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October 24, 2010


If you have assets or live outside of the USA you need to plan your estate carefully. You most likely need to do a will or,  if applicable, a trust in the country in which you live (or own the asset) which provides for the disposition of your asset in the event of your death. You also need to determine what type of taxes (inheritance or transfer tax) your heirs may incur upon your death.  In some foreign countries failure to do a will or trust could result in your offshore assets being distributed under that country's laws and could result in people inheriting the property other than those you would prefer.  Some countries may honor your US will or trust and others may not.  It is easier often have specific instruments drawn up in each country you own assets that comply with local law by a local attorney to avoid potential problems and expense later if that country does not or has difficulties honoring a US will or trust.

Remember, if you have executed a power of attorney appointing someone to handle your affairs, in most countries that document will expire upon your death. Therefore do not rely on that document to handle the disposition of your foreign assets after your death.

Of course, you must also prepare to US will or  living trust (which avoids probates and a lot of expense and time) to cover the disposition of your US assets and which also states the disposition of your foreign assets the same as a foreign trust or will you have had prepared.

The US will impose its estate tax on your worldwide assets, though it will allow a credit in most situations for any foreign inheritance tax you had to pay on assets located outside of the US.  Until Congress amends the law, starting in 2011 all estates in excess of $1 million will be subject to US estate tax which are high.  If you are married special provisions can be inserted in your US will or trust to secure estate tax savings.

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