Who Will Inherit Your Property in Mexico?

The Mazatlan Post
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August 25, 2019


Many foreigners invest in real estate in Mexico to benefit from the high returns on investment that this market offers, to enjoy their leisure time here by owning vacation property, to retire, or a combination of all of the above. Ironically, few foreigners give any thought to what will occur to their property in the event of death. The purpose of this article is to provide some insights on how Mexican Law will deal with property owned by foreigners upon death and, hopefully, will provide foreigners with some suggestions on how to deal with this situation.

A foreigner with property in Mexico who dies will have their property distributed to their legal heirs, depending on whether they die without a Will (ab intestate), with a Mexican Will, or with a foreign Will.

If a foreigner with property in Mexico dies without a Will, the law provides that their property is divided proportionately between their legal spouse (and not common-law spouses) and their children. The process is complicated and requires the translation and certification of foreign documents such as marriage certificates, marriage contracts, birth certificates of the children and, if they are minors, the representation of those minors by an independent tutor in Mexico. The process can take more than a year to resolve and the property, in the interim, needs to be administered until they are transferred to the rightful heir. The cost can be considerable.

A foreign Will is legally valid in Mexico. However, it is inconvenient and it can be costly to have it recognized and acknowledged in this country. The process to have a foreign Will recognized in Mexico is as follows, the steps need to be done consecutively and in order: the Will needs to be probated in the jurisdiction or residence of the deceased; once probated, the Will must be legalized in Canada, or apostilled by the Secretary of State in the United States. Other countries have the same process but different government authorities will have the documents apostilled.  

Once this is accomplished, the certificate of death, the Will and the Probate decision must be sent to Mexico to be translated into Spanish by an official translator in the state and district where the property of the deceased is located. This technically constitutes a second Probation of the Will were a judge acknowledges the testator’s directions and, in some cases, will require the presence of the heirs or representatives in Mexico during the reading of the Will.   A judgment is then issued instructing notaries (for real estate) or financial institutions (for bank accounts) to transfer the property to the name and benefit of the heirs.  It can take six to nine months or more for this process to be completed and the costs are determined by a percentage of the value of the assets being transferred (one to three percent) plus expenses, if any.

With a Will made in Mexico, the process is simplified and the delays are shortened.

Read the rest at The Mazatlan Post.

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