June 2, 2015
Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,
Back in 2005, my friend Della was living the dream in Ecuador, with Alan, her husband of 31 years. By 2008, she was unexpectedly sharing ownership of her dream home with three adult stepchildren.
And it happened for an all-to-common reason: They didn’t understand Ecuador’s inheritance laws.
In most of the United States and Canada, citizens enjoy a great deal of flexibility when it comes to estate planning. With a valid will, you can leave your property to pretty much anyone you like.
In most cases, it’s normal to leave your home to your spouse, a practice we North Americans assume to be our inalienable right.
But that’s not how it works in much of the world. Many countries require that you leave your property—or your portion of a jointly owned property—to your children or your parents rather than your spouse. The concept of joint tenancy with right of survivorship is not widely recognized.
And, what’s more, usually you cannot override these inheritance laws with a will.
This practice is based on old European laws designed to keep family estates in the family to prevent a single landowner from breaking up an estate that had been in the family for many generations. It’s based on the premise that descendants have an inherent right to the family estate. Continue reading