I (Vicki Skinner - aka "THE Sarong Goddess") created this blog in 2007 to share DETAILED Finds•Lists•Info•Events•Experiences to help bring more EASE to people living in, visiting or thinking of moving to Costa Rica since DETAILS are NOT easy to find!
I’m NOT an expert (an "expert" 2 ME knows 101%-NOT me). I believe in sharin info•helping where I can! And with over 2,200 entries, so some things might be out of date, so if you find old info PLEASE help each other by getting the updated info & sharing it with me to revise. At least you have some basic info to get you started.
Better yet - do you have extra time on your hands & looking for a volunteer project? Since this blog is a labor of love & RARELY does anyone share a donation (even though MANY have said how much it's helped them), I could REALLY use help updating info. Spanish speakers ESPECIALLY welcome since my VicLish can be somewhat limited at times!!

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

DYING in Costa Rica - Resources to help American•U.S. Citizens that Die•Pass Away in Costa Rica (including Wills)

I've recently had some Americans ask me what is the procedure if an American dies in Costa Rica.  I don't have time to work on one of my MEGA DETAILED blurbs right now but here are a few REALLY GOOD sources to get you going:

What do YOU Want Done with YOUR BODY when you Die•Pass Away•it's your time to "Go"??
Ok - let's get real here.  We're ALL going to go one day and most of the time we have no clue when that's going to be right?
I'm 57 years young and I've had 42 people CLOSE to me make their transition - over 1/2 were sudden deaths caused by someone else's negligence starting with my daddy when I was 6 in a fluke plane crash (he was a military pilot) on up to most of the significant people in my life (the COOL part of that is I KNOW I have all these "Spirits"/"Angels" watching "over" me - hence why I've never felt lonely and always feel "protected"!!)

Being the direct•blunt person that I am I'm just going to say it as I see it as this is a CRUCIAL ISSUE we NEED to deal with!!

NO ONE is immortal!! 
Do you HATE your loved ones THAT MUCH - that you'd avoid dealing with closing up your life•having it in order - to leave for THEM to HAVE to deal with??????
Ouch!!  Oh WELL!!!  I've seen it happen TOOO MANY TIMES!!!  Where family members had to take years out of their lives to deal with a hoarders issues/worn down house, siblings fighting to the bone over a ring, family members at each others throats because they had their way to honor your passing!!

Been there done/seen that over and over!!!! 

You can at least start with baby steps - start to think about what YOUR WISHES are for your passing!
YOU want them to take every measure they can to bring you back to life?
YOU want or not want to be cremated?
Do YOU want to be buried?  Where?  Do you want a special tie or dress - or a picture or ring inside the coffin?
Do YOU want your organs donated to help someone live a better life (and parts of you live!!)?

YOU want a big party•Celebration of your Life with your favorite music and foods (I actually used to have a $10,000 insurance plan for my Celebration of Life) - or a solomn wake - or your ashes scattered wherever - or NADA???

Speak your truth to a FEW PEOPLE TOGETHER - and better yet - WRITE IT DOWN and give it to your lawyer and make a VIDEO of it - so there's NO QUESTION!!

I say that as my dad had told numerous people of his wishes - to be cremated - but in the end - his mother's wishes won out - to have him buried near where she would one day.
I say this because when my brother died at age 25 trying to save a co-worker - it was an agonizing 12 hours trying to bring up to my mom the suggestion of organ donation - even though he was on life support and not coming through.
How would that feel if YOU had to be the one making the decision??  PLEASE think of others NOW and take care of EVERY DETAIL you can - NOW!!!!

Have you set aside the money TO pay for wishes - or are you expecting others to do that for you???

Have you and those important people around you dealt with ALL aspects?

I've started this description of things that go down when someone dies in Costa Rica.  I have more details to update but that will be in a month or so as I'm in Nicaragua right now - so BookMark it to keep up on it.



