I live in Oregon but am not a US citizen. Which estate planning documents do I need?

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The world is getting smaller and we are seeing a lot of people that are from other countries but reside here in Oregon.  Many may return to their country of origin.  The fact is that if you plan on residing in Oregon (or any US state) and you own things, particularly if you have family here, you should do at least a minimum of estate planning.  That planning would be no different than that done by US citizens although the tax consequences will vary.

Planning for health care would include a health care power of attorney and an advance directive in the event you end up in an end-of-life situation.  In Oregon that is covered in one document.  In Washington that is covered by two documents.  You might also sign a HIPAA release that allows persons you name to access medical information.

Planning for finances would include a financial power of attorney and a will.  It might also include coordinating death beneficiaries on retirement assets or life insurance, sub-trusts for minors or others and estate tax planning.

Please note that people think of powers of attorney – health and finances – as unimportant.  However, if one is needed and does not exist, your family may end up with an expensive court case and court supervision.

Your Oregon will and other estate planning documents would apply to all US based assets.  Because, although each state is different, particularly with regard to taxes, ownership and marital rights, there is a lot of uniformity in estate planning documents.

It is unlikely that your US will would apply to assets you might own or inherit in another country.  While there are treaties with some countries that are supposed to rationalize a decedent’s estate, the process in other countries is completely different than the process we have here.  It is unequivocally recommended that you see the lawyer, notario or other official in that country to discuss these issues.  In sum, if you own assets in more than one country, you need more than one estate plan.

Federal and estate taxes not only vary depending on the asset, state, type of income and more, but also differentiate citizens from non-citizens.  The bigger differences revolve around the taxation of large estates, income payable to non-citizens living abroad, gifts and trusts.  These issues should be reviewed by an estate planning attorney to determine whether they are applicable to your situation.  These issues also tend to be secondary to just making sure your loved ones receive the things you own and that the process be as smooth as possible.

Call an attorney at the Law Offices of Nay & Friedenberg to discuss planning for you and your loved ones.