International Estate Planning: An Overview

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Estate planning in the case of international persons or assets is extremely complex. The following is an attempt to provide a very brief overview of the complexities involved. It is for information purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Feel free to contact us for a consultation in your particular situation.

The laws of which jurisdiction apply to my estate?

From the US point of view, it is possible for assets in different countries (even in different US states) to pass according to different laws. For example, for a person domiciled in Virginia the winter home in Florida passes according to Florida law, whereas the house in Southern France might pass according to French law.

This splitting is not the law in the European Union. There people may select in their will the law that should govern their entire estate, regardless of where the assets are located. They may choose either the law of the country of their citizenship or the law of the country of their domicile. This applies also to US citizens who live in the European Union.

How should I include my non-US assets in my estate plan?

Assets in civil-law countries (continental Europe, South America, etc.) should not be placed in US trusts. In many cases it is best to set up a local will. That will should be drafted very carefully in order not to undermine the US estate plan.