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Four “Must Do's” for Your Foreign Employee

By Sonjui L. Kumar Email By Sonjui L. Kumar
September 2014
Four “Must Do's” for Your Foreign Employee

The city of Atlanta ranks #8 out of the top 50 U.S. cities in H-1B application filings. H-1B visa holders constitute the largest category of foreign employees, but many foreign workers also enter the U.S. on L visas. The point is that there are a lot of workers on foreign visas working in companies located throughout the Southeast. Additionally, many of these highly skilled employees are key to the organizations that employ them and are paid well for their services. Because these employees tend to be young, have little or no family support in the U.S., and are mostly unfamiliar with the norms of living and working in the U.S., they rely on their employers to guide and assist them much more than their other employees.

One key area that is often overlooked by foreign workers is planning for their death or disability while located overseas. Since many of these employees are in their 20s and 30s, they are not worried about dying. Unfortunately an untimely death or accident is much more onerous on a foreign worker with no next of kin who can take charge. Our firm has been called on multiple times to assist families whose loved ones have been killed or disabled in accidents while working in the U.S.  Employers can help these employees be prepared for the unexpected by offering some of the following guidelines. These guidelines are also a good business practice and can help companies avoid unnecessary time spent assisting families after the fact.

1. Prepare and sign a will. Every foreign worker should have a U.S. will. A will allows them to name an executor, a guardian for their children, if any, and specify the distribution of any assets that they may have in the U.S. Without a will, their families have to go through a costly intestacy process in probate court to access bank accounts, stock funds, and car titles. In Georgia, unless an account has less than $10,000, a probate action is necessary to access the funds of a deceased person. Additionally, the process requires grieving family members to sign documents in front of a U.S. notary (often at a U.S. consulate outside their city) and courier them internationally. As a side note, we recommend that a trustworthy U.S. resident be appointed as the executor, to avoid the need for family members to travel here and stay until the duties are completed.

2. Add transfer on death instructions or beneficiaries to all accounts. A simple transfer on death (TOD) instruction or beneficiary designation with the bank or financial institution will allow the account assets to be distributed on death without the need for a probate process. We have noted that family members are often dependent on their children working overseas and a lengthy probate process can put an entire family in financial jeopardy until it is completed.

3. Sign financial and healthcare powers of attorney. These documents are critical in the event a worker is disabled or hospitalized and unable to manage his/her financial affairs or make medical decisions. Once again, if possible, local agents should be named unless overseas family members have the financial and physical capacity to travel to the U.S. quickly.

4. Make a list of assets, accounts, and login information. This recommendation is the simplest but most powerful tool for families that are trying to piece together information on a deceased or disabled loved one. Encourage workers to keep a spreadsheet with asset information in an easily accessible location that is known to their family. Important details include username and passwords for bank accounts, credit cards, and even social media sites. Car titles, insurance documents, bank statements, and tax returns are also important to keep in a place that their families know of and can get to easily during a crisis.

These guidelines are good for all employees but are especially critical for foreign workers without close family or friends to help manage their affairs. Employers are often the strongest link that workers and their families have and can serve as important emissaries by giving their employees the tools to plan their estates in the event of a death or accident.

[Business Insights is hosted by the Law Firm of Kumar, Prabhu, Patel & Banerjee, LLC. Sonjui L. Kumar is a corporate, transactional attorney and a founding partner of KPPB Law. Belinda Be is a third year law student at Georgia State University College of Law and is a paid clerk for KPPB Law.

Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice.]

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