Does Your Will Jive with Ecuadorian Inheritance Rights? - (Wills in Ecuador)
When buying property in Ecuador, especially when approaching la tercera edad (seniors), many start to wonder what they should do to protect their property in the event of their death, and to make life a little easier for loved ones.
Wills in Ecuador work differently than in the US and Canada, and the topic can often seem legally and emotionally daunting. The purpose of this newsletter is to give an overview of the rules of inheritance, as they are determined in Ecuadorian law, keeping it as simple and clear as possible by answering a few common questions.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
After you pass on, all your Ecuadorian property will be divided evenly among your closest descendants
This usually means your children
But in the rare case that you do not have children and do have grandchildren, the property will be divided among them.
IF you do not have any living descendants, 50% of your property will be granted to your spouse and 50% will be granted to your parents.
If either your parents or spouse are not surviving, 100% of property will be granted to the surviving party.
IF you do not have living parents or a spouse, your property will be divided evenly among your siblings.
IF you do not have any living siblings, 50% of your property will be divided evenly among your nieces and nephews, and 50% will go to the Ecuadorian state.
Those are the default rules of inheritance if you have not written a will. If you are content with this line of inheritance, then there is no reason to write a will, although it would be a good idea to get your likely heirs in touch with an Ecuadorian attorney whom you trust, and who can help them through the process of claiming their inheritance.
If you would like to designate your property to someone who is not mentioned above, a will may be a good idea. However, the will still comes with some limitations:
Who can I will my property to?
50% of your property must be divided evenly among your closest descendants. If you do not have descendants, this portion follows the chain of heirs outlined above.
25% must also go to the heirs mentioned above, but does not need to be divided evenly among the receiving parties. You can decide to give this 25% to just one person, or divide it however you want in varying percentages as long as the recipients are qualified by the above regulations
25% is available for you to give to whomever you choose. This may be a friend, a company, a charity, a family member too far down the chain of inheritance to receive the other slices of the pie… it can be anyone.
It is important to have your will prepared, or at least reviewed by a qualified attorney, because if any part of it does not fit the above regulations or is not drafted according to law, it will be disregarded and inheritances will be granted according to the default rules.
I have a will from my home country. Can I just use that?
It is possible to register a foreign will here in Ecuador but that is a little risky, because as mentioned above the judge can decide to disregard it if it is found to be in conflict with Ecuadorian laws. It is simpler and more secure to use a foreign will for foreign property and an Ecuadorian will for Ecuadorian property.
My property is in both my name and my spouse’s name…
When a married couple owns property together and one spouse dies, 50% of the property will remain in the name of the other spouse, and 50% will be divided according to the will of the deceased or the default rules of inheritance.