Getting your Costa Rica Legalities in order before it is too late

This is not a fun or happy subject to write about, however, I felt it was an important topic, and if you are considering buying a home in Costa Rica, you should read this. This article is a true life story that happened to a client of one of the agents in my group.  This experience highlights the importance of getting one’s legal affairs in order before deciding to purchase property in Costa Rica.

My associate asked for my help and if I would meet with his clients.  For Privacy reasons, I will only refer to him as the Client and I have obtained full permission to write about this.

The client had been coming to Costa Rica for many years and fell in love with the weather, country and of course the warm and loving people. After years of looking around the country, he realized that the Papagayo area made the most sense for him due to the many services, international airport, great private hospitals, pristine beaches, and warm weather. This client purchased the home of his dream here in Playas del Coco just a year ago. After acquiring the property he set his tasks to update the property and house to suite himself. He added a new patio around the pool, built an outdoor kitchen and BBQ rancho with half bath, added lush landscaping to enhance the beauty of the property and the outdoor living area, painted the house and added all new A/C units. He spent a good amount of money getting the house just the way he wanted it so he could enjoy his life in Costa Rica.

Now comes the horrible and unfortunate part of this story.  What started out nice turned to tragedy.

The client, in all the years he spent here in Costa Rica, meets a wonderful Costa Rican woman that he fell in love with.  They spent almost all their time together. He purchased the house partially because he wanted to take care of her. He did this by giving her forty percent ownership in the corporation that owns the house.  All sounds nice, right? Nice guy! He loves her.

Well just after they got the house the way they wanted it the client was not feeling too well.  Something was just not right. So the client went to see a local doctor that gave him a complete examination.  He had all sorts of blood tests done and, since the client is in his seventies, the doctor asked him if he had ever had a PSA test done or had his prostrate checked by a urologist. The answer was no and the local doctor set it all up for him right away as he could not find anything wrong from the results of the blood tests he ordered. Well, unfortunately for the client, after meeting with the urologist and having the extra blood test completed, it showed that he may have prostate cancer.  His PSA count was off the charts.  After more tests, the cancer diagnosis was confirmed.  After hearing this news the client decided to go back to Canada to get a second opinion. Well, the second opinion was confirmed as well and, sadly, the cancer had already spread to his liver and then metastasized in his brain.

The client, fearing the worst, decided to list his house for sale.  Deep down inside he knew what was coming. That’s when the real problems started. He contacted my associate to have the home listed for sale. However, he put an unreasonable price on it that he would never get a buyer. After 2 months of being on the market, the client called the listing agent complaining that the house has not sold, nor had there been any showings. After the listing agent and the girlfriend tried to explain to him that the price was too high for the current market conditions, he said he wanted to talk to the listings agents’ broker (that’s me).

The Listing agent asked if I would help his client understand the current market situation and what the next steps might be to get the property sold more quickly.  The girlfriend understood clearly what the issues were, so I agreed to a conference call where all of us could discuss this together.

Right off the bat, the client was difficult and defensive.  After some time I was able to calm him down. After asking him many questions, we discovered that even thought his girlfriend had forty percent ownership in the corporation she had no legal authority to act on behalf of the corporation. That was his decision as the buyer and he had every right to decide on that.  However, the task he did not do was to set up a last will and testament in Costa Rica or set the corporations up for his demise.

After a while, he finally agreed to lower the price to a reasonable level to get the house and property in Costa Rica sold. At this point, he tells his girlfriend to go ahead and sign the listing agreement. I informed him that only he could do this as he had the full power of attorney over the corporation that holds the property and that the listing contract would not be valid without his signature. His response was “well I am going to die most likely in the next few months anyway as the doctors don’t give me much of a chance”.

He kept saying “Oh well my Canadian last will and testament can take care of everything when I pass on. To a certain degree he was correct; yes his Canadian last will and testament will take care of the issues of settling his estate. But he had not put his Costa Rica girlfriend on that will, nor does he have a Costa Rica last will and testament. This can cause all sorts of problems when he unfortunately finally passes.

Whether or not he adds the girlfriend to his will, that is his choice, however he should have added the beneficiaries of his will to his Costa Rica corporation and given that person full powers to act on behalf of the corporation or at the minimum just transfer the shares to them now and he still keeps full power, so when he does pass on it will be so much easier for his beneficiaries.

If he does not do this before he passes away, the quagmire to finally get the house turned over to the estate could take almost a year, if not longer, in Costa Rica alone, and this does not include the probate process in Canada nor the time required to get the estate finalized and turned over to the beneficiaries. When the estate of this gentleman is finally settled in the courts of Canada, then the process of transferring the sixty percent share ownership of the corporation to the name if the heirs will start.  This could be a year plus time frame, if not longer.

So when you decide to purchase property in this beautiful country I call home, and you won’t be sorry if you do, just make sure you do your homework and get your legal affairs in order at the same time.  All of them, including what must take place in the event of your death. Make sure you have your last will and testament ready in your home country and in Costa Rica and please make sure you set your corporation up correctly. Do not be afraid to talk about death with your legal advisor.

