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Puerto Rico Law

What Do You Do If You Need An Lawyer in Puerto Rico?

Before coming to us, many of our clients asked themselves:

How Do I Get An Attorney in Puerto Rico?

Many clients call us trying to get a birth certificate from Puerto Rico, or a name change to their birth certificate in Puerto Rico.

Others call because someone passed away and they need a declaration of heirs ("declaratoria de herederos") or other issues with inheritance ("herencia").

Others have issues with "el Registro de la Propiedad", which is the Registry of Property in Puerto Rico.

Finding an attorney that can help you with your case in Puerto Rico can be time consuming, given the difference in language, legal systems and customs. Many people that live outside of Puerto Rico have trouble finding a lawyer that will help them with their Puerto Rico case. Sometimes when they do, they cannot overcome the difference in service from the professional service they are use to in the Continental U.S. That is why our Puerto Rico lawyers help clients with their cases on the island many times without you having to fly to Puerto Rico.

If you have had experience in Puerto Rico in the past, you know that the legal system on the island is very different than on the continental U.S. The laws in Puerto Rico are very different than, lets say, Florida, New York or Massachusetts. The legal profession in Puerto Rico is also very different as well. Most of the statutes and laws in Puerto Rico are in Spanish, based on Civil Law from Spain. There are federal laws, but they are limited to a number of areas. Most of the laws in the United States are based on the Common Law from England. That, in and of itself, is quite an obstacle when you are trying to decipher the legal aspects of a case involving Puerto Rico. One legal term might not exist in Puerto Rico or be very different than what you are accustomed to in the U.S. An added obstacle is that almost all of the official agencies in Puerto Rico work in Spanish. That means that when you are trying to call a government office you have to speak Spanish to get the information you are searching for. All of the state courts operate in Spanish as well.

Now with the economic crisis that is gripping the island, it is even harder to get help locally. Many of the government services are running with less personnel, and the ones that are still available are short handed and swamped with a backlog of cases. Finding a lawyer that will actually help you and not just take your money is even harder.  That is why our Puerto Rico lawyers will help you from start to finish.

Our firm handles the following types of cases in Puerto Rico:

Probate and Estate Administration cases (Inheritance):

When a person dies having financial interests in Puerto Rico, the laws of Puerto Rico will control what happens to that property, especially in real estate matters. This means that if someone dies owning property in Puerto Rico, in order to transfer that property to another person, you must go to court to get the permission to transfer and register the property to the new person. This is what is commonly known in the U.S. as probating an estate.

A will that is drafted, either outside or in Puerto Rico, must be declared valid and must go through a court process to be validated in Puerto Rico. If this process is not followed, the Registry of Property or the Institution that holds the funds will not respond to your requests. People usually bring a foreign will from another state and expect it to automatically transfer and give rights in Puerto Rico. The bottom line is that you will have to go through the probate system to settle estates in Puerto Rico. The main reason for this is that, for Puerto Rico property or estates, the court will have to evaluate if the heirs of the decedent (the person who died) received their required shares. Puerto Rico has a forced heir system where the children, for example, must receive a percentage of the inheritance by law. Other states don't have these types of requirements. That is why you need someone familiar with both systems.

In addition to the judicial process for settling an estate or probating an estate in Puerto Rico, other steps must be followed. In order to register and transfer property, the law requires certifications from various state agencies. These certifications are from the Municipal Tax Collection Agency or "CRIM" (Centro de Recaudación de Ingresos Municipales de Puerto Rico) and "Hacienda" or "Departamento de Hacienda de Puerto Rico", which is the local state taxing authority. Another agency that needs to be consulted is ASUME, which certifies if the decedent or deceased owed child support. Finally, depending if there was a known will or not, you need a certification from ODIN, "Oficina de Inspección de Notaria" which will certify if the person had a will registered in Puerto Rico or not. Many of these agencies, if not all, really depend on face to face interactions to get anything done. That is why it is essential for us that we have people on the ground there that you can trust.

