International Inheritance Laws

Flag of Guatemala

In Guatemala, the inheritance laws are similar to those in New York. The inhabitants of Guatemala are able to make a will. The age in which Guatemalans are capable of making a will is the same as their age of majority and that is 18. In Guatemala a testator may use an attorney to make a will but they are not required to have one. Guatemalans consider the act of making a will a form of business. Guatemalan attorneys that practice probate law are considered to be specialized in their form of Civil Law. One of Guatemala’s most profitable firms in the area of making probate wills are Bufete Lopez Cordero. They were established in 1969, also the firm practice not only Civil Law but Corporate & Business Law, Labor & Employment & Intellectual Property. Bufete Lopez Cordero focuses on wills, probates and succession proceedings related to the Guatemalan law. A link to the firm’s website is here: The first part of the Guatemalan inheritance laws are the Inheritance tax. The Inheritance tax is broken down into categories which are considered Classification of Heirs or Beneficiaries. There are seven forms of heirs or beneficiaries; these categories are Category I: spouse, child, Category II: direct ascendant, grandchild, great-grandchild, Category III: brother, sister, Category IV: niece, nephew, uncle, aunt, Category V: first cousin, Category VI: in-laws, step relative, and Category VII: others. The taxable inheritance can be 50,000 (US$6,508) to Over 500,000 (US$65,083) depending on the category. The taxable inheritance is based on the estate’s market value. In the estate market value things such as the marriage portion of the surviving spouse, debts owed by the decedents, last illness and funeral expenses, and professional fees and testamentary expenses are all assessed when evaluating taxable inheritance. When the testator dies the beneficiary is the one liable to pay the tax on his inheritance. The next part of Guatemalan inheritance laws is the distribution of property. This is regulated by the deceased’s personal law. The deceased’s personal law would just state who the decedent appointed as the will’s executor and the rules they should follow. Unlike New York inheritance laws when it comes to property the owner may freely give the property to anyone prior to his death. No restrictions are applied. When issues arising based of the right to property in the will, the dispute is resolved by the judge of the department where the property is situated. In Guatemala, when there is a case of intestacy, the law designates the heirs: first to the children and the spouse, who inherit in equal portions. The spouse cannot inherit community property, unless it is less than that portion s/he would inherit, which is similar to the New York laws of intestacy. Lastly it is known that in Guatemala few people make wills. Many Guatemalans use a usufructo (gift with reservation) or corporation to avoid the inheritance procedures. This means that one person reserves the use of the property, but gives the nominal ownership to another person. At the moment of the testator’s death, the nominal owner acquires full rights to the property.

The museum that I found in Guatemala was called Popol Vah Museum. This is an image of an altar. The name of this work of art is Piezas de Retablo, which translates to Spare Altarpiece. It is made out of gold flakes and wood. Inside the altar it contains a statue of The Virgin of the Assumption. She is the patron Saint of Guatemala. The altar was made in commemoration for those who lost their live in the 1773, Guatemalan earthquake that killed hundreds of people. It was also used at their mass funeral service. My first reaction to the altar was to wonder “is that real gold”. My next reaction was to question what artwork was carved into the pillars on the altar.