Probate works differently in every country, but if you have family or property in Puerto Rico, then you'll want to understand local laws.

Posted by & filed under Inheritance Law.

Inheritance law can be a little bit of a tricky subject almost no matter where you are in the world. That would be fair to say of Puerto Rico as well. When it comes to bequeathing property, particularly as a foreigner living in Puerto Rico who is receiving or leaving behind real estate, there are some things that you will want to know about Puerto Rico real estate law and probate law that will give you a better sense of what to expect if this ever becomes an issue for you.

Real Estate vs. Personal Property

There are reputable companies who can give you a thorough understanding of Puerto Rico law as it applies to real estate and inheritance as well as Vieques real estate. For now, though, it is important to understand that probate law works a little differently in Puerto Rico with respect to real estate than it does for personal property.

With personal property, the law is relatively straight forward. The Puerto Rican government will recognize the right of inheritance of individuals named or unnamed in a will and living outside of the territory…it is simply up to the Puerto Rican courts to execute the decisions of whatever foreign court may have upheld or rendered a decision on the matter.

With respect to Real Estate however, it is precisely the opposite. Regardless of the laws of any foreign governments, inheritance of real estate in Puerto Rico is always subject to Puerto Rican Probate and Real Estate law, and always executed by Puerto Rican courts. So don’t expect to lay claim to you uncle’s Villa in San Juan just because your country says that you ought to be entitled to it.

Who Inherits?

Obviously different probate situations are different, depending on the presence or absence of a will, the presence or absence of children, a spouse, and/or other potential heirs. Puerto Rico, however, has a system of “forced heirship” whereby the law states that certain individuals get priority when it comes to inheriting property left behind by a childless individual.

In Puerto Rican law, it is the parents who are entitled to receive property where there are no children, grandchildren or other direct descendants to receive it. Again, this is the case regardless of the opinions of any foreign court. If children are alive, however, thus making them the forced heirs, they receive the estate according to an interesting formula where the children each receive an equal portion of 1/3 of the estate. Another 1/3 is distributing according to proportions set by the testator (the deceased and author of the will) and the remaining 1/3 the testator can have left to whomever he or she wants.

Complicated? A little. By now you know a bit about what you’ll have to prepare for if you ever have to deal with probate law in Puerto Rico!