Wills and Estates
By far, the most neglected area we see with folks making the transition to the US is the area of wills and estates. In Canada, a simple will can accomplish most things. However, when moving to the US, wills and estates become much more complex, particularly when property spans both countries and non-US citizenship issues are added. Wills and estate plans are the most important area of planning you can do for yourself and your family as the following questions illustrate:
- Are your Canadian wills and estate plans valid in the US?
- What would happen to your spouse and dependents if you died suddenly in the US?
- Would your spouse be able to get access to any funds to meet the family obligations?
- What taxes would you pay in the US and/or Canada in the event of your death?
- What would happen to your assets in Canada? US?
- Would your heirs in Canada receive any of your assets?
- Who would care for your children if you and your spouse died simultaneously?
- Who would file your taxes, pay your bills or care for your children in the event of your incapacity?
- In the event you end up in a coma, would you want the “plug pulled?”
- Where would you want your body buried or cremated? In Canada or the US?
- If you inherit assets from Canada, are they taxed? Where?
Estate planning is all about how much control you want in a variety of circumstances including death and incapacity. A secondary consideration is saving every court cost, attorney’s fee and tax possible. If you do not want to determine the course of events in the situations listed above (don’t want to spend the money to get an estate plan), you can let your state of residence decide for you with the attendant costs and delays that come with having no control. However, most people, when presented with the options, are not content to let someone else decide what to do with their life’s savings, which means a US estate plan is needed. You just need to consider the expense of a US estate plan as a part of the overall cost of moving to the US.
The area of estate planning with Canadians relocating to the US is extremely complex and deserves much more attention than this website can provide. There are some areas that have been tested in US courts, some gray areas and some that have yet to be played out so it is best to use a qualified attorney rather than a do-it-yourself will or trust kit. Most US estate attorneys have no idea of these complexities and a team approach with an experienced Canada/US financial planner as the quarterback is your best option to ensure an appropriate estate plan is developed to achieve the level of control you desire. We have a network of experts (attorneys, accountants, etc.) with experience in estate planning with non-citizens that we can bring to your unique situation to ensure you maintain the level of control you desire. In addition, once your estate documents have been executed, you must implement your estate plan properly in order for your wishes to be carried out.
For expert estate planning in your local area, consider the following:
Wealth Counsel – top notch attorneys from around the country searchable by zipcode
National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys – another searchable site for good attorneys
American College of Trust and Estate Counsel – another searchable site for good attorneys