Estate and Advance Care Planning Checklist for Green Card Holders


If you’re a green card holder, you already know how important planning ahead can be from a legal perspective. The green card process is no walk in the park, and navigating the United States’ immigration system is a feat in itself. That’s why you need to continue to plan ahead with estate and advance care planning. 

Estate planning details what you want to happen to your assets and property when you die. Similarly, advance care planning handles your medical and final wishes. Not only does this mean you name someone who can make decisions on your behalf, but you also have enough plans in place ‘just in case.’ 

What specific estate and advance care planning needs are there for green card holders? In this guide, we’ll go through your specific concerns as well as everything you need to know to get started. For even more guidance, we recommend downloading the free estate and advance care planning checklist for green card holders. 

Jump ahead to these sections

Why Is Estate Planning and Advance Care Planning Important for Green Card Holders?

First, what’s the importance of estate planning and advance care planning if you’re a green card holder? As a non-citizen, you have an especially difficult estate planning environment. There are unique taxes and regulations for green card holders that you must be mindful of. In addition, if you want to pass along your wealth and assets to future generations, you need to create a plan. 

Luckily, green card holders can use estate planning to pass on wealth and create a legacy in the United States. Depending on your situation, estate planning makes a huge difference when it comes to the distribution of your property and your taxes. 

On the other hand, advance care planning protects anyone in the United States in a medical setting if they lose the ability to advocate for themselves. It can be especially important for people or families who might face a language barrier when dealing with medical personnel. Ultimately, it’s important to be prepared for anything.

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Estate Planning Considerations for Green Card Holders

To begin, what estate planning considerations do green card holders specifically have? While these vary based on your immigration status, marriage situation, and so on, these statements are usually true:

  • Legal property: Any property that you own in another country can be impacted by that country’s laws. Another country may not recognize a will created in the United States or only honor it if it also meets that country’s requirements. As a result, you may need multiple wills.
  • Wills abroad: If you made a will in another country, it might not be valid here. Check to see if it meets the standard for international wills, which the United States recognizes, or the requirements of the state where you live now.
  • Trusts: Civil law based countries like France and China do not recognize trusts, so trusts may not be a good option for dealing with your assets in another country, depending on its legal system.
  • Estate tax: Green card holders are subject to a lower annual estate and gift tax spousal exclusions than U.S. Citizens, which can lead to a bigger inheritance tax bill upon the death of a spouse. Potential green card holders can realize significant tax benefits by estate planning prior to obtaining permanent resident status.

Advance Care Planning Considerations for Green Card Holders

Next, what advance care planning considerations do green card holders have, if any? Luckily, the advance care planning landscape is very similar no matter your residency status. However, there are some reasons why you’ll especially want to prioritize creating an advance care plan:

  • Language barrier: If you speak a language that’s not commonly spoken in the United States, an English advance care plan can help you stay in control of your care. 
  • Representative: Using a living will, you can name a healthcare representative who can make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to speak for yourself.

Regardless of your immigration status, you should have a legal health plan. Aside from legal planning, talk to your loved ones about your wishes. Make sure it’s clear what you feel comfortable with and how you’d like to be cared for. 

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Frequently Asked Questions: Estate and Advance Care Planning for Green Card Holders

Estate and advance care planning can be complicated. This is true no matter your immgiration status. When you’re also navigating the immigration process, things get even more tricky. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about estate and advance care planning for green card holders. 

How can you talk to a loved one who’s a green card holder about estate and advance care planning?

Green Card holders might not think that they qualify for estate and advance care planning. Let them know that they do and that planning can protect them and their legacy. Help them find a bilingual attorney or resources.

The good news is that anyone can begin estate or advance care planning, regardless of residency status. Planning ahead is for everyone. 

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How do you find an attorney specializing in green card holders' estate planning?

Green Card holders are best served by estate planning attorneys with experience in immigration law and international estate planning. Attorneys with these additional specialities can best help you minimize your taxes in the United States and abroad and ensure your estate plan is valid in both countries.

If you worked with an attorney during your immigration process, ask them for referrals for attorneys who specialize in estate planning for non-citizens or international estate planning. Do not assume your immigration attorney can also handle your estate and advance care plan. Plans drafted by an attorney inexperienced in the field can be ineffective and fail to accomplish your goals.

Quiz any prospective attorney about their experience and qualifications during an initial consultation before you commit to working with them. You can start your search through your state’s bar association website to find probate attorneys near you.

Start Planning as a Green Card Holder

Now is always the best time to begin your plan for the future. Uncertainty is a part of life, and it can be stressful to worry about what might happen down the line. By preparing for uncertainty today, you give your loved ones the gift of not having to make these decisions themselves. 

Whether you’re an aspiring US citizen, green card holder, or married to a non-resident, make a plan today. Getting your legal documents in order doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.

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