You don’t have to be a billionaire to have foreign assets. Many Americans have property, businesses and other investments in foreign countries. Just as you deal with those assets separately when it comes to paying taxes, you also need to give special consideration to them as you do your estate planning.
Make sure that your California estate planning attorney knows about any foreign assets you own. Too often, people neglect to mention them. However, whether it’s a small cottage that once belonged to your great-grandparents in Ireland or a share of your college roommate’s wine business in Italy, you need to let your attorney know so that they can help you make whatever plans you have for them after you’re gone. Your attorney can also advise you of the potential impact on any taxes owed by your estate.
It’s also important to talk with an attorney in the country where your asset is. Countries have vastly different probate and tax laws. Sometimes, treaties between countries can impact how an American’s assets are taxed. Your California attorney and your attorney in the other country will likely need to work together as you develop your estate plan.
Your attorneys may recommend that you have separate wills — one in each country where you have assets. This should make the probate process easier for your family and other administrators and minimize the chances of violating any tax laws.
Dealing with a loved one’s estate can be complicated and time-consuming, even when all of the assets are in the U.S. If you don’t address the assets you own in other countries, your loved ones may have to travel abroad and possibly deal with legal documents written in a language they don’t know. You can make things easier for your family by making sure that you address your foreign assets as you draft your estate plan.