Foreign property owners in Mexico need to be aware that Mexico does not have survivorship legislation in place to protect your spouse.
In Canada and the US, you have the right of survivorship, which means that if a couple has joint ownership of a property and one of the spouses passes away, the surviving spouse is typically entitled to gain full possession of the property. In Mexico, this is not the case. Although you may feel protected by including both names on the deed, there have been cases where the bank is reluctant to transfer the deed without additional legal requirements, fees and taxes. You must protect each other by not only registering each other as the substitute beneficiaries of the trust and appointing the second beneficiary, children or another family member, but also by documenting your wishes in a Mexican will. American and Canadian wills are recognized in Mexico, but the time and money spent validating them can be very stressful for your spouse and family.
Without a Mexican will, the Mexican court may consider your extended family during the distribution of assets. They may divide the property and estate amongst your surviving spouse and include other family members, such as parents, in-laws and children and possibly ex-spouses. In the case where the surviving spouse has assets of their own, as well as owning half of this property, the court may decide not to grant the surviving spouse any of the estate.
Common law partners may not be recognized during this process. It is important for both partners to have a Mexican will to protect the estate. Your Mexican will will be drafted in Spanish, but only refers to your property and assets located in Mexico. It will have no impact on your will and property in other countries. You should, however, ensure that they do not contradict each other, thereby opening a possible litigation between heirs.
Consult a Mexican attorney to discuss estate planning in Mexico.