International Will

Lawyers are along with medical doctors the kind of professionals that people is usually afraid to consult in order to prevent issues whether legal or medical and therefore is usual that people consult these professionals only once a real issue has arisen. Generally, people is afraid to died therefore certain legal acts closely related to death and its economic effects such as drafting a will are avoided; in consequence and once the feared event arrives will be the law instead of the will of a person the one that will regulates the economic effects of this death.

Traditionally, drafting a will has been seen as a purely local legal act, this means that a will in order to be valid shall be drafted according to laws applicable to each testator(male) or testatrix(female), but what are the law or laws applicable to this act? the laws of residence? the laws of citizenship? the laws where immobile or significant goods of the testator are located?

The private international norms of each country may vary the answers provided to this question, however, there are international legal instruments such as the “Convention providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will” (also known as the “Convention of International Wills” or the “Washington Convention” that have simplified the answer. In 1973 the UK, together with a number of other nations, signed up to the “Convention providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will” also known as the “Convention of International Wills” or the “Washington Convention”, Italy ratified this Convention by the Law N. 387 of 29th November 1990.      

According to this Convention, an international will in order to be valid will need to meet the following criteria:

  • The will need to be in writing, although it is not necessary to be hand written by the testator or testatrix, and the language may be freely chosen by the testator or testatrix.
  • The testator will need to declare in the presence of 2 witnesses and a person authorized to act in connection with international wills (a solicitor or a notary public in Italy) that the document is his or her will, and that he or she knows what the contents of the document are.
  • The testator will normally need to sign the will in the presence of the 2 witnesses and the authorized person or, if he or she has previously signed it, he or she will need to acknowledge his or her signature in the presence of the 2 witnesses and the authorized person.
  • If the testator is unable to sign the will, he or she will have to explain to the authorized person why he or she cannot sign it. In such circumstances the authorized person will have to make a note of this on the will. The testator’s signature or that of the person signing on his or her behalf will need to be placed at the end of the will and if the will consists of more than one page the testator or person signing on his or her behalf will need to sign each page.
  • Each page of the will need to be numbered and signed by testator, witnesses and authorized person.
  • The authorized person will need to note the date of his or her signature at the end of the will. The date noted will be treated as being the date of the will.
  • The authorized person will need to attach to the will a certificate confirming that the requirements set out above have been met. If the testator makes a declaration as to the safe-keeping of the will, the place where he or she intends to store the will should be recorded in the certificate.
  • The authorized person will be required to keep a copy of the certificate and to give a copy to the testator.

To conclude, a will is a legal act that allows you to decide on the economic effects of your death, for instance the way you want to assign your belongings among your wife and/or close relatives and even your friends. If you have not drafted your own will by the time of your death your estate is going to be considered intestate and therefore it will be the law the one to supply answers you did not want to adopt before. In order to protect your will that sometimes according to local laws may be void and null for defects of form, the Convention providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will or the Washington Convention have simplified the requirements to draft a valid international will. You may consult your transnational lawyer in order to determine whether or not the country of your citizenship or your residence has signed and ratified this Convention and therefore will give plenty effects to your international will. By acting this way you may prevent significant obstacles to your relatives once you have passed away.

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