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The Executor who is Neither a Resident nor a Citizen (Part 2)

My post last week was about a call we received from someone named as executor in a sibling’s will.  While the decedent was a New Jersey resident and U.S. citizen, the executor was not.  As I explained last week, there is no New Jersey statute or rule requiring it, however, there are very practical reasons for choosing a resident/citizen.

First there is a language barrier to consider.  Choosing an executor who does not speak English makes the process that much more involved because an interpreter will be necessary for all verbal and written communication written documents.

Many US banks are reluctant to deal with non U.S. citizens.  Opening an estate account may prove difficult if not impossible.  The Executor will need to close out accounts in the decedent’s name and transfer them to an estate account first to pay bills and taxes before disbursing to the heirs.  A foreign executor may find it difficult to open an estate account in a local non US bank.  The executor will need to hire an accountant and/or an attorney to deal with income tax, estate and/or inheritance taxes and communicate with each one.

Many of the documents that the executor will need to complete and sign are required to be notarized.  Others require a medallion stamp guarantee.  The executor will probably need to find a US consulate office to accomplish the notary acknowledgement.  Depending on where the executor lives, this could be a great distance away.  Medallion stamp guarantees, which are typically required with respect to brokerage and stock accounts, are difficult enough to obtain in the United States.  It could prove to be impossible for someone living outside the country.

Finally, the executor may need to open a safe deposit box and investigate other potential assets that may exist.  Mail can be forwarded but only the executor is permitted access to the safe deposit box and it must be in person.  It is also recommended that the executor personally review the contents of the decedent’s home before arranging for the disposition of its contents.  At least one trip to New Jersey would be needed and possibly more.

The hurdles a non resident/citizen face are much greater than for a local resident.  For these reasons we typically advise against choosing an executor who lives outside the country.