Do Foreigners Require a Costa Rica Will?

As a Costa Rica lawyer I am often asked by expat clients whether they require a Costa Rica will to provide for the disposition of their assets in this country when they die. The strictly legal answer is no, they do not, as long as they have a legally enforceable will in their country of origin that covers the disposition of their world assets. 

Following the probate of that will in their country of origin, it would have to be authenticated and translated into Spanish for use in Costa Rica. Then it must be submitted under a legal process to the Costa Rica court for the necessary approval to be relied upon in this country. This, of course, is both a lengthy and costly process. Should the will, for any reason, not be approved by the Costa Rica court, the testator would be deemed to have died intestate (without a will). This would result in a complicated disposition of the deceased’s Costa Rican assets pursuant to the Costa Rica probate laws, most likely in a manner never contemplated by the testator.

A more practical way to proceed is for a foreigner to have a Costa Rican will drawn and executed. The will is drawn by Costa Rica Notary Public in the Spanish language. It may provide for the disposition of the testator’s world assets, or alternatively, be restricted to the disposition of Costa Rican assets only. In fact, under Costa Rica’s civil law system, the will may contain a clause making it subordinate to a principal will existing in the testator’s country of origin, restricting its application to the disposition of the Costa Rican assets only. A copy of the Costa Rica will is filed with the National Archives following its execution.

The Costa Rican will may be entered into the probate process here immediately following the testator’s death, without any authentication or translation process being required. This considerably lessens the time frame and the legal costs of concluding the disposition of the testator’s assets following death.


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