Estate Planning and Owning Foreign Property

a beachfront condo - shown as an example of foreign property ownership that must be considered when preparing your will.

Disclaimer: This article on foreign property ownership is intended for the purpose of providing information only. It is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

Whether it’s your condo in Florida or the family home you still own in a foreign country, you need to consider all of your property when preparing your estate documents. This blog post will briefly outline what you should consider as a foreign property owner and the nuances of estate planning across different jurisdictions.

Seeking Expert Legal Advice Around Foreign Property Ownership

A valid will in Ontario may not be enough if you own property in another jurisdiction. When beginning your estate planning, you will want to seek advice from a local lawyer. Legislation, regulations and practices vary quite a bit between countries. If you own property in the United States, the law will even differ from state to state. So you will want to speak to an estate lawyer in that jurisdiction to understand local property laws more clearly. 

Benefits of Preparing a Will in the Jurisdiction of the Foreign Property

Having a will prepared in the jurisdiction where your foreign property is located brings a sense of certainty and simplicity to the estate planning process. If probate is required, the courts in that jurisdiction will handle the process based on the will specifically drafted for that location. This approach ensures that your executor faces minimal obstacles while finalizing your estate.

Resealing: An Option for Common Law Jurisdictions

In some cases, especially when dealing with common law jurisdictions, “resealing” a probate certificate can be an option. Resealing refers to the process of using an existing probate certificate from one jurisdiction and applying it to another. 

For example, if you have a will probated in Ontario, Canada, and own property in upstate New  York, you may be able to reseal the probate certificate there. This process can save time and expenses as you don’t need to create a new will for each jurisdiction. However, we would consult with a lawyer familiar with the local laws to ensure resealing is a viable option.

Considerations for Civil Law and Non-Common Law Jurisdictions

There are different legal systems, the most common of which are civil and common law. Most of Canada operates under a common law system, except for Quebec. If you are in Ontario and preparing a will, it is based on the common law system. 

If you own property in another common law jurisdiction, you will most likely be able to reseal the probate certificate. Other common law jurisdictions include the United States, Britain, and most Caribbean countries.  However, for example, France and Italy follow a civil law system. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Yemen follow an Islamic law system. 

If you own property in a jurisdiction that is not governed by a common law system, resealing will likely not be possible. In such cases, you are better off drafting a separate will for each jurisdiction to ensure your assets are distributed according to the laws of that country.

Owning properties in multiple jurisdictions

Let’s say that you own property in multiple states within the United States. Does that mean you are creating a will for each state? 

While having a separate will for each state is possible, it can become cumbersome and expensive. Some people opt to draft one set of estate documents to cover all their assets. Their executor would then reseal the probate certificate in each jurisdiction where they own property. We determine your best option on a case-by-case scenario, so contact us about your property ownership. 

Beeksma Law: Creating an estate plan that works for you

When preparing your estate documents as a foreign property owner, there are numerous factors to consider, and seeking expert legal advice is crucial. Beeksma Law is here to help you navigate the complexities of estate planning across different jurisdictions. 

We understand that each situation is unique, and we will work closely with you to create an estate plan that caters to your specific needs and circumstances. Contact Beeksma Law today, and let us help you protect your legacy and secure your foreign property investments for the future.

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