How To Manage Overseas Assets In Your Will

Writing a will can be a complex process, especially when you own assets in multiple countries.

This guide will help you understand the steps and considerations for effectively managing overseas assets in your will, ensuring your wishes are carried out smoothly.


Understanding the Basics


When creating a will, it’s important to list all your assets, including those located overseas. Assets can be broadly categorised into:

  • Movable Assets: These include bank accounts, cars, jewelry, and other personal property.

  • Immovable Assets: These consist of real estate properties like houses, land, and apartments.

The laws governing these assets can vary depending on their location and type, which makes it essential to plan carefully.


Including Overseas Assets in Your Singapore Will

Movable Assets

Movable assets are usually subject to the laws of your domicile – the country where you have your permanent home. If you are domiciled in Singapore, your overseas movable assets, such as a bank account in Australia, will be governed by Singapore law. This means they can be included in your Singapore will without much complication.

Immovable Assets

Immovable assets, on the other hand, are subject to the laws of the country where they are located. For example, a house you own in France will be governed by French law, even if it is included in your Singapore will. This can lead to complications, such as different tax rules or legal requirements for transferring property.

Steps to Include Overseas Assets

  1. List All Assets: Start by listing all your assets, including detailed descriptions and locations.

  2. Consult Legal Experts: It’s crucial to seek advice from lawyers who specialise in estate planning and have knowledge of the laws in each relevant jurisdiction.

  3. Draft Your Will: Ensure your will clearly states your wishes for both your Singaporean and overseas assets.

The Resealing of Probate

When you pass away, your executor will need to obtain a Grant of Probate (GOP) from a Singapore court to administer your estate. For overseas assets, this GOP needs to be recognised (or "resealed") by the courts in the foreign jurisdictions where your assets are located.

Key Points

  • Commonwealth Countries: Jurisdictions like Australia and Malaysia can reseal a Singapore GOP relatively easily.

  • Non-Commonwealth Countries: In countries that do not follow common law, such as Indonesia or Thailand, the process can be more complex and may require additional legal steps or the creation of separate wills.

Writing Separate Wills for Different Jurisdictions


To avoid the complications of probate resealing and non-recognition of your will, you might consider writing separate wills for different jurisdictions.

Benefits of Separate Wills

  • Compliance with Local Laws: Each will can be tailored to comply with the specific legal requirements of the jurisdiction where the assets are located.

  • Simplified Probate Process: Executors can deal with each will separately, which can simplify the legal process and reduce costs.

Steps to Draft Separate Wills

  1. Consult Local Lawyers: Work with legal experts in each country to ensure each will meets local requirements.

  2. Avoid Conflicts: Clearly state that each will only applies to assets in that specific jurisdiction to avoid any overlap or conflicts between the wills.

  3. Coordinate Details: Ensure all your wills are consistent in terms of your overall estate plan and do not contradict each other.

Considering an International Will

An international will, compliant with the Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will, can be a solution for those with assets in multiple countries.

This type of will is recognised by countries that have adopted the convention, simplifying the probate process across borders. However it is important to note that it has several limitations.


  • Not Recognised in Singapore: Singapore is not a party to this convention, so an international will is not valid for your Singaporean assets.

  • Content Restrictions: The will must meet the specific requirements of each country, which can still lead to complications.

Potential Issues From Having Multiple Wills

While creating multiple wills can simplify the process of distributing your assets across different jurisdictions, it is not without its challenges. Here are some potential issues to consider:

Conflicts and Contradictions

When drafting multiple wills, there is a risk that the documents may contain conflicting or contradictory instructions. For example, if one will specifies that a particular asset should go to one beneficiary, while another will allocates the same asset to a different person, this can lead to disputes and legal challenges.

Avoidance Tip: Work with legal experts in each jurisdiction to ensure that your wills are consistent and clearly specify that each will only applies to assets in its respective jurisdiction.

