Inheritance Tax in Portugal: What You Need to Know

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Inheritance Tax in Portugal: What You Need to Know

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

When it comes to financial planning, there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. For expats in Portugal, understanding the intricacies of inheritance tax is crucial for effective estate planning. Portugal offers unique advantages in terms of inheritance tax compared to other countries, making it an attractive destination for retirees and wealthy individuals. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key aspects of inheritance tax in Portugal, including the applicable laws, tax exemptions, and strategies for minimizing tax liabilities.

Understanding Portuguese Succession Laws

In Portugal, succession laws are governed by the principle of “forced heirship.” This means that only legitimate heirs, including spouses, biological and adopted children, and ascendants, are entitled to inherit. Legitimate heirs are guaranteed a minimum share of the estate, with a spouse and children being entitled to at least 50% and 60% respectively. The remaining portion of the estate can be distributed according to the deceased’s wishes.

Portuguese Inheritance Tax

Unlike many other countries, Portugal abolished the inheritance tax, also known as the Inheritance and Donations Tax, in 2003. This has been a significant factor in attracting expats and individuals with substantial wealth to Portugal. However, it’s important to note that there are still taxes applicable to gratuitous transfers on death, such as Stamp Duty.

Stamp Duty on Gratuitous Transfers

Stamp Duty is a territorial tax imposed on the gratuitous transfer of movable or immovable property and rights located in Portuguese territory. In the case of inheritances, Stamp Duty is payable by the heirs at the opening of the succession. However, there are exemptions for certain beneficiaries, including spouses, unmarried partners, descendants, and ascendants. These exempt individuals are not required to pay Stamp Duty on the assets received from the inheritance.

For beneficiaries who are not exempt, Stamp Duty is calculated at a rate of 10% based on the value of the assets located in Portugal. It’s important to consider the potential tax implications when planning the distribution of assets to minimize the tax burden on non-exempt beneficiaries.

Portuguese Succession Planning for Expats

As an expat in Portugal, it’s crucial to understand the implications of Portuguese succession laws and how they may impact your estate planning. Depending on your specific circumstances and goals, there are different approaches to consider.

Applying Portuguese Inheritance Laws

If you are a resident of Portugal, Portuguese inheritance law, governed by EU regulation Brussels IV, can be applied to your estate. This may be advantageous for individuals who wish to take advantage of the zero inheritance tax rate on assets passing to legitimate heirs. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential tax implications if any part of the estate passes to non-legitimate heirs.

Drawing Up a Will

Alternatively, expats in Portugal have the option to draw up a Will as if they were still in their home country. In this case, the inheritance laws applicable to that jurisdiction would govern the distribution and taxation of the estate. This approach may be more suitable for individuals who have specific beneficiaries or wish to structure their estate plan differently from Portuguese succession laws.

It’s important to seek expert advice to determine the most appropriate approach based on your circumstances and goals. Consulting with a professional who specializes in international estate planning can help ensure that your estate plan aligns with your wishes while minimizing tax liabilities.

Non-Habitual Residency and Tax Advantages

For new expats in Portugal or those who have not been residents for the preceding five years, applying for non-habitual residency (NHR) status can provide significant tax advantages. NHR status lasts for ten years and offers exemptions and reductions in various taxes, including inheritance tax.

Under NHR status, lifetime gifts and inheritances to legitimate heirs are tax-exempt. Additionally, individuals with NHR status benefit from no wealth tax, a flat-rate tax (currently 20%) on certain Portuguese income from specific professions, and tax exemption on most foreign income. Taking advantage of NHR status can further enhance the tax efficiency of your estate planning in Portugal.

Lifetime Gifts and Taxes in Portugal

In Portugal, lifetime gifts are subject to taxes such as property tax and capital gains tax if the gifted property is subsequently sold. It’s important to consider the potential tax implications of lifetime gifts when planning your estate. Consulting with a tax advisor or estate planning professional can help ensure that your gifting strategy aligns with your overall financial goals and minimizes tax liabilities.

Seeking Professional Advice

Navigating the complexities of inheritance tax and succession planning in Portugal can be challenging for individuals without specialized knowledge. To ensure that your estate plan is optimized for tax efficiency and aligns with your wishes, it’s essential to seek professional advice. Consulting with an experienced tax advisor or estate planning specialist can provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your specific needs.


Inheritance tax in Portugal offers unique advantages for expats looking to plan their estates. The abolition of inheritance tax and the availability of non-habitual residency status provide opportunities for tax-efficient estate planning. Understanding Portuguese succession laws, applying appropriate strategies, and seeking professional advice are essential steps in ensuring that your estate plan protects your assets and provides for your loved ones. By taking advantage of the favourable tax environment in Portugal, you can secure your legacy while minimizing tax liabilities.

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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