Portuguese Inheritance Law

Portuguese inheritance laws are very different to those in the UK, so if you are dealing with any aspect of inheritance in Portugal, you must seek expert legal advice.

You might be:

  • Wondering how to account for Portuguese property in your Will
  • Looking to reduce your inheritance tax liability on Portuguese property or other assets
  • Dealing with the estate of someone who has passed away who had property or other assets in Portugal
  • A beneficiary who has inherited property in Portugal

With decades of combined experience we have been providing our clients with specialist global legal advice related to property and land in Portugal.

Our Portuguese inheritance lawyers can assist with all areas of your inheritance planning and estate administration, including:

  • Advice on how Portuguese inheritance laws apply to your estate
  • Making a Portuguese Will (including clear advice on the benefits of doing so)
  • Portuguese inheritance tax planning (to minimise the tax burden on your estate)
  • Portuguese Powers of Attorney (to empower someone else to act for you in Portugal)
  • Portuguese probate (including handling the process for you)
  • Advice as to how an inheritance in Portugal affects your inheritance in the UK
  • Advice for people who have inherited property in Portugal

We are headquartered in the UK, meaning we offer the security of dealing with UK-regulated and insured solicitors, combined with comprehensive knowledge of foreign inheritance and probate rules in Portugal and a range of other overseas jurisdictions.

For specific advice on inheritance and probate in Portugal tailored to your needs, please get in touch with our friendly team in the UK.

Call: 01438 840 258                    Email: admin@judicaregroup.com


How Judicare can help with Portuguese inheritance and probate

Advice on how Portuguese inheritance laws apply to your estate

Portuguese inheritance law states that, if you do not have a Will, then when you die your properties will be shared among your heirs according to the law of your country of your residence. However, if you are British and have made a Will then you can apply British Law even if you are resident in Portugal.

It is a common misconception that as a foreigner you have to leave your assets in accordance with Portuguese law, which imposes certain “forced heirs”. A “foreigner” can make a Portuguese Will leaving his own property to the person of their choice (assuming, of course, that the law of your own nationality allows this.).

This Will must contain a declaration that their personal law is governed by the principle of free disposition of property by testament. This is then acceptable to the Central Wills Registry in Portugal. Generally speaking, a valid Portuguese Will is sufficient to dispose of the estate as you wish.

Our Portuguese inheritance lawyers can explain exactly how your estate will treated under Portuguese inheritance law and help you with your estate planning, giving you confidence that you have made the best possible preparations for the future of your estate.

Making a Portuguese Will

We can advise you on the various different options regarding your Portuguese Will.

It is possible to have two Wills – one in Portugal covering your Portuguese assets and one in the UK covering your other assets. Both Wills need to be drafted carefully to make sure that they do not revoke each other.

You can leave your assets in Portugal to somebody using a UK Will, but this isn’t a good idea. The cost of the subsequent inheritance will be more and it is possible that you will inadvertently cause inheritance tax problems.

The cost and extra complications of leaving no Will at all is great and should be avoided.

Whilst as a foreigner you do not have to follow the same rules that Portuguese people do in terms of who you have to leave your property to, it often makes sense to do so as this can save your beneficiaries huge amounts in tax.

Our team can help you draft a Portuguese Will which can be prepared and signed in your local area or in our offices – there is no need to go to Portugal. We can ensure this works with your UK Will so your estate will be dealt with exactly as you intend when the time comes.

We can arrange for the registration of your Will at the Central Wills Registry in Lisbon.

We charge £1,100 plus VAT for drafting a simple Will for one person.

On top of that, there are Foreign and Commonwealth Office Legalisation fees (currently £30) and Notary fees, which will depend on the Notary.

Find out more about our expertise with making Portuguese Wills.

Portuguese Inheritance Tax Planning

Inheritance rules in Portugal rules are quite different to those in the UK. If you have assets in Portugal, you must therefore take local inheritance laws into account to ensure your estate is planned in such a way as to offer the maximum possible benefit to your heirs.

Inheritance tax on property or assets in Portugal has to be paid in Portugal. The property or assets also have to be declared back in the UK, although due to Double Taxation Laws you can offset the tax paid in Portugal against the tax payable in the UK.

Strictly speaking inheritance tax was abolished from the Portuguese legislation in 2004 and it was substituted by the “Imposto do Selo”, which covers several transactions in Portugal and inheritance too. There is therefore no specific Inheritance Tax although there is a tax that covers inheritance.

The rate of inheritance tax (Imposto do Selo) payable in Portugal will depend on:

  1. The relationship between the person who died and the beneficiaries (some categories are exempt).
  2. The type of goods (some are exempt of tax, these being stock dividends, personal goods, retirement saving funds and education funds, savings in stock, pensions or investment real estate, credits from life insurance, pension and social security allowances.)

The rate is always 10% of the total value of the inheritance.

The relatives who have a tax exemption are:

  • Husband / Wife
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Grandparents

The rest of the relatives or people who are not so directly related to the deceased do not have a tax exemption, they pay tax on the full amount of 10 %.