Flying like a bird in Costa Rica

One of the things I love about living in Costa Rica is the beautiful array of wild life, especially the vast variety of birds. I remember when I was a kid about 5 years old, I used to look up in the sky when I heard the screech of a hawk and watched as he was soaring on the thermal drafts barely flapping a wing and thought to myself, boy I would love to be able to do that, how cool would it be to fly like a bird.

Hawk Flying

Now I am sure everyone has heard of zip lining, you know strapped to a cable strung over a river or thru the canopy of the jungle. This is a major draw that tourist and locals love to do here in Costa Rica, me too.

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I had been coming to Costa Rica as an investor and vacationer since 1999, and although it was a cool thing to try, I was always hesitant about stepping off of some platform 300 feet in the air over a ravine while my life was dependent on a metal cable. Yes I know it is safe and I am not what you call an adrenaline junkie; I have acrophobia ever since I fell out of a tree when I was 10 and now I tend to be a chicken about stuff like this so I never did it for many years.

About four years ago and client of mine was back in Costa Rica enjoying the home they bought and asked me to go on a full day adventure tour with them. They said they were heading up to the Ricon De la Vieja volcano area to one of the many places that do this kind of stuff; you know horseback riding floating down a river in an inner tube, mud bath, hot springs and of course zip lining. I was a reluctant and finally said sure I’ll go, thinking I can always skip the zip line part.

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Ha, that was a mistake in the thought process, we actually rode the horses up the mountain to where the zip lining took place. At this point, I was like “holy crap now what do I do now? What have I gotten myself into?” So after getting all the gear on and asking more questions that you could find in an immigration office, I was somewhat ready to try my first-time zip line.

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One by one the entire group I was with got hooked up to the wire and off they went, just the sound of the wire humming was starting to make my knees weak, Ok you can call me what you want, I told you I was a bit of a chicken. Well after the last person headed off the guide turned to me and said” ok buddy boy estas listo?”  Ready? “Heck no, I am not ready are you sure I can’t just walk back down the mountain and meet you guys at the bottom”. The guide just looked at me and laughed, he said he had been doing this for 10 years and he has never seen one person on this zip line tour get hurt let alone die so don’t be scared.

Scared I said, I am not scared to die, it is the fall that scares the “you know what” out of me.  The Guide looked at me pointed with his finger to the edge and said “ come on you will have a blast”. I hesitantly walked up to him and followed the instructions, all hooked up to the line and his last minute advise was Just have fun.  With his last words of HAVE FUN I felt his hand on my back pushing me off the plate form.
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At first my heart felt like is stopped and I had 3 Adam’s apples in my throat,  as I continued down the line I started to scream and yell with such joy and excitement I felt like that little kid again.  By the time I reached the next platform I was hooked it took only one line to get me over my fear of heights and falling. It was incredible. I now do as many zip lines as possible in the area and am going to tell you about the best one I have ever been on.

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Located just a short 20 minutes’ drive from Playa Hermosa is the new El Diamante adventure park.  Just email me and I will help you find it.  The park is not totally completed yet as there will be mountain bike trails, and zoo and butterfly farm a botanical garden ATV tours, horseback riding, ocean paddle boarding kayaking and more. However the Zip Line is open and ready to go along with the restaurant and gift shop.

El Diamante

So a couple of weeks ago I took a friend and her daughters to give it a try as they had never done this before either, and they live here full time.  After getting all geared up the guides loaded us into a truck and off we went up the mountain. I mean to top of the mountain. The views of the Pacific from there were incredible just breathtaking you could see all the way to the Santa Rosa National Park across the Gulfo de Papagayo along with witches rock, monkey head rock and the Peninsula Papagayo.

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The superman zip line, as they call it, is almost 1 mile long in length; to be exact they told me it is 1.4 kilometers long so just under a mile. When standing here watching the guy before you get all geared up, there is even more gear just for this run as you are laid out flat in a harness and you have to keep your hands tucked on you sides. I asked the guide so how fast will this get, he looked at me and said “ well we do not have to put weights on you, you got enough so you should do about 50 miles per hour and reach the other side no problem” I felt reassured and then Oh wait a minute,  I have enough weight? I guess it is time for more exercise.

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When it was my time to get set and go I was totally stoked and excited.  Here was the first time in my life I would be able to fly almost like a bird, laid out flat and looking down and all around. The anticipation was unbelievable, no fear of the height at all, just waiting to zoom down the line. After about 5 minutes of getting me ready, and just so you know, these guys checked and rechecked everything twice to make sure all was correct with all the harnesses and cables and such, then then called the other guides on the other end to coordinate. Once all was ready the countdown started, Uno, Dos, Tres and they pushed me off the platform.

Diamante Supreman

It was incredible; the feeling of soaring like an eagle was just insane. I have never had the ambition to do hang gliding or jumping out of a plane, but I think I am starting to get the courage to give it a try as this line was just a mind blower. I wish it had lasted for hours. I could talk about this for hours and maybe write a longer story but this is long enough.

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So when you come to come to Costa Rica, as a vacationer, you have to try this. If you decide at some time in your life that Costa Rica is the place to live, which I have, then you will know there are more so many cool and interesting things to do than you can pack in on a vacation.

So come and fly like the bird with me, you won’t be sorry