restricted access Inheritance and Succession in Informal Settlements of Latin American Cities: A Mexican Case Study

Latin American urban areas often comprise large low-income former shantytown areas that originated as illegal land captures and that have been consolidated through self-build over thirty years or more. Today most of the original households still live in their homes, often alongside adult children (and grandchildren). As part of the Latin American Housing Network study (, this article reports on survey research for Mexico and describes the stability and nature of these shared arrangements and the considerable asset value now represented by these properties. Although these properties are often considered patrimonio para los hijos, many consolidator pioneers are aging, so that the issue of property inheritance has become salient, especially for second-generation adult children and their families. However, fewer than 10 percent of owners have wills, and most will die intestate, often having made verbal inheritance arrangements regarding their "estate." This augurs the rise of a new round of informality of property holding that bears little relation to the national and state legal provisions that actually govern inheritance succession, whether through wills or via intestacy provisions. The article describes the various legal codes that prevail in Mexico relating to marriage and acquisition and assigning of property upon death, and it offers several case scenarios of interfamilial and intragenerational conflict, especially insofar as these relate to gender and social constructions of inheritance rights among the poor.