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Cross-Border Estate Planning: Canadian Parents of U.S. Children

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U.S. transfer taxes (U.S. gift, estate and generation skipping taxes) should be a concern to any practitioner creating an estate plan with U.S. links. The following article addresses U.S. estate tax consequences of a family comprised of Canadian citizen/resident parents with American children.


Transfer tax is imposed on the fair market value of the property transferred, reduced by any consideration received.

U.S. citizens, and non-U.S. citizen individuals that are domiciled in the U.S., are subject to the U.S. transfer tax system on global assets.

A person acquires a domicile in a place by living there, for even a brief period of time, without the presence of a definite intention to leave.

A facts and circumstances test is used to determine domicile. Factors include, e.g.:

  1. Statements of intent (as reflected, e.g., on tax returns filed, visa application, and similar evidence);
  2. Time spent in U.S. versus time spent abroad;
  3. Visa status (e.g., green card holder);
  4. Ties to the U.S. versus abroad;
  5. Country of citizenship;
  6. Location of employment, business, and assets;
  7. Other indicators such as voting, affiliations, membership, driver license, and similar items.

Residence without the intention to remain indefinitely will not constitute a domicile, and the intention to change domicile will not effect such a change unless accompanied by actual relocation.