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Meyer & Spencer, PC Your Needs Matter Most

How Do New York Courts Deal With Assets of a Foreign Estate?


People come from all over the world to work and live in New York State. This can lead to some unique estate planning challenges. For example, say you live outside of New York but maintain significant business assets in the state. After you die, how will the New York courts dispose of these assets?

N.Y. Judge Follows Prior Probate Decisions from Ecuador, Israel in El Rosado Dispute

To give a practical illustration of how New York law deals with these situations, here is a recent decision in an actual case decided by a Manhattan Supreme Court judge. This particular lawsuit, Baier v. Baier, is part of a multinational dispute over the disposition of assets belonging to a now-deceased married couple who controlled one of Ecuador’s largest commercial groups, known as El Rosado.

As explained by the Supreme Court, El Rosado “owns approximately 76 businesses, such as hardware stores, toy stores, movie theaters, shopping centers, and employs over 7,000 people.” The couple who owned El Rosado spent most of their lives in Ecuador, although they lived in Israel during some portion of the 1970s. After the couple passed away, their three children fought over control of El Rosado’s assets. This included separate legal proceedings in Ecuador, Israel, and ultimately New York.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Paul A. Goetz explained in an October 4 decision that he lacked jurisdiction to resolve any legal dispute over the ownership of El Rosado itself. The parents’ estates were previously probated in Ecuador and Israel.

More to the point, none of the children reside in New York. And while one of the children maintains a bank account in New York, Goetz said that was not enough to give him jurisdiction over the parents’ probate estates. Indeed, as a general rule, New York courts cannot rule on matters involving the inheritance of “non-New York assets” by a non-resident.

That said, some of El Rosado’s assets were located in New York. Goetz therefore decided to distribute these assets to all three children equally. This conforms to the Ecuadorian courts’ resolution of the overall El Rosado dispute. As Goetz explained, New York courts are required to honor the judgments of foreign courts and may not “revisit the question of the children’s inheritance of El Rosado.”

Speak with a New York Estate Planning Lawyer Today

If you do have assets in multiple U.S. states or foreign countries, you need to take special care with your estate planning. In some cases, it may make sense to create separate wills for New York and non-New York estates. You also have the option of creating what is known as an “International Will,” which is an estate planning document recognized by multiple countries.

Obviously, the worst thing you can do is to have no estate planning at all. It is never a good idea to leave the disposition of your assets to the courts, especially if those assets are scattered around the globe. So if you need advice or assistance from a qualified Putnam County estate planning attorney, contact Meyer & Spencer, P.C., today to schedule a consultation.


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