WARNING!!!!  There is NO SUCH THING as a "Living Will" in Costa Rica (that written statement you write up detailing your desires regarding your medical treatment in circumstances in which you are no longer able to express informed consent, especially an advance directive)!!!!  BY LAW they are NOT allowed to "take you off Life Support" - you are supposed to die "on your own" (EXCUSE ME!!!  Being hooked up to UN-NATURAL machines is NOT "on my own"!!  It's PLAYING God!!!  Having had LOTS of people close to me pass away - MANY suddenly - this is a VERY SENSITIVE issue for me if you couldn't tell!!  INTERESTING OBSERVATION a friend shared with me one day - he said "Isn't it interesting that a culture (catholics) that CLAIMS to be SOOOOO ALL about God - is SOOOO AFRAID to meet up with God again - return to their TRUE Spirit Self!!!"!!).  SOMETIMES you'll find an angel doctor that believes in treating humans more humanly and he will risk his career to allow a human body that's left it to return to it's TRUE HOME - but that IS a BIG RISK he is taking!!!  I PRAY that in time (SOON), the culture can FINALLY SEE what they are doing! (why is it we treat animals with more respect than we treat humans???)


FYI - your will from any other country other than Costa Rica and/or NOT in Español - will NOT be valid in Costa Rica!!

"You should have a valid will in every country that you have assets... or, as stated, it will end up with the State... and be CAREFUL who you appoint as your executor... a lawyer is a bad choice as they will end up with your goodies. Appoint a trusted friend (not family if you can get away with it) and authorize them to hire a lawyer with your money for the probate proceedings (mortual in CR) In CR you can have an open will in a notarys protocol book OR a sealed one in his protocol book also. Be sure your executor either has a copy and/or the lawyers information to find it. It MUST be in Spanish so if you don't handle Spanish well, get an outside interpretation when the notary gives you a copy of what he has put in his protocol book. A few years ago I spoke with a monolingual gringo who had a copy of his will in his hand and written by his lady lawyer of 20 years... He asked me to look it over. Well, the lawyer had made her 10 year old daughter the sole heir of all of his goodies! He took a taxi to another lawyer in 5 minutes and changed his will! Be careful and it is NOT as simple as one may lead you to think. Better to make a draft before talking to the lawyer... who must be a Notary!"
Ali, the "Professional" Executor....

(they MUST be involved.  Astrid is my FAV person there [tell her Vicki Connected you!])
The embassy can assist with the Death and Export Certificate for families to return their loved one home.

U.S. Embassy San Jose-Costa Rica
American Citizens Services
Astrid Villalta  •  VillaltaAX@state.gov
0 (506) 2-519-2453




People are DYING because VERY FEW Tico's believe in•have signed up to DONATE ORGANS!!

 I have signed up for and WILL DO for LOTS of reasons:
#1 - to help others figure out how I've beat the odds of being SOOOO healthy being a 220 lb. 57 years young woman that sits on her tush all day long working on the computer and RARELY get's "sick" (injuries like falling in Costa Rica - well that's a different story!!!)
#2 - it's FREE and EASY!!!!  NO expense or hassles•nightmare to your family•estate - and there's NOTHING for them to do but notify the proper people!!! 

Read a blurb I shared here (and one day I'll get around to writing my OWN experience of the process) at:


In Costa Rica, per the Ministereo de Salud•Health Minister (or at the request of the judicial authorities) - autopsy’s are required when a body is going to be cremated* -  EXCEPT if the person died in a hospital - then USUALLY it is NOT required (note I've had a couple people share that they had a much older loved one that passed away and because their attending doctor had just recently given them an exam, they did not have to go through the autopsy process), but they probably will not volunteer the information. 

#1  -  Funeral Homes have arrangements with a pathologist and the autopsy is done in the embalming room at the funeral home (this explains why they do not offer the information!!$$).
#2  -  I've heard "Under certain conditions the autopsy is done at the OIJ's
Forensic Clinic•Judicial Morgue" (the OIJ is Costa Rica’s version of the FBI) - though NUMEROUS people I've known where someone passed away - each one WAS done here.
YOU must go there to pick it up;

Judicial Morgue • Patologia Forense •
Forensic Clinic2-267-1183 (not that they ONLY speak Spanish here so find someone to help you translate)

San Joaquin de Flores (Heredia)
500 metros al Oeste•West de la Ceveceria de Costa Rica - hasta Restaurante Casona del Cerdo (mano Izquierda•LEFT).
De alli 100 Norte - Izquierda•LEFT
100 Oeste•West - Derecha•RIGHT
100 Norte - Izquierda•LEFT
100 Oeste•West - Derecha•RIGHT from the cemetery.
Keep driving straight until you see a building (green color).

