Tampa, FL asked in Real Estate Law for Puerto Rico

Q: How do I obtain exemplified copies of documents from Puerto Rico?

I am trying to secure title insurance on a Florida parcel of land I purchased in 2008 from the heirs of a deceased resident of Puerto Rico. He deceased in 2000. I have the declaration of heirs and each of the heirs signed my deed. The title insurance company is requesting either a Florida mini probate or a quiet title action. In either case I am being asked to procure exemplified copies of the documents on file related to the declaration (sworn marriage certificate, certification of refusal of wills and death certificate, birth certificate and certification debt format). I've written numerous times to the Tribunal de Primera Instancia in Guaynabo inquiring about the process and fees for obtaining but receive no response. Can you shed any light on the process required?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Rafael  Pagan-Colon
Rafael Pagan-Colon
  • San Juan, PR
  • Licensed in Puerto Rico

A: The certificates you require are not provided by the court. They're provided by different government agencies in Puerto Rico, as described below. The cancellation of stamps & tariffs on the certificates designate them as originals, and are, thus, not notarized (sworn).

Vital records (such as birth, marriage, and death certificates) may be procured from the Puerto Rico Demographics Registry. Given the personal nature of said documents, the Puerto Rico Civil Code and the Demographics Registry regulations requires either the person whom the certificate alludes to, an interested relative, or a Puerto Rico attorney representing their interests may request said documents. The type of certificate will cancel stamps & tariffs: $10 for birth and death certificates; $20 (for marriage certificates). Certificates are issued on the same day as the request is presented before the Demographics Registry.

Testamentary certifications are procured with the Office of Notary Inspections ("ODIN", by its Spanish acronym), in their Registry of Wills. Again, rule of law requires that the interested party (i.e. an heir) or an attorney representing an interested party provides a copy of the death certificate, a copy of the will, and a certification request with a $5 treasury stamp ("sello de Rentas Internas"). The original certificate may either be picked up or received by post mail (in the latter case, a self-addressed stamped envelope must be provided). Post-pandemic, post-hurricane ODIN currently has a month-long backlog for requests.

Debt certificates are issued by the Puerto Rico Treasury Department ("Hacienda", in Spanish), regarding Law no. 7 property taxes, and the Center for Municipal Income Collections ("CRIM", by its Spanish acronym), which is the government arm that addresses property taxes. These are procured on-line. You'd need the deceased social security number and the requests cancel approximately $5.00 in stamps & tariffs. A local Puerto Rico attorney or certified public accountant can procure these for an interested party, such as an heir.

Self-serving as it may sound, I recommend that you retain the services of a Puerto Rico attorney to assist you with procuring these certifications in original. Any copies that you may have will help with your requests.

Ramon  Olivencia
Ramon Olivencia
  • San Juan, PR
  • Licensed in Puerto Rico

A: Indeed, if you are not familiar with doing government transactions in PR, it could be very difficult, if not impossible, particularly if you are outside of the island. We have inherited a complex system from our Spanish ancestors, which, combined with our current colonial reality, all contribute to a lot of bureaucracy. In short, you are better off hiring someone who can get that done for you. (Knowing that reality, we offer those services at our law firm, something which very few other legal professionals do.)

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