We would like to make a recommendation, our personal recommendation, for a lawyer here in Cuenca. It is our opinion, though not shared by everybody, that it is always a good practice to hire a lawyer when you are involved in a major transaction in a society that is not familiar to you and where the laws are often not the same that you are used to. While Ecuador is not the litigious society that the US is, it is still, like almost everywhere else, filled with legal pitfalls. Here there are few of the citizen protective laws governing real estate transactions, car sales, and other major purchases. Also there are the difficulties of dealing with your application for residency, driver’s license, and car registration to name a few tedious projects that are full of complications which take a long time and much energy to complete. Wills and trusts are totally different than in the US and should always involve an attorney. Because there are few regulatory laws to govern transactions like real estate, it is easy for ineffective lawyers to cut corners, avoid due diligence, and just move on leaving their client with little recourse if there are problems.
It is hard to find a lawyer who fills the requirement of honesty, reliability, and expertise at a cost you are willing to pay. We have friends who bought a home on the coast only to find out later that the seller did not own it even though they had a lawyer draw up the sales agreement (honesty). We sold our house six months ago and the buyer’s lawyer still has not delivered the deed to the new owner (reliability). We have other friends who, in the finalization of their residency and after delays that ran into months, fired their lawyer, hired another and had their residency within weeks (Expertise). Almost everyone we know could tell a story.
Most of our friends here fall into one of the three following categories, those who do not use a lawyer for anything and wing it on their own, those who are most interested in finding the least expensive lawyer for their needs, and those who want the best and most reliable lawyer they can get to avoid any future problems.
It is our opinion that the third choice, a good lawyer who speaks English and Spanish, is honest, reliable and has the expertise, will open the doors to the complex bureaucracy in Ecuador that requires a great deal of leg work and too much risk to try on your own.
There are hundreds of lawyers or Abogados in Cuenca and you will find them tucked away in little store fronts throughout the city. Inside there will be a table or two and a few chairs. But almost none of these lawyers speak both English and Spanish which is quite important to a newcomer and we would not suggest using them.
Probably, and only through word of mouth, will you be able to find the right fit for you. That said, we wholeheartedly recommend that you interview Grace Velastegui and her husband, Nelson, our lawyers for the last two years. They have taken us through the residency process, the purchase and sale of our home, the complex re-registration of our car when our registration was lost, Ecuadorian wills, and the complexities of Ecuadorian custody law for our grandson, Jonny. Every cent we have spent with them has been worth it. They are honest, have a high level of expertise, speak English, and can be counted on to be prompt and efficient.
It is easy to correspond with them at firstname.lastname@example.org. We think it will be well worth the effort.