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Music Legend Ravi Shankar's Death Raises Property Issues

Last week, the music industry lost one of the first avant-garde composers of his time, Ravi Shankar, at the age of 92.

Shankar's music label, East Meets West Music, and the Ravi Shankar Foundation issued a press release stating that the singer passed away at a hospital in La Jolla, California.

The iconic singer and played an instrumental role in bringing Indian music to the western world, as he introduced European and American audiences to the simple sound of the sitar in the 1950s. His music inspired George Harrison of the Beatles, as well as countless other musicians.

So what will happen to his estate?

While Ravi Shankar spent much of his life in the United States, he was born in India. There is little information on any property he may have owned in India, and it's presumed that much of his estate is located in the United States.

Nevertheless, his death raises questions about the probate of foreign property. What happens if someone dies and leaves behind property in a foreign jurisdiction?

While the Surrogate's Court has procedures in place for ancillary proceedings, these proceedings refer largely to the probate of the will of someone who died abroad but left property in New York.

As for someone who died in New York and left property abroad, things can get very tricky. For starters, the whole idea of estate tax is an issue. While the person's estate may be taxed in the United States (if it falls above the exemption limit), it might also be taxed in the foreign jurisdiction in some cases.

But that's not the only issue for people holding foreign property. Another key issue is whether the foreign jurisdiction will even recognize an American will.

This is important to discuss in advance. Anyone who owns foreign property needs to plan these issues out properly. In some cases, a foreign attorney may even need to be consulted.

But the starting point is a discussion with a New York estate planning attorney.

Going back to Ravi Shankar, he leaves behind a wife and two daughters, including musician Norah Jones. He's also survived by three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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