficiaries reside within and outside Ontario. Our assistance relieves family members from the emotional and administrative burden of dealing with the estate.