Do you have assets in a country other than Australia? If so, you might benefit from creating an International Will.

International Wills stem from the UNIDROIT convention seeking to harmonise and simplify proof of formalities for wills that possess international characteristics. This means that the international will is recognised as valid in all countries that support the convention. Members of the UNIDROIT Convention include: Australia, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Ecuador, France, Italy, Iran, Italy, Laos, Libya, Niger, Portugal, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, UK and the USA.

Prior to the introduction of an international will a conflict of law would arise if the deceased had property and assets within foreign countries. The previous response was to place assets in the categories of movable and immovable assets. A movable asset is considered a testamentary succession governed by the law in which the person was domiciled at date of death. An immovable asset is the testamentary succession governed by the law applying to the location of an asset at date of death.

An international will is different in that if you have assets in several countries one will, can govern what happens to all your assets if the country is a member of the UNIDROIT Convention. The purpose of an international will is to ‘develop international instruments to assist in the harmonisation of private international law principles between member countries’.

An international will is uniquely characterised by two features. Firstly three witnesses, one of whom is a solicitor or notary public, are required. Secondly, the will must be accompanied by an authorised witness certificate, confirming all the requirements have been met.

Such a will addresses the conflict issue by granting validity if its execution meets the requirements of internal law in the location:

  1. Where the will is executed
  2. That was the domicile or habitual residence of the testator when the will was executed or at the time of the testator’s death.
  3. In which the testator was a national, either when the will was executed or at the time of the testator’s death.

In regards to the utility of an International Will, it must be noted the best utilisation occurs where distinct assets exist in a signatory country. Adversely, where there are multiple assets in different jurisdictions the application may be limited.

If you would like to know more about international wills or book a consultation, feel free to contact John Greenhalgh at or by calling 07 5444 1022.

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