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(506) 2223-1327      Published Monday, July 6, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 131       E-mail us
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There are some advantages to making a will here
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Too many people put off doing their will and succession plans. Here is another reminder to do so, but more importantly, some tips to save money and make you more secure if you live in Costa Rica.  A last will and testament means making life easier for the left behind.  This priceless document can also make it much harder for the vultures that cloud over an expats death in this country to steal assets from their rightful heirs.

Foreign residents are usually considered walking wallets by locals, which means there is always somebody looking, counting, waiting for an opportunity to take it all. There are local women who prey on expats, making them believe in their love and devotion while they slowly and diligently do their research and calculate everything to make their move. There are also neighbors lurking through the fence, ready to take over expats’ assets. Yes, it happens more frequently than anyone can imagine, and there is always a starving lawyer ready to sell his soul to the Devil.

Thinking of death is definitely not fun, but thinking of protecting one’s assets and putting them in good hands is something worth investing time. Many expats who do not have a will have assets under sociedades anónimas, or even in their personal names (This is not recommended) but have no succession plan in place.

Some expats have gotten together with a companion and may be innocently sharing sensitive information about the ownership of assets.   Corporation can be easily changed by simply getting one’s hands on the legal books.  It only takes minutes and a dishonest lawyer to falsify signatures.  It takes years and a lot of money to prove the fraud.   

When properties go unclaimed for 10 years because the deceased expat’s family in the U.S. is unaware of the assets held in Costa Rica, lurking and patient neighbors may move in little by little and start claiming ownership over the land. This type of situation is also a dirty lawyer’s paradise since they can easily falsify a dead person’s name and resell the property at their convenience.  If someone spills the beans or finds out, it is hard to prove the hoax.  The Registro Nacional is not in charge of checking if each signature belongs to a living or deceased person, so this kind of scheme is an easy way to steal property.  Only recently has the institution even — in some cases — begun to do so.

Therefore, as surely as some eyebrows have already been raised this far into this article, there is a way out of the potential post-mortem mess. A will made in Costa Rica may turn out to be a better choice than one made in the United States.

Here are some important reasons to consider doing a will in Costa Rica and taking the task off one's to-do list:

It may be cheaper. A will in the United States may cost from several hundred to some thousands of dollars if prepared by a lawyer, whereas a will in Costa Rica prepared by a notary is much less expensive.

It is more official.  In Costa Rica, there is a will called an open or public will.  An open will is the
will and testament

safest, most used and official, since it is recorded in the Costa Rican national archive.  It is available when needed and safe from any suspicious activity. In the United States, wills are normally written on a piece of paper and enclosed in an envelope.  They are easily lost or tampered with by the greedy.

It can be general or specific.   A will in Costa Rica can encompass all of one's assets all over the world or be specific to only certain assets in Costa Rica.  A specific will is a great way to leave an asset for a friend in this country, without making other heirs aware of the transaction.  Now, with this said, if other rightful heirs find out about a Costa Rican will, they can contest it here if they wish.  However, this rarely happens and is expensive to do so.

It is simpler to probate.  When someone dies, and he or she has an open, public will in which the beneficiaries are older than 18 and no disagreement emerges from the distribution of assets, a notary can probate the will using a fast track method called a sucesorio notarial.  The probate process takes only a few months vs. years when no public will exists.

The process gets complicated when minors are involved or when there are disagreements over the will.   Expats with minor children should appoint either a lawyer or a trusted adult to decide over assets if they are adding the minors to an open will in this country.

All people should plan to protect their assets in death, especially expats living in Costa Rica.  A good will is one way to do so.  There are additional ways assets can be protected, which should be considered as a complement to a last will and testament.

There is a well known saying in this country that reads, "doctors may not be able to bring people back to life, but lawyers in Costa Rica certainly do so all the time."

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2009, use without permission prohibited.

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A new Fuerza Pública delegación has been put into service in San Miguel de Santo Domingo, Heredia. Security officials inaugurated the building Friday.

Another swine flu death
reported by health officials

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The health ministry is reporting a third death of a person who was inflected with swine flu. The victim is a 53-year-old man.

There also are informal reports of two more deaths, including that of a pregnant woman, although the specifics were not available Sunday night.

In all cases, those who died suffered from conditions other than just the flu. The two latest deaths are believed to be of two persons who were reported to be suffering from pneumonia.

Nearly 300 persons have now been confirmed as suffering of swine flu.

Two more schools of music
inaugurated by Arias

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the achievements of the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration will be the network of music schools that he has promoted.

