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What is the procedure to transfer an inheritance in Puerto Rico?
On this page we proceed to answer some of the frequently asked questions about inheritance. It is not until a person dies that the inheritance transfer process can be started. Because of the complexity of inheritance issues, it is recommended that you hire an attorney who is dedicated to this type of proceeding. Otherwise, you run the risk that, due to ignorance or negligence, mistakes will be made that will then involve extra time and expense in trying to correct them.
What is the first step?
The initial step in any inheritance case is to obtain the Death Certificate. As legal representatives we can obtain this document if the person died in Puerto Rico. Then, the lawyer has to verify if a Will was left, through what is known as the Register of Wills.
When is the Declaration of Heirs necessary?
If the deceased person did not leave a Will, which is most common, then it will be necessary to file an application for a Declaration of Heirs with the court.
If the deceased left a Will, the estate will be divided as provided in that document. It is essential that, in order to be valid, the will be prepared according to the laws of Puerto Rico.
What is the Inheritance Estate Form?
If the deceased left property, the next step is to submit to the Puerto Rico Department of the Treasury what is called the Inheritance Estate Form. This Form, also known as "Form de Herencia" is required only when there is real property (e.g., a house) or personal property (e.g., motor vehicles or bank accounts). However, the Form willnot be required if the decedent only left less than $15,000 in a financial institution.
Once the Treasury Department assesses the Form, it subsequently issues a Certification of Lien, better known as the "Treasury Waiver". This Waiver is necessary for the heirs to be able to receive their assets.
Where are the assets transferred?
If the deceased left real estate (houses, apartments, farms, etc.), the transfer is made at the Property Registry.
When there are accounts in financial institutions, after having obtained the documents indicated above, the transfer of these assets may be requested. If there are motor vehicles, then the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP).
Is there anything else to be done?
After the transfer of the real estate properties in the Property Registry (if any), the corresponding change of ownership must be made at the Municipal Revenue Collection Center (CRIM). This step is important to avoid the accumulation of property taxes, to which the government adds interest and penalties. This is so even if the property has a tax exemption, if it is the principal residence, since such exemption is affected upon death. However, if the widow or widower continues to live in the residence, or sometimes other members of the family unit, the exoneration continues, but it must always be processed at the CRIM.
It is important that as soon as a person passes away, the inheritance procedures are started through an attorney. In this way, problems, taxes or penalties from the government will be avoided. In addition, you can ensure the continuity of the assets to which you are entitled. It is important to note that inheritance transfers are not automatic, so if the heirs do nothing, the properties remain stagnant.
For more information, you can also go to our link on Transfer of Inheritance. At Abogado Notario Online we concentrate on inheritance proceedings. It should be noted that, due to the high costs and excessive duration, we do not attend cases where there is pending litigation. To request an evaluation of your case, please fill out the form below.