International Wills

June 15, 2015

Succession law in Australia has recently been simplified, with the government adopting the Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will 1973.  All Australian states and territories have passed legislation to implement the convention, which came into force on 10 March 2015.

As a result, Australians are now able to make a new kind of will – an international will.  The benefit of an international will is that it will be recognized as a valid document in any of the countries which have become signatories to the convention, irrespective of where the will-maker lives, where the will was created, or the location of the assets which are to be distributed via the will.

Including Australia, approximately twenty countries are now party to the convention.  These include Canada, France, Italy, Laos, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The formalities involved in making an international will are similar to, but not the same, as the formalities required to make a will under existing Victorian legislation.  Generally speaking, for an international will to be effective, it needs to be signed by the will-maker in the presence of two witnesses, along with a third witness who is an “authorised person” such as a lawyer or public notary.  In addition to witnessing the will, the authorised person needs to provide a certificate (which is attached to the original will) stating that the requirements for the preparation of an international will have been satisfied in accordance with the convention.

Given that over a quarter of our nation’s population was born overseas, international wills appear to be a useful option for the substantial number of  people who have assets not only in Australia, but in other countries that have ratified the convention.

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