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From There to Here: Managing Wills Across Countries

Updated: May 21

From There to Here: Managing Wills Across Countries

If you are a new migrant and are getting settled (or have settled) in New Zealand, do not overlook the importance of having a valid New Zealand will.  Wills play a crucial role in estate planning for everyone.  When individuals from overseas or expatriates reside in New Zealand, having a valid will in place is essential to ensure their assets are distributed according to your wishes in the event of your passing.


Your will should cover all assets in New Zealand and worldwide (other than real property situated offshore as it is easier to probate real property that is situated offshore via a will of that country).  While a New Zealand will can cover offshore real property, it will be more complex to probate a New Zealand will in another country.  This is where having an understanding of your worldwide assets is important. We can advise you what the New Zealand will should cover, and whether or not you need an offshore will, or your previous offshore will can remain in place in full or part.


Creating a will is the best way to ensure that your wishes are followed, and the people you love are looked after when you are no longer here.  If you pass away and do not have a valid will in place, this is called an intestacy (or dying intestate).  One of the key reasons why wills are important is to avoid potential conflicts and legal complications.  Without a will, if you have more than $15,000 worth of assets or own property, then a grant of administration is required and the distribution of assets will be subject to the laws of intestacy, which could result in assets being distributed in a way that is not aligned with your intentions.  By having a clear and legally binding will, you can specify how you want your assets to be distributed and ensure that your loved ones are taken care of.


Additionally, having a will can help streamline the probate process and make the administration of the estate more efficient.  This is especially important for foreign persons and expats who may have assets in multiple countries, as a well-drafted will can help avoid delays and potential conflicts among beneficiaries.


A will can also address other important considerations, such as appointing testamentary guardians for minor children, specifying funeral arrangements, and designating an executor to oversee the distribution of assets.  Again, New Zealand based wills may look different in these areas, and we can guide you through the New Zealand will making process to ensure you understand the differences.


Another important factor when considering a will is the tax implications. While New Zealand does not have inheritance tax, most other countries do.  Therefore, we work with you and your home country tax advisor to find the most tax efficient solution to estate planning, to ensure that your New Zealand based will does not create any unintended tax implications for you anywhere else in the world.


By taking the time to create a comprehensive will in New Zealand and understand the tax implications of that, you can have peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be carried out, your loved ones will be protected and the taxes upon your passing are mitigated.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not replace specific advice. For personalised advice on all relationship property issues please contact us.

This article was accurate at the time of publishing.

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