As you can see, probating or settling an estate in Puerto Rico is quite complicated, even more if you don't speak the language. Our offices work with you every step of the way, so you don't go through this alone.

Family Law (Divorce in Puerto Rico):

Do you have a divorce in Puerto Rico but you don't live there? Are you trying to find an attorney in Puerto Rico for a child custody or child support matter? Our firm offers assistance in all family law matters in Puerto Rico, such as: divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony), relocation, post nuptial agreements guardianship. Puerto Rico has a different system, some cases are similar than what you would find in Florida, but others are quite different. Take divorce, for example. Puerto Rico is not a "no fault" jurisdiction, meaning there are many grounds for divorce, such as adultery, abandonment, cruel treatment, conviction of a spouse for felony, separation and mutual consent. The child custody and visitation laws are also very different than in the mainland United States. Getting visitation or setting and modifying child custody is very different than in the United States and you will see that many notions in this area conflict with the laws of the United States.

Child support laws are very different and the implementation of income withholding is very different as well. For example, child support in Puerto Rico can continue until 25 years of age. You need to protect your rights. Before answering a complaint for divorce or child custody or before filing for one, consult an attorney in order to weigh the pros and cons of submitting yourself to Puerto Rico's jurisdiction. It can make a world of difference.

Birth Certificate Cases:

In 2005, Congress enacted the Real ID Act. This changed the way states issue driver's licenses, making it harder to get or renew a driver's license. In addition to this, Puerto Rico enacted legislation requiring new and improved certificates to people born in Puerto Rico. This, in combination with the Real ID Act, makes getting a new license or renewing your driver's license more difficult if you were born in Puerto Rico. Birth certificates can be requested online through the government's website, but our clients have reported mixed results. We can help you get your birth certificate, if you can't get it on your own.

Correcting an error on a Puerto Rican birth certificate, marriage certificate or death certificate is complex. You will have to go to court to correct this error. In most cases you do not have to travel to Puerto Rico. We file in court, we get a court order directing the Department of Health to correct the birth certificate, register it and issue a new one. Afterwards, we send you the corrected original. Give us a call today if you have issues with Puerto Rican birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates or licenses. We can help.

Real Property:

Our firm offers legal assistance in Real Property or Real Estate law matters in Puerto Rico. We are available to work in the following situations: If you are looking to buy or sell a property and you need an attorney. If you have a problem with the title of a property, if the property is not registered properly or there are issues with ownership or the boundaries.

The Registry of Property in Puerto Rico or the "Registro de la Propiedad" is a very important agency. It acts almost like an administrative court. It evaluates and decides what documents come in to be registered and what documents cannot be registered. The process is a very complex matter that requires knowledge of many types of legal areas such as Mortgage Law, Real Property Law, Contract Law, Wills and Estates, Family or Divorce law, Trusts and Agency law. In contrast with many states, the Registry operates using the Spanish law system or Civil law, which is very different from the law we use in the continental U.S. It is essential that whoever helps you in these matters knows and has experience with all these areas of law, so that they can better assist you in resolving your legal problems.

Notary Law in Puerto Rico:

One of the principal benefits that you receive when you hire our firm is that we have attorneys who are licensed notary attorneys in Puerto Rico. Notary Law is very important because unlike many places in the U.S., Puerto Rico uses notary attorneys to execute all deeds that transfer property. All public documents, affidavit, and sworn statements must be drafted by and signed by a notary attorney. So for "declaratorias de herederos" or "escrituras publicas", you will need a notary attorney in Puerto Rico to help you draft and execute these documents.

Client Reviews
I highly recommended Law office of Zorrilla and Silvestrini, they are always there for you. They help me in the most difficult moment. Excellent service and very professional team. I will always be grateful for everything they did for my and my family. Rosalynn R.
After having several bad experiences with different attorneys, from never having a call returned, to having the opposite outcome of what was promised, I was fortunate to find them. I had a stress free experience, having a positive outcome after being told by at least 3 attorneys (and paying for it) that I didn't have a case. I STRONGLY recommend them! Juanita R.