Having links to another country such as owning assets abroad, having been born in another country, or having lived in another country for a period of time, can impact your domicile and, in turn, the effectiveness of your Will.

What is Domicile?

Domicile is a technical and legal term that determines which country’s legal system will apply to you. Domicile is, in the broadest sense, based on where you call home, but as you can imagine the test is far more complex than that.

Why is Domicile Important?

Your domicile decides two important and distinct issues:

  1. Which country’s succession rules will apply to you; and
  2. Which country’s inheritance tax rules will apply to your estate.

Often, people are most concerned about inheritance tax consequences. However, the importance of succession rules should not be overlooked, because it can have a far more fundamental impact on your Will.

How can Succession Rules prevent my Will from taking effect?

Testamentary freedom is the key principle of the succession rules in England and Wales. Testamentary freedom means that, broadly speaking, you can leave your estate to whoever you like in your Will.

However, many other countries do not have testamentary freedom. Their succession rules can require your estate to be divided between certain people on your death, regardless of your wishes to the contrary.

France, for example, have a forced heirship regime. This means that by law, a certain proportion of your estate must be divided between your children.

What should you do about it?

If, for example, you were not born in this country or have lived abroad for some years and/or have assets abroad, understanding your domicile is a crucial first step in estate planning and preparing a Will. Once you know where you are domiciled, you can determine which succession and inheritance tax rules will apply to you.

You can then make an informed decision about where to prepare your Will, and this may involve preparing multiple Wills in multiple countries.

If you have any questions about domicile or would like advice on preparing a Will, please get in touch with our Private Client Team who will be able to assist you.