What To Do If You Have Foreign Decedents with Assets in NY

There are many instances where someone lives in a different country but holds assets in New York. Maybe the decedent worked or lived in the US at one time and returned to their home country to retire. Or, it could be the decedent was here on a work visa and had to go back when the visa expired. Or, the person inherited real estate from a family member’s New York estate.

There is no problem with holding assets in New York as a foreign citizen. The issue arises when the person dies without liquidating the foreign assets and the property gets “stuck” in NY.

Opening an estate

Usually, the case is the heirs or beneficiaries are all in a foreign country and can’t rightfully claim the assets because of their foreign status. This is where an estate lawyer comes in to help the family retrieve the assets and settle the estate in New York.

Unless the account is jointly held with another person or names a beneficiary, there is no getting around the requirement of having to open an estate in New York. And what does opening an estate in New York entail? In short, it means filing many documents with the Surrogate’s Court, having it approved by the judge, and getting an executor or administrator appointed.

Was there a will?

In each case, the first question is always whether the person that died had a will? This is an extremely important detail as there are two different proceedings available for persons with a will and those who died without one. If the decedent had no will, then an “administration proceeding” must be started in New York. However, if there is a will, then a “probate proceeding” must be initiated. If the foreign citizen did in fact have a will, then the next question is whether the will was filed in the court of his home country. If a will was filed and accepted in a foreign country, then the proper proceeding in New York would be an “ancillary probate.”

Figuring what type of proceeding you need is a tiny step of opening an estate in New York.  In cases where a will was filed in the decedent’s home country, it does not mean you can avoid opening an estate in New York. To claim assets located in New York belonging to a foreign person or even a US citizen, New York Surrogate’s Court seal of approval is necessary, and this is no quick or easy task. Without experienced legal counsel, an estate can remain in limbo in the court for years and cost the beneficiaries significant loss. For example, if the decedent has a substantial value stock portfolio, the estate can suffer a great drop in value if a recession or some major event turns the market around. Or, if the decedent owns real estate in New York, the estate can incur significant upkeep and maintenance fees over the years if there is no court approval to administer the estate. 

The following are instances when you need an estate lawyer for a foreign citizen holding assets in New York: 

At Mishiyeva law, we have lots of experience servicing estates that belong to foreign decedents and with estates that have foreign beneficiaries. Call us today to discuss your matter at 646-233-0826.