America essentially developed as a melting pot of different cultures and that reality has anything but gone away as the country has grown and aged. Today’s society is increasingly global and Florida’s diverse population is perhaps one of the best representations of that. One of the challenges of this can be how to address estate planning when assets are owned in multiple countries. The existence of potential heirs in multiple countries only adds to the potential complexity.

A recent case involving a woman who owned property in Argentina and the U.S. provides a good example of the issues that can arise. The heart of the problem was the fact that she had created two wills and the Florida probate court needed to determine which one would be followed. The most recent will was created in Argentina. The first will was created in the U.S. and followed all standard protocol including signatures of the now deceased woman and witnesses.

The Florida Statutes do recognize foreign wills if they are also valid in their countries of origin unless they are oral or holographic. The Argentinian will was orally recorded by a notary and would have been deemed a valid notarial will had the woman signed it. However, neither she nor her witnesses did so and therefore it was deemed an oral will, allowing the U.S. will to take precedence.

People with foreign assets or heirs in other countries may wish to consult with an attorney when it comes to estate planning. Getting the right information and following proper procedure is important when trying to ensure sure post-death wishes can be followed.

Luis E. Barreto