Updated: Jul 10, 2018
All in one simplified guide to your International Will
What is International Will?
In 1973 in Washington, D.C., the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) held the Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will. The International Will is for those countries which have signed the uniform convention.
How international Wills become valid?
A will shall be valid as regards form, irrespective particularly of the place where it is made, of the location of the assets and of the nationality, domicile or residence of the testator, if it is made in the form of an international will complying with the provisions set out in Articles 2 to 5 hereinafter (Ref. Article 1).
The invalidity of the will as an international will shall not affect its formal validity as a will of another kind (Ref. Article 1).
This law shall not apply to the form of testamentary dispositions made by two or more persons in one instrument (Ref. Article 2).
The will shall be made in writing (Ref. Article 3).
It need not be written by the testator himself (Ref. Article 3).
It may be written in any language, by hand or by any other means (Ref. Article 3).
The testator shall declare in the presence of two witnesses and of a person authorized to act in connection with international wills that the document is his will and that he knows the contents thereof (Ref. Article 4).
The testator need not inform the witnesses, or the authorized person, of the contents of the will (Ref. Article 4).
In the presence of the witnesses and of the authorized person, the testator shall sign the will or, if he has previously signed it, shall acknowledge his signature (Ref. Article 5).
When the testator is unable to sign, he shall indicate the reason therefor to the authorized person who shall make note of this on the will. Moreover, the testator may be authorized by the law under which the authorized person was designed to direct another person to sign on his behalf (Ref. Article 5).
The witnesses and the authorized person shall there and then attest the will by signing in the presence of the testator (Ref. Article 5).
The signatures shall be placed at the end of the will (Ref. Article 6).
If the will consists of several sheets, each sheet shall be signed by the testator or, if he is unable to sign, by the person signing on his behalf or, if there is no such person, by the authorized person. In addition, each sheet shall be numbered (Ref. Article 6).
The date of the will shall be the date of its signature by the authorized person (Ref. Article 7).
This date shall be noted at the end of the will by the authorized person (Ref. Article 7).
The authorized person shall attach to the will a certificate in the form prescribed in Article 10 establishing that the obligations of this law have been complied with (Ref. Article 9)
What are those countries which have signed the International Wills convention treaty?
There are some of the countries have signed convention while others are in the process of ratification, accession or Entry into Force. For the latest information about the status of these countries, visit at www.unidroit.org/Status-successions. The list is as below...
Australia, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Ecuador, France, Holy See, Iran, Italy, Laos, Libya, Niger, Portugal, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Slovenia*, United Kingdom and United States of America.
The Republic of China signed the Convention on October 27, 1973. Effective January 1, 1979, the United States recognized the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China.
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (Czechoslovakia) signed the Convention on December 30, 1974. On December 31, 1992, at midnight, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and was succeeded by two separate and independent States, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
Can the convention be changed?
The Convention shall be subject to ratification (Ref. Article IX)
Can any country under convention denounce the International convention?
Any Contracting Party may denounce this Convention by written notification to the Depository Government (Ref. Article XII)
What will happen if any country denounce or come out from agreement?
Such denunciation shall take effect twelve months from the date on which the Depositary Government has received the notification but such denunciation shall not affect the validity of any will made during the period that the Convention was in effect for the denouncing State.
How may I know that my country is part of this convention?
Each Contracting Party may introduce the provisions of the Annex into its law either by reproducing the actual text, or by translating it into its official language or languages (Ref. Article I).
Is Authorized person required?
The signature of the testator, of the authorized person, and of the witnesses to an international will, whether on the will or on the certificate, shall be exempt from any legalization or like formality (Ref. Article VI).
Nonetheless, the competent authorities of any Contracting Party may, if necessary, satisfy themselves as to the authenticity of the signature of the authorized person (Ref. Article VI).
The safekeeping of an international will shall be governed by the law under which the authorized person was designated (Ref. Article VII).
The authorized person shall keep a copy of the certificate and deliver another to the testator (Ref. Article 11).
In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the certificate of the authorized person shall be conclusive of the formal validity of the instrument as a will under this Law (Ref. Article 12).
Who can be that Authorized person?
The answer varies from province to province, state to state, territory to territory and country to country. You will have to refer the Wills and Estates law in order to find out who can be your authorized person. There are few examples given below.
Alberta (Canada), the Authorized person definition is given as “All active members of The Law Society of Alberta are designated as persons authorized to act in connection with international wills (Ref. Section 50, The Wills Act, 1996)”.
Saskatchewan (Canada), the Authorized person definition is given as “All lawyers are designated as persons authorized to act in connection with international wills (Ref. Section 38.3, Wills & Succession Act, Alberta)”.
Alaska (USA), the Authorized person definition is given as “Individuals who are licensed to practice law in this state and who are in good standing as active law practitioners in this state, are hereby declared to be authorized persons in relation to international wills (Ref. Section AS 13.12.919, Alaska Statutes).
Virginia (USA), the Authorized person definition is given as “Individuals who have been admitted to practice law before the courts of the Commonwealth and who are members in good standing of the Virginia State Bar are hereby declared to be authorized persons in relation to international wills (Ref. 2014 Virginia Code, Title 64.2-441)
Is International Will certificate required?
The absence or irregularity of a certificate shall not affect the formal validity of a will under this Law (Ref. Article 13).
How the previous Will can be revoked to create International Will?
The international will shall be subject to the ordinary rules of revocation of wills (Ref. Article 14).
UNIDROIT.ORG website -International Institute for the unification of the private law. Go to Successions under Instruments for more information. For latest status on which countries are part of convention, visit UNIDROIT.ORG, Go to status-successions. For Article 1 to 10, visit UNIDROIT.ORG, Go to Succession under Instruments.