It happens all the time.
I’ll give a lecture or mention what I do at a bar association event, and the colleague I just met will express appreciation for what I do, tell me it’s a really neat niche, and then try to convince himself that our practice areas don’t overlap. I’m here to tell you that, yes, they do. But it’s tough to convince highly experienced professionals that something outside their wheelhouse might be a challenge in the not-too-distant future.
The conversation usually goes something like this:
Sorry, Aaron. I’m an estate planning lawyer. I’ll never need to serve anybody in a foreign country. But thanks for doing that CLE. You’re a funny guy. (Funny how? I’m a clown? I amuse you?) No, I mean I really like how you got that picture of Boromir into your slide deck!
Wait a sec, there, pal. It’s likely that you’ll eventually have to serve abroad someday. Ever represent a client who wants to contest the Last Will and Testament of an estranged relative? (Yes.) How about if that will that leaves the decedent’s prize collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia to his Cousin Seamus in Dublin? Think someone might have to serve ol’ Seamus? (Hmmmm.) Bear with me here…
It doesn’t matter what court is handling the case– estate litigation is still litigation. And if you need to hale into court an individual heir (or devisee or… whatever the state-specific term is for cousin Seamus) who is outside the United States, you’re going to have to know how to do it the right way.
If you have any sort of adverse party abroad– or even someone whose interest align with your client’s, but who must be served certain notice or pleadings– strict rules must be observed.
Estate litigation is still litigation.
So how do you do that?
It bears repeating. The Hague Service Convention controls how all this gets done wherever it applies. It’s a treaty, to which the United States is a party, and which entered into force right about the time my mom graduated from high school. Thanks to the Supremacy Clause, its strictures trump lesser laws. A gentle reminder:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. (Art. VI-2)
Serving in Ireland is pretty straightforward. We prep the documents for service under Article 10(b), send them to my Irish solicitor, and he takes it from there.