People are far more connected and well-travelled than they used to be and it is now common for people to have lived in more than one country, and to invest overseas.

This can cause an issue when people sensibly try to plan ahead and create a Will.

The problem is that other countries have different laws around Wills and succession, and have their own rules on what is a valid Will.

Some have strict rules about who inherits from a deceased person’s estate, especially when it comes to land. The assets you have in another country fall under the laws of the country they are in.

There are also special rules in New Zealand when it comes to dealing with Māori land in your Will. See our article on Māori Land interests in Wills here.

What is acceptable here in New Zealand will not necessarily be accepted in another country.

Here in New Zealand the Wills Act 2007 sets out what is a valid Will, and you are free to leave your assets to whomever you choose (though you still have certain people you need to acknowledge otherwise they have the right to challenge your Will. See our article here).

If your assets are in a Commonwealth country (and over that country’s threshold for a “small estate”) then your Executors will need to prove the Will is valid in New Zealand (usually by applying for Probate in New Zealand), and then arrange for the New Zealand Probate to be “resealed” in the other country.

Even Australia, whose state laws are similar to our own, requires Probate of a New Zealand Will to be resealed in Australia so that assets in Australia can be dealt with (such as Australian shares).

If it is not a Commonwealth country then your Executors will need to apply for Probate in both countries.

There is no guarantee though that a Court in another country will acknowledge a Will made in accordance with New Zealand laws, or Probate issued by the New Zealand High Court.

This is why it is always important to carefully think about what assets you have before making a Will, or when reviewing your current Will.

If you have assets overseas then make sure you raise this with your solicitor when making your Will. It may be that you need to create a Will here in New Zealand as well as overseas, and if that is the case you need to make sure each Will is only dealing with the assets in the country it was created in.

While this will result in some extra costs and time for you now it will make the process much easier and cheaper for your loved ones when you pass away.

Thinking about and reviewing your assets when you make or update your Will is a very helpful exercise, and if you provide your solicitor with a list of your presently owned assets and liabilities, they will be able to best advise you as to whether you should be considering a Will in another country as well as New Zealand.

This list of assets should be stored with your Will and will be provided to your executor upon your death. This will help them to know what assets you own at the time of your death and make the process a lot easier, and will help the solicitor administering the estate.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.