Estate planning has never killed anyone, and it is an indispensable step for the future, your own and that of your loved ones. Keep in mind that, if you don’t take the trouble to write a valid will, the laws of your State have one ready for you, one that may not reflect at all your wishes.
Who will inherit your house if you leave no will? What will happen if you have an accident that leaves you unable to make the most important decisions concerning your health and property? Will your heirs need to go to Probate Court to have their rights recognized? Our answers to these questions may come as a surprise.
If you own property in more than one country, your assets may be subject to different, sometimes conflicting laws. This is where the advice of an attorney familiar with international issues then becomes crucial, because the use of traditional “cookie cutter” estate plans in an international context can lead to legal and tax disaster.
For instance, French law misunderstands the concept of trust, disregards its legitimate estate planning purposes and treats it as a tax evasion vehicle. French assets transferred into a trust entail the obligation for the trustee to file special tax returns and may trigger hefty penalties and fines.
French expatriates who consider going back to France as residents should avoid irrevocable trusts, and limit themselves to revocable trusts, as any trusts they set up while residing in the United States may need to be revoked upon their return to France.
This is the type of mistake we can help you spot and avoid. We are here to answer your questions.