Don't assume it will document the cause of death, and underlying true cause of death description by U.S. standards (I've heard it's to cover their tush in case of documented malpractice.  I share this as I have had 2 people share this situation with me).

Starts at around $500? 


Most Costa Rican's do not embrace cremation and MANY are shocked that you would choose to either cremate your loved ones or even more so, that you would DONATE THEIR BODY TO SCIENCE!!!

Transporting a body from anywhere in Costa Rica to San Jose for cremation costs about 500 colons per kilometer (this might have gone up a bit)."Cremation: A Logical Choice For an Expat Here"
Garland Baker


There are actually a few ways ExPats can save up to 50+% off Cremation ($800 vs $1,600).

Mel Goldberg shared this contact for Vets
(2-288-0454 or 8-870-6756)

Polini Funeraria Funeral home

FunerariaPolini.comfacebook.com/Polini.Funeraria  • 2-223-4333
$750 for Cremation services & discount on other services, about 50% of the normal fee, for ALL veterans (not just vets living in Costa Rica) AND their families.

This does NOT include the autopsy fee.

You can pay in advance and the fee is $650 or you can make monthly payments in advance.
OR pay the $750 in payments of 1 year withOUT interest
They have 7 locations around Costa Rica


has a special deal for their members (I'm awaiting specifics). 
Members MUST contact Ryan Percy for the introduction

American Legion Post #10 in Escazú 

has negotiated a special price with an agreement with Montesacro-Polini mortuary in Escazu for a significant discount on cremation services.

The agreement covers all U.S. military veterans, their families (INCLUDING ADULT CHILDREN?) and even Costa Ricans who may have served in the U.S. military.  You must present proof of military service


(regular price $1,600) 
PrePayment agreements also can be made.

American Legion Post 10 owns 3 Mosaleums in San Antonio de Escazu (where they hold the Memorial Day celebration) - you can ONLY be buried or your ashes put in there if a PAID UP member of the Post 10 American Legion for the previous 2 years. 
Ashes - $200 plus opening/closing fees.  Burial - $500.  

The American Legion includes a basic Plaque.
They have a contact for a discount for regular burials (non-cremations).

Montesacro-Polini Mortuary - Cristian Coronas
(2-253-1923 or 8-813-7118)


Jardines del Recuerdo Cemetery is considered one of the best cemeteries in Costa Rica (they're the pioneers for cremation in Costa Rica).  The cemetery also includes the grand mausoleum with niches, ossuaries and ash keepers, cafeteria, permanent sale of flowers and a wide car parking area for 200 vehicles plus guarding 24 hours a day. They are located 4 kms from San Jose on your way to Barreal de Heredia.

MAIN  -  2-222-9022
LOCATION:  San Jose-Paseo Colon - from Pizza Hut 300 meters South. 

Alajuela  -  2-442-2829
LOCATION: 200 meters West/Oeste of the gas station Tropicana, in Alajuela Centro.

Heredia (Cemetery)  -  2-237-2974
LOCATION: 300 meters West of the Rio•River Virilla bridge•puente - on the road to Barreal de Heredia.

Desamparados  -  2-250-9292
LOCATION: 125 meters West/Oeste of Park•Parque Central.

Los Yoses  -  2-234-5522
LOCATION: 100 meters East•Este of the iglesia de Fátima.

OFFICE - 8am-5pm. 
Florist on site - 2-256-0001  -  6:30am-9:30pm. 
Funeral Homes - 24 hours.

