What to Know About Estate Planning for Non-U.S. Citizens

Known as a melting pot of the world, the U.S. is made up of people from all over the world. It is also home for numerous non-U.S. citizens, who spend a large part of their lives in this country. The Washington, DC metro area has many non-citizens residing here, some being lawful permanent residents (“Green Card” holders), while others are here on educational, business, or other visas. And some folks, of course, do not have any formal legal status in the U.S.

Many of these individuals not only live in the U.S. but also die in the U.S. So what happens when a non-U.S. citizen passes away? When a non-U.S. citizen passes away in the U.S. his or her estate will generally be distributed according to the state law of the state where they were residing, but only those assets with ties to the state. For example, Virginia has no authority over any property in the country of Colombia, but similarly has no authority over property in the District of Columbia. In addition to the distribution of real estate and personal property, there are other issues that  many non-U.S. citizens forget to account for which can add complexity and cost to the settling of an Estate. 

You Have Had A Funeral–What Happens Next?

Sometimes non-U.S. citizens who die do not want to be buried in the U.S., but instead they – or their families – would like their body/cremains returned to their country of origin. While this is legally permissible and there are services that specialize in this type of transport for burial, many non-U.S. citizens fail to set aside the money needed to return their remains back to their home country and sometimes do not make it clear to their loved ones that this is their intention. This makes it much more difficult for families looking to finance this final trip. An insurance policy intended for this specific activity can be an excellent way to ensure that this process goes smoothly and efficiently.

When is there a need to involve a Probate Court?

A non-citizen dies in VA/DC/MD and Lived for an Extended Period of Time There

When someone passes away in Virginia, Washington, DC, or Maryland, and wants to be buried there, it’s probable that the probate court will have jurisdiction in regards to overseeing the distribution of the decedent’s assets. This is even more likely if the decedent had lived in the U.S. permanently or for a long period of time at the time that they died.

Owns Property in VA/DC/MD But Does Not Reside There

If a non-U.S. citizen owns property, particularly real estate, in a state or in DC, but does not live there, the probate court may have to conduct a secondary proceeding known as Ancillary Probate. Non-real estate property will be distributed according to the laws of the U.S. state in which they resided or the laws of their country of citizenship.

Does Not Own Property in VA/DC/MD and Does Not Reside There

If the individual does not reside in or own real estate in Virginia or the surrounding jurisdictions served by Reilly Law, PLC, the probate process will likely occur in the place that has the majority of the individual’s property, which may well be their country of citizenship.  However, the estate executor or a representative may be required to file income taxes for the U.S. and the state of residence as well as an estate tax return if their assets exceed the $11 million plus Federal estate tax exemption. Other taxes may also be owed to another state or country.

Reilly Law PLC Helps Those in the DC Metro Area Who Are in Need of a Comprehensive Estate Plan

At Reilly Law PLC, we understand the importance of protecting your wishes. We call what we do at  “Peace of Mind Planning” because we work with and for our clients to help them get a customized plan in place. We will help you to create a living will and a comprehensive estate plan that meets your wishes and makes the lives of your loved ones easier. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!