What Are the Inheritance Laws in New Mexico?

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If you are creating a plan for how your estate will be divided after your death, you may be asking yourself, “What are the inheritance laws in New Mexico?” Inheritance laws cover a wide range of topics related to the transfer of assets to beneficiaries and the settling of debts. If you have questions about inheritance laws in New Mexico, an estate planning attorney can guide you through the process.

How Do Inheritance Laws Work in New Mexico?

The inheritance laws in New Mexico generally follow two paths, depending on the choices made by the decedent:

  • With a Will
    If a person dies and has a valid will, their wishes for their estate are clearly laid out. When there is a will, the probate process is generally straightforward because the courts ensure that the directives of the will are fulfilled.
  • Without a Will
    When there is no will, the courts must follow intestate succession laws to determine how property, debt, and assets are divided. These laws may not split an estate in the way a person desires, so a will is an important document.

Inheritance Laws When There Is a Will

When there is a will in place, a probate case must generally be filed within three years of the decedent’s death. A personal representative cannot be appointed until at least 120 hours (five days) after the death.

Once a probate case is filed, it should remain open until all creditors are notified, taxes are paid, claims are resolved, and estate assets are distributed. The personal representative represents the estate. While the position is active, the representative can pay debts and distribute funds from the estate.

All debts must be paid before heirs and beneficiaries can receive their inheritance per the directives laid out in the will. Once all debts are paid and assets disbursed, the personal representative makes one final report before the probate court declares the estate settled. After the probate file is closed, the personal representative no longer has the authority to act on behalf of the estate.

Inheritance Laws When There Is No Will

When there is no will, the probate courts follow guidelines known as the rules of intestate succession. When there is a surviving spouse, that spouse takes ownership of community property. An example of community property is the home where the couple lives or any cars they share.

Any property or assets that are listed as part of a trust will be transferred to the new owners under the terms of the trust. A lawfully drafted trust can transfer parts of the estate outside of probate. When the deceased has no children, everything goes to the surviving spouse. When there is no surviving spouse, but there are living children, the children inherit the entire estate. When there are siblings but no children or spouse, the siblings will split the inheritance.

When there is a surviving spouse and children, any separate property remaining after all debts are paid is split, with the spouse receiving one-fourth of the remaining separate property and the children splitting three-fourths of the remaining separate property.

Not having a will complicates the settling of any estate. When there are no living heirs, there is a chance that the state may liquidate the estate and keep the proceeds. This rarely happens, though, as the laws are designed to find even remote relatives.

Leaving behind a well-drafted and lawfully executed will can save your family considerable time and hassle. It also ensures your desires for your estate are met. Just as financial planning can prevent bankruptcy, careful estate planning can greatly reduce or potentially eliminate the need to go through the potentially time-consuming and costly probate process.


Q: Who Are the Heirs at Law in New Mexico?

A: The heirs at law determine the order of precedence for next of kin when a person dies intestate. The list includes the surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, and an adult who showed special care for the decedent. Courts use this hierarchy to determine eligibility for next of kin status when distributing assets after a death.

This order decides the distribution of the decedent’s assets, with the surviving spouse typically being the primary next of kin. Your estate planning lawyer can help you understand how these laws apply to your case.

Q: How Much Does an Estate Have to Be Worth to Go to Probate in New Mexico?

A: An estate generally has to be worth $50,000 or more to go to probate in New Mexico. For an estate to qualify to bypass probate, it must be worth less than this amount and also not involve any real property (homes, buildings, land). Even when an estate is valued above $50,000, there are estate planning steps that can prevent your estate from going to probate.

Q: Do I Have to Pay Taxes on Inheritance in New Mexico?

A: New Mexico does not have an inheritance tax for heirs of an estate. There may be implications for your personal taxes, though, if the inheritance is required to be reported as part of the beneficiary’s gross income. A tax consultant or estate planning attorney can help you determine if you owe taxes of any kind from an inheritance.

Q: Who Is Considered Next of Kin in New Mexico?

A: The order of precedence for those who can qualify as next of kin includes the surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, and an adult who showed special care for the decedent. When dividing assets following an intestate death, the courts will consider whether someone qualifies as next of kin. The order of precedence determines who receives what. The surviving spouse is usually presumed to be the immediate next of kin.

Schedule Your Inheritance Law Consultation Today

Inheritance law encompasses a wide range of laws and statutes that guide how assets and property are transferred to beneficiaries and heirs as part of settling an estate. If you are preparing to put your estate affairs in order or are named as a beneficiary of an estate, you can protect your rights and inheritance by working with an Albuquerque estate planning lawyer.

The attorneys of Gilchrist Law Firm, P.C., have many years of experience helping clients navigate New Mexico’s complex web of inheritance law with the goal of protecting the rights and interests of clients. If you have questions about our state’s inheritance law, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

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