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Potential problems with foreign wills

Most Ohio residents will leave behind a will that was executed in that state. However, there are some cases where people who have lived abroad leave behind foreign wills to decide how their estate should be divided. While foreign wills are usually accepted as valid in the United States, there are some issues that can potentially complicate the probate process.

One case where a foreign will led to an estate battle involved a U.S. citizen with an Argentine will. Though the woman was living in Florida when she died, her last will had been executed in Argentina. The Argentine will expressly revoked the woman's previous will that had been executed in New York. When the woman died, heirs who were mentioned in the woman's last will and second-to-last will argued over which will should be probated.

A circuit court judge in Miami initially found that the woman's Argentine will was valid. Later on, an appellate court reversed the circuit court's decision when it found that the Argentine will was nuncupative and invalid. Nuncupative is a term that refers to a will that is approved orally. A Florida law prohibits nuncupative wills because they can be created when the testator is close to dying. Though the testator in the Florida case was not on her deathbed when she orally declared the Argentine will, the appeals court still found the document to be invalid.

Even if a foreign will has the testator's signature, problems could arise when heirs attempt to probate the foreign will in the United States. An individual whose last will was prepared in a foreign country may want to talk to an estate planning attorney about drafting a new will and creating other documents to handle the distribution of assets.

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