Estate Planning and Wills Across Borders: Sometimes a Quagmire in the Making



Wills, testamentary trusts, international estate planning, private international law, Regulation on Succession, Regulation on Matrimonial Property, section 3bis of the Wills Act


In this article a synoptic evaluation is made in respect of the estate planning and wills of South African nationals working, investing or living in foreign jurisdictions, in the broader context of globalisation and internationalisation. Estate planners and testators may inadvertently leave family members in a financially vulnerable position or diminish family assets due to a non-appreciation of international private law. The importance of international wills, the role of testamentary trusts, and the potential impact and reciprocity of international instruments are considered. The most applicable Hague Conventions and the EU Succession and Matrimonial Property Regulations are discussed in an attempt to give an overview of the current legal position. In discussing the role of international private law, its practical application is illustrated by way of reference to a few jurisdictions popular among South Africans with multi-jurisdictional estates, namely Malta, Portugal, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Although there may be more popular emigration jurisdictions amongst South Africans, this contribution focusses on the South African who lives, works and plays in a European context, without necessarily cutting his or her ties with the homeland. Not all attempts to harmonise wills, deceased estates, succession and matrimonial property regimes have been met with the same levels of enthusiasm by the international community. Contributing hereto may be the fact that fiduciary law deals with sensitive and very personal aspects of individuals and is closely linked to the different worldviews of communities. It is argued that not only fiduciary advisers and will drafters, but also attorneys and notaries involved with prenuptial agreements, should be proficient in the workings and implications of the applicable international instruments. Lastly, an argument is made for more pragmatic and commercial style thinking in the arena of fiduciary law.


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How to Cite

Nel, E. (2021). Estate Planning and Wills Across Borders: Sometimes a Quagmire in the Making: . Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 24. Retrieved from