If you move to another country from the United States, you may need to change your will or your overall estate plan. You simply cannot count on laws applying to your will in the same way when you change the place that you live.
What Are the Potential Consequences of Not Changing Your Will?
There are many, many potential negative consequences of not changing your will. For example:
- Your will may be disregarded when your estate is distributed
- Your estate may be distributed very unequally depending on where property is located
- Someone important to you could be disinherited
- Your estate could owe expensive taxes
Different countries have very different laws on how estates of deceased people get distributed. As a result, your will may need to change if you move internationally.
What Kinds of Laws Do Other Countries Have About Inheritance?
Unlike most state laws in the United States, some countries’ laws require that citizens or residents distribute their estates to certain people. For example, countries with forced heirship regimes require that a portion of each person’s estate goes to their children, grandchildren, or spouse. France has a forced heirship regime, but it does allow the money remaining in the estate after the forced heirship distributions to go to people of your choice. As a result, you may need a new will that accounts for those distributions and passes on the rest of the estate to others.
Further, other countries have different laws about which wills are valid or invalid. For example, Germany recognizes handwritten wills signed without witnesses, while U.S. state laws generally require witnesses to the deceased’s signature on the will. While you might not have intended that your handwritten list of wishes take legal effect, it might do so in Germany. Other countries may have different laws that could invalidate your will that is perfectly legal in the United States.
As a result, you need to get legal advice about your will and your other estate planning before or soon after you move to a new country. Make sure you understand the inheritance and estate laws in the new country so that your property passes to the people of your choice with minimal expense and hassle.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.