Wills, Guardianship, and Estate Planning for Expats in Hong Kong
If you have writing wills, estate planning and organising guardianship as items on your 'must-do' list then these simple guidelines to starting the process should help.
Is Your Family Prepared for the Unexpected?
While everyone knows they should have a will, it’s a task most people put off. Planning for one’s own demise is hardly fun and for expats with ties to multiple countries, the advice can be confusing. Adding to the confusion are frequently marketed “will writing services,” whom are neither lawyers nor solicitors and often know nothing about the local and overseas tax and transfer issues. It’s no wonder many people delay getting their affairs sorted.
There are three key components to consider while drafting estate documents.
- Get qualified advice. You wouldn’t rely on internet advice or an unlicensed professional for other issues important to your family. Ensure the advice you get is from a qualified professional and that your documents are written by appropriate legal counsel.
- Guardianship is key. Existing documents drafted in other countries are inadequate to protect your children in the event both parents are deceased. You need documents which are valid in Hong Kong and clearly indicate who would care for your children in your absence.
- Know your documents. Do you need a will? A trust? Both? One trust for the family or multiple trusts? What about powers of attorney and health care directives, these appoint people who will make decisions if you cannot due to illness or injury? Where will your wishes for care of your children be documented?
Estate planning is so much more than just writing a will. There is no such thing as an international will – make sure you have adequate documents to cover each country where you have ties. This process is highly personal and no one estate plan works well for every situation. Here is a checklist to help you get started. Go through these with your spouse or partner and then make an appointment to discuss the relevant next steps.
- Do you have a will that is valid in every jurisdiction where you have assets?
- Would your heirs and executors know where to find your original documents?
- Does any testamentary trust language in your will fully reflect your current wishes?
- Are the instructions accurate and current on any designated beneficiary accounts such as insurance and pensions? These items are not governed by the will.
- Are the nominated executors, trustees and guardians outlined in wills and trusts current? Are their contact details readily available to your heirs?
- If you have children, do you have a valid local will or guardianship document that will be accepted in Hong Kong? Waiting for an overseas will to be probated could delay the custody of your children for months.
- Are any of your assets subject to tax at death? US, UK, Japan and most of Europe levy significant taxes at death.
- Do you have financial powers of attorney and advanced health directives for every jurisdiction where you spend time? Do the people named have copies?
- Do you have a recent asset list included with any will and trust documents?
If you have minor children and nothing is in place currently, here is a link where you can get free basic guardianship deeds to provide protection to your children.
One of our experienced advisers at Capital Company would be delighted to meet with you and assist you with this planning. Our team and partners include legal counsel in a variety of jurisdictions as well as in house trust and estate practitioners. Don’t let confusion and complexity stop you from taking the steps necessary to protect the people you care about. You can email us at [email protected] or call us on 3468 8880.