Written by Sara Chaca, Attorney – Abogada
Revised on August 3rd, 2018
Ecuador..You came, you saw, you conquered! So, besides enjoyably spending the rest of one’s days in Ecuador (albeit with the occasional trip back to one’s home country or a vacation to another land), eventually all of us meet our maker, regardless of our religious affiliation or life philosophy. That said, when we die, whether expected or unexpected (however the case may be), it is always better to leave our grieving family and friends with a ‘trail of clear instructions’, rather than a ‘trail of tears’, due to a relative (or relatives’) lack of clarity related to same.
Thus, even if one believes that they will eventually leave Ecuador prior to the time of their passing, truly no one can reliably know or predict how or when they will die. And so, it is far better to conveniently and inexpensively prepare for the end of one’s days in Ecuador, rather than betting on luck that it will all work out exactly the way one had hoped it would when their time has come. Though death is never a convenient time or desired event for anyone, the most difficult (and often unhappily memorable) part of it is one’s family and friends needing to pick up the pieces, following only one or two days’ notice, upon one’s light having flickered out.
Therefore, noted as follows, are one’s 3 primary considerations, relative to the concept of death itself, should it for any reason or under any circumstances occur here in Ecuador:
In concert with these 3 immediately above indicated most major concerns in relation to your death occurring here in Ecuador, it is supremely important to note that regardless of whether your Ecuador end of life plan wishes are to be buried or cremated in Ecuador and/or have your body or remains shipped back to your country of origin, you absolutely MUST have your wishes stated in a document known as a Declaración Juramentada (in English this simply means a “Sworn Statement”). Naturally, this document must be written in Spanish, make proper reference to you as the Declarant, and this document must be properly formatted in conjunction with the Ecuadorian legal code, and also be signed by both yourself and an Attorney here in Ecuador. And of course, that such document must also be properly notarized here in Ecuador by an Ecuador licensed notary (this also is generally arranged by the Attorney who you contract to prepare the Declaración Juramentada for you).
As per the topic of death itself, one often finds it disconcerting to know that Living Wills, which in places like the US generally permit one to forego or refuse extension of life processes or heroic life saving procedures (i.e. the making of “Do Not Resuscitate” [DNR] instructions), are simply not valid in Ecuador – not yet anyways.. However, naturally if one is visiting their home country and incurs such an actionable event related to a Living Will that was previously signed by them in their home country, then of course that Living Will still shall be honored while visiting their country of origin, without any conflict of law issues related to the person also being an Ecuadorian Resident or even Ecuadorian Citizen at that.
Finally, as per general Wills and Testaments in Ecuador, while that subject is fully covered in another article that I wrote and revised for the ‘Cuenca Dispatch’ earlier this month, titled, “Wills in Ecuador: Do you Need One?”, I will simply state/restate herein this article, the following good rule of thumb with respect to same: Wills for Expats are indeed worthwhile IF an Expat has quantifiable property in Ecuador – i.e. bank accounts, real estate, gold, jewelry, art, collectibles, funds more than pocket cash, etc.
Thus, concerning end of life planning in Ecuador, it is my hope that all Expats living here continue to dedicate their lives to frolicking, touring and having a ball of a time as they immerse themselves into the Ecuadorian culture and norms. That said, during your downtime, while not exploring and tasting all that Ecuador has to offer, it would be wise to simply take an hour or so to create your own Ecuador end of life plan, at least conceptually speaking. By doing so, you will have the best and highest chance of serving your family and friends in your home country (or wherever they may be located), as and how they move on into the future, by virtue of you allowing them to fondly remember, as well as celebrate you and the memory of your own life, here in Ecuador itself.
Sara Chaca (Attorney – Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, who principally serves Expats in making their moves to Ecuador, as well as for any legal issues that arise or become actionable for her Expat clients to undertake in their new lives here in her beautiful country. Sara resides in Cuenca with her family, which consists of her American husband and 2 daughters (as well as her parents and siblings), and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her family in Cuenca’s majestic Cajas Mountains and local parks & fairs of Cuenca, plus visiting the coast as well as the many gem towns of Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and her personal cell phone number is 099.296.2065. Sara has a less than 24 hour first response policy, in that if you email or call her, she WILL return your first email or first phone call in less than 24 hours (more typically closer to 24 minutes). Most importantly, all first time consultations with Expats for any type Visa or Legal matter(s) are always FREE OF CHARGE.