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(506) 223-1327        San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 100        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Three ways exist to pass on assets at death
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

According to Consumer Reports, 66 percent of those living in the United States do not have a valid will.  Imagine how many expats do not have one in Costa Rica. 

Laws governing last wills and testaments are different in this country, and most people never get around to making a valid document.

Famous people like Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Howard Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Pablo Picasso all died without a will.

Will is a general term while testament applies to the disposition of personal property.  A will is a legal declaration that regulates the rights of others over property and family after death.

While death is the last thing on most peoples minds, having a valid will in Costa Rica is important or assets could end up in probate or stolen.    Probate here is a frustrating experience.  Marauders prey on the disorganized to steal property.

There are three legal ways to make a will in Costa Rica and a secret tip:

The first is an open will:

Open in this case means public, public in the sense a notary transcribes the document in his or her protocol book in front of three witnesses and files the instrument with the Archivo National.  The national archive, located behind the Registro Nacional in Zapote, keeps an index of all persons who have signed an open will in front of a notary.

The process is simple. One writes down his or her wishes and takes a list of assets to a Costa Rican notary, and the legal professional adds the required legalese to prepare it for transcription and filing.

Replacing the record is easy.  Filing a new one substitutes all the preceding ones.   Losing the original is no problem because replacing it is easy by getting a copy from the national archive.

Anyone can find out if someone has a will by going to the archive and asking if “so and so” has a will filed.  Employees there will respond with a “yes” or “no” or say “yes, so and so has three wills filed, the last one was filed on such and such a date and is the current document.”

Only parties to the will can get copies of it. However, in Costa Rica almost anything can be had with a tip.

The second is a closed will: 

In this case, one writes down his or her wishes, puts the paper in a sealed envelope and takes it to a notary accompanied by two witnesses.  The professional makes a razon notarial, or notary certification, of the act.  Someone then holds the envelope for safekeeping.

Upon death, the envelope must be presented to a Costa Rican judge where it is opened and transcribed into an acta or a certification to make it legally valid.

The problem with this approach is if the envelope is lost, no will exists.  Another problem is that if the professional is less than honest, manipulation could take place.

The third is a trust:

A trust can be set up at any time. The necessary parties are a trustor, also referred to as a grantor or principal, a trustee and beneficiaries.   The last two component parts can be individuals, companies or banks.  The

grantor sets out his or her wishes for the trustee to follow in distributing assets to the beneficiaries.

Trusts sound complicated but they are not.  Assets can be transferred into them tax-free and serve as a good way to protect and bequeath holdings.

Now for the secret tip:

Wills made in other parts of the world can be very hard and expensive to enforce in Costa Rica.  The Code of Bustamante, or the code of international private law, regulates foreign legal matters in Costa Rica.

To make use of this advice, all the assets here must be held by a company or companies.  This does not work for personal assets because any power given by the living from one individual to another expires upon the death of one of the parties.

When drawing up a last will and testament or trust in another country, the maker should give the executor or trustee a full power of attorney in the company or companies holding assets in Costa Rica.  This way the person responsible for a deceased's will can perform any legal duties in this country without hindrance because the company still exists.

A big problem in Costa Rica is people are busy finding ways to hide everything they own from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and/or the local tax people, the Dirección General de Tributación, partners, wives or husbands, girlfriends or boyfriends.

Many times in Costa Rica, loved ones cannot find inheritances because assets hidden too deeply are lost forever.  Sometimes the living finds it hard to come up with enough money for a simple burial or cremation of the deceased.   In some cases, wealthy people leave heirs penniless or with a big legal mess too expensive to unravel.

Certain things like phone lines, including cellular lines, certificates of deposits, public services, insurance policies, and some pensions can be auto assigned to others upon death.  It is customary to name a beneficiary when signing up for any one of these items.  All a beneficiary has to do to collect is to prove the death of the original owner.

Almost as important as leaving a will is to leave a step-by-step plan for loved ones to follow.    This guide can be simple and is not a legal document.   It sets out the tasks to follow, giving heirs pointers as to what to do and where important documents are located.
Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2004-2006, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 100

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Our readers' opinions

Another reader thinks
Mrs. Bush was incorrect

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Too bad Joe Furlong (19 May) is tired of criticism of Bush, who by the way is probably the worst U.S. president ever. It is laughable (and insulting for the receiving country) to see his wife sent on important official missions such as the inauguration of President Arias.

Mrs. Bush is not a government official nor is she noted for either an analytical mind or intelligent remarks. Perhaps she wasn't briefed properly before speaking. As Mr. Gesler (18 May) speculated, more likely she was just exhibiting the Bush administration's amazing disregard of history.

