Inheritance Law in Portugal: What You Need to Know

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Inheritance Law in Portugal: What You Need to Know

by | Monday, 11 September 2023 | Immigration, Investment, Personal Income Tax

inheritance law portugal

When it comes to planning for the future, understanding inheritance law is crucial. In Portugal, the legislation that governs inheritance is comprehensive and covers both legal and voluntary succession. Whether you are a Portuguese citizen or a foreign resident, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the intricacies of Portuguese inheritance law. This guide will provide you with a comprehensive overview of inheritance law in Portugal, including the types of inheritance, who is considered a legitimate heir, and the tax implications involved.

Types of Inheritance in Portugal

Portuguese law recognizes two types of succession: legal and voluntary. Legal succession comes into play when there is no will, and the distribution of assets is determined by the Civil Code. In contrast, voluntary succession is governed by a will or a contract, allowing individuals to decide how their estate will be distributed after their death.

If there is no will, the assets are divided among the legitimate heirs, which include children, spouses, and parents. However, if you want to have control over the distribution of your estate, it is important to create a will or a contract that outlines your wishes.

Determining Heirs in Portuguese Inheritance Law

In Portuguese inheritance law, the determination of heirs follows a specific order. The spouse and children are considered the primary heirs. If there are no children, the parents become the primary heirs. In the absence of parents, the search for heirs extends to siblings, uncles, cousins, and even more distant relatives. If no legitimate heirs can be found, the estate reverts to the State.

It is important to note that Portuguese inheritance law does not allow individuals to completely disinherit their children or spouses. While you can dispose of 1/3 of your estate freely through a will, the remaining 2/3 is considered the legitimate quota and must be distributed among the spouse, children, and forebears (parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents).

Division of Assets and Tax Implications

The division of assets in Portugal is based on the available and unavailable quotas. The available quota represents the portion of your estate that you can distribute freely through a will. However, the unavailable quota, which constitutes 2/3 of your estate, must be distributed among the legitimate heirs according to the rules of Portuguese inheritance law.

The specific distribution of the unavailable quota depends on various factors, such as the presence of descendants or forebears. For example, if there are no descendants or forebears, the spouse is entitled to half of the inheritance. If there is no spouse, the children are entitled to half of the inheritance. If there are no spouse or children, the forebears are entitled to half or 1/3 of the inheritance, depending on their relationship to the deceased.

When it comes to tax implications, Portugal imposes a tax duty of 10% on the value of assets located in the country. However, spouses, children, and parents are exempt from this tax, while other beneficiaries are required to pay it.

Certifying Heirs and Settling the Estate

To settle an estate in Portugal, several steps need to be followed. The first step is to register the death at the civil registry within 48 hours of the deceased. Following this, a certification of heirs is required if there is no will. The oldest heir is usually responsible for handling this procedure, which can be done at the National Registry or the Inheritance Desk.

Informing the treasury of the death is another crucial step in the process. The family has three days to notify the treasury, providing a death certificate and the identification documents of the deceased and the heirs.

If the heirs agree, the division of assets can take place at the registry or the Inheritance Desk. However, if no agreement can be reached, the issue will have to be resolved through legal means.

International Assets and Cross-Border Inheritance

Portuguese inheritance law applies to individuals who are habitual residents in Portugal, even if they have assets in other countries. This means that if you are a resident of Portugal, the distribution of your assets will be governed by Portuguese law.

If you own property or assets in multiple countries, it is essential to consider the implications of cross-border inheritance. Each country may have its own rules and regulations regarding inheritance, and it is advisable to seek legal advice to ensure proper estate planning and the avoidance of any conflicts or complications.


Understanding inheritance law in Portugal is essential for anyone residing in the country or considering a move to Portugal. By familiarizing yourself with the types of inheritance, the determination of heirs, and the tax implications involved, you can make informed decisions about estate planning and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

It is important to consult with legal professionals who specialize in Portuguese inheritance law to ensure that your estate planning is in compliance with the regulations and to navigate any complexities that may arise. With proper guidance, you can protect your assets and provide for your loved ones in the most effective way possible.

Remember, each individual’s circumstances are unique, and it is always advisable to seek personalized legal advice to ensure that your estate planning aligns with your specific needs and goals.

Additional Information

For more detailed information on Portuguese inheritance law and estate planning, consult reputable legal professionals specializing in Portuguese law. They can provide personalized advice tailored to your specific situation and guide you through the complexities of inheritance law in Portugal.

This article is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal or professional advice. Consult with a qualified professional for personalized guidance tailored to your specific situation.

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