Understanding Wills and Life Insurance in Costa Rica

In the realm of financial planning, wills and life insurance play a crucial role. They provide a safety net for your loved ones and ensure the proper distribution of your assets after your demise. In Costa Rica, these instruments are governed by specific laws and regulations that differ from those in other countries.



The Necessity of a Costa Rican Will for Asset Holders

If you hold assets in Costa Rica, it’s essential to understand that foreign wills do not apply to these assets. This means that a will drafted in another country, such as the United States or Canada, will not be recognized in Costa Rica. Therefore, it’s of utmost importance to have a will according to Costa Rican laws if you have assets in the country. This will ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death. You can learn more about this in the Costa Rican Civil Code.



What Happens if You Die Without a Costa Rican Will?

Dying without a will, or dying intestate, can lead to complications for your heirs. The Costa Rican Civil Code specifies potential heirs who can make a claim on your Costa Rican assets. This list includes your children, parents, spouse, grandparents, siblings, and even nephews, nieces, aunts, and uncles. If none of these relatives are alive or can be found, your estate will be donated to local education boards in Costa Rica.



The Process of Obtaining a Will in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, drafting a will involves a notary public, not a lawyer. The notary public will help you declare all your Costa Rican assets and specify your beneficiaries. This process results in a public deed with detailed notes on your assets and your wishes. This deed needs to be signed by at least three witnesses. The cost of drawing up a will is based on a percentage of the total assets. It’s important to note that your beneficiaries may also have to pay a significant amount after you’re gone. Therefore, it’s advisable to set aside a certain amount of money to cover these costs.



Understanding Life Insurance in Costa Rica

Life insurance is a critical component of financial security. It provides a financial safety net for your loved ones in the event of your untimely demise. In Costa Rica, there are various life insurance products available, each with its own set of features and benefits. These products range from term life insurance, which provides coverage for a specific period, to whole life insurance, which offers lifelong coverage and a cash value component.



The Benefits of Life Insurance Products in Costa Rica

One of the popular life insurance products in Costa Rica is LifeProtector, a universal life insurance policy. This policy offers a unique combination of protection and savings in a single product. It provides a death benefit to your beneficiaries and also builds cash value over time that you can borrow against or use to pay premiums. This dual benefit makes it an attractive option for many individuals seeking financial security.



The Importance of Trusts in Asset Management

In addition to wills and life insurance, trusts also play a significant role in asset management in Costa Rica. A trust is a legal arrangement where you transfer your assets to a trustee, who manages these assets for the benefit of your chosen beneficiaries. Setting up a trust offers several benefits, including:

  • Protection of assets from creditors
  • Avoidance of probate process
  • Potential tax benefits
  • Greater control over asset distribution

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


Frequently Asked Questions


Do foreign Wills apply to Costa Rican assets?

No, foreign wills do not apply to Costa Rican assets. You need a Costa Rican will for your assets in the country.

What happens if I die without a Costa Rican will?

The Costa Rican Civil Code specifies potential heirs who can claim your assets.

How do I make a will in Costa Rica?

To make a will in Costa Rica, you need to engage a notary public who will help you draft the will. This will should declare all your Costa Rican assets and specify your beneficiaries. The will is then formalized into a public deed, which must be signed by at least three witnesses.

How long does probate take in Costa Rica?

The duration of the probate process in Costa Rica can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the estate and whether there are any disputes among the heirs. On average, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

Can Americans own real estate in Costa Rica?

Yes, Americans can own real estate in Costa Rica. There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of property, except for property located within the maritime zone.


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