When living in paradise it can be difficult to think about the less savory topics such as your last will and testament. Costa Rica will honor your US/Canadian last will and testament only after it has gone through the probate process in your home country and can take up to 2 years to go through the courts and probate of Costa Rica. The last thing you want to do is put your loved ones through a difficult and expensive probate process.
If you have assets in Costa Rica such as a property, bank account, car, and so on, you will need to have a will created according to Costa Rican laws to ease and expedite the probate process.
The process to create a Costa Rican last will and testament is fairly simple and reasonably priced. You will need a Costa Rican notary public or an attorney who is also a notary. With the notary you will draft a will declaring all your Costa Rican assets and specifying who the beneficiary/beneficiaries will be. After this draft is created the notary will create a public deed including all of this information and require it to be signed by at least 3 witnesses. This public deed is called a “testimonio” and your notary will supply you and the National Records building “Archive Nacional” with a certified copy. You can revoke or modify your will at any time and since it is publicly recorded you can always request another copy from the National Records building. It is important that you also make sure to send a copy to your beneficiaries and the executor of your will.
Keep in mind that regardless if you have a will or not, there will be a probate process. Yes a last will and testament will expedite the process through the courts but you should still guarantee that your beneficiaries will have the funds necessary to go through the process. There will be notary fees, National Registry fees, and the real estate transfer taxes. If you own a bank account here in Costa Rica, you can appoint beneficiaries that will receive access to your accounts without a probate process. This way your beneficiaries can pay for the necessary costs to carry out your final wishes.
Another great option is creating a trust. A trust is a formal agreement between you and this entity, that states the trust owns the assets. Assets will be transferred to the beneficiaries you have designated at the time of creating the trust if you pass away. Before you purchase any assets, the trust must be created so that you can transfer the assets directly to the trust that is administered by a bank or escrow company. Of course you can transfer assets to a trust later but this will be an additional cost so it is easier to have the trust created prior to purchase.
Creating a last will & testament is the responsible and right thing to do for your loved ones. Each case is different and it is best to talk to your trusted attorney on what the best option is for you. If you have any questions or need recommendations I am more than happy to assist.