Can a US Citizen Inherit Property in Mexico?
Can a US Citizen Inherit Property in Mexico?
While many people dream of living in Mexico, unfortunately most are under the impression that it's an unattainable fantasy.
But that dream can come true! Whether or not you've already made the decision and started looking at Mexico real estate properties, there are certain legal aspects to explore before buying property.
When purchasing property in Mexico, it's essential to think long-term and ensure that all assets are protected for future generations. Mexico has different laws, different approaches to wills and beneficiaries, and a number of other legal structures a US citizen should know.
Can a US Citizen Buy Property in Mexico?
Yes, a U.S. citizen can buy property in Mexico. However, while the country has made it possible for any foreigner to buy property, they must do so through a vehicle called a fideicomiso, or trust if they wish to buy property in the restricted zone, defined as anywhere within 50km of the coastline or 100km from the border.
Although the foreign buyer is the legal owner of the property, technically the title of the property is held in the fideicomiso by a participating Mexican bank, and the buyer is designated as the beneficiary of that trust.
How Does a U.S. Citizen Buy Property in Mexico?
As mentioned above, if a US citizen that wants to buy property anywhere in Mexico can do so by way of a bank trust called a fideicomiso.
These bank trusts are an agreement between the foreign buyer and a Mexican bank. The buyer establishes a trust with an authorized Mexican bank, of which they are the beneficiary. The bank technically holds the title of the property, but the foreign buyer owns it, and can take any number of actions on that property, including:
- Building on the property
- Renovating the property
- Selling the property
- Leasing or renting out the property
- Using the property themselves
- Transferring ownership of the property to beneficiaries
These bank trusts come with a term of 50 years,and can be renewed indefinitely for periods of 50 years. When buying houses for sale in Mexico, a trust allows the owner to pass that property onto any beneficiaries they want.
However, it’s important to note that if the trustee passes away without a will, the beneficiaries of that trust will have to undertake what can be a complicated and lengthy process before the bank will officially transfer and certify the new ownership.
Can Mexican Properties be Transferred after Death?
Yes, any property owned by a foreigner (using a fideicomiso) can be transferred to their beneficiaries after death. The best way to protect your property is to have a will, which can either be a foreign will or a Mexican will.
However, experts in Mexican real estate will strongly recommend that you set up a Mexican will, as it can sometimes take years for a foreign will to be recognized by a Mexican court.
What is a Foreign Will, and Why is a Mexican Will Important?
Any will created outside of Mexico is considered a foreign will. It’s valid in all of Mexico as well, but it comes with a price tag to have it recognized. The heirs of a foreign will must have the will probated, which is the process of a court proving and declaring that a will is valid.
The probate must be conducted in the American state where the deceased lived. The will needs to be certified by the Secretary of State and sent to Mexico, along with the certificate of death and the Probate decision.
Once in Mexico, all documents are required to be translated into Spanish, and the translation must be done by an official translator in the same Mexican state where the deceased's property is located. This can take time.
However, with a Mexican will, there are fewer legal processes required, and is much easier to have certified. U.S. citizens are highly encouraged to create a Mexican will in addition to any other wills they may have.
To do so, and with the legal assistance of a lawyer and notary, the testator, (the person creating the will), needs to have it drafted in Spanish, signed, and notarized.
What Happens to the Property of a U.S. Citizen When They Die?
When a U.S. citizen passes away, the will goes through a probate period that consists of three stages:
- Radicación: The Notary opens the will and reads its content. The Executor has to acknowledge their role and duties while the beneficiaries can accept or decline their inheritance.
- Edictos: The Notary publishes the will in the state it was read in, so the public can acknowledge the will's existence and stake a claim within 40 working days. If no claims are made, the will moves onto the final stage.
- Escritura de adjudicación: All assets are officially transferred to the beneficiaries.
Because the law can be a complicated subject, it is always advisable to use a knowledgeable resource to help guide you through it.
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