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Given a normal marriage in the US. Given that couple has a 1 million dollar home and about the same in savings and the deceased spouse has 1 million in 401k what are the implications of the other spouse not be a US citizen (legally in the US on green card for 20+ years).

2 Answers 2

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I am not an expert, so be sure to consult with a qualified attorney, but I looked into this issue recently because I too am married to a non-citizen permanent resident.

My understanding is that for most purposes, there are no issues with a non-citizen permanent resident inheriting property except that they do not qualify for the unlimited marital deduction. The unlimited marital deduction allows a US citizen to leave their US citizen spouse any amount of assets without incurring any tax liability. In contrast, a non-citizen permanent resident could be taxed if the assets exceed a certain threshold.

For most people, this shouldn't be a problem, as the threshold was $13.61 million in 2024 (source).

I hope this helps!

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From tax/financial perspective there are no implications, green card holders are US tax residents and are treated the same as citizens (for what's relevant to the question). For other implications you might want to check with a relevant attorney. The biggest implication I can think of is that if the person gives the green card up, it will be much more difficult to regain it without being married to a citizen.

For the estate planning of the green card holder, consider who the trustees and beneficiaries would be after their passing. Foreign trusts may be problematic taxwise (but... that's not going to be their problem). Talk to an estate attorney.


The other answer correctly pointed out the lack of marital deduction for non-citizen spouses (See the IRC Sec. 2056(d)).

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  • Thanks for this answer. I was reading that non-citizens are subject to inheritance tax hence the question. If green card holders are treated as citizens... then I get that it is just the IRS website is very unclear.
    – blankip
    Apr 17 at 17:58
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    where did you read that? If you add a link and a quote you're referring to it would be much easier to respond.
    – littleadv
    Apr 17 at 18:01
  • "About Form 706-NA, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return Estate of Nonresident not a citizen of the United States: File Form 706-NA for estates of nonresident noncitizens of the United States if the date of death value of the decedent's U.S.-situated assets, together with the gift tax .." I do have a legal background but not in tax law. Maybe I am not reading everything. I guess the nonresident noncitizens note is unclear too. Is that being both or one?
    – blankip
    Apr 17 at 18:23
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    Notice the "non-resident" part. Citizens can be non-residents (from location perspective). For tax purposes green card holder is a tax resident
    – littleadv
    Apr 17 at 18:25

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