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Attorney Randy Ratliff

Estate Planning with a Non-Citizen Spouse

Nashville Attorney Helping Families Protect Their Future

Whether you are old or young, married or single, wealthy or of more modest means, it is always a good idea to talk to an attorney about basic estate planning instruments, such as a last will and testament. Your attorney will ask you several questions to determine exactly which estate planning tools best suit your current situation. If, for instance, you happen to be married to someone who is not an American citizen, you may have very different legal needs from the “average” person, especially if you have acquired a certain level of wealth and are entering your later years. At the Randy Ratliff Law Offices, PLLC, our Nashville estate planning lawyer can assist couples with estate planning involving a non-citizen spouse, helping them maximize the amount that will be passed on to their heirs and beneficiaries.

There are some aspects of estate planning, such as the need for powers of attorney and health care proxies, that tend to be the same regardless of the citizenship of the person signing the documents. For example, both American citizens and non-citizens may execute a living will or durable power of attorney for health care so that members of the medical community are on notice as to whom the signer of the document wishes to designate to make health care decisions should they become legally incompetent at some point in the future. Citizenship status is also not material to determinations regarding the extent to which life support and other extraordinary measures should be used to extend a person’s life in situations in which there is little or no hope of a recovery from an accident or a permanently disabling illness.

Non-Citizens May Have Special Legal Needs When Planning Their Estate

However, while non-citizens may also enter into documents such as wills or trusts, there are special considerations that should be taken into account when passing wealth to or from a non-citizen. Although there is a strong likelihood that U.S. courts will honor the general bequests and directives of these documents, the tax consequences – especially for larger estates – can be significantly different when one or both spouses is a non-citizen. Tax laws are always changing, so it is important to speak to a qualified estate planning attorney about your particular situation regarding issues like federal estate and gift taxes, marital deductions, and similar concerns.

If one or both spouses own property located outside the U.S., this issue should also be considered in planning for an estate involving a non-citizen spouse. It should be noted that people who pass away without having sought legal counsel regarding the dispersion of their assets upon death are subject to the laws of intestate succession, which direct to whom one’s property passes under automatic operation of law rather than through the directives of a will or trust. While this “default estate plan” works for some people, people who are married to a non-citizen are strongly advised to speak to an attorney about the difference that careful estate planning and tax sheltering can make to the amount that is ultimately passed to a surviving spouse or the next generation.

Contact a Diligent Attorney in the Nashville Area to Learn More About Your Options

At the Randy Ratliff Law Offices, PLLC, we work hard to ensure that our clients’ assets are protected to the full extent of the inheritance and tax laws of the State of Tennessee and the federal government. Whether you have a large, complicated estate involving a non-citizen spouse or just want to learn more about ways to avoid probate of a more traditional estate, we are here to help. We serve people in cities such as Nashville, Antioch, Hermitage, Madison, Goodlettsville, Joelton, Franklin, Brentwood, and Cool Springs, as well as elsewhere in Davidson and Williamson Counties. Call us at 615-656-8282 or contact us online to schedule a confidential appointment to discuss your specific legal needs. Together, we can formulate an effective plan for securing your family’s assets in the years to come.