Planning to retire in another country?

While many of us associate retirement abroad with sandy beaches, there are important legal and tax implications to be considered before packing one’s bags. With families becoming more mobile than ever, legal and tax differences between jurisdictions make family governance and wealth planning strategies a must.

Planning ahead to safeguard your estate

Before you decide where to spend your golden years, it is worth investing time to analyse your individual situation and goals with a focus on family governance. Family governance refers to all legalities surrounding family relationships and wealth. Understanding the law locally and across borders can help ensure that your family’s estate and values will continue for generations to come. 

It is crucial to examine the legal environment in your desired location, for example laws relating to marital property and succession planning. Perhaps you have a family business that you are planning to hand over to one of your children, or you may need to make provisions for minors or sick family members. You may also wish to donate to a good cause or set up your own charity. After spending a lifetime building up your estate, you will undoubtedly want to make sure that your efforts have not been in vain so can enjoy the retirement you have always envisaged.

Unfortunately, many people put important planning and paperwork on the long finger, which means that families’ needs are not properly analysed or measures fall short in safeguarding the family’s future wealth. Moreover, the legal environment that permitted a particular structure (e.g. family trust, will) or course of action in one country may not exist or be recognised in your new country of residence. As a result, you will need to ensure that your family governance strategy is adapted to comply with the applicable legal framework.

The legal requirements to enter and live in your chosen country should also be considered from an individual and family perspective. Some countries offer special regimes to obtain residence permits or citizenship. Amongst these, permits granted by EU countries allow individuals and their families to travel freely within the EU and Schengen area.

Wealthy and healthy

It is often said that your health is your wealth, and this rings truer the older we get. For example, health insurance policies can be particularly complex due to the personal nature of the contract, which considers many factors such as residence, age and health. Changing residence is likely to have an impact on your insurance coverage, so it is worth consulting with your health insurer before making any decisions.

Taxation

It is important for you to understand the tax and regulatory environment before retiring abroad. You should find out how wealth and income are taxed, as well as inheritance. Furthermore, leaving your current country could trigger tax consequences, so you may wish to seek a multi-jurisdiction tax analysis.

If your destination of choice offers special tax regimes for individuals living in - but not legally domiciled in that country (individuals known as ‘non-doms’), taxation warrants even more attention as these regimes differ from country to country. To comply with your new country’s tax and regulatory framework, you may need to adjust your estate’s structure. Additionally, international transparency initiatives, such as the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard, are increasing in number and complexity. For individuals, this will mean more coordination of your affairs across borders and increased support from your financial and tax specialists.

Before you pack your bags

While retiring abroad may have several advantages for those seeking a safer, more stable or warmer country to live in, the implications of a move should be carefully analysed with professional support. Being clear on financial, legal and tax issues will help ensure a smooth transition and the stability of your family and its wealth long into the future.

About the author

Miguel Durham Agrellos is the Founding Partner at Durham Agrellos, a trusted partner of Julius Baer’s open product and service platform. The firm specialises in tax law for private clients.

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