In Puerto Rico, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone decides what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you actually want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for actually implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these objectives.
In addition to decisions concerning the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For example, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your opinion on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such decisions for you, if you are unable.
A qualified estate planner in Puerto Rico may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Furthermore, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Puerto Rico
Estate plans in Puerto Rico almost always have these features:
Will: A will is a written instrument stating what you want to be done with your assets after you die. There are many issues that can come up in the drafting of a will. However, because the will doesn't have any legal or practical effect until after the person who made it died, they can't exactly correct these problems when they become apparent. Therefore, quality drafting, usually with the assistance of a good attorney, is essential.
Power of Attorney: Granting someone "power of attorney" gives them the power to make your decisions for you if it becomes impossible for you to do so. This incapacity can arise due to illness, injury, or mental incapacity.
Funeral Arrangements: The decision of what should be done with your body after you die is a very personal one. If you have a preference on this, for religious, or other, reasons, you should discuss this with a family member in advance. You should also put your wishes in writing, but you should not put it ONLY in a will; wills aren't always read immediately after the person who wrote it died. Sometimes, weeks, or even months, go by before the will is read. Obviously, by then it will almost certainly be too late to implement your wishes.
Do I Need a Puerto Rico Estate Planning Attorney?
Because these decisions are so crucial in Puerto Rico, it's almost never a bad idea to seek the counsel of an experienced wills, trusts, and estates attorney.
Interesting Facts About Puerto Rico
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean. The islands were ceded to the United States in 1898, as an outcome of the Treaty of Paris. Although Puerto Rico is not a U.S. state, U.S. federal laws apply to Puerto Rican citizens, who were declared U.S. citizens in 1917.
Puerto Rico has a republican form of government similar to that of the U.S. with its three branches. Its capitol is located in San Juan, and is home to the Legislative Assembly. Puerto Rican law is a hybrid system of common law (similar to U.S. case law) and civil law (statutes created by legislature). Thus, lawyers in Puerto Rico must study and examine these two overlapping systems when assisting clients.
Puerto Rico's court system is composed of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, a Court of Appeals, and the Court of First Instance. Selected fundamental rights from the U.S. Constitution apply to Puerto Rican citizens. U.S. Supreme Court cases have commented on which other specific rights apply to the territory. For example, residents of Puerto Rico generally do not have the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections
Lawyers in Puerto Rico assist clients by providing a wide range of legal services. Puerto Rico lawyers are available to assist with legal issues that can be very unique to the area. Attorneys in Puerto Rico are also available for representation in court during lawsuits and other types of legal claims.