• Abel Gomez Tomiczek

Are Foundations No Longer Needed?

Foundations are a fantastic tool for estate planning and to structure and administrate your assets, but is a foundation really necessary? The answer to that question is not that simple, as there is no golden rule that is applicable to everyone and everybody. It depends on the type of assets you own and their value.

If you purchase titled real estate in Panama you practically have three options: 1. Register the property in your personal name, 2. Register the property in the name of a corporation, 3. Register the property in the name of a foundation. Due to Panamanian inheritance law and its legal procedures I will always recommend my clients to avoid option number 1.


Why should I avoid buying real estate in Panama in my personal name?

When you own real estate in Panama in your personal name and you have a will, or otherwise you do not have a will, after your demise the procedure for your heirs to claim their inheritance will always be the same in Panama: 1. Your heirs must hire a Panamanian lawyer 2. The lawyer must file a lawsuit of succession (with will/ without will) with the court in Panama. 3. The process of the lawsuit will take from one (1) to two (2) years to be completed (given there are no complications in the process). 4. Meanwhile, you heirs cannot take possession of the assets until the Judge passes judgment in their favor. In other words, it is the Judge who has the order and the last word. 5. According to the minimum fee scheduled established by the Bar Association in Panama the lawyer handling the lawsuit has the legal right to charge 10% to 25% of the total commercial value of the estate as legal fees.


Is it better to buy real estate in the name of a corporation or foundation?

If you invest in real estate in Panama you should always register the title either in the name of a corporation or foundation in Panama. But using a foundation might not always be the best choice. Why? It depends on the type of real estate and the usage you want to give the property. The character and objective of a foundation in Panama is to hold and protect assets, while a corporation is per se created to execute commercial activities. Foundations in Panama are prohibited to execute regular business activities. So, if you plan to purchase real estate in Panama as a private retirement home and keep the asset as a long-term investment, a foundation sounds like a solid option. But if you want to invest in real estate as a short-term investment in order to rent, sell, and make it a profitable business , a corporation might suit you better. In fact if the property already has a very low cadastral value or a high cadastral value, it might be smart to use a corporation.


Are there any examples where a foundation is not necessary at all?

Yes, I recommend my clients to never ever register a car in the name of a foundation. Also, if you have a personal (savings) bank account, depending on your bank you can nominate a beneficiary at the bank. After your demise, your designated beneficiary(ies) can access the funds in the bank account (the procedure varies from bank to bank, so comparing different options is recommended). And if you are a permanent renter in Panama and only own a average bank account and a car, using a foundation or even a corporation to hold those assets is not worth it.

Stay safe and healthy!


Photo: www.pixabay.com // Robin Higgins


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