Attorney in Costa Rica

Estate Planning in Costa Rica. ☎️ Wills and trusts.

As an estate planning attorney, I can help you with your last will, testament, and probate procedures.  Wills and trusts are essential tools for estate planning in Costa Rica. They allow individuals to plan for the distribution of their property and assets after their death and can also be used for tax planning and asset protection. In addition, wills and successions are essential aspects of civil law in Costa Rica, as they govern the distribution of a person’s property and assets after death. 

The Civil Code and the Notary Public Law govern succession law. These laws establish the rules for drafting and executing wills in Costa Rica. These are rules for distributing a deceased person’s property and assets among their heirs.  As a family attorney, I can´t stress how important this is to avoid giving your loved ones a headache regarding unwarranted litigation.

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Estate planning with a last will and testament:

A last will and testament is a notarized legal document.   It allows a person to specify how their property and assets will be distributed after death. An open will must be drafted before a notary public and witnesses. It must also be registered in the National Archive. The person who makes the will must be of legal age.  He must possess a sound mind and freely express their will. I can be revoked or changed at any time. 

Estate planning with trusts:

A trust is a legal contract.  Its called a “fideicomiso.”   By this contract, a trustee holds legal title to property for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. In Costa Rica, trusts are not commonly used. Despite this being true,  the trust agreement is a helpful option for estate planning. The testator stipulates his last will in the trust, and all assets are transferred to the trustee.  This is what´s called imperfect ownership.  Even though the trustee appears as the owner, it´s only as per the rules of the trust itself.  This means the trustee´s personal assets are legally separated from the trust’s assets.  

A theoretical example of a succession trust:

Say you have real estate property and you want it to pass on to your son, after death.  So you go to a notary public to draft your last will and testament.   In the will,  you establish your heirs, the assetts, and you manifest, that a trust will be put in place.  You immediately do the trust, and in it you establish the assets are to be transfered as per the will.  The trustee wil transfer your assets to the designated heirs as per your last will and testament, upon your death.  If he doesn´t your heirs can file to execute the will and trust.    For successions, trusts are a good option, if you “trust” the trustee.  The assets remain in the fideicomiso, and transferred by the trustee, to the beneficiaries (heirs), upon the condition of death. 

Trusts are options your estate planning attorney may recommend:

Trusts can be valuable tools your estate planning attorney may recommend.  This is because they allow individuals to transfer their property and assets to their beneficiaries without going through the probate or judicial succession process.  The probate process, can be time-consuming and costly. Additionally, trusts can be used for tax planning and asset protection.  Before doing one, look for legal advice from a lawyer or a notary public.

Notes on Succession Law in Costa Rica:

Under Costa Rican law, people can distribute their property in any way they choose. However, there are legal rights that must be observed for certain people.  Such are the surviving spouse and children, regarding child support and alimony. If a person dies without a will, their property will be distributed according to the “legitimate” succession laws.  Civil law in Costa Rica establishes the order of inheritance if no will as made.   The first in line are the children and spouse, and then the parents. If there are no descendants, spouse or parents, the assets will go to the siblings.

The probate process in Costa Rica:

The probate process in Costa Rica is the legal process of settling a deceased person’s estate, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property. This process involves identifying and collecting the deceased person’s assets.  Also paying off any debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining ones to the heirs.  This is done according to the terms of a will or the laws of succession.
The probate process in Costa Rica is governed by the Civil Code and the Notary Public Law, which establish the rules for administrating a deceased person’s estate. The probate process is carried out by a notary public, who ensures that the process is carried out under the law. However, conflict may arise in the probate process, and if this happens, then the Civil Courts carry out the succession.

Usufruct as a remedy:

Under domain or property laws, the usufruct is the right to use and perceive the fruits of a property.  It´s a right over someone else´s property.  If you have the usufruct of a house, you can use it and live on it.  You can also perceive the “fruits,” in this case, the civil fruits, which is the monthly rent.  You can transfer the real estate property to your heir and reserve a lifelong usufruct right to yourself.  This will enable you to use and enjoy the property during your lifetime.  But since the property has been transferred, there is no probate process upon your death.  This is a remedy to avoid lengthy succession litigation and headaches for your heirs.

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In conclusion:

In summary, wills and successions in Costa Rica are governed by the Civil Code and the Notary Public Law, which establish the rules for drafting and executing a last will and testament and for the distribution of a deceased person’s property and assets among their heirs. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a valid will in place to ensure that your property and assets are distributed according to your wishes, and it’s recommended to seek legal advice for this matter. 

Dr. Christopher Pirie Gil.

Estate planning attorney in Costa Rica.

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Contact Chris as your legal advisor.