Inheritance of Property in the Dominican Republic

Under Dominican Law, there are two very important aspects which have an impact on the inheritance of assets of a deceased individual: the time and domicile of the deceased.

The time of opening of an estate is the day that death occurs. Based on this rule of law, it is understood that the rights to the estate of an individual are transmitted to the potential heirs and beneficiaries at the time of death. Consequently, the time of opening of a state is important as it has an impact on the determination of who are the individuals legally entitled and capable of receiving the assets from the constituent.

On the other hand, the place of opening of a state is determined by the domicile of the deceased individual. One of the first matters that should be determined is the domicile of the decedent or testator at his time of death (the place of habitual residence) as the same shall determine the applicable successions law for DR purposes.

From an International Private Law standpoint, several questions may arise when the last domicile of the decedent or testator was outside the Dominican Republic (DR).

The International Private Law 544-14 (“IPL”) was recently enacted in the DR with the purpose of regulating international civil and commercial relations, in particular: (i) the jurisdiction of Dominican Courts, (ii) the applicable law and (iii) the recognition and execution of foreign rulings.

The IPL focuses on contributing solutions that, within the complexity of the matter, are sufficiently clear and adapted to foreign legal standards; opening up the local legal framework, internationally, and filling up an important legal void.

For establishing the applicable law in succession matters, the IPL regime does not look into granting more rights to the surviving spouse or to the children; or to granting more freedom of disposition of the assets or strongly limiting it in favor of the intestacy rules. All these material or substantive issues and others of similar nature are foreign to the rule of conflict that choose the law of the domicile of the individual at the time of death as the applicable law of the succession.

The rules of the last domicile shall govern the determination of the heirs, legatees and other beneficiaries, their respective parts to the estate and of the potential obligations that the testator might have set upon them, the determination of any other succession rights, including the succession rights of the surviving spouse or significant other; the capacity to inherit, the causes of disinheritance; the faculties of the heirs, estate executors and other administrators to the estate; the free disposition of the estate and the legal reserve, among other issues.

As per the provisions of the IPL, The DR Courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction over real estate property rights of real estate property located in DR territory. Moreover, the DR Courts shall have jurisdiction over successions pertaining to real estate assets in the DR owned by the testator.

The relevance of a specialized estate attorney for the execution of the will in the DR lies in the effective assistance and advisory to pursue and implement the provisions of the will, ratification processes and completing the required inheritance tax process and transfers of property. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dra. Maria Arthur Rodger is a Partner, Head of Tax & Private Client at ACLAW, a law Firm in the Dominican Republic. She specializes in tax law, (Tax LLM in Georgetown Law Center & Tax LLM in Universidad Pompeu Fabra), including ample knowledge on the tax systems of the United States, Spain and Central America; with more than 20 years of experience in inheritance tax processes, wills and successions, and tax advisory since the enactment and development of the Dominican Tax Code. Dra. Maria Arthur is also a CPA, Certified Bankruptcy Liquidator and Legal Interpreter.

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Disclaimer: This publication is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.