Your Will in Costa Rica: Understanding Your Options

As a resident or future resident of Costa Rica, it is essential to understand your options when creating a will and obtaining life insurance. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the legal requirements and best practices for will creation and life insurance in Costa Rica.

Creating a Will in Costa Rica

Creating a will in Costa Rica is relatively straightforward, but it is essential to understand the legal requirements and best practices. Under Costa Rican law, a will must be written in Spanish and executed in the presence of a notary public. It is also important to note that the testator (the person making the will) must be of legal age and can understand the nature and effects of the choice.

It is recommended to consult with a lawyer when creating a will in Costa Rica. They can ensure that the document meets all legal requirements and accurately reflects your wishes. Additionally, they can assist with any necessary translations and ensure the will is executed correctly.

Can My Foreign Will Work? Yes, But…

The laws in Costa Rica are different from those in your home country. Your foreign Will can only be validated through a recognition act called “exequatur”. This is a cumbersome and expensive process as it requires the following steps:

  1. Obtain a judgment from the probate court in the country where the Will was issued.
  2. Have the foreign court judgment apostilled for use in Costa Rica.
  3. Have the documents officially translated into Spanish and certified by the MINISTRY OF FOREIGN RELATIONS.
  4. Hire an attorney to file for recognition before the FIRST CHAMBER OF THE SUPREME COURT.
  5. Begin an abbreviated probate process in Costa Rica. This part can take approximately 2-3 YEARS or more!

Example: An American in Costa Rica

An American client of ours passed away, leaving behind his wife and two children. In Costa Rica, you cannot have two owners of a bank account (a joint account). Only one owner can be, with the spouse as a second signatory on the account. If you go into the bank and tell them that your spouse passed away, they will immediately freeze your bank account, leaving you penniless until you settle the estate.

If a person dies with secured debts, such as a mortgage, the interest must be paid, highlighting the critical need for life insurance, which this person, in the example, lacked. The mortgage loan becomes arrears if payments aren’t made, and the foreclosure begins. Even if a private lender extends your time, as in this case, he can only wait so long for the borrower’s spouse to devise a solution.

The grief, like that of many people who have recently lost a spouse, can be overwhelming, and the last thing you want to do is make major financial decisions that will affect you and your children on the spur of the moment. When a foreclosure begins, you may feel compelled to sell the property immediately. If you don’t have a Will, you won’t be able to sell your home until it has gone through the time-consuming and costly probate process.

Interest will accrue, late fees will accrue, and now foreclosure costs will be added to the bill. This increases the overall cost of the situation. Ultimately, one has few options other than liquidating the house for a meager price to cover these costs.

All of this could have been avoided with a Will and life insurance. If you’re elderly and don’t qualify for life insurance, a Will can help speed up the probate process and give your spouse access to assets so they can plan an exit strategy and pay off your debts.

What We Can CRIE Do For You?

At CRIE, we never want to see anyone in the abovementioned situation.

We’ve enlisted the help of independent attorneys, notaries, and insurance agents who can help you get the right Will and Life Insurance policy.


Creating a will and obtaining life insurance are essential steps for residents and future residents of Costa Rica. By understanding the legal requirements and best practices for these processes, you can ensure that your wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are protected. Please consult with a lawyer and financial advisor to make sure that you are making the best decisions for your specific situation.


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

[email protected]


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