Jul 17, 2024

Having only one will may not be enough for those with assets in more than one country. Photo by iowa_spirit_walker via Visualhunt.com / CC BY.

(This article is sponsored by Campbell Redmond, Barristers & Solicitors.)

Do you reside or own assets in more than one country or province?  If so, preparing only one will may not be enough.  It is strongly recommended that you seek legal and accounting advice in each country within which you reside or own assets.

This article is written from the perspective of the laws of the Province of British Columbia and how those laws interact with the laws of other countries. Note that most countries may not treat the laws of another country the same. This can also be the case even between Canadian provinces.


Classification of assets
When you plan your estate it is important for you to know some basic principles with respect to all of your assets.

Assets fall under two categories: immovable assets and movable assets.  Very generally, real estate is considered to be immovable.  Most personal property will be considered to be movable.  

Immovable assets will be governed by the law where that property is located.  For movable assets, the law of your domicile or permanent home will be followed.


Residence vs. domicile
There is a difference between a person’s current/temporary home or residence and his/her permanent home or domicile.  While you may have more than one place of residence, you can have only one domicile. Your permanent home or domicile may not be easy to determine and can be very technical. Your personal circumstances, including your place of origin and your current intention, may be considered.  Therefore, if you have any questions or doubts as to the status of your domicile, you should obtain appropriate legal advice.  


Why have multiple wills?
If you have assets in different countries, you may need a will in each of those countries. You might end up in a situation where one country may not even recognize a will made in another country. While it may seem costly to you to obtain legal (and accounting) advice in multiple countries, an estate plan that is properly coordinated to protect all of your assets can save you a lot of time and money.

For example, you may have a house in a foreign country and you might decide to create a will that leaves this house to a particular child of yours.   Some foreign countries have laws that dictate how certain assets have to be distributed when someone passes away; such laws would override any gift made in a will. This may mean that, the gift of your foreign house to your child may fail, and may result in that child being left with nothing.

In the end, you may be advised that separate wills are not necessary for each country; however, the proper planning of your estate during this process should provide you with peace of mind.

Ryan Kalleitner is a member of the British Columbia bar and is a partner at Campbell Redmond, Barristers & Solicitors.  He focuses on the areas of wills and estates, business and real estate law. For more information, visit www.campbellredmond.com.

Any information contained in this column or any of its succeeding articles is not intended to be provided as legal advice for specific problems. If you need legal help, contact a lawyer about your specific issue. Information about the law in this column applies only to British Columbia, Canada. It is checked for legal accuracy at the time it is posted, but may become outdated as laws or policies change. The author and the editors and CanadianFilipino.Net do not assume any responsibility in any action the readers may take regarding the readers' specific personal matters.

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