Love, Marriage and Real Estate in Mexico
February 14th marks the annual day of love and romance, and in Playa del Carmen it is also a day of Bodas Colectivas (collective wedding), a mass wedding sponsored by the Solidaridad municipality on Valentine’s Day. It will be a beautiful day for many happy couples, and although it is an exciting event in one’s life, we have to play devil’s advocate and suggest some legal considerations for married couples in Mexico.
Permission to Marry a Mexican National
Foreigners marrying Mexican nationals require the approval of the Mexican Migration office. The document is called “Permiso para contraer matrimonio con un nacional,” and it must be applied for in the office which has jurisdiction in the city where the marriage will take place.
Residency Through Marriage
Marriage to a Mexican citizen will enable the foreign spouse to obtain a temporary visa and eventually permanent residence. The marriage will grant a foreigner one-year temporary residency, which may be renewed for a total of two years. Once the two years as a temporary resident is complete, they may apply for permanent residency. No financial records are required, and the process may be initiated and completed within Mexico.
Joint Ownership or Non-Joint Ownership
The couple must specify whether they wish to marry under the system of Joint Ownership Property (sociedad conyugal) or a Non-joint Ownership Property (separación de bienes).
- The Joint Ownership means 50% of the assets acquired before or during the marriage belong to your spouse in case of death or divorce, and both partners are responsible for any debts taken on during the marriage.
- The Non-joint Ownership means each spouse retains his or her assets as if the couple were not married and each spouse is solely responsible for their own debt.
Purchasing Property as a Couple
When it comes to purchasing real estate as a couple, the foreign spouse should take specific measures to protect themselves. A foreigner spouse cannot purchase property in the restricted zone, 50 km from the ocean and 100 from the Mexican border without a trust, however, a Mexican citizen may buy within in this area with direct title.
During the honeymoon stage of the relationship, it may seem like a great idea to purchase the property in the Mexican spouse’s name to avoid bank trust set up and annual fees and hold a free title on the property. But, in the event, the marriage dissolves either due to divorce or if the Mexican spouse passes away, the foreign spouse will not be able to claim the property without first transferring the property to a fideicomiso.
Forming a Corporation to Purchase Real Estate
The safest solution would be for a couple to form a Mexican corporation in both names in order to purchase property in the restricted zone. The corporation protects both spouses and ensures the property will not be subject to claims from other parties.
Same-Sex Common-Law Partnerships
Same-sex couples living in a common-law relationship may consider purchasing real estate through a corporation since some Mexican courts still consider common-law marriage a union between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage is legal in Mexico, but same-sex common-law unions may face challenges when it comes to property, separation or the death of a partner and will only qualify as common-law spouses if they can provide proof of their union from the country of origin. Purchasing property through a corporation owned by both partners protects their investment.
Foreigners investing in Mexico should have a Mexican will to ensure your partner can claim their share of the property as there are no survivor rights in Mexico. As owners of a corporation a will should be in place since the statutes state you cannot inherit your shares; a will is required to designate the shares to your partner.
If the property is bought through a fideicomiso the beneficiary of the property will be listed in the trust.
Non-Titled or Ejido Property
If the couple’s home is built on Ejido land, the foreign spouse is not able to claim the property; only Mexican citizens are entitled to this property, and Ejido property cannot be purchased by a corporation.
For more info about the Bodas Colectivas 2018, visit www.municipiodesolidaridad.gob.mx
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