Establish Your Burial Plan

Establishing a burial plan might not seem like an immediate priority. However, expatriates must often decide where they would like to be laid to rest well before they ever reach retirement age. Since transporting human remains across borders can pose significant legal challenges, U.S. citizens abroad may have to:

  • Decide if they want to be buried in the United States or in the foreign country
  • Speak to loved ones to determine how their body could be transported between countries, if necessary
  • Prepay burial and funeral expenses

Prepare a Will Fit for Your International Circumstances

Your estate plan should be comprehensive, encompassing the assets you own in the United States and in your current country. In general, a will is the simplest way to ensure that an estate avoids intestacy.

However, wills are not universally recognized. While some countries will respect and probate wills valid in the United States, other countries have very different legal systems and may require substantive documentation to begin probate.

If you plan to remain overseas, or retain assets abroad, you may need to create separate wills for each jurisdiction in which your executors will be required to initiate probate proceedings.

Review Your Tax Obligations

U.S. federal estate taxes only affect very wealthy individuals: in 2021, the threshold for federal estate taxes was $11.7 million for individual taxpayers, and $23.4 million for married couples who file jointly.

However, expatriates may have to contend with estate taxes in their new country. Ideally, U.S. citizens residing overseas should have an estate plan which addresses:

  • Their anticipated tax obligations in the United States
  • Their anticipated tax obligations in their current country
  • Probate and succession processes in every jurisdiction in which they own assets

Decide If a Trust Is Right for You

A trust is a legal entity that can receive, hold, and maintain a variety of assets, including but not limited to:

  • A home
  • Real properties
  • Motor vehicles
  • Cash accounts
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Investments
  • Collectibles
  • Firearms

Every country has its own laws regarding trusts. In the U.S., revocable living trusts can be used to reduce an estate’s tax liability. Trust assets are also not typically subject to probate, facilitating the fast, private transfer of assets from the decedent to their beneficiaries.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.