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By Liza Horvath


International Wills


When Ashley graduated from college with a degree in fashion design her family was extremely proud. When she was offered her choice of a number of positions with several prestigious fashion houses in Europe, the family recognized that Ashley was taking her first steps in what appeared to be a promising career in the international fashion industry. 


Leaving the United States to take up residency and begin a new life in another country requires significant planning and preparation. Ashley needed to renew her passport, get the proper work visas, store her personal property and automobile, review her insurance and consider what type of estate planning should be done before she could embark on her exciting new life.


In the United States, each state sets its own statutes governing estate planning documents and estate administration. Although most states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code, either in part or in total, if you move to a new state, you should have any existing estate planning documents reviewed by a local attorney to make sure your plans can be carried out under your new home state’s laws. 


Country to country laws vary greatly - some countries recognize civil law and other countries, like the United States, are governed under common law. With regard to estate planning, a key part of any plan that is prepared for a person who will be living in other countries and possibly acquiring assets in those countries should include an international will. In 1973 the United States and numerous other countries joined together to harmonize laws and recognize an “international will” that is honored by the participating countries. The treaty, known as the Washington Convention or the Uniform International Wills act, sets forth the requirements and accepted format for this will.


“An international will is similar to a California will but it does have some distinct requirements,” states Rick Kennifer, a partner with the law firm of Johnson, Fantl and Kennifer in Monterey. Kennifer says that among other requirements an international will must be signed on each page and have witnesses who acknowledge the signature of testator – the maker of the will. The international will must also have a certificate signed by a “super witness,” a person who is authorized by the Uniform International Wills act to as an authorized signer. In Ashley’s case, the attorney who prepared her international will also signed as her super witness.


If Ashley leaves Germany and moves to Belgium, France, Cyprus, Ecuador or any of the other numerous countries who are part of the Washington Convention she can be sure that, should anything happen, her international will meets the requirements of that jurisdiction and her wishes will be carried out.


Good luck, Ashley. We all wish you success and happiness in your new endeavors!


Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com










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