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 have no will or trust? 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 court to have their rights recognized through probate proceedings? 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 a traditional “cookie cutter” estate plan in an international context can lead to legal and tax disaster.
For instance, French law is not friendly to the concept of trust. It ignores 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 returning to France as residents should stay clear of irrevocable trusts, and limit themselves to revocable trusts, as any trusts they set up while residing in the United States may need to be wound down before their return to France.
This is the type of costly mistake we can help you avoid. We are here to answer your questions.