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Orange County International Estate Planning Lawyer

The Orange County international estate planning lawyers at Evolution Tax and Legal offer international estate planning services and implementation for U.S. citizens, residents, as well as non-resident aliens with assets situated in the United States.

International estate planning is a complex and nuanced area of U.S. tax law. Estate planning requires a thorough understanding of U.S. international tax law and applicable tax treaties the United States has with other countries. In addition, an international estate planner has to understand your needs and desires as a client and be able to put together the right estate plan to best meet your generational wealth planning goals. Generally, these goals are a combination of a person’s desire to pass certain assets to his or her descendants, charitable desires, and want to minimize taxes imposed on the transfer of assets upon his or her passing.

Contact Evolution Tax and Legal today to schedule a free consultation and learn how an Orange County international estate planning attorney can help you meet your goals.

International Estate Planning Attorney

Our International Estate Planning Services

A qualified Orange County tax attorney at Evolution Tax and Legal can provide the following international estate planning services to our clients:

  • Estate planning and implementation – Our Orange County international estate planning lawyers can provide estate planning for U.S. citizens, American ex-pats, and non-U.S. citizens and residents. We also provide estate planning for U.S. citizens and ex-pats with family members in foreign countries and those with non-U.S. citizen spouses.

  • Tax planning – We provide tax planning for American ex-pats and non-US citizens and residents with investments based in the US.

  • Estate advice and preparation – Advising on and preparation of information reporting requirements regarding foreign assets, accounts, and interests.

  • Will and trust drafting – In addition to international estate planning, our team can also be your resource for the drafting of a will and/or a trust to implement your international estate planning goals. In addition to understanding the formalities of intestacy and asset preservation law, our team are experts in estate and gift tax law and can combine these areas to bring you an optimal estate plan.

Estate Planning FAQ’s

Are foreign assets subject to the US estate tax?

Yes. Generally, when a citizen of the United States dies and owns property in a foreign country, the property in the foreign country will be subject to the US estate tax if the estate is in excess of the applicable exemption amount.

In these situations, it is possible that the property passing through the estate through a decedent will be subject to tax twice—once in the US and once again in the foreign jurisdiction where the property sits.

The United States has estate tax treaties in place with the following countries: Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The treaties in place with these countries allow the country where the property is located to tax the estate, provided that it is the non-domiciliary country. Further, if the domiciliary country taxes the estate for the foreign property, it must then provide a credit to the estate to cover the foreign country’s tax. For example, if a U.S. decedent owns property in Italy, Italian estate tax laws will apply. The United States will then provide a credit in the U.S. estate tax to cover the Italian estate tax. In essence, the estate will pay the higher of the two countries’ estate taxes. Only the domiciliary country may tax personal property, such as vehicles and any furniture.

What is the estate tax exemption for US citizens?

Currently, US citizens and residents are provided an exemption from the US estate tax of 40% on up to $11,580,000 worth of assets passing through an estate, as provided on an individual basis. Married couples are afforded and estate tax exemption of double this amount (e.g. $11,580,000 per person). This estate tax exemption is set to decline beginning in 2026. On January 1, 2026, the exemptions are set to revert to $5.6 million, indexed for inflation from 2018.

What is the estate tax exemption for non-US citizens?

The US estate tax exemption for non-US citizens and residents is significantly below the current $11,580,000 exemption afforded to each US citizen and/or resident. This $11,580,000 drops down to $60,000 for non-US citizens and resident with US situs assets.

It is important to note that if a non-US alien enters the U.S. for even a brief period of time, with no definite present intention of later leaving the U.S., he or she is deemed to be domiciled in the U.S. and, therefore, is considered a U.S. resident for estate tax purposes. In this scenario, the non-U.S. alien will be afforded the same $11,580,000 estate tax exemption provided to US citizens and/or residents.

Will my estate planning documents, such as my will or trust, cover the assets I hold overseas?

If you own property abroad it may not necessarily be covered by your US will.

There are two types of property. These are known as “moveable property” and “immovable property”.

“Immoveable property” covers property that cannot be physically moved and includes land and buildings. Normally immovable property will be subject to the inheritance laws of the country in which the property is situated.

“Moveable property” covers property that can be physically moved, for example, money, shares, and personal belongings. Normally moveable property will be covered by your US will.

If your overseas property is not covered by your US will then it will pass in accordance with the inheritance laws of the country in which it is situated.

