Family Affairs: Chilean Demographics, Marriage, Divorce & Inheritance

Santiago Radio

Recap of Cachando Chile on the Air radio show on Santiago Radio: Wednesday, November 12, 2009

Tonight’s “Cachando Chile on the Air” session on Santiago Radio explored the concept of family… let’s face it; my case of Baby Brain is not going to wear off any time soon, so it seemed like a fitting topic.

We approached the subject from a number of different angles, from demographics, marriage laws, gay marriage, birth control, inheritance, divorce, number of children, and religion’s role in personal decisions and public-policy on families, as well has family holiday celebrations, and also touched on peripheral topics such as the cost of education in Chile. And through in some personal theories, of course!

I will be writing some of these topics up in more detail, but in the meantime, as promised on the air, here are some links to the topics discussed:

For those who may not know this, the CIA does more than snoop around where they aren’t wanted and keep secret files about you—they also have plenty of info that they share with anyone who’s interested.

Check out the CIA World Fact Book for solid (and thankfully up-to-date) info on any country that happens to interest you. Chile, for example: CIA World Fact Book on Chile, which is updated through July 2009, for information on Chile’s Geography, People (demographics), Government, Economy, Communications, Transportation, Military, Transnational Issues, and more.

More on this issue coming up “Al Tiro“!! but for a few quick details:

Chile’s population: 16,601,707 (July 2009 estimate)
Population growth rate:  0.881%
Urban population: 88%
Life expectancy: 77.34 years (total population)

Marriage in Chile:

I’ll be writing more on marriage in the future, but for now:

Chilean law requires a “civil marriage,” performed by a public official (justice of the peace), and may or may not be followed by a religious ceremony.

Chile’s Library of Congress explains that Chile’s Civil Code defines Civil Matrimony as:

“…a solemn contract through which a man and a woman join together indissolubly, for their entire lives, to live together, procreate, and provide mutual aid to each other.” (art.102 of the Library of Congress explanation of Civil Matrimony in Chile (Spanish)

In other words, the law specifies that marriage:

  • Is between a man and a woman (no gay marriage in Chile)
  • Is til death do ye part (although divorce was just recently made legal in 2004)
  • Takes place under one roof (the couple is expected to live together)
  • Children are expected
  • Is for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health (the love and cherish part is not so explicit here)

Chilean marriage also has its own system of prenuptial agreements built in, and when asking for the appointment for their civil wedding the couple must stipulate one of 3 options for how their belongings will be divided.

For more information, you can download the entire Ley del Registro Civil (Spanish)

Click here for more on the issue of Gay Marriage in Chile (Spanish)

Chilean Inheritance Laws:

This is a topic that all foreigners should familiarize themselves with. We are planning to invite an expert onto the show to cover this topic in more detail**

Basically, the law says that upon a person’s death, half of his or her estate goes to the spouse, a quarter is divided among the children of the deceased, and the remaining quarter can be designated for distribution as the deceased saw fit.

By the way, couples that live together but who are not married, are not entitled to receive an inheritance.

Click here for the Library of Congress explanation of Testamentos (Wills) (Spanish)

Also check out the Library of Congress FAQs on Inheritance (Spanish)

** Be sure to our Interview with tax attorney Dario Romero: Is the Heir a Parent? Demystifying Chilean Inheritance Laws

Family Rights & Responsibilities:

And finally, we wrapped up with my own “Baby Theory,” which I explained in a previous post named The Dance Card’s Full: Group Loyalty in Chile.

15 responses to “Family Affairs: Chilean Demographics, Marriage, Divorce & Inheritance

  1. I recently found out about the inheritance laws (research for the upcoming wedding) and think they’re totally ridiculous. Of course I would leave things to my spouse – and presumably if he knew that I’d actually wanted to leave a bigger chunk to someone else, he would try to figure out a way to make that gift happen rather than keeping everything – but it seems outrageous that the government would dictate who I MUST leave things to. What if my husband is independently wealthy (ie. no reason to “protect” him by making sure I provide for him), and I want to leave something to charity or a family member? Ditto for my kids. I really do NOT get it, but I guess there’s no arguing with the Chilean government. Hopefully I won’t have to think about this issue for a long time anyway!

