In Canada a person generally has the freedom to leave their estate to whomever they choose; known as “testamentary freedom”. However, in many of the civil code countries of Europe, a portion of the estate must be distributed to legitimate heirs; known as “forced heirship”. In Portugal, legitimate heirs include the spouse, biological descendants, adopted children, and ascendants of the deceased. The reserved portion covers up to two thirds of the whole estate, with division of the estate generally as follows:

Spouse’s portion in absence of descendants or ascendants: 50%.

Spouse and Descendants: The reserved portion is two thirds; normally distributed per capita, but in any case the spouse gets a minimum of one quarter of the reserved portion (which results in one sixth of the whole estate).

Only Descendants: The reserved portion depends on the number of children. For one child it is 50%, for two or more it is two thirds.

Spouses and Ascendants: two thirds, of which two thirds are intended for the spouse and one third for the ascendants.

Only Ascendants: 50% for those of first degree, for further degrees one third.

In the case of an intestacy and no spouse, ascendant or descendant, the estate passes to the siblings and their descendants, in their absence to the family up to the fourth degree of kinship, and then finally to the State.

The testator’s freedom to leave the remainder of the estate after the reserved portion is not generally restricted except in some cases like: the deceased’s last treating doctor if the testament was written during the illness which caused the death, the priest of the community where he attended, or a curator, tutor, or administrator of the deceased.

If you are interested in further information on the topic of international inheritance we are pleased to assist, along with our lawyer colleagues in Lisbon Portugal.

Thanks for reading!

James Jacuta