Members of wealthy Latin American families are flocking to the U.S. for a variety of reasons, and they’re likely to need more financial planning assistance than they realize. Planning gets tricky when families own assets in multiple countries and when parents living south of the border want their children who are U.S. citizens to inherit their wealth.

Individuals automatically become U.S. residents for tax purposes if they remain in the U.S. more than 183 days over a three-year period. Families straddling multiple countries can be caught off guard by these and other financial complexities.

“Our book of business has become very multijurisdictional given what has been happening in the world, specifically in Latin America, for the last 10 years,” says Ignacio Pakciarz, CEO and co-founder of BigSur Partners LLC, a Miami-based holding company that includes the RIA firm BigSur Wealth Management. He’s referring to the rising security, economic and political concerns that have driven more wealthy families to the U.S.

A new economic crisis has surfaced in Argentina, while “Venezuela is getting uglier,” he says, noting that its political and economic problems have caused it to plunge into a humanitarian crisis. Florida is seeing an enormous influx of people from Argentina and Brazil who worry about the security in those countries, as well as their economies, which are plagued by stagnation and a need for huge structural reforms, Pakciarz says. He doesn’t expect to see these reforms implemented because voters are unlikely to support their steep price tags.

In many cases, wealthy Latin American families don’t have time to do proper planning before moving to the U.S. “They feel they have to leave their countries now because they could get kidnapped or killed tomorrow,” Pakciarz says. Some have told him, “I don’t see prospects for my kids,” he says. People may not be able to return to their home country down the road if they have health problems and need medical care, he adds.

Most of the 18 core families that BigSur works with have Latin American roots and members spread out over more than one country. They hail from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Colombia and Caribbean countries. Some of the families’ members reside in different parts of the world, beyond the U.S. and their native countries, which adds planning complexities, he says.

Working with families who straddle different countries was always part of the plan for BigSur, which was founded in late 2007 by Pakciarz and CFO Rafael Iribarren. Pakciarz, born and raised in Uruguay, worked in wealth management with international high-net-worth clients (many from Latin America) at Guggenheim Investment Advisors, Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan. Iribarren, who’s from Argentina, worked with Latin American ultra-high-net-worth clients at Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan.

The firm initially represented five families from three different Latin American countries. It spent its first five years developing its business model and building its platform before opening its doors to additional families and advisors. Its business model has created a multifamily office mainly for international clients who “have a holistic and global view of their stay-rich money,” says Pakciarz. BigSur knows many of its clients through past relationships, and it has grown through referrals and the hiring of new advisors.

According to Pakciarz, BigSur views its relationships with clients as long-term partnerships and assists them with money management, family governance and fiduciary structure. The firm also acts as “interlocutor”—coordinating clients’ CPAs, trust attorneys, immigration attorneys and other stakeholders, he says. “We understand the age and stage of clients and their priorities,” he says. “It’s like being a bit of a psychologist.”

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