As Mr. Gesler correctly noted, President Arias did not bring peace to already peaceful Costa Rica, rather the ferment he helped stop was in neighbors to the north, internal wars that furthermore were to a large part instigated by illegal U.S. attacks and interference.

No one expected Mrs Bush to admit to any ugly truths, however for decency's sake, what little she did say should have been accurate. Then again maybe we should all get a life, like Joe says. Less and less people believe or care about anything this U.S. administration has to say, including the people of Latin America.

R. Martin

Comment on Bush-bashing
generates this response

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Joe Furlong from Florida said:
"I am getting so sick of reading the monotonous, trite, Bush-bashing  diatribes of these people who have nothing to do but write in with  meaningless criticisms of the U.S. government."

I did not love Clinton, but you people never did quit bashing.  Cr*p like  "Character counts" - Clinton "killed" 18 marines in Somalia, trying to feed Somalis.  Got smart, got out.  Bush (I refer to "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED  BUSH", not the "cut and run when you almost have him Bush" - Mission Bush has killed Sooo many marines (I've lost track)- AFTER MISSION  ACCOMPLISHED. 

And you people bashed Clinton till bash was all there was.  Clinton was a bad husband - but MISSION ACCOMPLISHED has wrecked an economy that Clinton made good (It is too late to say Clinton's fault, Mission Accomplished has nearly run out his second term)  Don't like Bush Bashing?  Have a son in Iraq?  What honor in killing American soldiers AFTER Mission Accomplished. 

That creep was going to use film of that in re-election commercials, truly that was the plan — but he cut and ran — NO  FILM!  Chicken.  Why the Democrats didn't rub his face in it I will never know, but then again I don't vote for them either.  The U.S.A. has turned  into a country of bashers. You started it, suck on it.

Charlie Merritt
San Isidro de Alajuela.

Now it is Bush's turn

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In regard to Mr. Furlong's letter on May 19 about tired of Bush bashing.  I had to live with eight years of Clinton bashing and now it's Bush's turn.  If Bush could perform a better job as president, maybe he wouldn't get bashed and have a lower approval rate than President Clinton ever had.
Walter Bibb
San Pedro
Another sighting of UFO

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We saw the UFO too, but we were on the road coming from Escazú to Santa Ana around 3 in the afternoon.  A business partner from New York City saw it and
called it to our attention. 

The first time we have ever seen anything like that. I thought it was the reflection off an airplane, but then a real airplane flew by for reference. Nope not an airplane.  Then it just disappeared.  Really neat.  Thanks for publishing the pictures.

Dan Chaput
La Guacima

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 100


Small service at wife's home planned for Pat Dunn
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pat Dunn opened up his new bar in Manta, Ecuador, in December 2003. He said at the time that he wanted to move his assets to that country because he felt it was open and friendly to business the way Costa Rica was when he first came here 25 years ago.

He met his death at the hands of robbers Thursday morning in Ecuador after having avoided such a fatal confrontation while running a number of nightspots in Costa Rica.

Dunn, 68, whose death was reported in a later version of A.M. Costa Rica Friday, will be returned this week from Ecuador, and his wife and daughter plan a small ceremony at their home adjacent to Posada Amón, the business they own in Barrio Amón in north San José. They are not sure when the body will be returned.

Although he no longer had a role in management, Dunn is frequently identified with the Dunn Inn, a 1920s mansion on Avenida 11 at calle 5 that was converted into a hotel in 1989.

More recently he was the operator of Tentaciones night club on Avenida 1 and the operator of the New York Bar and Lucky's Piano Bar on the pedestrian boulevard in the downtown. He had operated the Bar Nashville in San José.

Nearly everyone who has had a few drinks in downtown San José met Dunn because he liked talking to people. He was not judgmental and shared his time with tourists, expats and others with less savory occupations.

"People come to Costa Rica because they are looking for someone, or someone is looking for them," he used to say, according to an acquaintance who dropped a note to this newspaper over the weekend.

Pat Dunn
Despite his genial personality, Dunn also was very private and would not even talk much about how he nearly lost his life to a gasoline fire at his garage. He suffered severe burns over the right side of his body and spent months recovering.

The bar in Manta, Nashville South, was developed to sell, Dunn said. His daughter, Jennifer
Dunn, said he had sold the establishment but that the buyer failed to follow through. That bar, too, was mostly for expats. Nearby is Eloy Alfaro Air Base, since 1999 a key U.S. installation for anti-drug patrols over the ocean and drug interdiction activities in Colombia and other Latin American countries.

