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Expatriate and international estate planning

In an increasingly globalised world, the fall-out from a family death can be extremely challenging. 

Succession laws differ from country to country, and expatriates may inadvertently get taxed twice - or spend years trapped in probate. 

Rising property prices, and widespread misunderstandings about inheritance tax obligations, mean careful planning can be required to ensure your loved ones aren’t left with nasty surprises when you pass on your estate.

Expatriate and international estate planning
Best estate planning for expatriates

Best estate planning for expatriates

Good financial planning includes having strategies in place to also manage the effect of inheritance tax on your properties, your pension fund, your investments, and other assets which could form a significant portion of your wealth.

Considering the impact of illness or death, and getting a plan to cover the risks involved with life, are vital steps to achieving complete peace of mind.


Your estate planning experts

We are experts in expatriate estate planning, and can create cost effective, tax-efficient, robust solutions for you.

Your estate plan may typically include:

  • A will,
  • Guardianship documentation,
  • Trusts,
  • Foundations,
  • Holding companies,
  • Insurances,
  • An inheritance tax (IHT) mitigation strategy.

Your plan will be bespoke and will ensure your family’s financial security over the long-term.


Estate planning experts

“Having worked my entire career in hostile environments to build a solid financial backbone for my family, the last thing I want is for the taxman to squander it all when I'm gone! AES have created a solid solution to offset a percentage of the anticipated IHT bill.”

Jim Owens


“My family's estate planning needs suddenly became pressing, and AES solved everything with compassion, professionalism and speed.”

Peter Weaving


“Great advice - made me think about areas I'd been ignoring. I'm now assured my family and I are safe - no matter what may happen.”

K Murden


British expatriates and inheritance tax (IHT)

The majority of British expats remain liable for UK inheritance tax.

Simply moving abroad and cutting all ties with Britain – even for decades – does not remove your liability to this unfair, and often entirely avoidable tax.

As a British expat, a critical part of your estate’s plan will be a robust inheritance tax mitigation strategy.

British inheritance tax
Managing international divorce settlement

Managing an international divorce settlement

Successfully managing a cross-border divorce dispute requires deep expertise to navigate complex financial issues.

Typically clients want to ensure that the right pension settlements and sharing arrangements are in place, while minimising tax liabilities. 

Providing for dependants can require expert advice, given variables such as currency movements, remarriage and step-children. 

Anyone involved in an international divorce also needs to think carefully about the value of any trusts, property or business assets they have.

Best estate planning advice for expats

Estate planning isn't only for ultra-high net worth families and corporations, it's essential for all expatriates:

  • Protect dependants of any age.
  • Ensure assets are passed to the correct people.
  • Remove all risk of contention.

Without a plan in place:

  • Assets can be frozen,
  • Probate can be costly,
  • Dependants can lose visa rights,
  • Your wishes can be overridden.

How IFAs are paid to mis-sell pensions

Getting the best advice as an expat can be a challenge. Outside the UK, firms and advisers may not be regulated or qualified.

Download this guide and stay informed

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IFAs Mis sold 249x337


Asked Questions

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is all about arranging your personal affairs in a manner that suits your wishes.  This can involve making a will, setting up trust arrangements and gifting strategies.

What is a will?

A will comes into effect only after death and directs who will receive property upon death.  It appoints a legal representative(s) to undertake the wishes of the deceased.

What happens if I don’t make a will?

If an individual dies without a valid will, they die ‘intestate’, and their wealth may not be distributed in the way they would have wished.

What is inheritance tax?

Inheritance tax (IHT) is paid upon a UK-domiciled person’s death if their estate exceeds their IHT threshold (known as the nil rate band).

Amounts in excess of the nil rate band are liable to tax at 40% payable by the beneficiaries of the estate.

IHT is also liable on UK-sited assets for a non-UK domiciled individual – e.g., British property owned by someone from another country.

What is domicile and why does it matter?

Domicile is a complex UK common law concept.  The basic rule is that a person is domiciled in the country in which they have their home permanently or indefinitely – it’s usually the country you regard as your original homeland.

You can live abroad for many years and remain domiciled in the UK for example, and it matters because a British person’s liability for IHT may depend upon it.

What is the current inheritance tax nil rate band?

The current nil rate band threshold is £325,000 for an individual and £650,000 for a married couple or civil partners.

If a person is widowed, it could be £650,000 depending on how much of the allowance was used when their partner passed away.

What gifts can be made that will be automatically free from IHT?

Certain transfers are automatically exempt from IHT, depending on who the beneficiaries are, for example spouses/civil partners and charities.

There are also gifts exempt from IHT, which include small gifts - up to the value of £250 in any one tax year – that can be given away to as many people as you wish.

An amount of £3,000 is annually exempt each tax year, which can be carried over to the following tax year, and subsequently you could have a maximum of £6,000 in one tax year.

What can I do to reduce the amount of inheritance tax that may have to be paid on my estate?

Trying to reduce how much IHT is due on an estate is complicated, but you may be able to reduce how much tax is paid by:

Leaving a legacy to charity

Putting your assets into a trust for your heirs

Leaving your estate to your spouse or civil partner

Paying into a pension instead of a savings account

Inheritance tax and estate planning are areas of special expertise in financial planning, areas in which we have extensive experience.

If I give away assets during my lifetime, can I avoid IHT?

You can give as much away as you wish to any chosen beneficiary (other than to a trust) during your life. 

Such gifts only become exempt from IHT however, if you survive the date of the gift by seven years. 

Should you die before the end of seven years, the value of the gift is subject to IHT.

If you die between three and seven years after making the gift, and the total value of the gift is over the £325,000 threshold, any IHT due on the gift is reduced on a sliding scale.

This is known as taper relief.

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement where you give cash, property or investments to someone else so they can look after them for the benefit of a third person.

When you put money or property in a trust, provided certain conditions are satisfied, you don’t own it any more.  This means it might not count towards your inheritance tax bill when you die.

Trusts are complex and require bespoke advice, with which we can help.

Get started with a strategy to protect you and your family


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