Ordinarily, when someone dies leaving behind assets in Florida, the fate of their estate is determined by state probate laws. Given the global allure of Florida Real Estate, it is not uncommon for non-U.S. citizens to own investment properties, seasonal homes, and other valuable assets in the state. Yet, how does the law of a U.S. state apply to the property of someone who was not a U.S. citizen, much less a state resident?
Consequently, Probate for Foreign Nationals involves a complex intersection of state, federal, and international laws, which requires special preparation, planning, and a Probate Lawyer with experience in this specialized area. Fortunately, Jurado & Associates, P.A. has a diverse, multilingual team with ample experience helping clients all over the world with their real estate and probate matters.
Probate for Foreign Nationals: Residents versus Nonresidents
Florida Probate laws apply to assets located in the Sunshine State regardless of whether the owner lived in the state—or for that matter in the country. When the deceased individual is a foreign national, this has special implications under both federal immigration law and Florida law. While it may seem counterintuitive, non-U.S. citizens—legally known as “aliens”—can be either “resident” or “nonresident.”
A resident alien is someone legally domiciled in the United States, meaning they either obtained a Permanent Resident Card (a.k.a. a Green Card) or had a “substantial presence” in the country (residing in the U.S. for more than 183 days in a three-year period or more than 31 days in the present year).
By contrast, a nonresident alien is someone who has not met either criterion, such as certain international students, temporary workers, or short-term visitors who have not been “substantially present” in the U.S.
Whether a foreign national is a resident or nonresident, they still have the right to acquire and own U.S. real estate—but Florida Probate law will impact their estate in different ways.
The Complexities of Probate for Foreign Nationals
Under Florida probate law, nonresident aliens who pass away while owning property in the state will almost always have to go through probate, a court-supervised process of gathering, administering, and distributing of the decedent’s assets. The type of probate that generally applies to nonresident aliens—as well as U.S. citizens or legal residents who are not residents of Florida—is called Ancillary Administration, which differs from “regular” probate proceedings in certain documentary and procedural requirements.
However, foreign nationals who are also resident aliens may have their estate be subject to probate in both Florida and their country of origin. Even if most of your estate is overseas and subject to the “main” form of probate administration, any property owned in the State of Florida is exclusively within the jurisdiction of Florida probate courts.
Since many foreigners have business interests and investments in Florida as well as the rest of the world, this arrangement can be burdensome to both their estate plans and whoever is designated the personal representative (the individual responsible for carrying out said estate plans). In an increasingly globalized economy, it is often difficult to parse what assets come under which jurisdiction, to say nothing of having to handle multiple probate proceedings across different countries or even continents.
Complicating matters further is the fact that the decedent’s country of origin may have overlapping, if not conflicting, laws with those of Florida. For example, some nations require that all assets of their citizens be taxed regardless of where they are located. This would result in double taxation by both U.S. and foreign taxes that would greatly burden the estate.
Fortunately, the U.S. has treaties with certain countries specifically to address this problem. Citizens of France, Germany, the U.K., and a few other countries are exempt from having their real property in the U.S. taxed by their country of origin. Likewise, citizens of Australia, Greece, Italy, and Japan (among others) will have their physical assets taxed only by the country where they are located.
However, such laws and regulations change all the time, and there is no telling what the applicable jurisdictions will have in place by the time you or a loved one leaves assets behinds. That is why it pays to have experts who can traverse the complex legal regimes impacting Probate for Foreign Nationals.
Hire a Probate Lawyer Who Specializes in Probate for Foreign Nationals
Florida probate rules and procedures are complex enough without factoring in the unique challenges faced by foreign nationals both at home and abroad. That is why Jurado & Associates specializes in all aspects of Florida probate law, including how it impacts foreign nationals. With a diverse and multicultural team based in the global hub of Miami, our firm has close ties and ample experience helping clients from all over the world with their legal needs. To learn more or schedule a consultation, contact (305) 921-0976 or email [email protected].