Your Estate Plan and Retiring Abroad

Retirement is a time to relax and enjoy the things you have worked hard for all of your life. For many people, that means spending more time at the golf course or spoiling grandchildren. For others, it means adventure and traveling to places they have always wanted to go. In many cases, a person or couple’s objectives in retirement can best be met by retiring abroad. Whether you are doing so for the cost of living, to be closer to family, or just because you want to there are important considerations to keep in mind when it comes to your comprehensive estate plan.


No matter what country they live in, citizens of the United States are still required to pay taxes to Uncle Sam. If you maintain residence in a state, that state may also continue to impose taxes on you. While you would likely be paying those taxes if you remained in the United States, living abroad could also subject you to taxes in the host country. That means you may face issues of double taxation, and that can have a significant impact on the assets you retain within your estate.

Some countries may require you to become a citizen. Even relinquishing your citizenship and becoming a citizen of the host country will not necessarily help you avoid taxes in the United States. You may be subject to an expatriation tax in addition to other legal and financial implications. Relinquishing citizenship may also put assets you have in the United States in jeopardy depending on your circumstances.


Some countries may have laws in place that put significant restrictions on foreign nationals looking to buy property. In fact, some countries do not allow foreign nationals to actually own property. Working with an experienced attorney in the jurisdiction you are considering moving to can help shed some light on what the requirements for property ownership there actually are. That attorney may also be able to work cooperatively with your experienced estate planning attorney in the United States to make sure that potential legal issues with such property and your estate are addressed and resolved.

For some individuals, owning property is not necessarily one of their main goals in retirement. For others, owning property is an important component of retirement and/or of their estate plan. If property ownership is something you find important, then you will need to explore some of the laws surrounding property ownership in the location you are looking to retire to.

The Validity of Your Estate Plan

If you are living abroad and maintain assets in that country, addressing the distribution of those assets in a valid estate plan does not necessarily mean that the host country in which you live has to abide by your instructions. In fact, many nations around the world have very strict laws when it comes to inheritances. You will want to become familiar with how those laws work before moving there to ensure that assets within the United States as well as any that you may acquire while living abroad are accounted for and protected. As with property concerns, a qualified attorney in the country that you are considering living in or have moved to may be able to work with your estate planning attorney to make sure that your rights are protected.

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