The president inaugurated two more Friday, one in Puntarenas and one in San Ramón. They are part of the  Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical.

In a speech in Puntarenas Arias praised musical education as a way for students to develop discipline by practicing. He also encouraged learning a second language, another of his pet projects.

Some 150 students are involved in musical education there now, but by next year, officials hope to have space for 500 to 750, they said.

In San Ramón there are 250 students, and plans are underway for a youth symphonic orchestra, similar to the one that has existed in San José for years.

Arias has been instrumental in getting outside financing for the musical education system, and some visiting artists with the Orchestra Sinfónica Nacional donate their honorariums to the cause.

Unregistered health products
draw warning from ministry

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The health ministry said that there are a series of health products on the market that have not been registered and which carry registration numbers of other products. The products are under the names of Natural Life and Nova Forma, both marketed by a firm identified as Distribuidora Merva, said the ministry.

The products promise to reduce weight, lower high blood pressure, eliminate stress, get rid of parasites and increase sexual potency, among other benefits,said the Ministerio de Salud.

The products do now say where they were manufactured and there is no guarantee of their effectiveness, said the ministry.

25 in Puntarenas begin
training to run businesses

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 25 young men and women in Puntarenas begin a year-old training today to become business operators. The project is under the Programa Jóvenes Empresarios with support from Banco Popular, the Ministerio de Trabajo, the Universidad Estatal a Distancia and the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

At the end of the program, the successful participants are eligible for additional aid, either technical or financial, and they are expected to create their own businesses. They will study such topics as exportation, accounting, market strategy and principles of administration.

The program is part of the central government's effort to address the global economic crisis by training young people. Some have left high school early.

Canadian's death probed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents are investigating the death of an 83-year-old Canadian expat who was found dead in his home near Clinica Biblica in southern San José.

He was identified tentatively as George Moore. Officers at the scene said that it appeared that Moore fell in the shower.

Robbery suspect had gun

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers said that five motorcyclists fled the scene of a robbery early Sunday and one was caught after a chase. They identified him by the last names of
Castillo Rodríguez, and said that he was carrying a .32-caliber pistol and a wallet belonging to the robbery victim.

The robbery took place near the Fuente de la Hispanidad in  San Pedro adjacent to the mall of the same name.

Expat homes targets in Nosara

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers said they stopped a man in the Pacific beach resort of Nosara and found that he was carrying a bag full of electronic devices.

They included three iPods, four two-way radios, two cell phones, a DVD with remote control and two portable computers.  They identified him by the last names of  Cascante Mendoza and said he was suspected of burglarizing the homes of foreigners in the community.

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U.S. Embassy workers finally resolve U.S. Flag impasse
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Flag situation has been resolved by U.S. Embassy workers.

The Federal Benefits Unit has loaned two flags to be held in the event of a death by a U.S. veteran during times when the embassy is closed.

Melvin Goldberg, a retired U.S. Navy commander and first vice commander of American Legion Post 10, has reported that he got the flags for use at funerals.

The last honor that the United States government can bestow on a veteran is to provide a flag to drape the former
warrior's coffin.  But in Costa Rica where the tradition is
for a quick burial, embassy workers are not available outside of office hours to provide the flag.

One veteran went to his grave two weeks ago without a flag because he died on a Saturday.

Embassy workers had been confounded on how to set up a system so that local Legion members could obtain a flag on weekends. They even suggested delaying funerals, Goldberg said.

Goldberg said that he signed out two flags on consignment July 2 on the condition that he provide the paperwork on a deceased veteran within a month. The embassy requires the veteran's discharge papers, a U.S. death certificate and signature of a surviving spouse, if any, said Goldberg.

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The Museos del Banco Central put on a vacation extravaganza for local children Sunday with clowns, games and pretty good weather until about noon when the skies opened up. Public school students are on
vacation for two weeks and so are some of the public institutions, like the Poder Judicial. The three museums of the Banco Central occupy space beneath the Plaza de la Cultura.

Heredia night school raid turns up stashes of marijuana
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An anti-drug task force raided an adult night school in Heredia and had more luck than they did at a high school earlier in the week.

The scene was the Liceo Nocturno Alfredo González Flores, a school with 1,200 adult students in Heredia centro.

Police action was frustrated by a man identified as the future student president who saw police and ran through the halls of the school giving the alarm, officers said. Participating were the Fuerza Pública and the Heredia Policía Municipal. With the officers were drug-sniffing dogs.

