International Estate Planning: How to Ensure Your Wishes Are Followed Worldwide



Protect your global assets and ensure a smooth transfer of wealth with expert international estate planning. Navigate cross-border legal complexities here


Importance of International Estate Planning

We live in a highly globalized world where members of one family are spread out in different parts of the world. These global citizens face a unique set of challenges, including cross-border estate planning to secure the interests of their family and generational wealth. 

Estate planning is a complex process that becomes even more so when it involves multiple countries and different legal systems. 

Things get incredibly complicated when a U.S.-based citizen or green card holder has decedents or beneficiaries living in other countries. Consider hiring an estate planning attorney, as improper estate planning has far-reaching consequences.

International Estate Law

International estate law refers to the laws and regulations that govern the distribution of assets in the event of the death of someone who resided in various countries or was a citizen of multiple countries.

This branch of law can be complex due to the difficulty in ensuring that the laws of all relevant countries have been taken into account.


U.S. Estate and Tax Law


U.S. estate and tax laws can also present challenges for international estate planning. The U.S has some specific laws that apply to their citizens or residents who own assets abroad, such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).

It’s essential to understand federal estate tax and other laws and consult with an attorney or tax advisor for guidance.

Cross-Border Trust

A cross-border trust is established in one country but has assets located in another country. These trusts can help protect assets from creditors and reduce tax liability, but they can also be subject to the laws and regulations of multiple countries.

International Estate Planning Strategies


It is essential to develop a comprehensive strategy that considers the different laws and regulations of the countries involved to overcome the challenges associated with international estate planning. Some strategies that can be used to plan your international estate include:

Offshore Trusts

An offshore trust is established in a country other than where the grantor resides. These trusts can help protect assets from creditors and reduce tax liability.


International Wills

Creating an international will recognized and enforced in multiple countries is sometimes possible. This can help ensure that your wishes are carried out as intended.


Dual-Citizenship Estate Planning

If you have dual citizenship, it may be possible to use the laws of both countries to your advantage in estate planning.


Asset Protection

This can be achieved through various measures, such as transferring ownership of assets to an offshore company or trust, taking out insurance policies, or utilizing pre-nuptial agreements.

Challenges Associated With International Estate Planning

International estate planning poses several challenges that make it difficult to ensure your assets are protected and your wishes fulfilled. Some of the main challenges associated with international estate planning include the following:

Complex Laws and Regulations

Each country has its estate planning laws and regulations, making navigation of the process difficult. It can be challenging to understand how different laws apply to your assets and how they will be distributed in the event of your death.

Taxation Issues

Tax laws vary from one country to another, and different types of assets may be subject to different tax rates. This can make it challenging to minimize tax liability and ensure your assets are distributed as intended.


Difficulty in Creating and Enforcing International Wills

In some cases, creating an international will recognized and enforced in multiple jurisdictions may be difficult. This can make it difficult to ensure your wishes are fulfilled as intended.


Difficulty in Tracking and Managing Assets

When assets are spread out across multiple countries, tracking and managing them effectively can be difficult. This can make the protection of your assets a complex task.

Hire an Estate Planning Attorney 

It is crucial to ensure that estate planning is done in compliance with the laws of the different countries involved. Hiring an estate planning attorney is an effective way to protect the rights of you and your loved ones. 

Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, has extensive experience assisting cross-border families or those with complex or sizeable net worth. Schedule a free consultation with him to start your journey toward financial security today.