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Does your estate plan include heirs or assets abroad?

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2023 | Estate Planning & Probate |

It’s always best to seek clarification of Texas laws, as well as any federal laws that might be relevant, before signing a legal document. Even a minor oversight can have a substantially negative effect on your finances and assets. In your estate plan, for instance, if you have heirs or assets abroad, it is imperative to make sure you understand estate laws in this state and country, as well as those that may apply wherever your heirs or assets are located.

If you own assets in another country, you’d logically assume that the country in question would recognize the last will and testament you have signed in the United States, right? You might be surprised to learn that the answer is “Not necessarily.” It depends on several factors, which can either legitimize your estate plan in a foreign domain or render it invalid.

Number of witnesses is a key factor regarding a last will and testament

In Texas, you must have at least two credible witnesses present when you sign a last will and testament for it to be valid and legally enforceable. You’d be making a big mistake, however, to assume that the same law applies in other countries. In fact, there are numerous countries that require three or more witnesses to validate a will.

If you have heirs or assets in such countries but only had two witnesses present when you signed your will, the other countries do not have to recognize it as valid since it does not comply with their estate laws.

Did you execute a nuncupative or holographic will?

The word “nuncupative” is a legal term referring to a last will and testament executed verbally but not in writing. However, many states, including Texas, do not allow it. Therefore, if you thought you were creating a valid will when you verbally stated your wishes, even if the correct number of witnesses was present, your will is not valid in this state.

Texas does allow a holographic will, however, which is a will written in the testator’s own hand. You do not need witnesses to execute a holographic will in this state. The entire will must be in your own handwriting, though. Many countries do not recognize nuncupative or holographic wills; so, again, it’s always best to research the laws of the foreign domain where your heirs or assets are located to prevent obstacles in the probate process.

Who can inherit your assets overseas?

Another important issue to bear in mind when executing an estate plan that includes heirs or assets in other countries is that many countries have “forced heirs” laws in place. In such countries, you must bequeath a portion or all of your estate to a blood relative — usually a surviving spouse or biological child.

Estate plans and probate issues involving heirs or assets overseas are often complex. Rather than assuming everything will be alright or trying to resolve complications on your own, it’s best to ask someone who is well-versed in such laws to review your case and provide recommendations to solidify your plan.