Tips for those in the U.S. dealing with an Inheritance in Iran
What do I do if I inherited money in Iran?If it is only money you inherited, then you are permitted to bring that money to the United States and into a U.S. bank account. This is known as a non-commercial family remittance. The problem is that due to prohibitions in the Iranian Transactions Regulations wire transfers cannot occur directly from an Iranian bank to a U.S. bank. As such, the transaction must come from a non-Iranian financial institution outside of the United States and into a U.S. bank account.
Therefore, transfers through businesses and/or individuals (such as the use of Havaleh or Hawala) is prohibited. Keep in mind, however, that there is a great deal of risk involved when transferring money from Iran to the U.S. Thus, it is always wise to file a request for interpretive guidance with The U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to make sure the manner in which you transferring the funds is permitted.
What do I do if I inherited property in Iran?Disposing of inherited property is more problematic than merely transferring inherited funds to the U.S.
In order to dispose of the property you need a specific license from OFAC. In other words, it is illegal to sell your property in Iran, inherited or otherwise, without an OFAC license.
Once you have obtained the specific license from OFAC you will be authorized to dispose of your property in Iran. Make sure that you do not sell that property to any blocked parties and that none of the parties involved in the transaction are on the OFAC SDN List.
To learn how to properly draft an OFAC specific license application, please see my legal guide providing tips on how to draft such an application.
Can I hire a lawyer or agent in Iran to handle the sale of inherited property?No. Without a license from OFAC you are not only prohibited from selling the property, but also from hiring someone in Iran to dispose of the property for you. As such, you cannot hire a lawyer, real estate agent, or even an appraiser to carry out any transactions related to the sale of the property.
If you do desire to retain such persons to assist you in the sale of property make sure to include them in the license application. Remember the OFAC license application is not a form; it is a written letter to OFAC describing the transactions to be engaged in. Therefore, the more information you include the better, as the OFAC license will only cover the activities described in the license application.
Can my family in Iran sell the property and then send me the money?This area is still somewhat unsettled. There is the question of whether allowing family in Iran to sell the property would led to the facilitation of otherwise prohibited activities. "Facilitation" occurs when a U.S. person carries out some act which allows for foreign persons to engage in a transaction which would have been prohibited had a U.S. person been involved. For example, this could occur if someone were to execute a power of attorney in regards to the sale of property in Iran.
On the other hand, if the estate was probated completely in Iran with no involvement of the U.S. person, then the transfer of that money to the U.S. would be authorized as a non-commercial family remittance.
What do I do if I inherited money in an account at a blocked (SDN) bank?If you inherited funds that are in an account at an SDN designated bank, then you need to obtain a specific license from OFAC to close that bank account and transfer the money into another bank account prior to transferring the money to the U.S.
A number of banks in Iran are on the OFAC SDN List. Some of the major designated banks include: Bank Mellat, Bank Sepah, Bank Saderat, and Bank Melli. U.S. persons cannot hold accounts at those banks.
If you do have a bank account at one of those banks you must act immediately to apply for a specific license to have that bank account closed and the funds transferred out of it.
Is the use of a Saraafi permitted?The use of a saraafi outside of the United States is not prohibited, however, there are major concerns if you use one. Saraafs mask the identity of the true remitter. As such, they draw red flags with U.S. banks and the U.S. government.
While not per se illegal, using a saraafi could lead to the blocking of the transfer, an OFAC investigation, and/or a criminal investigation. If using a saraafi is your only choice, then make sure you file a request for interpretative guidance from OFAC and inform your U.S. bank of where the funds are coming from and why the funds transfer is legal.
Can I or someone else just bring over my inheritance money in cash ?You could technically bring cash over to the United States without violating the Iranian Transactions Regulations. However, there may be other applicable U.S. law which would require you to report the amount of cash being brought over. This might draw suspicion of U.S. authorities however, and you could find yourself as the target of an investigation as a result.
No one else can bring the cash over for you. This would amount to the provision of services and would be prohibited by the Iranian Transactions Regulations. Although many people argue that there would be no way for the U.S. government to find out, there are currently ongoing criminal investigations against a number of Iranian Americans for this type of activity.
What else should I know?The Iranian Transactions Regulations like all U.S. trade sanctions are very complex and broad. Although I have laid out general answers to common questions in this article every case is different and could be interpreted differently. As such, it really makes sense to have a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with OFAC and U.S. sanctions to assist you in drafting the license application and/or the request for interpretative guidance.
This will not only protect your interests but will save you time and allow you to legally transfer your funds to the U.S. in the most efficient manner.