Leaving UK Tip 5 UK and International Will Interaction

Published / Last Updated on 04/09/2023

It is a travesty that the latest research in March 2023 by Canada Life found that 50% of UK adults have not made a Will.  This can be complex itself if you die without a Will i.e.  intestate and your assets will be distributed according to intestacy laws in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (which are different) but what if you have property or assets overseas or you live overseas and have property or assets in the UK?  It can then become very messy.

This is our 5th tip when living overseas or planning to move overseas.  Get your Will(s) sorted.

To understand the complexities, we need to have a basic ‘handle’ on international Wills and succession laws in different countries.

United Kingdom

The law allows you to distribute your estate on death to anyone or any organisation you choose.  You can exclude people, you can make gifts to charities, you can make gifts to political parties.  You can exclude children or spouses, but you should know that your legal spouse, civil partner or spouse has an automatic legal right to challenge your will.  If you do make exclusions such as these you need to make it clear in the will with an “Intentional Exclusion” clause and also, a separate, handwritten and larger 'clarity statement' giving a little more detail as to the reasons a person has been excluded from your Will.


In France and Spain, their laws are written in the Civil Code and there is an automatic right of succession of assets for children under old Roman Code then adopted under the Napoleonic code.  That said, Spain had a Law of Nationality allowing foreign nationals to make wills in Spain but under the same laws as your national law of your ‘home’ country.  This was then adopted for most EU nations on 17 August 2012 under the EU Succession Regulation (EU/650/2012), commonly known as Brussels IV.

Brussels IV

Came into force in full on 17 August 2015 after the 3-year compliance/transition period.  This means that if you live in the EU and have assets in other EU nations, you can make your will in the country that you live but refer to your ‘home nation’s” laws when making the will.  This expanded the Laws of Nationality.  The UK, Ireland and Denmark did not adopt Brussels IV.  In the UK’s case, we already have no restriction on who inherits, so there was no need as people with assets in the UK can freely make a will under UK law without the tie of their home country laws.

Outside the EU – Hague Convention

Many countries including the UK have signed up to the Hague Convention on Last Wills and Testamentary Dispositions.  That said, some big nations like the USA have not.

The Hague convention means that your Will is acceptable in other countries that have signed the Hague convention and their legal systems will recognise and accept a Will made in another signatory country.  This works by sending the Will, on death, to the government department administering this (in the UK it is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) and they will affix the Apostilles Seal which authenticates the Will and the signature of the deceased.  The will is then acceptable to co-signatory countries.

See countries that have signed the Hague Convention on Wills:  https://www.hcch.net/en/instruments/conventions/status-table/?cid=40

Two Wills Are Easier

Not all countries have signed the Hague Convention and not all countries are party to Brussels IV.

It may be easier to make a Will in each country that you have assets in and provided the wills do not contradict each other and there is mention of the extent of the jurisdiction of each Will and the assets to be disposed of by that Will.  Each will should specify that it does not include assets in another country and refer to the overseas will with the date/reference number (if applicable) etc of the overseas will that deals with the disposal of those assets.

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