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Estate planning incorporates all the decisions that you want to have made after your death or if you cannot make those decisions for yourself, from how you want to divide your assets after your death to who you want to make financial and medical decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. International estate planning incorporates all those elements, but with a twist: it includes elements that go beyond country lines. International estate planning needs to take into consideration international law regarding cash flow, the efficiency of asset distribution, wealth management, and even how you can legally assign a financial power of attorney that will be legally accepted across country lines. 


An international estate plan needs to incorporate a number of critical elements–including elements that you might not have to consider if you only needed an estate plan that incorporated only assets in the United States. 

Distribution of Assets

Like any estate plan, an international estate plan needs to incorporate a clear distribution of assets. It needs to include where you want all of your assets to go after your death, whether you plan to donate them or leave them to a specific heir. You may need to set up a trust to help distribute specific assets or write out a will. 

Consideration of International Taxes

Many countries have different policies when it comes to estate taxes. While some policies tax the estate of the person who dies, others may tax the individual who receives the inheritance. As you design your international estate plan, it’s critical that you work with an attorney who understands international inheritance law and how it may apply to your estate.

Plans for Spouses Who are Not Citizens of the Same Country

Inheritance law may look very different from one country to another, and when spouses are not residents of the country in which they have lived with their partner, it can add complexity to the inheritance. Your international estate plan must include provisions for a non-resident spouse, if you intend for that spouse to inherit your assets. 


You may assume that you only need international estate planning services if you hold assets in another country. However, there are several circumstances under which you may need to utilize an international estate planning lawyer to help you arrange for the final distribution of your assets. 

  • Your spouse is not a resident of the same country you are. If you are a US citizen, for example, your spouse might be a resident of a foreign country. 
  • You have significant assets outside the country where you reside.
  • You regularly transfer assets between countries, often as a part of your normal financial transactions.
  • Your heirs are not residents of the country in which you reside, and you need to be able to transfer assets to those individuals on your death.

Generally, you should consider using international estate planning services any time you expect your assets at your death to be “significant,” that is, to exceed $100,000. If you know that you will have fewer assets than that at your death, you may not need to worry significantly about the financial elements of your estate plan–though you may still want to work with an experienced estate planning attorney in order to lay out your power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and any other financial arrangements. 


International estate planning can quickly become very complicated. You aren’t just dealing with the laws of one country as it pertains to inheritance, taxes, and transfer of assets. Instead, you must take into consideration the laws of two or more, often very different, countries, which may have their own set of laws and regulations. An international estate planning attorney can help you better understand how that transfer of assets will work, how to do it most efficiently, and how to protect as much of your assets as possible during that transfer. Trying to handle things on your own, on the other hand, could leave you unable to have your assets distributed according to your wishes after your death. Ultimately, that could mean considerably more trouble for your heirs. 

If you have international assets, you and your spouse are not residents of the same country, or you need to manage the transfer of assets to international heirs after your death, we can help. Schedule your free consultation right away to learn more about our international estate planning services.

A Houston International Estate Planning Lawyer Here To Support You

Whenever you find yourself needing to reach out to our office, you can be sure you won’t need to wait for hours or days in order to get a response. Here at Stafford Law Firm, we pride ourselves on being easily accessible and on responding to all client inquiries as soon as possible.

The fact of the matter is, one day you will need to fall back on your estate plan. Whether it will simply be to pass on your family’s wealth after you pass, or something even more heartbreaking like needing a new guardian appointment for your children, having a thorough and customized plan in place will help make sure your family and your future are well taken care of. This plan may need to consider the unique facets of international estate planning, and you can rest easy knowing that an experienced Houston International Estate Planning Lawyer has your best interests at heart. 

Reach out today to schedule your free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ideally, one (well-written and well-designed) will would be able to handle the distribution of assets in multiple countries. Sometimes, in particularly complicated situations, this may not be possible. Working with an international estate planning lawyer will make sure your estate plan has everything you need to handle situations spanning multiple countries.

Naming someone who is not a US citizen as a beneficiary is possible, and sometimes does make the most sense, but there can be some serious implications of this decision.

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