Updated: Oct 11, 2022
International inheritances and the problems they offer have grown considerably more prevalent in foreign countries as a result of the rise in the number of U.S. retirees choosing an overseas destination for retirement. This article discusses some of these problems and the international inheritance apostille process.
International Inheritance Apostille Issues
Any inheritance having an international dynamic is referred to as an "international inheritance" (e.g. the deceased who was living abroad is a U.S. national, a foreign law applies to the inheritance, etc.). Here are a few potential issues that could be faced in an international inheritance situation such as the example provided.
1. Tracking down the last will and testament.
The possibility that the final will and testament were created in the U.S. is undoubtedly higher when the deceased was a U.S. citizen. Although the wills register system in many foreign countries is very efficient, this is not always the case in every country. If the last will and testament were created in the U.S., a foreign notary may ask their National Registry of Wills for information to find out when and where the final will was created to receive a copy. If there is no national registry of wills, it may be quite challenging to obtain the most recent will if it was created in the U.S.
2. U.S. documents need to be translated and legalized.
Anytime there is an international dynamic to the inheritance of a U.S. national, U.S. documentation of some kind must be provided.
(For example, death, birth, and marriage certificates, certificate of U.S. law, etc.) Unless there is an exception allowed by a treaty, all U.S. documents must be legalized or apostilled, depending on where they were created. Additionally, a sworn translation will be required unless the notary handling the inheritance has a sufficient understanding of the document's language or if it is a multilingual document.
3. U.S. inheritance law certification.
If a U.S. law does apply to the inheritance, the relevant authorities of the foreign country will need to certify that it does so, unless the notary is sufficiently familiar with domestic inheritance laws. Again, depending on the situation, legalization/apostille and sworn translation may be required.
4. POA pertaining to inheritors.
In the case of inheritors who reside in the U.S., a power of attorney is often granted for a third party to deal with matters relating to the foreign inheritance on their behalf. But some people might not be aware that the only kind of power of attorney recognized in some foreign countries is one that has been notarized. Accordingly, the inheritor must either provide the power of attorney in front of the foreign country's notary or a notary public in the U.S.; depending on the foreign notary's language proficiency, this document will then need to be translated and legalized/apostilled.
Foreign Document Authentification
Many documents may need to be legalized when handling the estate of the deceased abroad. Specifically, the death certificate, the final will and testament, and the award of probate. To ensure your documents are accepted in an official capacity abroad, contact American Apostille & Notary Services to make sure your international inheritance documents are properly legalized with the necessary apostille certificate.
The procedure for having a document authenticated is based on the particular document, the state where it was issued, and other factors. It's best to check with the document authentication office in your state. You can also visit the U.S. Department of State's Authentications page for information on the procedure.
You can obtain an apostille if the nation in which you are presenting your documents is a member of the 1961 Hague Convention. Official seals and signatures on public documents are verified by an apostille. Birth certificates, court rulings, and many other documents can be authenticated by apostille.