How Can I Leave My Estate to My Non-Citizen Sibling Who Lives Overseas?

 In Durable Powers of Attorney, Non-US Citizens, Trustee, Wills
non citizen beneficiary

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Question:

I am a American citizen and want to leave my house/money in bank/stock and life insurance benefits to a sibling in another country.  Who would I talk to get this process started? A lawyer? I have a close friend in U.S. I don’t understand the term “Trustee” – is it more like a person/close friend to hep my money and all remaining financial asset to transfer to my sibling.

Response:

It seems like you have three separate questions. I’ll try to respond to each in turn.,

First, in terms of leaving your property to your sibling who lives outside the United States, this is really no different from leaving assets to someone in the United States. You can simply name your sibling in your will, your trust, or as beneficiary of  any of your retirement accounts or investment accounts that permit the naming of a beneficiary. It can, however, be a bit more difficult for people outside the United States to gain access to accounts after your death due to communication and language challenges and because some financial institutions are skittish about dealing with people overseas due to various anti-terrorism laws in the United States. So it would make sense to name your close friend as executor or trustee, which I’ll discuss a bit more below.

Second, I would recommend consulting with an estate planning lawyer to help set everything up. You don’t say whether you yourself are in or outside of the United States, but I assume you have property, whether real estate or accounts, in the United States. So, I would recommend using an American attorney. There are a number of ways to find a qualified attorney. I always recommend starting by asking around to people you know, whether friends, relatives, or trusted advisors, such as other attorneys, accountants, or financial planners. Such people will have had experience working with lawyers and know who to recommend. Otherwise, a good place to look is the American College of Trusts and Estate Counsel (ACTEC).

Third, I would recommend naming your friend as personal representative or executor of your will and as your agent under a durable power of attorney. It may also make sense to set up a trust and name him or her as your co-trustee. A trust is a separate financial entity that can be used to avoid probate and manage your assets, whether during your life if you become incapacitated or after your death for the benefit of your sibling. You can read more about trusts in my new book, The Baby Boomers Guide to Trusts: Your All-Purpose Estate Planning Tool.

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