Until the last two years, it has been illegal in the United States to make remittances to any Cuban nationals. The United States put an embargo in place as a sanction against Cuba in the 1960s, which was intended to make U.S. dollars inaccessible to the Cuban government. The embargo included a freeze on Cuban assets in the United States, regardless of whether the assets were owned by the government or a private individual. If a Cuban national had any ownership interest in property in the United States, the property was blocked from being transferred. These accounts are called “Cuban Blocked Accounts.” Also, once the sanctions were in place, if a person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States made a remittance to a Cuban national, then he or she would face severe criminal penalties. However, in 2009, President Obama removed certain restrictions affecting relationships between individuals residing in the United States and those residing in Cuba. These policy changes have made it possible to make remittances to Cuban nationals during a person’s lifetime, as well as remittances in the form of an inheritance, subject to certain restrictions.
Among President Obama’s new policies is one that allows a person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to make a remittance to a Cuban national who is a close relative. “Close relative” is defined in 31 C.F.R. § 515.339 as “any individual related to that person by blood, marriage, or adoption, who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person.” The Code explains that included among close relatives would be your mother’s first cousin, and your husband’s great grandson, but not your daughter’s father-in-law. The remittance cannot be made to a close relative who is defined as a “prohibited official of the Government of Cuba,” or a “prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.” See 31 C.F.R. § 515.570.
Although remittances during a person’s lifetime cannot exceed $500.00 every three months from a non-Cuban Blocked Account, there can be an unlimited remittance to a Cuban national of money held in a blocked account, either through a valid testamentary disposition, intestate succession, or payment from a life insurance policy or annuity contract triggered by the death of the policy or contract holder. See 31 C.F.R. § 515.570.
In order to benefit from this policy change, a permanent resident of the United States must apply for a license in order to unblock assets in the blocked estate. If a license is not applied for and obtained, then any transactions involving the administration of a blocked estate are prohibited under 31 C.F.R. § 515.407. If a license is obtained, then actions that may be taken include the appointment of the personal representative, collection and preservations of assets, payment of funeral expenses and administration expenses, and transfer of title.
The Eleventh Judicial Circuit has developed special procedures in order to handle the administration of a blocked estate. If you or someone you know has an interest in a Blocked Cuban Account, please do not hesitate to contact the law offices of Chepenik Trushin LLP. The attorneys at Chepenik Trushin are ready, willing and able to assist with your personal estate planning needs.