  2. The thing that surprised me is that the spouse only gets half (as I understand it, the extra quarter often goes to the spouse too), but that the kids HAVE to get 1/4.
    My feeling is that someone just lost a spouse, why should they lose 1/4 to 1/2 of their life savings as well?

  3. Fascinating post. More like this please. Disappointed that you cited the CIA as source material. I’d sooner quote Wikipedia or Fox News.

    Unfortunately your radio show clashes with a class I have. Seeing as it’s pre-recorded anyway it should just be a few clicks and twiddles to organise a podcast.

    C’mon, give your people what they want.

  4. So glad you liked it… and while I’m not a big fan of the CIA, as far as I can tell, the info is solid.
    The show is live, by the way… but hopefully there will be podcasts in the future!

  5. Margaret, I know a situation in which the adult children forced their old mother to sell her house in order to get the inheritance. They weren’t willing to wait until her death. The moral is: when your children are older than, say, 30, you should contact a lawyer, and he may do weird things such as assigning the children the “nuda propiedad” (no translation in Wikipedia for this legal term) and ensuring the mother gets the usufruct, so that the children will have possession of the house only when the last of the two parents dies.

  6. Pedro-I’ve often wondered about that kind of situation. So what you’re saying is that there ARE ways to avoid this type of situation? WILL a lawyer intervene on behalf of a widow or widower?
    Felipe and I are looking for someone who can be a guest on the show to talk about these things…. suggestions are welcome!

  7. Thanks – a really interesting post! A couple of weeks ago The Economist published a column about inheritance laws in Europe; here’s the link
    It seems that Chile leans more towards the continental European model. What’s interesting (as the article points out, and Emily’s post, above, indicates) is that, depending on what system you are familiar with, the other seems terribly unfair: I’m Irish (similar laws to Britain, and, I guess, the US), and think the idea of the State deciding where my estate ends up is wrong! Even though that estate only really consists of a bicycle and lots of books… 😉

  8. Hi Joanna- Thanks for the link, I’ll definitely give it a read.
    Chilean Civil law is inspired by the Roman or Continental law model, while US law follows the British common law model (without the wigs of course!).
    A Chilean lawyer once explained to me how this inheritance system is the most just because of blood ties with children vs legal ties with spouses, but I still get the feeling there’s something I’m missing in this equation!

  9. Pingback: Family Affairs: Chilean Demographics, Marriage, Divorce … | Chile Today

  10. I just had a chance to read the Economist article that Joanna suggested (see the link above)… Very insightful. It talks precisely of the disputes within the European Union on inheritance law- the UK on one side of who gets the money (freedom to choose), and the continent on the other (state decides).
    I have nothing against children receiving an inheritance, but my issue is why they should get it while one parent is still alive and perhaps in need!

  11. Great post. I did not know that about the inheritance laws. I’m going to try to check out your radio show now as I’m semi-retired. HAH.

  12. Yeah, it’s definitely a good thing to know about!
    Semi-retired? Uh-oh!

  13. Joanna, interesting article!

    I think I first looked at it from the spouse point of view because I’m about to have one of those, whereas kids are a long way off. But having read the Economist article and its comments, most people focus on the child issue. One commenter there more or less said that it was cruel that Brits would deprive their children – wow, totally not how I see it. If my adult children are making good money and don’t need financial support from me, I might leave them sentimental objects but leave money/objects of value to another person or cause. I assume that I will help my children financially throughout their lives as much as I am able to – be it getting them a first car, paying for education, helping with a house downpayment, etc – so by the time we’re looking at inheritance they won’t necessarily need more from me. Far from depriving them, I would be helping them earlier in life so that they would be in a position to support themselves later on.

  14. I’m with you Emily- that article was VERY interesting… both sides have their points, but from such very different angles!
    The continental side is all about “empire building” (on a family scale, of course), while the civil law/UK side is about choice.

  15. Pingback: Chilean Inheritance Laws « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

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