International Wills Act


In the process of making an estate plan, those with international concerns may wish to look into the Uniform International Wills Act (“UIWA”). Also known as the Convention Providing a Uniform Law on The Form of an International Will, this statutory scheme was signed by the United States on October 27, 1973. In Virginia, the UIWA can be found at Virginia Code § 64.2-433 and following.


In addition to the usual formalities (the will must be signed by the testator, have two witnesses, acknowledgement by the testator), an international will must also be signed and dated by an “authorized person” and the testator should be asked if he or she wishes to make a declaration concerning safekeeping of the will. An attorney licensed to practice law in Virginia is an “authorized person.”[1] A certificate is then signed by the authorized person (the form of which can be found at Virginia Code § 64.2-437.)


The American Bar Association has a nice overview of the UIWA.


Roughly half of the United States have enacted the provisions of this Act, and there are few signatory countries – just 12. For individuals with property in two of the signatory countries, the UIWA can be very helpful in streamlining the estate administration process. For individuals with property in countries which are not signatories to the UIWA, they may find assistance in the relevant tax treaties, if any, between the countries in question.


If you or someone you know has property in multiple countries, proceed with caution. It is not always enough to simply have a will drafted in each country; care must be taken to coordinate the different pieces to make administration simpler for the testator’s surviving loved ones.

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