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Dealing with foreign assets in your estate planning

As it becomes easier, less expensive and more common to travel and do business overseas, more people are investing in assets in other countries. Maybe you used some of your retirement savings to buy a little beach house in Mexico. Perhaps you bought an investment property in Italy. Maybe you are part owner of a pub that an old friend opened in England.

It may seem hard to believe, but some people don’t realize that they need to include these assets in their estate plan. Unless you want your loved ones to have to figure out what to do with these assets in probate court after you’re gone and possibly end up paying unnecessary taxes on them, you need to deal with your foreign assets correctly in your estate plan.

Foreign assets shouldn’t just be lumped in with your other assets. It may be best, in fact, to have a separate will for assets held in another country. It’s best to have an attorney in that other country, too. Your estate planning attorney here in Tennessee will need to coordinate with that overseas attorney as both of these wills and other estate planning documents are written. You don’t want any of the provisions in them to cancel each other out. If the foreign will is written in another language, make sure that it’s properly translated so that you (and your heirs) understand what it says.

It’s essential to understand the tax implications of your foreign assets for your estate and your heirs. These vary by country and may be impacted by treaties between the U.S. and that country.

If, after all of this, you determine that you’d rather go ahead and give your foreign assets to family members or other beneficiaries while you’re still alive, you still need to make sure that you are in compliance with the laws of both countries. However you decide to proceed, your estate planning attorney can offer valuable advice.