So many persons may happen to have estates across countries with families and loved ones elsewhere or in some situations where some get married to a foreigner or invest in foreign countries and all these could make estate planning quite challenging. However, synchronizing your international estates will require legal experts with vast knowledge, understanding and wealth of experience in such issues as estate succession and tax laws in the relevant countries that will affect the effectiveness of a will in the event of death.
Difficulties In Estate Planning For Expatriates And Multinational Families
In spite of the different estate tax laws in different states in America, however, these differences are barely noticeable because they all are founded on the same foundation in legal matters. But the contrary is the case across nations or internationally. While the Americans use the common law, the Europeans and Africans use the civil law. The common law is a legal system developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals (also called case law), as distinguished from legislative statutes or regulations promulgated by the executive branch. Whereas civil law is Roman law based on the Corpus Juris Civilis; it is the body of law dealing with the private relations between members of a community; it contrasts with common law. It contrasts with criminal law, military law and ecclesiastical law as well.
Common Law Offers Significant Planning Pliability
As regards estate planning, common law allows or gives an individual (the trustor) the freedom to decide who and who to receive what and what, he or she has the liberty to decide how his or her properties or estates should be distributed when he or she dies. Hence, a will is very vital as it determines how the estate of the decendent is to be distributed via the probate process. However, a trust can help avoid the probate process and the taxation of the estate likewise. Also based on common law, the estate is normally taxed before it is transferred to the beneficiary or named heir. Meanwhile, in a situation where there’s no will, the estate becomes intestate and it is distributed based on the state laws.
Civil Law Operates Based On Succession
This is similar to the intestate laws followed in common law in the absence of a will when an individual dies. This implies that even while alive an individual cannot determine how his or her estate should be distributed in the event of his or her death. So, a will is almost of no use in civil law unlike in common law. Again, taxation of the estate takes place during distribution unlike in common law where the estates are taxed before distribution. That is, the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate are being taxed in civil law. Meanwhile, a trust is of no relevance when civil law is in operation.
Citizenship and Residency
An expatriate should have a good understanding of the laws and requirements concerning citizenship and residency in any country he lives and in which he possess properties. The estate plans of an expatriate will not only be altered by relocating to a new place with different laws, but also how long he or she intends to stay in the new location is another contributing factor and likewise how much of his riches he invests in the new location.
International Transfer of Tax Credits
The transfer tax for an expatriate is determined by the following factors;
1. The type of assets
2. The location of the assets
3. The accessiblity of tax credits in significant areas where there is an overlap of levied taxes
4. The relevance of an estate tax agreement or protocol between the US and the country of residence
Usful techniques for international tax estate planning includes; Wills, Trusts, Life insurance, Gifting, personal investment companies, college savings etc.
Estate Planning In The Case Of A Non-citizen
People live, work and own properties overseas and happen to marry from their country of residence or a foreigner altogether. Sadly, the difficulties in taxation faced by American expatriates also occurs in a situation where they marry foreigners. In spite of having a permanent resident in the US, spouse who are foreigners do not enjoy the unlimited marital deduction on gifts and inheritance transferred to them by their spouse. Although they enjoy the 2019 $11.4 million lifetime exclusion.