The Succession Process in Costa Rica
There has always been talk of the importance of writing a will due to the multiple benefits that come from having one. Benefits include choosing our heirs, distributing our assets equally, and avoiding future disputes
There has always been talk of the importance of writing a will due to the multiple benefits that come from having one. Benefits include choosing our heirs, distributing our assets equally, and avoiding future disputes between our relatives. However, little is said about the succession process. What is it? What is it for? Who can it? What does it take to start it? What are its stages? Who can intervene in the process?
The succession process constitutes the means by which the deceased person’s heirs are identified, the pending obligations (debts) are canceled, and the inheritance is distributed as established by the will. If the decedent did not leave a will, the Law establishes the procedure that must be followed.
According to Costa Rican law, the succession process can be initiated by anyone interested in doing so. This is not limited to family members, as it can also be launched by creditors of the decedent and even natural or legal persons who want to file a lawsuit against the process.
Types of succession processes
Succession processes are classified in two: the legitimate succession process and the testamentary succession process.
The legitimate succession process occurs when the decedent does not leave a will or the will does not meet the validity requirements necessitated by the law. In this case, the declaration of the heirs and the distribution of the assets will be those established by law. On the other hand, testamentary succession occurs when there is a valid will, which expressly indicates who the heirs are and how the assets are to be distributed.
It is important to take into account that in the cases in which the decedent did not leave a will, the succession process should only be carried out in court before a Civil Judge, who will be in charge of adhering to the Law and proceeding correctly.
In cases where there is a will, there are two options: the process can either be initiated through a notary or through a judicial process. This will depend on the circumstances. If there are no disagreements between the heirs and if they are all of legal age, the process can be carried out by notary. Yet, when there are disagreements and/or minors are involved, it must be processed before a Civil Judge through the judicial headquarters.
The Costa Rican succession process consists of the following stages:
1-Opening: This first stage is designed to verify that the person has really died and verify, as well, the existence of the estate.
Following that, and depending on whether there is a will or not, the heirs will be categorized as either heirs-at-law or testamentary.
And finally, an executor will be appointed who will be in charge of guarding the property of the decedent until it is distributed.
2-Inventory and appraisal: A list of the decedent’s assets that are legally susceptible to being included in the inheritance will be made and each asset will be appraised.
3-Declaration of heirs: The heirs who will participate in the distribution of the assets will be officially established and they will be categorized as either legitimate heirs or testamentary heirs.
According to the Civil Code, the following are considered legitimate heirs:
- The children
- The spouse or common-law partner
- Grandparents and other legitimate descendants,
- Legitimate brothers
- The children of the brothers
- The Boards of Education corresponding to the places where the decedent had assets. *
* (The Civil code in article 572 expands on this information)
And the testamentary heirs are those designated by the decedent in his will.
4-Board of heirs: When it is declared by resolution who the heirs will be, they will be called to form a board to determine, by vote, the position of final executor. The inventoried assets and the value assigned to the assets by the appraisal will be disclosed. In addition, the board of heirs will be made aware of the debts duly legalized by the creditors.
5-Distribution of assets: Finally, the way in which the assets will be distributed will be defined; if the heirs agree it will be easy to proceed, if there are conflicts the distribution will be established by the judge. The executor will ensure that each heir receives the proper share.
It is clear that the succession process can be a little complicated. We always recommend thinking of the will as a way to streamline the process, since when there is a will the process can be carried out at a notary’s office. As I indicated at the beginning, this generates many advantages such as choosing our heirs, distributing our assets to our liking, avoiding family conflict, and choosing the executor (an extremely important part of the process). Furthermore, our relatives will have the opportunity to have the process brought before a notary and thus avoid going before a judge, a complicated route since it can take years to reach a resolution.
If you want to learn more click on the following link: https://news.outlierlegal.com/blog/2019/12/20/the-importance-of-the-will-for-foreigners-who-have-children-or-property-in-the-country/