All of the heirs benefit from the exemption that applies to the types of goods specified above.

Our Portuguese inheritance tax lawyers can advise you on the steps you can take to ensure your estate is as tax efficient as possible, so your heirs receive the maximum benefit.

Portuguese Powers of Attorney

A Portuguese Power of Attorney allow someone else to deal with key parts of inheritance for you, so you don’t need to travel to Portugal to handle these matters yourself.

Portuguese Powers of Attorney are typically much wider in scope than UK Powers of Attorney, so it is important that the authority it grants is as limited as possible.

Our Portuguese Power of Attorney lawyers can make sure the document matches your needs, so your representative can do everything you require and nothing more.

As part of the inheritance procedure we charge £250 plus VAT for drafting up a Power of Attorney. On top of that, you will have Notary fees, Foreign and Commonwealth Legalisation fee (£30 per document) and often Courier fees. If we are not dealing with the inheritance then a standalone Power of Attorney would cost more

Portuguese probate

Administering the estate of someone who has passed away is always a challenge – if the estate includes assets in another country, such as Portugal, this can make things even more difficult for you.

In Portugal, you have 3 months from the date of death to pay the inheritance taxes. If the taxes are not paid within that time, then the authorities levy a fine and daily interest on late payment. This fine and interest can add up to a reasonable amount over time and therefore this should be avoided.

Strangely, the authorities also only have a certain number of years to collect the inheritance tax and if they don’t then they lose their right to collect the tax. For this reason, many people wait until the end of that period before accepting the inheritance. This is a risky strategy though due to the fact that if you are caught within that period you will end up paying much more than you needed to.

Our Portuguese probate lawyers can make dealing with probate and estate administration in Portugal as straightforward as possible, making the whole process much easier for you while giving you peace of mind that everything has been handled correctly.

Advice for people who have inherited property in Portugal

Inheriting a property in Portugal can be confusing for people who have never dealt with such matters before. There are a lot of different issues you will need to take into account, including your Portuguese inheritance tax liability, when and how to sell the property (if you intend to do so) or what steps you need to take if you wish to keep the property.

Our Portuguese inheritance lawyers can guide you through the whole process of inheriting a property in Portugal, making sure everything is handled smoothly and cost-effectively.

Find out more about our expertise with Portuguese property inheritance.

Portuguese inheritance and probate costs

The total cost of inheriting in Portugal is generally higher than in the UK. This is for several reasons:

  1. The Portuguese system is paperwork heavy compared to the UK—particularly if there is an international element in the mix.
  2. There are often complications in the inheritance which arise from the fact that the beneficiaries or the deceased are not Portuguese or are not living in Portugal. We have in the past, for example, had to get beneficiaries to apply for their first passport in order to inherit a property in Portugal.
  3. Pretty much every document that we need needs to be translated and officially stamped—all of which has a cost.

At Judicare, we want to make your Portuguese inheritance costs as transparent as possible, so we will be happy to provide an upfront quote for the costs involved with your matter, including our fees and any third-party costs (such as court fees).

Once a price has been agreed, we would only deviate from this in exceptional circumstances. Should any additional expenditure be required, we will always explain this to you and secure your approval before any billable work is carried out.

Notary fees for signature of Deed of Acceptance of Inheritance – Typically around €600.

Notary fees for Power of Attorney (if applicable) – Typically around £150 - 200.

Legalisation fees – £30 per document. Total cost of typically £60-£120 depending on how many documents are required.

Wills registry Search – €7.

Land registry fees – Typically around €300 (including searches).

NIF Application cost – €7 (if needed).

Taxes – Dependant on a number of factors including who is inheriting, where the assets are in Portugal and the value of the assets. The tax rate if applicable is a flat 10%.

Note: When the payment is to be made in Portugal, we have quoted the cost in Euros and, where the payment is in the UK, we have quoted Pounds.

For more general information about of fees, please take a look at our pricing.

Portuguese probate checklist

 To DoCompleted
1Get copy of Death Certificate 
2Instruct your independent lawyer (hopefully Judicare) 
3Get copy of Will—if applicable 
4If it is a UK Will get copy of Grant of Probate 
5Consider whether you want to keep the property after the inheritance 
6Consider whether you want to vary who should inherit the property 
7Speak to currency dealer about getting the best rate for your money transfers 
8Lawyer carries out checks on the property and advises you on the inheritance 
9Arrange NIF numbers for all beneficiaries 
10Arrange Power of Attorney if needed 
11Lawyer deals with inheritance 
12Arrange insurance – contents / buildings / health 
13Signature of deeds of acceptance of inheritance 
14Pay taxes 
15Registration at the Land registry 
16Make a Portuguese Will and review your English Will 
17Arrange for Fiscal representation 

Why use Judicare for inheritance and probate in Portugal?

Portuguese inheritance law experts. Plain English advice.

Our team includes experts in Portuguese inheritance law who are fluent in Portuguese, so you can be confident that no detail is overlooked and everything will be handled the right way.

