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.”

Strategic Philanthropy – Why? From Guest Blogger: Heather Tuininga – 10|10 Strategies

As I continue to have the privilege of walking alongside families and companies in their journeys of generosity, I find myself asking this question: why do I think “strategic philanthropy” is so important?  Is it because I like to be intentional about things in life and so I want to do my giving that way too?  Is it because I think giving with a vision or passion is better than giving just because it’s good for the cause and for me?  Is it because I believe we only make a difference if we give strategically?

All of these possibilities are partially true, but a deeper analysis of the costs and benefits of strategic philanthropy are in order.  To understand what I mean, we’ll pose strategic philanthropy against what I call “random charity” and see how things shake out.

  Strategic Philanthropy Random Charity
Definition Deciding/knowing what you’re passionate about and investing in organizations that are doing good work in those areas. Giving to anything that passes by, whether you care about the cause or know if the organization is effective.
Example Giving $5,000/year to three organizations that fight breast cancer because your sister fought that battle and lost, and you don’t want your daughter’s generation to face death as the only option if they get breast cancer. Sending $10 to every appeal you get in the mail – from the salvation army to the world wildlife fund to the local symphony.
Impact on the cause A cause you care about gets furthered because you invested more heavily into it vs. spreading your funds around, and you’re more likely to see a return on your philanthropic investment. Many causes get a nice little donation, (which might help them take another, more serious donor out to coffee), and you’ll probably never know what your funds were used for.
Impact on you You get more joy because you know what your funds are being used for, and have invested in something that makes your heart beat. You get some joy knowing that you got to support a lot of organizations, even if it was just a little bit.
Impact on your giving When we have issues we care about and want to make a difference in, we often give more because we are more deeply engaged/interested. When we don’t have specific causes we care about or support, we often give less because we know they won’t really miss our $10 anyway.
Impact on the charitable sector If all givers were strategic, the charitable sector would undergo a sorting out, and the organizations doing the best work would likely rise to the top and keep making a difference because donors are investing in good work. If all givers gave randomly, any organization that put together a glossy mailer would get funds, whether they do good work or not.
Impact on the world If breast cancer research pays off because you and a bunch of other folks invested strategically, your daughter (and all of the young women in world who come after her) may know how to avoid getting it or if she does get it, she won’t have to fear dying like her aunt did. If the art museum gets $10 and the boys & girls club gets $10, and the xyz charity gets $10, the world might move a bit closer to bettering people’s lives who are served by those organizations.


As you can see, my bias is toward strategic philanthropy, but both paths can produce beautiful generosity that changes the world in some way.


One last note: there is the possibility of being too strategic, which can result in not being able to meet a more immediate need because it falls outside your focus areas (i.e., a natural disaster in a part of the world that you don’t focus on).  However, that can be easily solved with some great tools that allow you to move the needle on what you care about all the while maintaining flexibility to give as needs move your heart when they arise.




If these thoughts resonate with you and you’d like to get more strategic

about your personal or corporate giving, I’d love to hear from you.

Drop me a note at: