New York residents who own property in another country need to have whatever estate documents are necessary to make sure their property or assets are distributed to the proper heirs. This may include drafting a will not just for the United States, but for whatever country you own property in. While this may help you to realize your estate wishes, you still must be careful in composing a foreign will.
The American Bar Association (ABA) explains a problem that may come up if you make two or more different wills in other countries. When you draft a will and then compose another will later on, the second will could unintentionally revoke the first will. In the United States, people sometimes replace older wills with new wills. For this reason, a newer foreign will may be interpreted by a court to have completely superseded an older domestic one.
The ABA recommends that complementary language should be included in the domestic and foreign wills. These two wills should work together to achieve the estate wishes of the testor without one superseding the other. If an attorney in another country works on a foreign will while a domestic attorney works on a U.S. will, the ABA recommends that the two legal counsels coordinate their efforts.
Another option is to create a foreign will that is a supplemental will. This kind of will is narrowly tailored to whatever property is maintained in another country and does not address other issues that are described in a domestic will. However, even a supplemental will may revoke a portion of a domestic will if it is not carefully composed. A person should make sure that the domestic will addresses the existence of a supplemental will so there is no conflict or ambiguity.
This article is written to provide general information on administering a foreign estate and is not to be interpreted as legal advice.