Foreign Nationals Need Wills


It may come as a surprise to foreign nationals living in Washington State that they should consider drafting a will and other estate planning documents here in the United States. This is especially important for anyone who has a bank account, home or brokerage account here —and especially those whose children are living with them in this country. You may ask,“I have a will in my home country. Why would I need one here?” You might not need a new one, but you need to have that will with you. Washington state generally recognizes a “foreign” will (one created in another state or country) if that will is considered valid in the home state or country. If you do have a foreign will, it is better to keep it with you while you are in Washington. If you don’t have a will at all and plan to spend sometime in Washington State, you might want to consider drafting a will while here.

Probate in Washington State
•is the process of gathering the assets and paying the debts of a person who has died, under court supervision;
•includes the court’s determination of the validity of that person’s last will and testament, or the court’s determination that no will exists.

For a foreign national who dies owning Washington personal property of a certain value, or real property located in Washington State, opening a probate estate in Washington usually is necessary to distribute that property to the proper heirs or beneficiaries. Additionally, if the foreign national dies while in Washington, the person’s home country may require that probate (the legal process to establish the validity of a will and to appoint someone to manage a dead person’s estate) be initiated in Washington because that is where he or she most recently lived.

Benefits of Having a Proper Will

If you are a foreign national in Washington for more than a few weeks, having a will while here( whether drafted here or in the home country) makes it more likely that your wishes will be known and carried out if you were to die here.Regarding such assets as institutional financial accounts—if beneficiaries are designated properly on these assets, those beneficiary designations usually will be recognized. However, if no beneficiaries are named, or if a named beneficiary is no longer living,that asset probably would go to the person’s estate. At that point,the financial institution may require that probate be opened for the dead person’s beneficiaries or heirs to access the money.

Benefits of Having a Proper Will

A valid and properly drafted will:
•May make distribution of your assets easier and faster;
•Helps to ensure that your wishes are known, and respected;
•May protect your minor children from being in the care of strangers;
•Generally allows the probate process to be easier and less costly

It is particularly important for a foreign national staying in Washington state with his or her minor children to have a will. If that person dies without a will designating a guardian for the children after his or her death, and the children have no relatives in the state of Washington, the children might end up in foster care after the parent’s death,at least temporarily until a legal guardian is appointed by the court. If,on the other hand, an easily located will exists that designates a guardian (with the nominated guardian’s correct contact information), the guardian could be contacted more quickly and the minor children might endure a little less trauma.

Other Estate Planning Documents

In addition, foreign nationals are encouraged to have several other estate planning documents while in Washington State.

•Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney names an individual or professional fiduciary to make decisions and have the powers outlined in the document for actions on behalf of the document’s creator. If no durable power of attorney addressing healthcare for an incapacitated individual exists, health care organizations generally turn to the next of kin, such as a spouse, children, parents or siblings, to make critical decisions for that individual. A power of attorney is often springing, meaning that it becomes effective only after the person who created it is unable to make his or her own decisions, as determined by one or more doctors.
•Health Care Directive
A health care directive outlines a person’s wishes for health care provisions when he or she is unable to make his or her own decisions. It allows individuals to decide ahead of time on the nutrition, hydration, pain medications and other interventions they would want at the end of life if they are unable to answer those questions for themselves.

Bottom line? Foreign nationals living in the State of Washington should have valid, properly drafted estate planning documents that will be recognized in the State of Washington. This is especially important if they have minor children.”

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