No one was found in possession of drugs, said police, but several packages of marijuana were found stashed behind blackboards and in holes in the school walls. A dozen students attracted the interest of the dogs, but police could not locate any drugs on them, they said.

The future student president, a man identified by the last names of Romero Barrantes, who is 26, was detained after police said he made threats.

Mauricio Moreira, the school director, said he had
Drug dog in action
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Drug-sniffing dog checks out student backpacks

become concerned by the incidents of drug use and drug sales at the school and called in police, officers said.

In a similar raid on a high school, police were left empty-handed.

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Central Pacific Chamber president reflects on development
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

On development in Jacó: A perspective from the Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce

Over the last several weeks, a few readers’ letters were published here which revolved around development and construction in Jacó. As president of the Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce, I would like to take this opportunity to provide residents and readers with a reflection on the benefits that development brought and will continue to bring to this area.

The only certainty in life is change, and the face of Jacó is clearly changing. Nothing stays the same, and Jacó is no exception. However, as we interact with the community, build new structures and infrastructure and support local programs, we strive to ensure that the changes will be positive and beneficial. 

Of course, not all development can be considered progress. Yet it is our ultimate goal to ensure that as this community grows and flourishes, each change is in the best interest of the residents and tourists who enjoy the beauty and bounty of this land.

The benefits to the community of development are truly impossible to ignore or overlook. There are certainly many obvious advances, but development carries with it a spider web effect that is difficult to quantify or precisely appraise. This effect expands to include new jobs and industries, benefits for local real estate agencies, restaurants, gift shops and much more. Development creates many business opportunities that would not otherwise exist, and results in literally millions of dollars pouring into the community.

New septic systems are another beneficial aspect of development; these contribute to cleaner, safer waterways. In fact, the entire water supply infrastructure has certainly improved in the area. Better municipal wells, made possible by funding linked to recent development, now ensure that all residents enjoy reliable water pressure. Engineering and consulting costs related to these new structures and projects have been shouldered by the chamber, yet the entire community benefits from vastly improved water quality that is up to health code standards. In the future, contributions from developers will enable the construction of a municipal sewage treatment plant for Jacó. Thanks to efforts by the chamber, we are now closer than ever to this goal.

It’s difficult for me to imagine that anyone who lives in or visits Jacó pines for the roadways of several years ago. Anyone who attempted to drive down those heavily potholed roads can attest to the related inconvenience, cost and even danger. Today, Jacó is a shining national example of safe, new roads. Major funding for our new roadways was generated by a financial partnership between the chamber and the local municipalities.

Local residents benefit from more than just improved infrastructure; they also benefit economically. Far from putting longtime residents at an economic disadvantage, we strive to ensure that those who choose to sell their property enjoy the full market value. This option to sell at a profit has surely been a boon to those who elected to do so.

Closely related to developed properties with increased value, there is the issue of tax revenue. The vastly increased

tax revenues collected from developed properties go directly to benefit the community, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to the municipal budget. Finally, with new residents and tourists comes an influx of well-paying jobs for local community members.

Everywhere in Jacó there is now less litter, thanks to programs set in motion in tandem with development. Trash is now collected regularly, and full-time municipal staffers remove roadside litter. But where the difference – and improvement – is most acute is the beach. Thanks to a generous donation from the chamber, no public money was spent on our efficient beach cleaning machine. This cleaning machine, together with a paid municipal staff, guarantees a beach that is far cleaner than it’s been in years past.

A new park, complete with a playground, gardens and community gathering space, now defines the center of Jacó. This would not have been possible without tax revenue from new development and generous donations from developers.

Fewer dogs now run wild through the town, and spay and neuter programs supported by donations from the community ensure that this trend will continue. Investors and developers have also contributed to a stronger police presence.  The chamber was instrumental in working with the mayor to create a new police force, which has had an undeniably positive effect on security issues within our community.

Supported by the Chamber of Commerce, various community outreach and security improvement programs now thrive, connecting commercial and community interests.

I am shocked by any who may wish to point an accusing finger at developers or accuse developers of greed. The Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce is proud to function as everything from the equivalent of the Red Cross to the United Way in this community. Fundraisers and events – supported by donations from developers and new residents – have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for community projects such as Train More Lifeguards, Clean the Beach, Protect the Red Macaws, Build More Classrooms and Provide Equipment to the Tourist Police. Especially during these trying economic times, our hope is that we can pull together as a community rather than pulling apart and casting blame. We are all in this together.

