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By Anna Melissa Price of Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC on 05/07/2019

International Estate Planning Issues Impact Families in the US and Abroad

As we often read or hear on the news, our world is ever-shrinking, and more of us are becoming global citizens every day. One of the areas that this impacts is wealth transfer planning. International estate planning issues can be complex an involve laws in the US and abroad on international estate planning at various levels of government. An experienced international estate planning attorney can help you navigate these challenges and more.

The Wide Reach of International Estate Planning Issues

Many people don't think about their estate planning goals extensively or consider the fact that their wishes might be impacted by international estate planning laws. The increasing globalization of our world, however, means more people need to determine the applicable law for international estate planning when arranging for the eventual distribution of personal assets and property.

Do You Need to Consider International Estate Planning?

Many people in the United States, both citizens and non-citizens, have relationships or property interests that result in the need for international estate planning. For example, many US citizens have a family member living in a foreign country or are related through marriage to someone who is a foreign national.

If a US citizen wishes to bequeath an asset to a loved one who is a foreign citizen, that person is considered a foreign beneficiary of US estate assets. Transferring estate assets to a foreign beneficiary can be more complex than transferring to beneficiaries who are US citizens.

International Estate Planning Challenges Can Arise in a Variety of Scenarios

Another situation in which international estate planning laws may be implicated arises when an estate includes assets located outside the country. US residents may travel internationally and have property interests located in other countries. International estate planning involving this type of asset may be subject to the laws of the country where the asset is located. Any wishes to distribute funding to charities or other organizations not located within the US could also be subject to the estate planning laws of the country where the charity or organization is located.

International estate planning challenges also exist for non-US citizens, individuals with dual citizenship, or US citizens living abroad. In short, any situation that involves multiple countries of residence, or property-ownership or distribution across international borders will benefit from the expertise of an international estate planning attorney.

International Estate Planning Laws

The applicable US law for international estate planning at the federal level is found in Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Applying federal tax laws to a specific situation can be a difficult task. Professional guidance is a must to identify the areas of law that pertain to your unique situation.

Two primary international estate planning challenges are the protection of assets and minimizing estate taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers informational articles detailing the effects of estate tax laws on both US citizens and non-citizens, including a discussion on which non-citizens with US assets need to file estate tax returns.

Misunderstanding which international estate planning laws apply can carry potentially large financial repercussions, particularly when an appropriate plan is not in place before a person's death. For example, the IRS has the right to recover unpaid estate taxes from beneficiaries who received distributions from an indebted estate.

Complexity of International Estate Planning

International considerations present their own unique challenges, and it is wise to engage an international estate planning attorney rather than hope that the attorney who assists you is familiar with international estate planning law and develops your estate plan accordingly.

Given the many complexities of international estate planning, it is wise to have the right professional on your side. Anna M. Price of Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC has the experience an attorney needs to guide you through international estate planning issues. Anna can be reached by phone at (304) 521-2300, toll-free at (866) 617-4736, or you may complete her online contact form.