When a person dies without a will, the distribution of his or her estate assets is governed by the state’s intestacy statute. All states have laws that instruct the court on how to disburse the intestate decedent’s property, usually according to how close in relationship they are to the person who passed away. Estate planning with non-citizen beneficiaries can be very complicated.
A recent nj.com article responded to the following question: “My ex’s new wife isn’t a citizen. Does she get an inheritance?” The article explains that under the intestacy laws of New Jersey, for example, if the deceased had children who aren’t the children of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse is entitled to the first 25% of the estate but not less than $50,000 nor more than $200,000, plus one-half of the balance of the estate.
Also, under New Jersey law, aliens or those who are not citizens of the United States are eligible to inherit assets.
In California, if you die with children but no spouse, the children inherit everything. If you have a spouse but no children, parents, siblings, or nieces or nephews, the spouse inherits everything. If you have parents but no children, spouse, or siblings, your parents inherit everything. If you have siblings but no children, spouse, or parents, those siblings inherit everything. This obviously complicates estate planning with non-citizen beneficiaries.
Also in California, if you’re married and you die without a will, what property your spouse will receive, is based in part on how the two of you owned your property. Was it separate property or community property? California is a community property state, so your spouse will inherit your half of the community property.
In that case, an ex-husband’s wife who lives in and is a citizen of the Philippines doesn’t need to be physically present in the state to inherit assets from her husband.
If the deceased owned property in the Philippines, the distribution of those assets would be according to the laws of that country. As you can see, estate planning with non-citizen beneficiaries, nor non-resident beneficiaries, can be very complicated. Speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney can get you started on the path to finding solutions to these issues, so that the property you have goes to the people whom you choose.
Reference: nj.com (August 28, 2019) “My ex’s new wife isn’t a citizen. Does she get an inheritance?”