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Is a Final will internationally binding?

West Hollywood, CA |

Hello, I am a US Citizen permanently living in Europe with my son (minor). I would like to make an internationally binding will, which appoints a guardian and ensures that if I die all my assets go to him. Since my assets are in 3 different countries (none in the US), should I die, is the prevailing law that of the country of my/my son's citizenship (both US) regardless of where the assets are, or the law of the country that holds the assets?
Should such a will be done by a lawyer/notary or can I do it myself?
Thank you very much

Just a quick thank you to all of you for your helpful and informative answers. Based on the information you have provided I will in fact need to make several wills ; I don't have any properties in the US but unfortunately part of my properties are in an Islamic country where the wills, as we know them, are not applicable which is why I was hoping this would be over-ridden by a unique international law. But I can see that will not be possible, so I will look into a system of "live donation" of my properties to my son. As he is adopted that is the only way he will be able to access these properties if I die. Thank you again for your help, Best wishes,

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Attorney answers 4

Best Answer

I agree with Ms. Azam.

Although a will made under the Hague convention may be "legal" in every country that has subscribed to the convention (there are only 14 countries that have subscribed to this particular convention, by the way), the laws of the country where the property is actually located will be enforced if they are contrary to the will ... for example, if you created a will that left everything you own to a charity but you owned real estate in France, French law would disregard your will to a certain extent ... France has so-called "forced heirship" laws that require you to leave a certain percentage of your estate to your children. So in France that percentage would be distributed to your children and the rest would be distributed to the charity.

If you have property in several different countries, you need to consult with a lawyer in each of those countries to make sure your assets can/will be distributed in accordance with your wishes.

There is an international organization called "STEP" (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) whose members are knowledgeable in international estate planning. There are members in almost every country of the world. Go to and search for lawyers who can assist you (if you have property in the US, I am a STEP-USA member).

The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of California. Responses are based solely on California law unless stated otherwise.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick


Great answer!


There was an international convention in 1973 to provide for establishment of a Will that would be valid in all countries adopting the agreement. Many countries have not done so, and the status depends on where you are located and how the Will is executed. My suggestion would be to speak with an attorney from your home state, (California?), and make sure that whatever form is drawn up would also satisfy the requirements under those laws.

Depending on where your assets are located, you may want to merely hire an attorney there, to prepare the documents for you. You can then have them authenticated where you are.

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.


There may be other tools available to achieve the results you want. Depending on your assets, their location, etc. For example, the asset could be owned by a corporation, LLC or Family Trust ini the jurisdiction where it is located, but the shareholder/member/beneficiary in another. I own land outside the US, it is in the name of a company and I am the Shareholder. I can name my heir as beneficiary of the shares in that country as well as in a corporate resolution and in my local will. This is just one way. I think an international attorney may be able to give you some ideas and it may be different on the location of the different assets.

J. Garry Rooney
Attorney at Law
Rooney & Rooney, P.A.
2145 14th Avenue, Suite 20
Vero Beach, FL 32960
(772) 778 5400
(772) 778 5290 (fax)

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick


Good suggestions!


To add to both Counsels sound advise below, under the Hague Convention, signatories are required to accept and enforce Wills and or Trusts validly signed. First thing to do would be to see whether the Nations where you have assets are signatories to the Hague Convention. Unfortunately, there is no International body of Law where you can make one Will that works with every Nation- the best option would be the Hague or to be on the safer side, a Will in every Nation/State you have property that needs to be devised to your heir. Good luck to you.

DISCLAIMER: This answer is provided solely for informational purposes only. This answer does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or constitute attorney advertising.

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