The robbers Thursday were believed after an estimated $1,500 that Dunn kept for operating capital at the bar. He lived at the establishment which is on the Malecón, the principal walkway at the Pacific port town. The cost of bringing Dunn home was unexpected for his daughter and wife, Elvia Jahara Jarquin Tellez. His daughter said the family was having trouble getting together the cost of a casket, some $3,000 and the estimated airline charge of about $2,000. They have been in contact with the Costa Rican Embassy there because Dunn, who came from Texas, had Costa Rican citizenship at the time of his death.

They said that friend who wanted to help them meet these expenses could donate to a Banco de Costa Rica account  937-0010388-8 that is in the name of his wife.

The Devil keeps some pretty good records
El que le hace un favor al Diablo con llevarselo le paga.

“He who does the Devil a favor will find himself rewarded with hell.” Today’s dicho is about the way we treat our fellow human beings. It works on many levels, but at the bottom of it I believe it mostly has to do with one’s conscience.

Let’s take cheating, for one example: I have a very close and dear friend who relates the story of how his father’s father unscrupulously connived to swindle his own son in their business dealings. It was the 1930s. The Great Depression was on, and money was extremely scarce. Yet the older man stole income that rightly belonged to his son, thus making life immeasurably harder for the son and his struggling family.

The grandfather, however, being unable to escape his religious belief in the existence of Hell, grew increasingly more terrified of death as old age overtook him. For his own faith assured the old man of the reward his treachery had prepared for him in the afterlife.

It is important to be fair in our dealings with other people if we are going to expect fairness in return. When workers come to repair something in the house, it is wise to negotiate a fair price for their labors. If we seek to bamboozle a repairman out of his just pay for constructing a new roof — let us say — then we shouldn’t be surprised when shoddy workmanship contributes to its collapse during the next earthquake. In this way it might be said that one may obtain the rewards of stinginess in this life without having to wait for the next.

An acquaintance of mine is always buying things from unsavory types whom he encounters in the streets. He calls these disreputable vendors his “friends,” and he’s always bragging about how he got this or that top-of-the-line item for a fraction of its retail cost. I asked him once if it didn’t bother him

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

that most of the items sold in this sleazy market were stolen. He replied that the details of the origin of the merchandise did not concern him. He was only taking advantage of a “good deal.”

A few months ago, while my acquaintance and his family where vacationing on a Guanacaste beach, some of those “friends” broke into his house. They carted off everything they could carry out the front door including his wife’s jewelry, the stereo, television, microwave and computer, all items he’d bought on the street.

When he returned from holiday he was, of course, very upset. But he could hardly notify the authorities since he knew the missing items were all “hot.”

I’m afraid I annoyed him quite a bit when he was relating to me this tale of woe by saying that he’d have to locate some of his “friends” in order to buy back all that already stolen property. My sister, who is also acquainted with this person, recently told me that this is exactly what came to pass.

My, my! The ol’ Devil certainly does work in mysterious ways sometimes!

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 100

A guest editorial from the tourism sector
Government is inefficient and can't be trusted
By a tourism business owner*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
As a foreign investor in Costa Rica, I have to take issue with Oscar Arias seeking more foreign investment. Doing business in Costa Rica, unless  you are a multinational company that gets special favors from the government, is one of the most challenging things a person can do, especially as far as small- and medium-sized businesses, which are actually the bread and butter of Costa Rica, whether owned by local folks or foreigners.

These businesses face obstacles so tremendous that getting a return on investment is near impossible. Foreigners do not find any support from their embassies for the most part (unless, of course, they are multinational corporations) and the Ticos find little or no support from their governments, local or federal either.
In tourist areas such as Guanacaste and Manuel Antonio, roads and bridges are in ruins, water is a constant source of challenges, bureacracy is inefficient and does not support business, despite the fact that legitimate businesses pay the lion's share of taxes in the country. Local municipalities are ineffective, often corrupt, and mismanagement of funds is clear and evident in all areas where tourism is concerned.

Tourist businesses are seen as making money hand over fist so local municipalities expect them to repair roads, pay for new water systems, donate generously to all local charities, fight all their own infrastructure battles with their own resources. The local government here does not intervene in such issues as water shortages, bad roads, faulty bridges, or other municipal affairs, those battles are generally fought by the businesses and are seldom won.
Tourism as a business is a stress-filled nightmare. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo is a joke, producing no support to assist the tourism industry except more taxes and paperwork. Most real marketing is paid by the 100s of millions of dollars spent by private business in the country. The ICT  contract, which is supposed to cost $2,000 and take
6 months can cost up to $20,000 and take 6 years.

