International Inheritance Laws

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The Republic of Colombia

By Tash Joyner, Paralegal student


Inhabitants of the Republic of Colombia (“Colombia”) may make their own wills; however, most of the succession processes are done intestate. All persons have the legal capacity to make wills except those who have not reached puberty. There are two types of wills that persons can make: solemn and privileged wills. Solemn wills are either open or sealed; and privileged wills are oral, military, or maritime.


Solemn wills are always recorded in writing; executed before competent witnesses in which at least two must be domiciled at place where the will is granted; the witnesses must be able to read and write; and the will must be notarized. New York State wills are not notarized. Specifically, for this report we will focus on solemn wills. Open wills also known as nuncupative or public is when the testator makes dispositions publicly before three (3) witnesses and a notary. The witnesses must copy the words of the testator verbatim and at the end of the proceeding, read and sign the will.  A sealed will is when the witnesses and notary are not required to have knowledge or read the will of the dispositions contained therein. However, testator must present the will before a notary and five (5) witnesses declaring viva voca (by word of mouth) that the deed contains the will.


Testators do not need to hire an attorney to make their own will. However, Rivera, Pinilla & Gallon is a law firm in Bogotá, Colombia that does Estate Planning. On their website section Services under inheritance the firm provides succession proceeding (notarial / judicial) wills. Carlos Gallón Giraldo is the director and professor of the specialization in Family Law and teaches the subject “Law of Successions” at Universidad Javeriana. He has acted as institutional advisor several times for the Ministry of Justice and the Presidency of Colombia in drafting bills relating to Family Law. Additionally, he served as an Associate Judge at the Superior Court of Bogotá and the Superior Court of Cundinamarca for several terms and authored several publications. (See


In Colombia, the issue of the decedent, natural or adopted, all have the exact same rights or shares in decedent’s estate; and if the issue is decease the share passes to their issue, per stirpe. If no issue, the estate passes in equal shares, per captia, to parents or grandparents, if the parents are deceased, and spouse, if any. If decedents leave no descendant or ascendants, the estate passes fifty percent (50%) to brothers and sisters or their descendant, if no spouse, or all to his spouse if survived by no descendants of his parents. If the decedent leaves no surviving family estate passes to the Colombian Institute for the Well-being of the Family (ICBF), a national charity that by law is the ultimate taker of intestate estates in lieu of the state itself.


In New York State, the spouse is entitled to the first fifty thousand and one-half (½) of the estate. If there are no issue then the whole goes to the spouse. If issue and no spouse, the whole goes to the issue by representation. If there are no issue or spouse, the whole goes to the parents by representation. Issue of parents, and no spouse and no issue, the whole to the issue of parents, by representation.


Henry Christensen, International Estate Planning §22.05(2011)

Rivera, Pinilla & Gallon, Estate Plainning (available at

Poss, Herreara, Ruiz (available at

Monica Reyes Rodriguez and Maria Fernanda Castillo, Colombia International Estate Planning Guide, (available at…2E84…)