I recommend that you have separate offshore wills for every country in which you own offshore assets.
The offshore will/s specifically deals with the distribution of your foreign assets, and is separate from your existing will, which governs your South African assets. You should specify in your local will that ‘this will is in respect of my South African assets only’.
An executor distributes your assets according to your will and winds up your estate.
Your offshore will/s nominates your heirs and makes specific bequests of your assets, and appoints an executor of the estate. Remember to nominate substitute heirs. For instance: “I leave everything to my husband and, failing him, to my descendants.”
The nominated executor normally retains the original offshore will and you should file a copy with the original of your South African will.
I would suggest that you use the services of a legal expert in the country in which you have investments. The practitioner who draws up your offshore will usually be the executor of your estate.
The wording of your local and offshore wills must be exact to prevent any potential conflict. Indicate in each will that it deals only with the assets in a particular country. Any changes to a will must clearly state that the changes apply to assets in a particular country only (to prevent the revocation of other wills). Thus, avoid using a blanket clause like: ‘I revoke all Wills and other testamentary writings previously made by me’.
In South Africa, executors charge 3.5% of the gross value of your assets plus VAT (unless you agree a reduced fee with him or her). Executor’s fees in other countries are often lower and are based on the size and complexity of the estate.
When it comes to calculating estate duty tax (death duties), all your assets – both local and foreign – are included in the calculation. At present, estate duty is payable at 20% of your net dutiable estate in excess of R3.5 million Estate duty is not charged where you leave your assets to your spouse – the first R3.5 million of a deceased estate is exempt from the 20% estate duty as well as any amount bequeathed to the surviving spouse.
South Africa has double taxation treaties with many other countries to ensure that a local resident does not end up paying double duties both in South Africa and in the foreign country.
Your foreign assets would probably attract additional fees imposed by the responsible offshore authorities. This “probate” fee varies in different countries.