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Palm Springs Law Blog

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

What Happens When A Non-U.S. Citizen Dies in California?

As a proud melting pot of the world, the U.S. often becomes home to non-U.S. citizens. But what happens when a non-U.S. citizen dies in the U.S.? Generally speaking, this does not pose much of an issue for distributing that individual’s estate according to their wishes via their Will or other estate-planning documents. However, sometimes their estate plan does not take certain practical measures into consideration should they pass in the U.S.

It is not uncommon for a non-U.S. citizen’s family to want his or her body buried in their home country of origin. However, transporting a body overseas can be quite expensive. Without accounting for the added expenses by specifying funds to be used, it can become a problem.

Non-U.S. Citizens Who Reside in California

Alternatively, some non-U.S. citizens wish to be buried in the U.S. There is nothing against burying or cremating non-U.S. citizens in the U.S. When an individual dies in California and wants to be buried in the U.S., the state probate court may have legal jurisdiction to manage the distribution of his or her assets. It is especially likely for California to have such jurisdiction if the non-citizen lived in the state for a prolonged period of time or permanently – and owned property in California.

Non-U.S. Citizens Who Own Property in California

However, if a non-U.S. citizen did not live in California, but simply owned property in the state, the probate may need to conduct an ancillary proceeding concerning the real property in California. Any asset that is not real property (e.g. real estate, land, etc.) would be distributed according to the laws of the decedent’s country (or another state they live in).

Non-U.S. Citizens Who Neither Reside or Own Property in California

If a non-U.S. citizen living in the United States does not reside in California and does not own property there, probate will likely take place in either the other state in which they are domiciled or in the country from which they came (generally the place that has more of the individual’s property).

When it comes to taxes, the executor of the estate (or a representative of the estate) may be obligated to file them for both the U.S. and for California – both income taxes for the year of death as well as an estate tax return. The estate may owe additional taxes in other states or countries.

Heritage Legal, PC Helps Those in California to Create a Comprehensive Estate Plan

If you are a non-U.S. citizen residing in California, it is extremely important that your estate plan takes into account certain practical measures should you pass in California (or somewhere else in the U.S.) Those who fail to take these additional measures into consideration often leave their loved ones in a very difficult situation when trying to figure out the right next steps. Having a comprehensive estate plan that takes into account your lack of U.S. citizenship can not only save your loved ones time, money, and heartache but can also ensure that your wishes are carried out as you’d hoped.

It is for this reason that it is in the best interest of you and your loved ones to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced California Estate Planning Attorney.

At Heritage Legal, PC, we understand the importance of protecting the very things that you care about and helping to ease the burden on your family. We can help you to establish a comprehensive estate plan that meets your needs and the needs of your loved ones. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!


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