Then the country changed it’s position and took all the benefits away! And they are even thinking of requiring that business repay whatever benefits they received after the fact, when they were simply accepting benefits offered to them by the government which were later withdrawn. A government who cannot be trusted to keep it’s own agreements is the worst of all possibilities in business. When they can later retroactively charge business for taking advantage of a government initiative, that is nothing short of a crime.
Until the playing field is leveled for locally owned businesses, whether owned by ticos or foreigners, the government has no business seeking more foreign investment. These investors, facing the state of the nation today will encounter an inefficient, semi-functional government that creates barriers to business in every sector of the economy, makes bureacrats the kings of everything and in the end the government does not serve the people or business. We, in fact serve the government in its current state.

It is my deepest wish that Oscar Arias will make an efficient government, that he will eliminate bureaucratic barriers to business, that he will stop seeing business as something so independent of the state that it must fight all its battles alone.

We who do legitimate businesses pay almost all the taxes that fund a highly inefficient and semi-functional government that sees us as taxpayers, not employers, not responsible taxpayers, not the lifeblood of the country, but one more thing to milk to justify countless government agencies to regulate us, drown us in paperwork and worst of all, treat us as though businesses are the vampires, when in fact, the thing sucking the blood in this country is government, swollen, inefficient, wasteful and redundant government.
*If we did not know the writer we would think that fears or retribution are overblown. But that is why we allow this piece to be signed "An investor who wishes for a new relationship between government and business."

Researchers show that spin confounds goalkeepers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
Professional goalkeepers fail to stop free kicks because of shortcomings in their visual system, according to new research by Cathy Craig and colleagues, from Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The projected trajectory of a ball following a curved flight path is more difficult to judge because the human visual system is not sensitive enough to gauge a change of direction at speed, mid-flight, said the report. The research is published in Springer-Verlag’s journal Naturwissenschaften.

Free kicks are now important goal-scoring opportunities, with specialist free kick takers often choosing to make the ball spin in order to curve the ball into the goal. Because of the size of the goal net, goal keepers need to anticipate the direction of the ball before they take action. Cathy Craig and her team looked at whether the lateral deflection of a ball’s trajectory, caused by sidespin, affects professional footballers’ perception of where the ball is heading.

A player usually gets a free kick when an opponent illegally interfers with his progress.

Eleven professional footballers (attackers, mid-fielders and defenders) and nine goalkeepers from AC Milan, Olympique de Marseille, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04 were asked to judge whether a range of
simulated free kicks would end up in the goal or not, using a virtual reality system.

The viewpoint was fixed in the centre of the goal. When there was no spin, balls arriving directly opposite the goal were consistently judged to be entering the goal.  When the ball was spinning clockwise, the resulting trajectories — from the point
of view of the goalkeeper — unfolded on the right-hand side of the no-spin trajectory, resulting in a goal only if the kicker shot from left of the central position in front of the goal. For conditions where the ball was spinning counter-clockwise, the balls landed in the goal only when they were kicked from the right-hand side of the no-spin trajectory. There was no difference between the judgments of the field players and goalkeepers.

Players appear to be using current ball heading direction to make their judgements about whether the free kick will end up in the goal or not, rather than accurately predicting the effects of lateral acceleration on the ball’s trajectory.

Reseracher Craig and colleagues conclude that these “perceptual effects find their origin in inherent limitations of the human visual system in anticipating the arrival point of an object subjected to an additional accelerative influence….The depth of experience of our participants does not seem to be able to compensate for these shortcomings in visual perception.”

Venezuela considering purchase of Russian jet aircraft
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan officials say they are considering buying fighter jets from Russia, days after Washington banned arms sales to the South American nation.

In an interview with Russian media Friday, Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia Alexis Navarro Rojas said Caracas may purchase Russian Su-35s to replace its fleet of American F-16s.

Negotiations are expected to begin in the coming weeks.
If completed, the deal would be the latest in a string of Venezuelan military purchases from Moscow.

Caracas recently bought 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles from Russia, and already has received several Russian-made helicopters.

Washington last week banned arms sales to Venezuela because of its alleged intelligence links to Iran and Cuba. Caracas responded, saying it would consider selling its U.S.-made F-16s to other countries, including Iran. Citing sales agreements, U.S. officials said Washington would not allow such a resale.

Jo Stuart
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