Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Puerto Rico

inheritance of property in puerto rico

Resident of New York has question about inheriting property from the estate of his late father who lived in Puerto Rico. The father's common law wife predeceased him. The wife's family claims they are entitled to the property. The father's family think they are entitled because he died last. What are the inheritance laws in Puerto Rico?

Asked on 10/14/97, 4:08 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Daniel Press Chung & Press, P.C.
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Inhertitance in Puerto Rico

I am not admitted to practice in PR, but thisis my understanding of the law. Don't rely onthis: get a PR attorney. You will need one to sort this out for you.

First, Puerto Rico does not recognize commonlaw marriages. It's not even a common law jurisdiction. A marriage has to be formallycelebrated and recorded in the vital statistics registry.

The order of succession is as follows: first,direct descendants; second, ascendants(parents, grandparents); third, brothers and sisters or their children; fourth, surviving spouse. A surviving spouse also receives a life estate in certain property that precedesthe claim of the heirs.

If the property was hers, her heirs inheritedit automatically upon her death. If they werelegally married, he probably received a lifeestate in the property; if not, he simply occupied it by mistake/agreement, express orimplied. If he occupied it for over 10 years (more likely 20 or 30 would be required,though), he may have taken title by adverse possession.

If the property was his (married or not), her heirs have no claim whatsoever to it.

If it was jointly owned, her share passes asif it was hers, and his share as if it was his. He may have had a life estate in her share (if they were married) requiring herheirs to wait until his death).

Of course, if there were wills involved, theywould prevail.

You should really get a PR atty. familiar withinheritance matters to handle this. Be carefulin accepting a PR inheritance, as it may comewith debts that exceed assets (NOT the same in any of the 50 states).

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10/16/97, 10:23 am

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