FAQ: Estate Planning Guide for Non-US Citizens, Non-Residents


FAQ: Estate Planning Guide for Non-US Citizens or Non-Residents


Estate planning can seem complicated to anyone—but what about those who are not citizens or legal residents of this country? Do they have the same estate planning rights, resources, and structures available to them? And where should they begin in their estate planning efforts?

These are just some of the questions we get at Singh Law Firm from non-citizens who are zealous to prepare for the future and to leave a meaningful legacy for their loved ones. With specific questions, we invite you to contact our firm for a consultation. Until then, here are some bullet points to get you started.


Commonly Asked Questions About Estate Planning for Non-Citizens


What kinds of estate taxes or penalties are imposed on non-citizens?

Those who are citizens or permanent legal residents of the United States have to be ready for estate and gift taxes on all worldwide assets. For non-citizens and non-residents, matters are a bit more complicated. These individuals, when deceased, are subject to estate taxes on all of their US-based assets. Such assets might include real estate, tangible property that is located in the US, and stocks/securities from US-based companies.

The U.S. has estate tax treaties with other countries, which generally provide non-residents with a lower burden of taxation. However, navigating some of these issues can be a little more complicated, and certainly calls for assistance from a seasoned estate planning attorney.


What about marriages between a citizen and a non-citizen?

When a U.S. citizen marries someone who is not a citizen or resident, that can usher in some additional complications.

For the purposes of the federal estate tax, you can transfer assets to your spouse and receive an unlimited estate tax deduction. This unlimited deduction is not available when the transfer is to a spouse who is not a citizen. Such transfers can, however, qualify placement within a Qualified Domestic Trust, or QDOT. A QDOT can provide an unlimited deduction on the transfer of assets to a spouse.


How does a QDOT work?

There are a few key guidelines and restrictions for a QDOT. For example:

  • The Trustee has to be either a US citizen or a US entity.
  • You can’t make any distributions from the trust—except for income—unless the trustee is permitted to withhold the US estate tax levied on this distribution.

To learn more about how a QDOT can be used in your estate plan, reach out to our attorneys at Singh Law Firm today.


Can non-citizens establish wills?

The will is the most basic tool of estate planning and it’s something we always tell people to start with; if you don’t do anything else in the way of estate planning, at the very least have a will in place. This is true for non-citizens, who may have a will, a trust, an advanced healthcare directive, and most any other type of estate planning provision.


Can non-citizens inherit property?

Another common question: Can those who are not citizens or residents inherit property in the United States? The short answer here is yes. A citizen may always leave assets to a non-citizen and that non-citizen may legally inherit it.

Read more about Estate Planning for Real Estate here.


Can non-citizens use their will to appoint a guardian for their children?

Yes, in fact, that’s one of the most important aspects of estate planning. If you have children under the age of 18, it’s vital to make sure they are cared for should you die unexpectedly. A will allows you to name the person you wish to serve as the child’s legal guardian. Ask one of our estate planning attorneys for additional information.


Where should I begin in my estate planning efforts?

Estate planning can bring up some complicated questions, and for non-citizens, those questions may be especially cumbersome. The best way to get clarity, and to learn more about your legal options, it to meet with an estate planning lawyer.

At Singh Law Firm, we are ready to sit down with you and discuss all your estate planning needs and goals; from there, we can talk together about some of the best solutions to help you achieve those goals. Contact us today to set up an appointment with an advanced estate planning attorney.