What is the procedure for passing on an inheritance?
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.
The initial step in any case of inheritance is to obtain the Death Certificate. As legal representatives we can obtain such a document if the person died in Puerto Rico. Then, it is necessary to verify if a Will was left, a matter that the attorney verifies in what is known as the Registry of Wills.
If the deceased did not prepare a Will, which is most common, it will be necessary to file a Declaration of Heirs application in 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 Treasury Department what is called the Inheritance Estate Form. This form, also known as the "Estate Form" is required only when there is real estate (e.g., houses, apartments, farms) or personal property (e.g., motor vehicles or bank accounts). However, the form will not be required if the deceased only left less than $15,000 in a financial institution.
Once the PR Treasury evaluates the form, it then issues a Certification of Lien, better known as the "Relevo de Hacienda". This Waiver is necessary so that the heirs can 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 (Declaration of Heirs or Will, plus the Waiver from the Treasury), the transfer of these assets may be requested. If there are motor vehicles, you must go to 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 Centre (CRIM). This is important to avoid the accumulation of property taxes, to which the government adds interest and penalties. This is true even if the property had a tax exemption because it is the main residence since it is affected by a death. However, if the widow or widower remains living in the residence or there are minor children, then the exemption continues.
These have been some of the most frequently asked questions about inheritance in Puerto Rico. It is important that as soon as a person passes away, you start the inheritance process through an attorney. In this way, you will avoid problems, taxes or penalties from the government, in addition to ensuring the continuity of the assets to which you are entitled. Inheritance transfers no are automatic. For more information, you can also go to our Inheritance Transfer link. At Abogado Notario Online we focus on inheritance cases. However, due to the high costs and excessive length, we do not handle cases where litigation is pending. To request an evaluation of your case, you must fill out the form below.