No community is perfect, yet we can still strive together to reach common goals and to improve each day. Fortunately, this community benefits from many generous members who never hesitate to lend their support, whether through donations of time or money. We also enjoy a solid partnership between the chamber and local municipalities, who are working together to make this a better, safer community. The chamber is proud to partner with local and national government representatives, and it is through this joint venture between the private and public sectors that our community will continue to improve.

As we look to the future, we hope to continue to serve as a catalyst for positive change in this community. We are proud of our role in making Jacó into one of Costa Rica’s model cities for responsible development, community outreach and effective urban planning.
Pat Hundley, president
Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 131

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Zelaya blocked in effort
to return to Honduras

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Honduran troops blocked the airport in the capital and prevented ousted President José Manuel Zelaya from returning to the country Sunday. Zelaya's supporters clashed with police in Tegucigalpa, killing at least one person.

Honduran soldiers moved trucks and other equipment onto the runway as the plane carrying the ousted president approached the city. Air traffic controllers said the plane was not authorized to land and warned it would be intercepted if it tried to touch down.

Thousands of supporters cheered as the Venezuelan plane carrying Zelaya circled over the airport before leaving the nation's airspace.

Troops fired tear gas into the crowd, after supporters tried to enter the airfield. Emergency officials said at least one person was shot and killed in the clash, and several others were injured.

After landing in San Salvador, Zelaya offered his condolences to the civilians involved in the clash, and called for an end to violence. The ousted leader said he was begging and ordering security forces to stop repressing the nation's people.

Earlier, Honduran police Lt. Hector Mejillas gave a televised address, saying the interim government expressed regret for what took place at the airport. And he cautioned Hondurans and foreigners in the country who are involved in demonstrations in support of Zelaya.

Mejillas said people should avoid causing disturbances or provoking public sentiment, because these acts only hurt the nation's progress.

Earlier, interim President Roberto Micheletti said he authorized military forces to block the ousted leader's return in an effort to avoid violence. Micheletti said he hoped the ousted president would take time to reflect on his actions and decide to turn himself in to Honduran authorities in what he called a normal way.

Micheletti also warned neighboring Nicaragua that Honduras will defend its borders. There have been reports of troop movements near the Honduras border. Daniel Ortega, the Nicaragua president, supports Zelaya. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez  has publicly threatened to intervene militarily to restore the ousted president.

Honduras officials say that if Mr. Zelaya returns to the country, he will be arrested to face 18 charges, including treason and abuse of power.

Zelaya had hoped to return to Honduras and reclaim the presidency - one week after troops seized him in a pre-dawn raid and placed him on a plane to Costa Rica.

Zelaya flew from Dulles International Airport in Virginia near Washington, D.C. and then landed briefly in Managua, Nicaragua, before heading to San Salvador. He was expected to return to Washington for another session of the Organization of American States.

Radio reporter killed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Assassins gunned down Gabriel Fino Noriega, correspondent for Radio América in San Juan Pueblo, Honduras, Friday when he left Estelar, a local radio station, where he also had a program, said the Comité por la Libre Expresión, a free press advocacy organization in that country. Fino was on a motorcycle when the shooting took place.
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Man loses attempt to seal
credit reporting data

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has declined to declare public information to be private. The court turned down an appeal from a man who wanted to keep Datum.Net, a private company that supplies credit information, from having his name and other information in its data base.

The man said that private data and that of his family was available through the company, including ownership of property and other goods, the numbers of his telephone, employers, salaries, businesses he owns and the exact location of his home. and other companies collect the data from government sources and compile it. And they solicit additional information from companies that extend credit.

There was no clear information in a Poder Judicial summary on what grounds the court rejected the appeal.

Chávez is now a banker
after Santander payment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Venezuelan government took control of the country's third-largest bank Friday amid a wave of nationalizations led by President Hugo Chávez.

The purchase of Spanish-owned Banco de Venezuela allows Chávez to tighten the government's grip on the country's banking sector.

The government agreed to pay Spain's Grupo Santander $1.05 billion for the bank, according to a deal announced in May. The first payment, $630 million, was transferred  Friday.

Since 2007, the Chávez government has nationalized other major companies in a number of sectors, including steel and electricity.

Also Friday, the head of Venezuela's telecommunications regulatory agency said that 240 radio stations will have their licenses revoked.

The telecom chief, Diosdado Cabello, a close ally of Chávez, said the stations have failed to submit the required regulatory documents and are therefore operating illegally.

The move comes as Globovision, the last remaining television network on the public airwaves openly critical of the Chavez government, is investigated.  Another opposition station (Radio Caracas Television) moved to cable in 2007 when Chávez refused to renew its license.

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