Even if your US will purports to cover your overseas property such provision may not necessarily be valid. The reason for this is that in many countries the inheritance laws are very different from those of the US and as a result, you may not be able to leave your overseas property to whoever you wish.

What happens if I receive a foreign inheritance or gift?

If you receive a foreign inheritance or gift in excess of $100,000 in any given year, this has to be reported to the IRS on Form 3520, Annual Return To Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts as part of your annual tax filings.

IRS Form 3520 will require you to report the nature and amount of your foreign inheritance or gift, so long as you are required to prepare and file it with Form 3520.

In addition, if you become the beneficiary of a foreign trust or estate by reason of foreign inheritance laws, you will have to report your interest as a beneficiary in such foreign trust on Form 3520.

However, if there is a failure to properly report a foreign inheritance or gift on Form 3520, there are options for you to get your self back into compliance. The IRS offers various voluntary disclosure programs that allow US taxpayers to come out and disclose previous improper reporting positions or failures to properly report in exchange for varying levels of protection based on what program you enter.

What are my reporting obligations if I am the beneficiary of a foreign trust or estate?

If you become the beneficiary of a foreign trust or estate, you will have to report your interest in such foreign trust or estate to the IRS on Form 3520, Annual Return To Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts.

As part of this annual reporting requirement, you will have to report certain details about the foreign trust or estate, such as the assets and income of the foreign trust or estate. The failure to properly report your interest on Form 3520 can lead to significant civil penalties.

In addition, if the trustee of the foreign trust or estate does not themselves prepare and file Form 3520-A, Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner on the foreign trust estate’s behalf. This form requires certain details about the operations of the foreign trust or estate, such as assets and income earned by the foreign trust or estate in the given year.

Are there specific requirements for reporting foreign assets on an estate tax return?

The reporting of foreign assets on an estate tax return generally follow the same principles applicable to US situs property that is also subject to the estate tax.

As part of an estate tax filings, the details of foreign assets and respective valuations of such foreign assets will have to be reported on the estate tax filing and may be subject to the US estate tax.

How can I protect my foreign assets before immigrating to the U.S.?

Foreign nationals with considerable assets in their estate should consider building a comprehensive estate plan before they relocate to the United States. If the only plans you have are applicable to your current country of residence or if you don’t have any at all, consult with an international estate planning attorney to help you build a plan before your estate becomes exposed to the U.S. federal estate tax.

By working with international estate planning attorneys to establish a pre-residency trust, which allows you to defer taxes on your estate. In turn, future generations of your family can have you to thank for financially protecting them with the assets made available to them in your trust.

Orange County International Estate Planning Lawyer

How can I protect my foreign assets after leaving the U.S.?

Deceased nonresidents who were not American citizens are subject to U.S. estate taxation with respect to their U.S.-situated assets.

U.S.-situated assets include American real estate, tangible personal property, and securities of U.S. companies. A nonresident’s stock holdings in American companies are subject to estate taxation even though the nonresident held the certificates abroad or registered the certificates in the name of a nominee.

However, those who leave the US, but maintain their US citizenship or US Green card will have their assets become subject to the estate tax.

Thus, you may want to consider various options available to you if you no longer live in the US or intend to return to the US once you moved out of the country. One common option is to revoke or give up your US citizenship so you can avoid the imposition of US estate tax once you’ve left the country for good.

Who is subject to the US estate and gift tax?

US residents and citizens are subject to the US estate tax on their assets deemed to be a part of their gross estate upon passing. Deceased nonresidents who were not American citizens are subject to U.S. estate taxation with respect to their U.S.-situated assets.

U.S.-situated assets include American real estate, tangible personal property, and securities of U.S. companies. A nonresident’s stock holdings in American companies are subject to estate taxation even though the nonresident held the certificates abroad or registered the certificates in the name of a nominee.

Generally, the US estate tax is only applicable to the value of assets of a deceased person above a certain valuation. US residents and citizens are provided an estate tax exemption on gross assets up to $11,580,000 deemed to be apart of their gross estate. This amount is significantly less for non-US citizens and residents who have US situs assets. The estate tax exemption for non-US citizens and residents drops down to $60,000 for their US situs assets.

Contact Our International Estate Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If you are interested in having your estate plan reviewed OR are looking to have a will or trust drafted, give us a call at (949) 229-6015 to schedule a FREE consultation with an experienced international estate planning lawyer in Orange County, CA. 

The team at Evolution Tax and Legal can not only walk you through the international estate planning process, but we can also help you understand the tax impact of your estate plan set up.

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