What to Do If Your Client Dies Abroad

Although most attorneys never get involved with probate administration outside the United States, you might encounter practical problems if your client, who’s a California domiciliary, dies abroad. The first thing to do when a U.S. citizen dies in a foreign country is to contact the U.S. Department of State or the American consulate of the country in which the death occurred. This is for a few very practical reasons: U.S. consul acts as conservator. Until a U.S. representative or family member is located, the U.S. consul acts as provisional conservator of the decedent’s personal estate. He or she has limited authority to take possession of the decedent’s personal effects, including convertible assets, jewelry, nonnegotiable instruments, and personal documents. He or she may also take into possession bank books (but not bank accounts) in foreign countries. 22 USC §2715c; 22 CFR §72.13. U.S. consulate office has necessary documents for beginning…

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