According to Puerto Rico's Civic Code, succession is the transmission of the rights and obligations of the deceased to his heirs. Anyone who wishes to stipulate beneficiaries (those who would receive his assets in case of death), must do so by writing a will. To guarantee the validity of such will, the testator should get oriented with a lawyer familiar with Puerto Rico's Inheritance Law.
There are three existing types of will legally valid in Puerto Rico: open, closed or the holographic will. The first two types are the most secure because they are written in the presence of a notary (lawyer) and he can be an advocate to the intellectual capacity of the testator in case of discrepancies. On the other hand, a holographic will does not need any witnesses. It must be completely handwritten and signed by the testator with the exact date on it (day, month, year). A holographic will can be made only by people older than 18 years of age, and it is valid even if made outside of Puerto Rico, or in the deceased's native tongue (other than Spanish). If the deceased did not have a will, the state proceeds to distribute her assets or estate according to the inheritance law and her forced heirs.
Many people in Puerto Rico are unaware of the legal implications when donating estate while living. They "give their word" to their children or friends about a particular piece of land, or house. An important consideration to make if contemplating a donation to a loved one is that the only way to validate such donation is through a notary. Giving "your word" will not stand in court after being deceased, if a legal document such as a donation or a will was not written. The Inheritance Law in Puerto Rico protects the forced heirs above any legal document, meaning descendants, if any (children and/or grandchildren) or in the absence of descendants, the ascendants of the deceased such as, his parents. Thus, leaving the forced heirs out of the will, results in its annulment, whether it was done intentionally or unintentionally.
The inheritance is divided into three equal parts: a legit third, a third for betterment and the third portion disposable at will. In case of existing forced heirs, the legit third is divided equally among them. The third for betterment is part of the legit third but may be distributed among the heirs as desired. The third portion disposable at will may be attributed to anyone even if she is not a forced heir.
It is essential to understand that the widow of the deceased does not become a forced heir. He is entitled only to his portion of the goods, without keeping what is rightfully inherited by the forced heirs. If the deceased did not have a will and does not have forced heirs, his estate would go to his or her spouse, and in the absence of such spouse, to the state.
When it comes to Puerto Rico's inheritance law, most lawyers agree on two things: get a good lawyer and write your will. You should not wait until the very end to decide the faith of your estate, assets, and loved ones. Get oriented. Make a decision, and write your will.
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