the Statue of Liberty, the Russian colorful basilica and an aerial view of Miami's coastline with the title "Five Steps to Multijurisdictional Estate Planning"

Five Steps to Multijurisdictional Estate Planning

For many, the warmer climate and a lack of state income tax make Florida an attractive location for people to take up residence for at least a part of the year.  Many people from other US states as well as other countries make this decision every year. For these individuals and families, a multijurisdictional estate plan is highly recommended.  This would be an estate plan that takes into account the estate planning laws in the US states and countries in which these individuals and families have assets. 

  1. Finding the Right Advisor

Any individual or family with property in more than one US State or in more than one country would be wise to seek out legal advice from an estate planning attorney with the following three characteristics:

  • Extensive knowledge and experience in Florida estate planning law
  • The ability to thoroughly research the laws of the jurisdictions where there may be additional assets
  • The willingness and ability to cooperate with attorneys from other US and/or non-US jurisdictions  

If, for example, an individual lives between New York, Miami and Moscow and has assets in each of those cities it would be ideal to have a Florida lawyer who can cooperate with New York and Russian attorneys.  In such a case, it would be an advantage if the Florida lawyer was fluent in Russian to facilitate such cooperation.

  1. Identifying the Playing Field

Once an estate attorney has been selected, the next step could be to identify where assets are located, what type of assets they are and where the individual or family maintains a legal residence. For estate planning purposes, assets can be separated into two categories: tangible assets, such as real estate; and intangible assets, such as bank accounts.  Typically, tangible assets would be subject to the estate planning law where the asset is physically located. Intangible assets on the other hand are subject to the estate planning laws of the jurisdiction where the owner resides. 

  1. Identifying Planning Options

After identifying the assets owned and determining the residency of the individual or family in question, the estate planning attorney would be in a position to make recommendations. There are a number of options that can benefit an owner of assets across multiple jurisdictions.  

One of these may be to create a revocable trust. Doing so, at least for multi-state cases that are entirely US-based, helps families and individuals to avoid multiple probate proceedings in different jurisdictions.  Close cooperation with an attorney or attorneys from the state or states where assets are owned is essential since the details of probate law can vary widely from state to state.  In some international cases, it is possible to create a revocable trust with similar estate planning results. However, in many countries creating wills and trusts are not an option.  These countries prohibit individuals from creating documents that decide where assets go after death. In these “forced heirship” jurisdictions, the law dictates the percentage of the decedent’s assets that must go to specific family members. In some international jurisdictions,  the law does not recognize trusts as a concept.  In such places creating a revocable trust to avoid multiple probate cases will simply not work.

“Typically, tangible assets would be subject to the estate planning law where the asset is physically located.”

  1. Determining the Best Mix of Assets

Since jurisdiction can affect how wealth is passed onto future generations, an experienced estate attorney can advise on the best asset mix for posterity across multiple jurisdictions.  Would it be advantageous to sell real estate in a particular jurisdiction and purchase in another? Which state or country provides the best environment for bank accounts and other intangible assets?

Working closely with legal partners in the different jurisdictions, a Florida estate planning attorney can provide a legal opinion that answers these questions, potentially saving a family or individual the significant amounts of time and money that can be incurred with the death or incapacitation of a principal.

  1. Realizing the Return on Investment

The legal costs of multijurisdictional estate planning can be more costly than those incurred if assets and residence are all within the same state.  However, it is important to consider that proper planning typically saves individuals and families exponentially more once death or incapacitation of a principal occurs.  Therefore it is highly recommended that an up-to-date estate plan is maintained that includes all assets across all jurisdictions and takes into account the legal residence of the principal and the local laws affecting all of the assets.  The return on investment of maintaining a current estate plan is worth the expense.

South Florida Law

Estate planning is best done with the help of experienced professionals.  While tax and financial professionals can play an essential role in the process, there are many non-financial aspects that can best be handled by an attorney with experience handling such issues in your state.  South Florida Law is a boutique law firm with big law firm resources, allowing you to get the attention to detail and the experience necessary to draft and review documents to handle both the financial and non-financial aspects of your estate planning needs.

You never know when you will need to have had a plan in place.  Be sure to have one done before it’s too late.  Contact South Florida Law today via our contact form or (954) 900-8885.

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