Giovanni Corazzari



Jardin de Recuerdos’ Crematorium is one of the main places for Cremation.  They're located in their cemetery in Heredia. 
Basic Cremation includes:
    Assessment during the whole process
    Autopsy (mandatory requirement by the ministry of health for every cremation)
    Transfers from the house, hospital or funerary to the morgue and to the crematorium.
    Special coffin for the cremation  (not poz if this includes transporting the body??)
    Earnings at the Registro Civil (if they were not done previously as part of the funerary services????)
    Assessment and paperwork from the Seguro Social•Social Security
    Cremation process using the highest technology available in the world at the moment
    Delivery of the ashes in a metal urn with the name of the person, date of birth and decease
They have a small area for relatives if you desire to be near your loved one in that moment.
PRICE:  Starts at $1,600


There is some 



VOLUNTEERS his time helping support Vets and their widows living in Costa Rica (and other American's).  Whatever you need help with, he's sort of the UN-Official Go-To Guy working CLOSELY with the U.S. Embassy’s Citizen Services.
He can help with everything from get as well as presenting Official Military Issued Burial Flags, helping get other service members to attend (in uniform) burials, translation, get Arlington Cemetery style tombstones, scatter ashes at sea, cremation discounts - just about whatever he can do - Mel is there for you!!
See contact info and more info on what all he can do for you at:


If a person was a U.S. Citizen with a U.S. Passport, there are procedures that are REQUIRED to process everything - even if they have not lived in the U.S. for many years.
The U.S. Embassy’s Citizen Services Section can help with the full process - from getting the mandatory Death Certificate (provided by the CAJA’s Centro Nacional de Control de Dolor y Cuidados Paliativos referred to as the Clinica Dolor
division) AND an Export Certificate, to all the burial process.  You pre-pay the Embassy directly and they’ll take care of everything (this is especially important if family is not in Costa Rica)
U.S. Citizens  -  2-519-2452  -  OR  -  2-519-2453

Ivo wrote a ANOTHER GREAT ARTICLE - this one on what to do if you're sending a body back to the U.S. (even if they were cremated, it's not that simple.  READ and FOLLOW THIS to avoid the remains being left behind in Costa Rica!!!)
"Repatriation of the deceased from Costa Rica"American-European.net/article-repatriation-of-the-deceased-from-costa-rica-298.html

"What happens when a retiree of other U.S. Citizens passes away in Costa Rica?"


"Death In Costa Rica"

In "What Costa Rica Taxes Do I Pay - Tax Implications For North Americans"
they mention that "Death taxes are non existent in Costa Rica"

In the future I'll start enhancing this section and sharing some of the stories I've experienced helping with Americans that have died while living in Costa Rica, but these things can help get you started!!!


Do you own ANYTHING in Costa Rica - a home?  A car?  A business?  A corporation? 
Either make sure each are registered under a Corporation with family members/whomever is your beneficiary is - OR - risk it going back to the government if you have no immediate family  to lay claim to it and even at that, it could take YEARS to get things cleared - let alone be able to sell the things (which means if you have Association Dues, taxes, marchamo, etc. - SOMEONE NEEDS to keep these payments up if you’re going to ever be able to sell them!!).
I know someone that didn’t head this info I shared with him and he died (while he was back home in the States) so guess what??  Because he had no will his condo and car were in limbo for the courts to decide.  His family had to keep paying those $200/month Condo Association dues and everything for his car plus the lawyer and expenses for family members to come over a few times.  Unfortunately I lost touch with them after over 3 years of this so not sure what became of it but with all that $$$ racking up . . . 
ALL because he didn’t want to deal with his mortality!!!!!!!!!!


"You Can’t Take It With You, So Don’t Leave a Big Mess"

"There are some advantages to making a will here" - CRExpertise.info/advantages-making-will

"Three Ways Exist to Pass On Assets at Death"


PLEASE "SHARE" this with EVERY EXPAT you know living in Costa Rica and PLEASE DEAL WITH THIS NOW!!
QUIT burying your head in the sand!!!  We are ALL going to "go"•die one day!!  

Do NOT leave your fear of addressing your mortality as a nightmare for those you CLAIM to love as it WILL BE!!!! 
(tough statement - YES!!  I've been there/done that TOOOO MANY TIMES and/or seen SOOOO MANY people that's lives had to be turned upside down because someone didn't want to deal with closing out there life before they died!!)


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