Estate Plans and Living Abroad

Feb 4, 2011

Having an estate plan is important, no matter what your age or where you live. Those Americans that live abroad should have an estate plan and also be aware of the estate and inheritance laws of the country where they are residing, even if the living arrangements are temporary. 

When you are making arrangements to live abroad for a period of time, likely one of the last things on your mind will be death, but it is important to understand that this is an inevitable for everyone, and there is no telling when we will be faced with it. Once someone realizes that death is a reality, they begin to see just how necessary an estate plan is. 

Even though you are an American citizen, if you are living in another country you will likely be subject to their laws, and each country does have different laws governing estates and inheritances. Some countries have very specific laws that dictate how an estate will be divided among heirs after someone dies. This is why it is very important that you become familiar with the laws of the country where you will be living, as it is these laws that will be governing your life while you are in that country. 

One way around this problem is to leave most of your assets in the United States when you move. If you only have the assets that you absolutely need in the country where you are residing, it is only those assets that that nation’s laws will govern. The rest of your assets will be in the United States and subject to U.S law. 

In addition to leaving the majority of your assets in the United States you will also want to ensure that you have plan that will cover more than just your estate. If you have minor children, you will want to ensure that you have a will that names someone as the guardian of your children. Make sure that you have a copy of this will, as well as the person you have named as guardian of your children. It is also a good idea to contact the U.S Embassy in the country where you reside to inform them that you are living in there for a time, and that you have small children with you. If something was to happen to you while living in a different country, the U.S Embassy could work with that country to ensure that your chosen guardian can take the children back to the United States. 

Obviously having an estate plan is important no matter what your circumstances, but it is very important if you are a U.S citizen that plans to live abroad.

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