So Is Your U.S. Will Good Here?

Ha ha ha ha ha. That’s a good one
BY: ORLANDO GOTAY

You are a prepared person.  When you moved to Mexico, you sat down and made sure that your will, (which you wrote out some years ago in the States, when you married), reflected that you had purchased that shiny gem of a villa, where you now hang out and enjoy beautiful sunsets —and maybe even spin Sinatra records while wearing Tony Bahama shirts.

You feel good, because your papers are in order. Well, on paper, that is.

One of the key decisions made in a will is the designation of the executor (or executrix, if a she).  This person will be in charge of marshaling your assets, tallying them up, paying your debts, and distributing your remaining assets according to your wishes. Does that person even know how to get to Mexico? I know, I know…but you may get the point.  If you own assets in Mexico that comprise part of your estate, your executor had better be able to, willing, and frankly interested in getting his or her hands wet down here. I believe that a remote executor could be a recipe for disaster and could lead to dissipation of assets.

You could say “I can appoint someone local I trust to deal with this” —and that could be part of the solution.  But beware: the executor of a U.S. person may acquire responsibilities with regard to the estate with federal (and state) taxing authorities. your executor must know what those are, and most Mexican professionals are not familiar with this.

Perhaps you can consider appointing a main executor and a secondary executor  for boots on the ground here in Mexico to coordinate whatever needs done here, one with overall responsibility and the other vested with authority to perform locally.  Some acts by the executor have to be done personally, or best understood if seen firsthand, and the expense of  making those several trips by the executor could put a dent even in larger estates, not to mention delay.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and the will you drafted back in your stateside days may not be best suited to meet your current needs.

Orlando Gotay is a California licensed tax attorney (with a Master of Laws in Taxation) admitted to practice before the IRS, the U.S. Tax Court and other taxing agencies.  His love of things Mexican has led him to devote part of his practice to the tax matters of U.S. expats in Mexico.  He can be reached at tax@orlandogotay.com.