What are the implications if a person dies intestate in Singapore,
Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam for instance, particularly if they
have children? What if both parents die?
All countries have legislation that spells out the distribution of a
deceased person’s assets if they die intestate (without having made a will).
In Singapore, if there are children, the surviving spouse is entitled to one
half and the other half is divided amongst the children. If the children are
orphaned then everything passes to them equally. The problem here is
that if there is no will, probably no one would have been appointed to
take care of the children or sort out the estate. Normally, the relatives
who can take this on are in the home country, so having a will is especially
important for an expat’s young children who cannot look after themselves
or their money.
If a will is made in South East Asia, but most of your assets are in your home country, will your home country recognise it?
A will made in Singapore, where you are currently resident, will be recognised as valid by every state which has signed up to the Hague Convention. Countries that do not have common law, for example most of continental Europe, may have laws which override the provisions in your will.
If your will is drawn up in your home country, but you have assets in South East Asia, like cash in the bank, do those assets need to be included?
Yes, but it is important to realise that probate (to establish the validity of a will) will need to be obtained in all countries where you have assets. So, for example, if a UK national dies having assets in France, Singapore and Thailand, probate would have to take place in each of those countries. If you do not have a valid will this could delay the process of probate and the eventual distribution of the estate, possibly by years. If your assets are located in countries of the Commonwealth, the process is much more simple as a probate obtained in your home Commonwealth country can be used to realise assets in Singapore.
Is it best to draw up your will in your home country, in the country where you have most assets or in the country where you currently reside?
Bearing in mind the main aim of a will is to ensure that your assets are distributed as you wish, it could be that the answer to this question is “yes” to all. This is where the position of expatriates is typically more complicated than that of people who remain in their home country. If you have assets in more than one country it is a good idea to have a will that can handle multiple jurisdictions. You may even need more than one will, especially if you have property in other countries, which then of course raises the issue that the wills must be compatible and able to work together.
Is it necessary to meet with a lawyer or solicitor to draw up a will? Are there any legal implications if you don’t? Is it all right to use a DIY will kit?
Again this depends on your nationality and where your assets are situated. In certain European countries you can only do it yourself, and in others you must instruct a lawyer in your home country to make your will.
However, it is strongly advisable not to do it yourself but to take professional advice as even a small mistake could become very costly and result in your assets not passing to your intended beneficiaries. If you have to consider assets in different jurisdictions without due consideration or professional guidance, the result could actually be worse, and more distressing for the surviving family and relatives, than having no will.
Also, by taking professional advice, issues such as Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax or other death duties can be identified early and solutions put in place, which could save tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds (or euro’s or dollars), and a lot of stress and heartache.
To encourage readers to make a will, we are offering a 3000 Baht or $100 U.S discount off the cost of making a will.
If you haven’t made a will yet, contact Acorn Partners on
+66 2 661 6960
for an appointment or email