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Which family members will inherit your assets if you don’t leave a will in Costa Rica?

This week we’ll resume the interesting subject of wills and probates, explaining the procedure to follow when a person dies without leaving one and, if so, which family members lead the succession chain.

Clearly the making of a will before a notary public and in full use of your faculties, will prevent your precious assets (jewelry, money, properties, etc.) to be awarded to people (heirs) that you probably never imagined.

So, what happens when there is no will? In that case comes into force the Costa Rican law and the closest relatives of the testator.

The immediate family benefits when there is no will

Without a will, a judge will fall back on the award that is granted by law. The tentative heirs will be summon by a judge and become a board of heirs presided by a judge, who will guide them to take decisions and protect the interests of all. For example, the heirs may decide to sell a house and divide the gain but they cannot leave a relative unprotected.

Now, when there is no will, the testator has, by law, direct heirs that receive its assets, this is what we call first succession degree: spouse, children and parents. The second succession degree includes grand children and grand parents, third degree brothers and so on until the boards of education become heirs.

The judge directing the board of heirs will watch over the spouse to receive 50% of the assets, with the condition that the marital assets (acquired by both during the marriage) correspond to the other 50%. It means that the spouse will not inherit more than half of the direct assets of the testator.

The rest of the possessions will be distributed equally between children and parents. In the specific case of children conceived outside a marriage (adults or minors), they will become heirs of equal degree that the kids procreated within a marriage.

It’s very clear what family members have priority over the assets, but you may be wondering, what if the testator has no spouse, children or parents? Well, then the succession chain will continue as follows:

  1. Brothers and sisters
  2. Nephews or nieces
  3. The Government: the Education Boards where the testator has assets

How to proceed when a foreigner dies, leaving properties in Costa Rica?

At Arturo Blanco Law we are experts in dealing with situations where a foreign citizen dies leaving assets or properties in our country.

It will be necessary to verify the last will and testament made by the person in his/hers country of origin, with the objective that a Costa Rican notary corroborates if it fulfills the validity formalities required by Costa Rica such as: if it was processed by a notary public in the presence of three witnesses and written in public deed, among other requirements.

Another possibility is the issuance and recognition of a will or testament issued in US soil and duly processed before a U.S. judge.  This may include assets left by a citizen in Costa Rica. Locally then, it will be necessary to have this judgments recognized by the justices of the Corte Suprema de Justicia (Supreme Court of Justice), who must give validity to the sentence issued by the foreign judge.

The distribution of the assets of a loved one should be done with a proper and timely legal advice, to ensure that the possessions will be distributed without setbacks and equitably, as estimated by law.

Contact us if you want to prepare your will or receive general advice on the subject.

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