What Is Involved in International Estate Planning?

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  • Written By: K. Kinsella
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2019
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International estate planning, like domestic estate planning, involves an individual making plans for the liquidation of his or her estate. Additionally, people who have international estates have to contend with both domestic and foreign tax laws, property rights and account titling procedures. Therefore, international estate planning is often a complex procedure and many people hire lawyers who are familiar with international laws to help them through this process.

Typically, estate planning begins with the creation of a will or a trust document. This document includes a list of the creator or grantor's assets and detailed instructions explaining how these assets are to be divided among named beneficiaries upon the grantor's death. Rules about wills and trusts vary between regions and nations so the grantor may have to have several versions of the same document created to ensure that at least one version of the will exists that complies with the laws in each nation within which the grantor or will writer owns assets. Thereafter, a copy of the will must be given to each named representative who will have a hand in managing the estate upon the creator's death.


Anyone who owns foreign assets must find out how those assets can be transferred to another individual upon the death of the owner. In some nations, property owners may have to add named pay-on-death beneficiaries on real estate titles and bank accounts while in other instances trust entities may have to be created in order for the assets to be passed onto a new owner. Additionally, laws exist in some countries that mean that assets are normally passed directly to the decedent's family members or even the regional government. Therefore, estate planners must find ways to legally transfer assets to other individuals before those assets are seized by the government, by creditors or other relations.

International estate planning involves complex tax computations because some estates are subject to taxation in more than one nation. Many people work with certified tax professionals in order to find the most tax efficient way to transfers funds between nations. Some people open bank accounts in neutral nations that have minimal taxes and arrange to have estate proceeds deposited into these accounts. While such arrangements are often legal, deposits involving tax havens may violate laws in the estate owner's own country. Lawyers and accountants engaged in international estate planning must ensure that the entire estate plan falls within the boundaries of the law in all of the nations within which the estate owner has assets.


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