PROBATE PROCESS IN PANAMA

About the Probate Process

The Panamanian civil code, in article 628, defines the probate process as the ownership transfer of assets and liabilities from a deceased person to a living person, to whom the law entitles and calls to receive them.

In addition, Panamanian law defines the person who passed away as Deceased, the successors as Heirs or Legatees, and the assets that make up the estate of the deceased as Inheritance or Legacy.

Universal and Singular Basis

An inheritance in Panama may be distributed through a universal basis or a singular basis. The universal basis occurs when the inheritance is distributed as a part of its total value. For example, when an heir is granted 20% of the inheritance.

The singular basis occurs when the inheritance is distributed in individual assets. For example, when a legatee receives a house or a car.

When a person receives inheritance on a universal basis, the Panamanian civil code refers to that person as heir. When a person receives an inheritances a on singular basis, the Panamanian civil code refers to that person as a legatee.

Testate and Intestate Process

The Panamanian civil code also identifies two types of probate processes. The testate process takes place when the deceased recorded a will following all legal requirements.

The intestate process happens when the deceased has no recorded will to distribute his inheritance, or when a will exists but it does not meet the legal requirements. In this case, the estate is distributed among those whom the law entitles to receive it.

Whether testate or intestate, the probate process requires the assistance of a lawyer to formalize, execute, and conclude the process with the corresponding local court.

It is important to mention that, according to the Panamanian civil code, any person can participate in a probate process, except for legal encumbrances or those cases that the law establishes as incapable caused by indignity according to Article 641.

Testate Probate Process in Panama

The testate probate process in Panama assumes the Deceased recorded a legal will. The process requires a lawyer, who initiates the process in the local court. The basic requirements to begin the testate process are:

  • Power of attorney and application
  • Original copy of death certificate
  • Copy of the will
  • ID of each person mentioned in the will
  • List of assets to be distributed
  • Assets appraisal

Once the documents are received in the local court, a succession trial is opened where a judge declares as heirs the people specified in the testament.

As part of the succession trial, the judge will issue an heir declaration certificate that must be published in a national newspaper for three days, time after which the assets can be assigned to the heirs.

The testate probate process can take from four to eight months when all heirs are in agreement, and all documentation is complete. However, some courts in the countryside can take between 12 and 36 months to complete this process.

Intestate Probate Process in Panama

The intestate probate process in Panama also requires the assistance of a lawyer, who initiates the process in the local court. In this case, the basic requirements include:

  • Power of attorney and application
  • Original copy of death certificate
  • Certificate of non-existence of a will from all Panamanian notaries
  • Birth certificate of children, if any
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • List of assets to be distributed
  • Assets appraisal

It is important to mention that asset valuation must be meticulous and must determine not only the market value of assets recorded in the Public Registry (such as real estate or vehicles), but also determine the asset value of other goods such artwork, stock market shares or shares in private companies.

Once the requirements of the intestate process are met, the lawyer submits an application in the Municipal Court if the valuation of all assets is B. / 5,000 (USD 5,000) or less. Otherwise, the application is filed in the District Court.

The authorities at the court verify and accept the documentation. Afterward, a succession trial is opened. It may take several weeks to assess the documentation, and more information may be requested. Once this is completed, the notary releases an affidavit with the list of heirs who have proven their relationship to the deceased.

The intestate probate process can also take from four to eight months when all parties agree, and all documentation is complete. Likewise, this process can take between 12 and 36 months in the countryside.

Use the right legal assistance

The probate process distributes the assets of a deceased person efficiently and according to his desire when there is a will that follows the guidelines in the legal framework.

Avoid cumbersome obstacles and procedures, and work with our professional team at Kraemer & Kraemer. Contact Us today to prepare your will, to assist in a probate process, or for more advice on this subject.

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