WeExpats interviewed a Mexican contract lawyer named Francisco Fitz to get the insight on how foreigners (like American and Canadian expats) can sign their will and testament in Mexico. The English is translated directly from a very technical legal Spanish, therefore forgive us if the English is a bit awkward. If you are interested in getting your will in Mexico signed without the hassles listed below, you can email Francisco Fitz at: firstname.lastname@example.org
*For those expats living in Mexico—scroll down to the bottom of this article for explicit directions on how to save 50% on signing your will and testament throughout ALL of Mexico during the month of September, the Mexican government offers incentives during this month.
Your will and testament is a solemn, legal act where a person who is named as the author of the will (known as the “testator” in English) articulates his property rights and obligations for after their death. There are two types of wills: private and public.
*For crafting your will and testament, we recommend this helpful WikiHow: click here.
*Note: In Mexico, you must be at least 16 years of age to finalize your will and testament
A private will, in accordance with the public code of your state of residency in Mexico, can be subdivided into two main categories: The first category are the military wills for Mexican soldiers and sailors (testamentos militar y marítimo), the second type of will is ológrafo.
For Mexican Soldiers and Sailors:
Militar and Marítimo – These are the military and maritime wills for Mexican soldiers and sailors on Mexican ships. Although they are considered in the código familiar (civil code) of all Mexican states, they do not have much interference, because they are witnessed and sealed either by the army for the soldier in service—or in the case of marítimo: any ship flying the Mexican flag offers their sailors the option to witness and seal their will and testament, where the document is saved until arrival on land.
For All Expat Residents and Mexican Citizens:
Ológrafo – This type of testament is the handwritten will. It must be written and verified at the property registry office for the state where you reside in Mexico. The issue for American expats is that each office in all states has a different name. The best way that WeExpats has found to find this office, is do a Google Search for “registro de propiedad y catastro”.
In Guanajuato, the property registry office is the Dirección General de Registros Públicos de la Propiedad y Notarías.
In Morelos, it is the Instituto de Servicios Registrales y Catastrales del Estado de Morelos.
In Yucatán, it is the Instituto de Seguridad Jurídica Patrimonial de Yucatán.
In Coahuila, it is El Registro Público del Estado de Coahuila.
In Colima, it is Instituto Para el Registro del Territorio del Estado de Colima.
You get the picture. . .
It must also be presented to the Archivo General de Notarias (the general notary archive of the state where you reside in Mexico). Search “archivo general de notarias” and your state to find the website and location of your closest office. If you hire a notary public or a contract lawyer (like Francisco Fitz at email@example.com ), they will take care of this additional step for you.
Public wills can be broken into two main categories of wills: open wills and closed wills. They both must be crafted and signed in with the help of a notary public (notario publico) for the state of your residence. They are the only individuals capable of making these testaments.
Public Open Will:
This type of will requires the presence of two witnesses attesting to the mental state and capacity of the testator to set his or her affairs in order.
Public Closed Will:
Does not require the presence of witnesses.
When a foreigner decides to bequeath their property—in their capacity as testator, and if they have property in Mexico—they can do so through any notary that is in any location in Mexico. One does not have to go to where the property is held, because the job of the notary is to register the will—either open or closed—in any public registry or registry service institute (in addition, to the general archive of the state—or federal entity—where the testament is carried out).
If you are an American expat (or any foreigner for that matter) with residence in Mexico, you acquire right by simply residing here—legally or illegally—to go to any notary and finalize your will and testament—either open or closed—or a private will (ológrafo) and inscribe it at the property registry office of your state, and in the general archive of your state.
When it comes to the bond of marriage that some foreigners may have, we remember that it is a legal attribute of the person in: name, address, marital status, nationality, and property. Legally, “property” in this sense is known in Spanish as (patrimonio)—which differs from common notions of property in that they carry goods, rights, and obligations. This type of property, as transmitted through the will, has to do with a civil status. For example, if you are single or married, these are attributes that follow the person no matter where they might be. Regardless whether you are married in your home country or abroad, your civil status follows you. Therefore your property—regardless of your economic status—can either be under the following :
Conjugal Partnership Regimen – Any property incurred after the marriage is divided 50% to your spouse, and the other 50% goes to the your children. Any property incurred before the marriage is divided up however the testee sees fit.
Property Separation Regimen – Your property is divided in any way that you see fit.
Civil Society Regimen (available only in the state of Jalisco) – Any property incurred before or after the marriage—50% still goes to the spouse regardless of date of marriage.
*It is wise to note that divorce cancels the will and testament, and divorce proceedings will inevitable deal with the issue of property and testament.
If you are going to make a will—independently of your marital status—you are free to decide on the disposition of your assets after your death. If there is a will, it will only open under a legitimate succession. Without a will however, the distribution of the goods will be done based on your family—which can be up to the fourth grade. These grades will dictate the line of succession.
The grades are:
First Grade: spouse
Second Grade: children
Third Grade: sibling, grandparents, and grandchildren
Fourth Grade: uncles, aunts, and nephews
a) Inheritance by Will – You obtain the property at your own discretion
b) Legacy Will – It’s a duty that can be rejected, which is an action or omission that the author of the will can carry out with a burden to a legatee. For example, you can order your cat to be fed every day at a certain time and with certain type of food. If the inheritor does not want the obligation, they can reject the cat.
HOW TO SAVE 50% OFF DURING THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER
A little known trick to signing your will and testament in Mexico, is that throughout all of Mexico—by law—the price is greatly reduced during the month of Mexico. Known as Septiembre Mes de Testamento, the Secretary of Government (la Secretaría de Gobernación), local governments, and the Mexican Notary (Notariado Mexicano) have collaborated to promote a culture of creating your will and testament:
During this month of September:
Notaries throughout the country extend their hours of operation
They offer free legal advice to the general population
They lower their fees 50% to facilitate and encourage the granting of wills.
* To learn more about Septiembre Mes de Testamento, click here.
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