When someone passes away with significant property in a foreign country, then courts in the U.S. may not have any jurisdiction over that property.
In this increasingly global world, it is no longer unusual for U.S. citizens to live in foreign countries and have property there. This can create some confusion for estates about jurisdiction over the estate and the property in it.
A recent case out of Alabama illustrates this problem as discussed by the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in “Case Summary on Estate Property in Foreign Jurisdiction.”
In this case, a woman from the U.S. had been living in London for a long time and passed away there. Her nephew filed to administer her estate in Alabama, where the woman appears to have been legally domiciled in the U.S. and where personal property belonging to the estate was located.
A will was also separately submitted to probate in London.
As part of the process for handling these two cases, the Alabama administrator hired solicitors in the U.K. in order to represent him in the U.K. probate case. The parties were able to settle all of the disputes, other than how the administrator should pay the British attorneys.
The administrator asked an Alabama court to order all of the beneficiaries living in Alabama to put any money they received from the London case into escrow until that could be resolved. That request was granted, but one of the beneficiaries filed for a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Supreme Court to block it. They did that and stated that the Alabama courts had no jurisdiction over the property in the London case.
These types of cases will become more frequent as more people live in foreign countries and have property there.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Dec. 9, 2016) “Case Summary on Estate Property in Foreign Jurisdiction.”