5 Estate Planning Tips for Non-U.S. Citizens

Estate planning, although necessary, is never fun. Between federal estate taxes and state inheritance laws, designing a plan for your property after death — and drafting the essential documents — can be a major headache. Those arrangements can only get harder for non-U.S. citizens.

While navigating estate and immigration laws may seem overwhelming, here are five tips that can help simplify the process.

1. Figure Out Federal Laws

Federal estate taxes apply to all U.S. citizens and the estate of any deceased person who leaves property located within the United States. So resident aliens will be taxed in much the same way as citizens. The United States also imposes a tax on the gross estates of non-resident aliens, if the estate is larger than $50,000.

2. Study State Statutes

In the past, states would forgo their own estate taxes for a piece of the federal pie. But more states are imposing their own estate taxes, which can vary from state to state. And while the trend has been moving away from taxing property passed on after death, there are still states that enforce inheritance taxes.

3. Sort Out the Situs

Not familiar with the term? Situs refers to where property is located for legal reasons. While the situs of real property, like land or a home, may be easy to determine, personal property like stocks, bonds, cash, automobiles, and other personal effects can be more difficult, especially for non-citizens. Additionally, depending on applicable state law, the situs of property for the purpose of probate administration often differs from the property's situs for purposes of federal and state death taxes.

4. Trust a Trust

While the go-to estate planning document for many citizens is a will, it may not be particularly helpful to non-U.S. citizens. Trusts can help avoid administration of property via probate, even if property held in the trust may still be subject to federal estate taxes and state inheritance taxes.

5. Link Up With a Lawyer

Estate planning can be a complex process with overlapping, and sometimes conflicting legal concerns. And there are many things an estate planning lawyer can do that you can't. If you're a non-U.S. citizen or nonresident alien with questions about estate planning, contact an experienced attorney today.

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