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Contract Law Jurisdiction: Panama

Written By : Dr. Julio Contreras - Partner (Firm: Arosemena Noriega and Contreras - Panama, Panama )
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Under Panama Civil Law the general rule is that all contracts are consensual, which is to mean that they are perfected by the mere consent of the parties. Consequently, and except if expressly established by law that a contract is formal or real, it must be understood to be consensual, without prejudice to the liberty granted by law to the parties to give a consensual contract the character of formal.

By the same token, under Panama Commercial Law contracts of commerce are not subject for their validity to special forms. Any form or language utilized in the execution of said contracts, will obligate the parties in the manner and under the terms which appears that they wanted to be obligated. The exception to this general rule would be those contracts that pursuant to the Commercial Code or special laws, must be executed in a notarial deed or require certain formalities for their validity.

Formal Contracts

I . Acts or contracts that must be done in writing:
1) The sale or assignment of hereditary rights.
2) Certain special sales, such as those forced by Ministry of Law, of real property belonging to minors that have been habilitated of age, etc.
3) The sale of chattels with reserve of ownership. When the amount of the balance owed is $4,000 or less the contract must be in writing and the signature recognized before a Notary Public. If the balance is $4,000 or more the contract must be done in a notarial deed.
4) The mercantile, judicial and legal surety.
5) Any contract or obligation that is worth more than $5,000.00, however, in this particular case it is only a formality ad-probationem, except if they have been technologically stored.

II. Acts or contracts that must be done in a notarial deed:

1) The acts and contracts that have as purpose the creation, transmission, modification or extinction of real rights on real estate.
2) The lease of real estate for a period of six or more years provided that it is to affect third parties.
3) Marriage contracts, provided that the intent is to make them valid against third parties.
4) The assignment, repudiation and renouncement of hereditary rights or of the conjugal partnership.
5) The power of attorney to marry, the general power of attorney for lawsuits and the special ones that must be presented in trial, except as stated in the Judicial Code; the power of attorney to administer assets and any other one that has for its purpose an act written or that must be written in a notarial deed or that is to affect third parties.
6) The assignment of acts or rights derived from an act consigned in a notarial deed.

Notarize Or Recorded Contracts

The following are contracts that must be notarized and / or recorded at the Public Registry :

1) Pledge Agreement . For the agreement to be binding on third parties the signatures placed thereon must be recognized before a Notary Public, with the exception of bank loans where the pledge is binding on third parties as of the date of the respective agreement.

2) Purchase and sale of real estate. For property title to pass to the buyer the notarial deed must be recorded at the Public Registry.

3) Sale or assignment of credits. In the case of credits pertaining to chattels for the assignment to bind third parties the signatures placed on the assignment agreement must be recognized before a Notary Public and in the case of real estate the agreement must be contained in a notarial deed and recorded at the Public Registry.

4) Lease agreement. Any real estate lease agreement is subject to registration. However, for said agreement to bind third parties it must be recorded at the Public Registry. On the other hand, for a chattel lease agreement to bind third parties the signatures placed thereon must be recognized before a Notary Public.

5) Mortgage deed. For any mortgage deed, of any kind, to bind third parties the corresponding notarial deed must be recorded at the Public Registry.

6) Antichresis. In order for the antichresis to exist it must be contained in a notarial deed and recorded at the Public Registry.

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