A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Moving to Ecuador....Do I Lawyer Up or Not?

We had made an offer on a new home in Cuenca that was accepted. We were awaiting the paperwork process for our closing and had arranged to visit again what we hoped would be our new home to take some room and window measurements. While going through the house with the seller, she turned and inquired: "Senor, why are you using a lawyer to help you buy this house? It must be costing you extra money"? That same week Immigration officials from Quito held a public meeting to review the various visa processes for expatriates in which they touted the new website tracking process for applications. They virtually told the audience that spending money to hire lawyers to help with visa applications was expensive and not necessary.

As part of our two month exploratory process in this city last summer, the Yazells researched the types of assistance available to hopeful expatriates, both from the professional legal community as well as other services offering assistance as simple advisors and assistants. We interviewed attorneys and before we returned to the U.S., we had formally retained a pair of lawyers to assist and advise us in both the visa application process and in procurring home ownership. We had even filed powers of attorney with them so they could legally act on our behalf in Ecuador, if necessary, before our planned return in January. Were we spending money excessively or unnecessarily? We didn't think so at the time and now that we have become home owners in Cuenca and have been approved for residency in Ecuador, we still don't think that hiring our attorneys was an unnecessary or unwarranted expense. To the contrary, we think that not having hired our attorneys and having saved the fees we paid them would have been, as the Brits say, been "penny-wise and pound-foolish". Our legal fees were to us money well spent.

As I responded to the Senora who had inquired as to why I had involved a lawyer. I am a newcomer to this land, not at all well conversant in the language, unfamiliar with common practice and customs, uneducated as to the rights of citizens and visitors, thoroughly unfamiliar with the intricacies of Ecuadorian law. Hiring a lawyer gave me a reference resource, a sounding board, and (presuming I hired wisely) a strong advocate for my interests and for my protection. I look upon the legal fees that we've spent in the much the same way as I would at insurance premiums. If there aren't any issues that require attention, it may not be obvious as to the benefit but when an issue arises is when the expenditure shows its value.

In our case, problems have been relatively few and were quickly addressed. Part of the reason was probably the time we spent with our attorneys. We were very forthright in what kind of help and assistance we needed and were also prepared with what could best be described as a humongous boatload of questions. (When we ran out of questions, we went home, put on a pot of coffee and reviewed all the answers we had until at least a dozen or more questions came to mind!). Our attorneys were equally as forthright in what we could expect them to do, what OUR roles and responsibilities were and they were as productive(not to mention patient) in providing answers, instructions and suggestions as we were in proving inquiries. In short, we were fortunate in creating a partnership with our attorneys.

Each of you has to make the decision for yourselves, but based on our experience and some of what we have seen and heard, we think hiring a competent bilingual law firm to assist in the process is a sound insvestment in your transition to becoming an expatriate. Having said that, keep these things in mind:

1. You are responsible for doing YOUR due diligence and making good decisions. Paying for a lawyer does NOT absolve you of this responsibility.

2. If you fail to execute or make a stupid decision, no amount of legal fees will be able to quickly resolve the problems that will result. Nor will you be able to point your finger at the lawyer for those problems.

3. As in most business relationships, the key is for you and your lawyer to thoroughly discuss upfront what the goals and objectives are, to formulate a plan to reach them and to decide on a proper division of tasks and responsibilities to reach them. Your lawyer is a strategic advisor and counselor in this process and you're the decision maker, but you both must be in agreement in order for the plan to be successfully executed.

4. As in all tasks associated with your move, do, do, do your homework and when you think you've done enough, do some more. Ask, ask, ask all the questions you can can and then ask some more.

In our case, I think the process of working together well with our attorneys (as well as some good old fashioned luck) contributed greatly to our being able to close on the house we wanted within ten days of first offer, despite having to work through a utility enchroachment issue. It was also evident in getting final approval for our residency visas in just under eight weeks from first filing (holiday period included).

Time and effort are equivalent to spending money. You'll save those if you carefully choose your legal representative and work well with them. Our experience may not be yours, but we will always say "YES" to those who ask "Should I lawyer up or not if I plan to move to Ecuador?"

If asked for a reccomendation, we will proudly disclose that our legal representatives were the professional, Cuenca-based husband and wife team of Nelson Idrovo and Grace Velastegui. They and their two assistants, Rebecca and Priscilla were, and continue to be valued and trusted resources as we make Ecuador our home base and as we continue "juntos en el camino de la vida".


  1. Great post. I awoke yesterday and thought I would contact you to get your recommendation on attorneys - then I opened up SOZ - could you furnish email for a few more questions?

    Richard and Amy Griffin, Charlotte

  2. My attorney too. Good, smart, people.