A Cautionary Tales

Freda Rumford Living in Mexico October 2012

By Freda Rumford from the October 2012 Edition

A few years ago, when a friend’s husband died, I remember her being absolutely incensed at having to pay a large fee to the notary public she went to, to remove her husband’s name from the deed of the house. It didn’t make much sense, but I really was not overly concerned as I thought it was a special fee because she lived in Jalisco. We had bought our house just recently, there were no real health concerns surrounding my husband or I and I really didn’t pay her the due attention that I should have done.

Just two years ago my own husband passed away and again, I was not concerned as we had requested that our house be in both our names with an either/or survivor clause in processing the papers. We were assured that there would be no need for a will determining heirs to be drawn up as we had specified who would be named as beneficiary should we both go to the Happy Hunting Ground at the same time.

Imagine my surprise then when I was advised by an accountant, that in order to sell my house, I first had to make arrangements to remove my husband from the house deeds. That was a bit of a nuisance but I could do it. I would just go to the notary who had dealt with our original purchase.

The first thing I was asked for was the death certificate and then the marriage certificate to prove I was the wife and entitled to his share of the property. I had them with me so that was soon taken care of. The marriage certificate was produced and immediately drew some concern from the secretary as it was not a Mexican certificate and was not therefore legal. What was this? We were married for almost 55 years; this certificate had been accepted everywhere else in the world but was not legal in Mexico? It appeared that I had to have what is called an ‘Apostille’ made in the country of origin. That is a paper that is written and notarised in England (where we were married) stating that the document was valid and also that the person validating the document was fully qualified and able to make that assessment. After a fair amount of time and assistance from relatives this was done.

the next thing to be done was that the certificate had to be translated into Spanish but that was not really a big problem as they had a court recognised person able to do that. I was astonished several weeks later to receive a phone call from the office saying that the translator could not determine what was in the certificate, would I please go at my earliest convenience to do the translating myself. It turned out that it was the NAMES of the people participating that could not be read properly. To me they were perfectly clear and in about thirty minutes, I had it completed. Now we had to wait for the balance of the certificate to be translated. They were the headings of the boxes where the names were written.

Months went by and then I received an email saying that the death certificate had to be translated and as I was married in the Philippines, I would also need an Apostille from that country. Well, the death certificate was issued in Guadalajara, so obviously there is a problem with language between states and certainly I was not wed in the Philippines. Down I went to the office with a good friend who was totally bilingual to clear this next issue up. And so the waiting continued for a several more months.

After almost a year, I now get an email from the secretary saying that “her boss” was starting on the final procedure to complete the name removal and I could expect information very soon. Lovely, but I am going to Canada for several weeks. That seemed to cause a little consternation but I could not see why.

When I received the next email I understood completely. The bill for this removal of a name from the deed is just under 35,000 pesos and they needed half immediately to continue with the procedure. Would I therefore submit 16,000 pesos in cash immediately!

Well, that is a little difficult. I am out of the country and cannot send cash “immediately” plus as I was not advised of this amount of money being required I could

not do that on the spur of the moment, it would have to wait until I got back into Manzanillo in a few weeks time. I expressed my displeasure at not being advised of the amount of the bill prior to this and asked why this large amount was required? Apparently any name change to the title is treated as a new sales agreement. It is a legal fee set by the Government of Mexico, not a figure that the notary has just decided to charge.

In order for me to sell my house I must have this deed changed. In order to pay for the deed change, I must sell my house. This is a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation, which somehow I must get around. But this is really something that everyone should be aware of. If you have joint property, have any certificates apostilled and then be prepared to pay the original buying fees for the procedure. I think if I buy in Mexico again it will be through a company which I will form to escape just this rigmarole. Then the company takes over the house and there is no name change. Ask your real estate agent about this method and then check the fee scales fully with a lawyer or notary.

Perhaps this article should be kept with your property papers for the day when you may need to make changed.


Download the full edition or view it online