Q: My uncle passed away in Puerto Rico. He rented a house and likely did not have a will. What legal steps are required?
I'm sorry for your loss. A few questions that need to be answered, prior to addressing your question.
(1) First thing, depending on when your uncle died will determine the circumstances of succession. A new Puerto Rico Civil Code came into effect as of November 28, 2020.
(2) Second, was your uncle married at the time of his death?
(3) Did your uncle have/adopt children during his lifetime?
(4) Are his parents alive? Were either alive at the time of his death?
(5) Does your uncle have any siblings?
Before starting a declaration of heirs process, a certification must be procured from the Office of Notary Inspections, to confirm that your uncle (a) did not grant his last will & testament before dying; and (b) a notary declaration of heirs has not already been conducted. Also, each heir apparent's birth certificate must be provided. For those who've died, his/her death certificate must also be provided, as well as the birth certificates of the deceased heir's children (since they'll inherit by representation of their dead parent).
Subject to confirming that he, in fact, did not grant his last will & testament before dying, a judicial or notary process must be conducted to declare your uncle's heirs. If more than one heir exists, it may be convenient to request the courts to designate an administrator/accountant/executor for your uncle's estate.
Afterwards, an inheritance tax filing must be submitted to the Puerto Rico Treasury to confirm that his estate does not owe taxes. Then, an hereditary instance must be submitted with the Puerto Rico Public Registry, to notify that your uncle's ownership in real estate property now belong to his heir(s). Finally, the Municipal Income Collection Center (CRIM, by its Spanish acronym) must also be notified of the change in ownership.
After all of that is conducted, the lessee who rents your uncle's property must be notified, and an account statement should be prepared to confirm that the person does not owe back rent.
What I've answered here is an overall summary of the process. I would need more specific information to provide you with a clearer scenario oriented towards your family's situation.
A: As you can see from the detailed answer provided by colleague Pagán-Colon, there are a number of legal steps to be taken in order to work on your uncle´s inheritance. In short, if your uncle was single, did not leave a will and did not have any children, then the heirs will be his parents, but if these were not alive, then his siblings. However, given the complexity of it all, you need to hire an inheritance attorney licensed in Puerto Rico to take care of it all.
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