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Intestate Proceedings for Foreigners / Navigating Inherited Property in Mexico

Intestate property refers to real estate lacking a legal owner, requiring a succession process to establish rightful ownership before any claims or sales can be made. This procedure aims to identify the new property owner and grant them the authority to manage the property as they see fit.

In various Mexican states, family matters are governed by the state’s civil code, while in others, these proceedings fall under the jurisdiction of the family code. Several general steps could be involved in this process:

There are several reasons why a property might become intestate, with the most common being the absence of a will that designates a new owner upon the original owner’s passing.

Furthermore, a property may become intestate even if a will exists but fails to specify the new owner or omits listing the property among the deceased’s final assets.

As such, those seeking to claim, sell, or purchase such a property must first initiate an intestate succession proceeding, which may take up to two years to conclude and is part of the intestate succession process.

As previously mentioned, an intestate succession proceeding is a necessary process for assigning ownership of the property in question to an interested individual. It involves a series of stages that require the submission of documents such as:

  1. Death Certificate: A crucial document verifying the individual’s passing.
  2. Intestate: In the absence of a will, intestate succession applies, and Mexico’s inheritance laws will determine asset distribution among heirs.
  3. Birth and Marriage Certificates: These may be required to establish the relationship between heirs and the deceased.
  4. Identification Documents: Official IDs or passports of both the deceased and the heirs.
  5. Inventory of Assets: A comprehensive list of the deceased’s assets in Mexico, which could include property, bank accounts, investments, vehicles, etc.
  6. Payment of Taxes: Inheritance in Mexico may entail taxes. Depending on the inherited assets’ value and type, tax returns and payments may be necessary.
  7. Legal Representation: Foreign heirs might need a legal representative in Mexico to manage the inheritance process on their behalf.
  8. Property Inventory and Appraisal: The property must be inventoried and appraised to ascertain its value at the time of succession.


Please bear in mind that all foreign documents must first be translated into Spanish by a Registered Translator and then “apostilled” or legalized in their country of origin.

The stages involved are as follows:

  1. Filing an Intestate Inheritance Report:

During this initial stage of the intestate succession proceeding, interested parties approach the relevant judge and create a record requesting the allocation of specific shares or assets they wish to inherit. This could involve the entire property or a portion of it. Validating the identity of the deceased’s family members, such as spouses, children, nieces, or parents, is also part of this process.

  1. Investigation and Declaration of Heirs:

Authorities investigate to substantiate the relationship between the applicants and the deceased, ensuring that no fraudulent activities are taking place. While rigorous and time-consuming, this step is necessary to advance the intestate succession process.

  1. Appointment of Executor:

An executor, known as an “albacea,” is designated to oversee the intestate property. Their primary responsibility is to prevent any family members or claimants from using the property while the legal proceedings and asset distribution are ongoing. Typically, the property’s albaceais chosen through a family vote. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the notary or judge overseeing the case may appoint a suitable person.

  1. Property Inventory and Real Estate Appraisal:

A significant aspect of the intestate succession procedure involves creating an inventory of movable and immovable assets owned by the deceased and appraising them to determine their true value. For intestate property, a real estate appraisal is necessary. The cost is borne by the applicants and helps determine the total value of the property transitioning to the beneficiary.

  1. Distribution of the Estate:

The final stage of this legal process entails the judge determining the property’s heirs, specifying the percentage of the property each heir is entitled to, or designating a single person as the new owner. This stage typically occurs one to two years after the intestate succession process commences. Patience is required, and applicants should factor in the expenses associated with such legal proceedings.

  1. Tax and Expense Considerations:

It is important to note that property transfer may be subject to taxes and legal expenses in both the country of origin and Mexico.

In conclusion, intestate properties can pose legal challenges and consume considerable time for the family of a deceased individual. Therefore, one of the most valuable real estate recommendations is to encourage property owners to draft a will. A will captures their final wishes and provides clear instructions regarding the beneficiary of their assets.

In the case of intestacy where there are assets held in a trust, the determination of beneficiaries depends on the specific terms and conditions of the trust agreement. Generally, if the trust document designates specific individuals or entities as beneficiaries, they would be entitled to receive the assets according to the trust’s instructions. However, if the trust does not clearly define beneficiaries or the intestacy laws conflict with the trust terms, the legal process may involve identifying potential beneficiaries through court proceedings, considering familial relationships and legal heirship, and adhering to applicable state laws to ultimately distribute the trust assets among eligible parties.

Consider these steps when navigating the intestate succession process and safeguard your estate in Mexico through this legal and real estate process for the heirs of a deceased property owner.

For more information, feel free to reach out to our professional and experienced Mexlaw team.

If you would like to know more about the subject or would like personalized legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us.

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