Roseville, CA (Law Firm Newswire) June 20, 2016 - It can be challenging to administer the estate of a deceased California resident who, at one time, was a citizen of a foreign country, or the estate of a deceased non-resident of California who is the owner of real property in California.
Consider the case of a deceased California resident whose most recent will was executed in another state or country.
Under California law, a will that was executed in another state or nation can be enforced in California if it was completed in compliance with the law of the place where it was established, California law or the Uniform International Wills Act. Therefore, a foreign will that was legally executed is eligible for the probate process in California. If the will is drafted in a language other than English, it is required to be translated to be admitted in court.
“The probate process must be administered properly in order for a decedent’s wishes to be carried out,” said David Wade, a prominent Roseville, California, estate planning attorney. “Additionally, in cases of multiple jurisdictions, including other states or countries, clients should consult an attorney who is knowledgeable about the inheritance laws that apply in the U.S. and abroad.”
A California probate court can order the distribution of all real property located in California and all personal property located in any part of the United States. However, any real property that is situated outside California, and all property that is situated outside the United States is governed by the laws of the state or country of its location. Consider the case of a French citizen who relocates to California, and becomes a permanent resident either by obtaining U.S. citizenship or resident alien status. If such an individual secures ownership of real and personal property in California, but still possesses real and personal property in France, which laws will apply to the disposition of the property?
If the most recent will was legally executed in France, then that will can be probated in California and France. However, if the last will was executed in California, and the previous French will was revoked, then the California will governs the transfer of all real property situated in California, and all personal property situated anywhere in the United States. However, the laws of France would apply to the disposition of property in France and to the admissibility of any California will in French courts. Thus, in order to transfer title to property in France, there must be a court proceeding in France.
Furthermore, French laws concerning inheritance rights of family members will supersede any gifts made in the decedent’s will that may be in violation of French laws. However, the succession laws of France do not provide for a surviving spouse. Thus, if a person did not make a will, and had bought the property in France individually, the surviving spouse would not be entitled to that property.
Another issue that could arise with respect to foreign property is double taxation. There is a possibility that as foreign property is transferred, U.S. estate tax will apply, as will the tax of the foreign nation. Upon the death of a U.S. citizen who owns property in a foreign country, the property in the foreign country will be subject to U.S. estate tax provided that it is subject to taxation.
There are also cases in which the domicile of the decedent affects the location where a will can be submitted for probate. For instance, if the decedent spent an equal amount of time in California and New York, the court will weigh a number of factors to determine which state was the decedent’s legal home, or domicile. Among these are social, religious and medical connections in the state coupled with a demonstrated desire to remain in the state.
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