Estate Planning for Non-U.S. Citizens Residing in Georgia

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Explore our in-depth guide on estate planning for non-U.S. citizens residing in Georgia, offering legal insights and solutions from The Law Office of Paul Black. Call us for more info.

Author: Paul Black

Paul’s experience as the son of two parents with big health challenges is what led him to the work he does today and gives him first-hand knowledge of the challenges that many caregivers and family members face. After graduation from GSU Law, Paul was chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide as one of three 2010-2011 Borchard Foundation Law & Aging Fellows. Paul has been named as  a SuperLawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Estate Planning and as a member of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend magazine. Published on: January 05, 2024.

Your Guide to Estate Planning for Non-U.S. Citizens in Georgia

Your Guide to Estate Planning for Non U.S. Citizens in Georgia sec

It’s never too early to start planning for your family’s future.

If you have questions, I’m here to help. There is no commitment and we provide free initial 15-minute phone calls. We look forward to meeting you.

If you own assets in Georgia and have yet to attain U.S. citizenship, your estate could be subject to multiple or very high taxes and other expenses when you pass.

These taxes/expenses could severely affect the value of assets that go to your beneficiaries and loved ones when you’re no longer around. For their sake, it is important that you take proactive steps to secure your estate by setting up a comprehensive estate plan to protect your assets and secure their inheritance.

Our capable estate planning attorney at The Law Office of Paul Black can help you create a suitable estate plan tailored to your unique circumstances.

Below, we explain some challenges you may encounter as a non-resident without estate planning and some strategies that could help you bypass the restrictions or liabilities attached to your immigration status. Keep reading to learn more.

Understanding Estate Planning in Georgia

Generally, any competent adult in Georgia has the right to determine how their assets are used during their lifetime and how they will be distributed after their passing. Many Georgia residents adopt several strategies to achieve this, including creating estate planning documents such as a will or a living trust.

If a person dies without executing a will or setting up an estate plan, their assets would be distributed according to Georgia state law.

For many U.S. citizens, a distribution according to state law does not pose any problems and, in some circumstances, may even be ideal. But because you do not qualify as a citizen, not having an estate plan is risky and could lead to several problematic situations, some of which we explore in the next section.

Critical Estate Planning Considerations for Non-U.S. Citizens

Estate Tax Liability 

Estate tax is payable when you transfer property to others upon your death. Georgia does not charge estate taxes, but the federal government does (at rates between 18 and 40% of the estate), subject to certain exemptions.

Generally, if you are not a U.S. resident citizen either by birth or naturalization, you are considered a non-resident unless you are a green card holder (that is, a lawful permanent resident) or you pass the substantial presence test by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) showing that you’ve been physically present in the U.S for a specific period.

The distinction between resident and non-resident for non-citizens is important for estate tax purposes because it determines whether or not you are eligible for the federal estate tax exemption and certain tax deductions.

 What Is the Federal Estate Tax Exemption?

As a rule, the federal estate tax exemption excludes estates valued below a certain amount from payment of estate tax. The threshold amount for the estates of people who die in 2024 is $13,610,000. Estates valued below that amount do not need to pay the federal estate tax.

If you qualify as a U.S. resident, you do not need to worry about federal estate taxes if your U.S. estate falls below that amount.

However, if you are not a resident or U.S. citizen, you do not qualify for the above federal exemption. You can only avoid estate tax if the fair market value of your assets within the U.S. does not exceed $60,000.

Ineligibility for the Marital Deduction

The marital deduction exempts property that passes to a surviving spouse from estate tax payments after one spouse’s death.

However, as a non-resident and non-citizen, your spouse does not qualify for the unlimited marital deduction unless they are a U.S. citizen or if the property passes to a qualified domestic trust.

Details of how qualified domestic trusts work and how they can help you minimize estate tax liability for your loved ones will be discussed later.

Problems Associated With Owning Property in Multiple Jurisdictions

Suppose you own property in Georgia and your home country. In that case, your assets could be subject to domestic and international laws after your death. This could lead to several problems, including the following:

Multiple Probate Actions

Your estate could be subject to probate in all the locations where you own property. Probate is a legal process (usually supervised by a probate court) used to oversee the administration and distribution of a deceased person’s estate. The process is often complex and lengthy, and until it is complete, your beneficiaries may be unable to access the assets you left for them in that jurisdiction.

There are steps you can take to avoid probate in Georgia. However, those steps may not apply to assets held in a different country.

The ideal way to handle such a situation is to develop a solid estate plan that addresses the possibility of multiple probate actions to make life easier for your loved ones in your absence.

Double Taxation 

Some countries charge their variation of estate or inheritance taxes over property transferred when a person dies.

If your home country collects such taxes and you need to pay the federal estate tax in the U.S., your beneficiaries would be left with a fraction of your estate after taxes, contrary to your intentions.

Therefore, if you wish for your loved ones to get the bulk of your estate, you must take the necessary steps as soon as possible to prevent such a situation.

Estate Planning Tools and Strategies for Non-residents

The Qualified Domestic Trust (QDOT)

The QDOT trust is an exemption to the marital deduction restriction for non-residents. Under a QDOT arrangement, the first-to-die spouse leaves assets to the trust instead of to the non-citizen spouse directly. 

Executing a QDOT trust or leaving instructions for the executors of your estate to that effect means that your spouse would not have to worry about federal estate taxes even if they are not U.S. citizens. 

However, QDOT trusts have strict legal conditions they must meet to be valid. If you believe you can benefit from a QDOT trust, contact an experienced Georgia estate planning lawyer for help. They can help you understand the rules governing this type of trust and how to create one that works.

International Estate Planning 

Wills and trusts are the most common estate planning tools for ensuring your wishes are respected even in death and for the protection of your loved ones. However, these legal tools are bound by the laws applicable in the jurisdiction where they are made such that a will or trust made in Georgia may not be legally binding in another country. 

If you have assets in the U.S. and in your home country, your situation, therefore, demands a different estate planning process- international estate planning to account for its unique challenges.

International estate planning is more complex than regular estate planning because of the multiple laws involved. That’s why it is important that you seek legal guidance and representation from attorneys skilled in the process.

With the help of an international estate planning lawyer, you can be sure that your assets in the U.S. and your home country are secured and will be distributed according to your wishes when you’re no longer around.

Get Professional Estate Planning Guidance at The Law Office of Paul Black 

Your estate planning needs as a non-resident differs from those of a citizen. For the best results, it is important that you approach the estate planning process with this in mind.

If you’d like to begin estate planning as a non-resident, The Law Office of Paul Black can guide you through the process and help you create an all-encompassing estate plan and the accompanying legal instruments that can be enforced in your absence.

We understand the challenges and limitations non-residents like you face during the estate planning process. With our extensive experience, you can rely on us to identify and tackle those issues to help you manage and control your assets during and after your lifetime.

Contact us immediately to get started.

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