Philippine Land Inheritance Law for Expats married to Filipinos

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Philippine Inheritance Law does allow expats married to Filipinos to inherit.

For Philippine land inheritance however, an Expat can inherit under specific circumstances:

  • Expats can inherit land from Filipinos intestate, or when a will is not used
  • Expats must be in a marriage recognized under Philippine law

Our experience in FCB Law Office processing inheritance cases has often meant explaining what exactly that means and clearing up misconceptions.

In this article, I’ll focus on expats inheriting Philippine land from their Filipino spouse.

I’ll touch briefly on wills and marriages recognized under Philippine law (hint: same sex marriages and invalid divorces are not recognized) as only a legal spouse can inherit land if they are a foreigner.

Lastly, I’ll go through a brief description of the process needed to transfer a Philippine land title to a foreign heir. This process is called an Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate.

Wills and Expat Inheritance of Philippine Land

First, I’ll discuss FCB Law’s experience with wills.

Many clients come to us with foreign trusts or wills.

Often, these wills were created without reference to Philippine law.

In practice, that means that many wills we see often cannot be executed.

For instance:

  • Wills or foreign-owned trusts bequeathing land to foreign citizens are not valid.
  • Wills that disinherit Philippine compulsory heirs without reference to Philippine laws are not valid.
  • Joint wills are not valid

Strict laws govern wills in the Philippines.

Because of that, it is best to work with foreign counsel and Philippine counsel for assets in multiple countries.

This joint approach means that your estate is planned properly and what you want legally can be done.

Too often, people will disinherit inappropriately or give the property where it cannot be given, resulting in family fights that could have been avoided.

A quick note: Aside from Philippine land, a lot can be done with wills but the process is detailed and can be complex. Read this and this to understand probate and wills.

Expats can inherit from Filipino spouses if the marriage is recognized by the Philippines

FCB Law has come across same sex marriages, where one spouse is a Filipino and the other is a foreigner.

FCB Law has also had cases where the marriage is not recognized by the Philippines.

The Philippines will only transfer Philippine land in the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate process to a foreigner if that foreigner is a recognized compulsory heir.

Unfortunately, the Philippines does not yet recognize same sex marriages, so foreign spouses are not recognized as heirs in this case.

Additionally, a Filipino who divorced abroad and then remarried has to make sure that the new marriage is recognized by the Philippine government.

In some cases, you’d just need to register the new marriage for it to be recognized.

In other cases, you need to go through a full Philippine court case for the new marriage to be recognized.

When we at FCB law process inheritance cases, a full assessment might reveal we need to do more than just process the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate.

As you might imagine, this can cause a lot of stress for the family.

We recommend going through an initial consultation to address your particular needs, since every situation is different.

Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate Process

Transferring a Philippine land inheritance to a foreign spouse means completing an Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate.

An Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate requires the following:

  • Signature of all compulsory heirs since a foreign spouse may inherit with their children or his Filipino spouse’s relatives if there are no children
  • IDs, TINs, Birth, Marriage and Death certificates for all
  • Original Property Title, Tax Declarations and other property documents
  • Payment of the estate taxes

It’s important to have all the documents.

It’s doubly important to have agreement between the heirs.

In our experience, an Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate mostly fails because of those 2 things.

Very often, family disagreements prevent the heirs from signing the required documents.

Another common issue is the lack of an Original Land Title. A missing Land Title requires going to Philippine court to get a new copy. Even worse, some may only have a Tax Declaration is sufficient.

(A Tax Declaration is not sufficient and will not allow transfer to the heirs, even if the estate can be settled).

Documents must also be confirmed manually at City Hall, the Registry of Deeds or elsewhere, depending on the situation.

Because the right documents are crucial, it can often take several months to get them.

Be prepared for this.

Also be prepared for the fact that there are several steps to the process – this often is surprising to our foreign clients.

Yes, foreigners can inherit Philippine property intestate from Filipino spouses.

To sum it up, yes, foreigners can inherit Philippine property from their Philippine spouses in certain situations.

To make sure that you are able to inherit however, it is really best to work with Philippine counsel to avoid the pitfalls I’ve mentioned above.

It clears up misconceptions and quickly sets the right expectations; in our own practice in FCB Law, we found that even a single consultation sets people on the right track.