The Wisdom of the Mexican Will
By Orlando Gotay
Wills are documents many detest. The mere act of putting one together recognizes that inevitable fact of life. I have known many who died without a will because they kept putting it off. Some thought they would live forever, leaving us unexpectedly. My own dad is a case in point. I remember finding among his papers a book on “how to save money by writing your own will,” earmarked somewhere in the middle.
Having a cerveza while looking at the sunset is so much more fun! I know. But think about the folks you will leave behind. There won’t be many fun episodes for them if you miss the opportunity to specify what you want done.
Many people ask if their stateside will is “good” in Mexico. It probably is. But it would not be as efficient as a will made in Mexico that will get immediate recognition from local authorities. To be properly admitted in Mexico, a will from elsewhere will have to go through an extensive legal process to authenticate it.
Here’s my suggestion. Consider drafting a “Mexico only” will. You may own here much more than you realize. Home, cars, furniture, money, heirlooms, pets…your college class ring…the list is endless.
I have heard from some that they consider themselves “taken care of” in locations where real property must be held in a Mexican Land Trust “fideicomiso” (zones close to the coast and borders). That may be true as to real property transferred according to fideicomiso instructions, but what about everything else?
Think twice about whom you appoint as executor. The obvious choice “back home” may be either unwilling or unable to come to Mexico to deal with matters in a completely unfamiliar system. Logistics do matter. It is not just a matter of saying on a will “this painting to Mary, this car to Peter.”
The executor inventories all assets, pays creditors, deals with taxes, accounts for and distributes assets. It’s a handful in ordinary circumstances. Throw in the “foreign” factor and the challenge may be formidable.
Of course, a “Mexico only” will should be coordinated with any other estate planning you have “on the other side.” Make a plan to deal with this. You’ll enjoy your cerveza far more knowing you are really taking care of our loved ones the right way.
Orlando Gotay is a California licensed tax attorney (with a Master of Laws in Taxation) admitted to practice before the IRS, the US Tax Court, and other taxing agencies. His love of things Mexican has led him to devote part of his practice to the tax matters of US expats in Mexico. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.