Legal Validity

Each jurisdiction has its own legal requirements for wills. A will that is valid in one country might not meet the legal standards in another. This can lead to certain wills being deemed invalid, which could complicate the probate process and result in your wishes not being fully honoured.

Avoidance Tip: Ensure that each will complies with the specific legal requirements of the jurisdiction in which it will be executed. This includes proper signing, witnessing, and adherence to local laws.

Practical Considerations for Managing Overseas Assets


After understanding the key steps and considerations for including overseas assets in your Singapore will, there are a few additional points to keep in mind. These will help ensure that your estate planning is comprehensive and effective.

1. Importance of Regular Updates

Your financial situation and asset portfolio may change over time. Regularly updating your will to reflect these changes is crucial. This is particularly important for foreign assets, as different countries may change their inheritance laws, which could impact the execution of your will.

2. Seeking Professional Advice

Consulting with estate planning professionals is highly recommended. They can provide tailored advice based on your specific circumstances and the jurisdictions involved. This can help ensure that your will is formally valid in all relevant jurisdictions.

3. Costs and Time Considerations

While creating separate wills for different jurisdictions can simplify the legal process, it also involves additional costs and time. Each separate will requires its own separate court application for probate, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Weigh the value of your overseas assets against these potential costs to determine the best approach.

4. Tax Implications

Different countries have varying tax laws, which can significantly affect the distribution of your overseas property. Be aware of the tax implications in each jurisdiction to minimise the financial burden on your beneficiaries.

5. Avoiding Conflicts

Ensure that your separate wills do not contradict each other. This requires careful drafting and coordination. A conflict between multiple wills could lead to legal disputes, delaying the distribution of your estate and potentially incurring additional costs.

6. Role of Executors

Choose your executors carefully. Managing an estate with foreign assets can be complex, requiring executors to navigate different legal systems. Ensure your chosen executors are capable and willing to handle these responsibilities.

7. Family and Dependants Act

Be mindful of the Family and Dependants Act in jurisdictions like the UK, which allows financially dependent individuals to challenge your will. Understanding these laws can help you make informed decisions to prevent potential disputes.

8. Storing Your Will

Proper storage of your will is essential. Ensure that all your wills are easily accessible and that your executors know where to find them. This is especially important for wills dealing with overseas assets, as delays in locating these documents can complicate the probate process.

Key Actions Summarised

Managing overseas assets in your will can be a complex yet crucial aspect of estate planning. By understanding the various laws and requirements, you can ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, minimising complications for your beneficiaries.


  • List and Evaluate Assets: Always create a comprehensive list of all your assets, including those located overseas. Evaluate whether the value of such assets justifies the cost and effort involved in including them in your will.

  • Seek Professional Advice: Engage with legal experts who understand the inheritance laws in each relevant jurisdiction. This ensures your will is formally valid and compliant with local regulations.

  • Regular Updates: Regularly update your will to reflect changes in your asset portfolio and any amendments in foreign inheritance laws.

  • Consider Separate Wills: To avoid conflicts and simplify the probate process, consider creating separate wills for different jurisdictions. Ensure these wills do not contradict each other.

  • Understand Tax Implications: Be aware of the tax laws in each country where you hold assets to minimise financial burdens on your beneficiaries.

  • Choose Executors Carefully: Select executors who are capable of navigating different legal systems and managing the complexities of administering an estate with foreign assets.

  • Proper Storage: Store all your wills securely and ensure your executors know where to find them. This is especially important for overseas immovable property subject to different jurisdictions' laws.


By following these guidelines, you can create a robust estate plan that effectively manages your overseas assets and honours your wishes. Proper planning and professional advice are key to ensuring a smooth and efficient distribution of your estate, providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

How Jacque Law Can Help

Navigating the complexities of managing overseas assets in your will can be daunting. Jacque Law specialises in estate planning and can provide expert guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.

Our team is well-versed in the legal requirements of multiple jurisdictions and can help you create a comprehensive and effective estate plan.


Jacqueline Chua, Managing Director

+65 6280 7388