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Estate planning as an immigrant: Choosing your power of attorney

If you live in America but have family abroad, one of the things you may be considering is having one of your family members become your power of attorney. Whether you need a financial power of attorney or health care power of attorney, it’s a good idea to sit down and think about what selecting someone outside the country would do.

If you select someone to fulfill a role in your estate plan but they do not live in the United States, understand that there may be delays or that the individual you choose may not be available to take on the role. For example, if you are in a car crash and need someone to step in to make decisions on your behalf, choosing your mother in a foreign country may not be a good idea. While she can call and talk about your condition with the medical staff, she wouldn’t be nearby or easily reached to handle any issues as they arise.

When selecting your powers of attorney, choose American-based relatives and friends

It’s better to choose a power of attorney, executor, health care agent and others who support you out of those who live near you. This might mean that you need to select a good friend rather than a relative or that you need to discuss alternative options with your attorney. The last thing you want is to assign someone to a role that they cannot handle or do not want. You should always consider distance as an issue.

What if you must use a foreign member of family as a power of attorney?

If you don’t have any other option but to use a family member or friend outside the country, make sure you collect good contact information for them including their phone number, email, physical address, work contact, social media handles and other ways to get in touch. If you happen to get hurt or to need someone to come help you in the United States, your attorney will reach out. If they cannot come to the U.S., there may be alternative options, such as using video calls, to have them help make decisions for you.

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