At the same time, as UK-based lawyers, we can answer your questions and keep you informed in plain English, with no unnecessary legal jargon.

UK-regulated solicitors. Real peace of mind.

As a UK law firm, we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). This means you can be confident we will adhere to the strict standards expected of UK lawyers.

Even more reassuring, we are required to carry professional indemnity insurance to cover claims up to £3million, which is much higher than the level of indemnity insurance required for lawyers in many foreign jurisdictions, including Portugal.

Complete understanding of how UK and Portuguese inheritance laws interact

While a law firm in Portugal might be able to help with Portuguese inheritance law, what happens if an estate has assets in both the UK and Portugal? Or even spread over three or more jurisdictions?

As UK solicitors who are experts in Portuguese inheritance law and inheritance rules in many other jurisdictions, we are perfectly placed to advise on what happens when you need to deal with the inheritance rules in more than one jurisdiction at once.

AIPP membership

When dealing with Portuguese property inheritance, working with a law firm with strong international property expertise is a good idea. This is one area where Judicare particularly excels.

We are a member of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP), which was set up to improve standards of professionalism in a largely unregulated overseas property market. As AIPP members, we have signed up to a Code of Conduct that assures we adhere to the highest standards of honesty and professional integrity.

Decades of collective experience dealing with Portuguese inheritance & probate

Our Portuguese inheritance lawyers have many years of experience dealing with all aspects of inheritance planning and estate administration in Portugal. This means we know all of the issues you need to consider, exactly what needs to be done and all of the common problems you can run into (and the not so common ones).

Drawing on our collective experience, we can help you to plan effectively and make sure every stage of your inheritance planning or estate administration goes ahead as smoothly as possible.

Need expert help with inheritance and probate in Portugal?

Looking for a highly experienced, trustworthy and reliable team of Portuguese inheritance lawyers in the UK?

Need expert guidance and plain English advice on any aspect of inheritance planning and estate administration in Portugal?

Want peace of mind that everything has been properly taken care of?

Then get in touch with the team at Judicare today!

Call: 01438 840 258                    Email: admin@judicaregroup.com

Portuguese inheritance and probate FAQ's

Is inheriting in Portugal the same as the UK?

No, the processes are very different, but there is an interaction between them when you inherit a property in Portugal. That is why the best person to advise you on your inheritance in Portugal is somebody who understands both Portuguese and UK law.

Do I need a lawyer to help me inherit in Portugal?

No, you don’t – just like you don’t necessarily need a lawyer when inheriting in the UK. However, the lawyer will establish contacts with the local authorities, gather the documentation for the Deed and for the property registries. To deal with local formalities and legal issues that may arise and thus speed up the process.

I have heard that certain people have to inherit from you in Portugal. What is the situation?

This is probably the most common question that we get asked about an inheritance in Portugal and also the biggest misconception.

In Portugal, just like in many countries, there is a system of “Forced heirs”. This means that if you are Portuguese you have to leave your assets to specific people—normally your children and your spouse.

However, if you are not Portuguese and not resident in Portugal you don’t have to follow these rules and are allowed to follow the inheritance laws of your home country.

If you are resident in Portugal, then you can get around this requirement by leaving a Will.

Do you need to make a Portuguese Will for property in Portugal or can you include it in your UK Will?

It is possible to leave assets in Portugal to your heirs using a UK Will. Therefore, you can draft your UK Will to include your Portuguese assets.

However, doing this unnecessarily increases the costs of the subsequent inheritance in terms of the costs and sometimes taxes. The reason for this is that the process becomes more difficult each document needed needs to be translated and legalised. The cost of translating a UK Will into Portuguese can run into hundreds of pounds on its own.

Further to this, the process slows down as we have to wait for the Grant of Probate to be issued in the UK before we can progress the inheritance in Portugal, which will normally mean that the inheritance taxes are not paid in time in Portugal, resulting in a fine and late payment interest.

It may also be necessary to draft a Declaration of Law which confirms to the authorities in Portugal that the UK Will is valid in the UK and also who the beneficiaries are. It is also often necessary to explain to the authorities in Portugal how a UK inheritance works as the two systems are very different in Portugal for example, it is the beneficiaries who inherit directly rather than using executors, administrators, and trusts.

The easiest way of dealing with an inheritance is by using a Portuguese Will. This is for several reasons:

The Will is made in the Portuguese format, meaning that the authorities in Portugal understand it and therefore do not require a Declaration of Law explaining the Will.

It is drafted in Portugal and therefore does not need translating.

The Will is made in contemplation of the Portuguese Law, meaning that it fits nicely with what the authorities want people to do.

All of this makes the process smoother and therefore quicker and, usually, cheaper.

How quickly can you sell a Portuguese property you have inherited?

Often the beneficiaries of a property in Portugal will think about selling the property soon after. This can be for a number of reasons, such as:

They have no use for the property

They need the money to pay for something else

The property brings back too many memories to visit it again

Whatever the reason for thinking about selling the property, it makes sense, as much as possible, to tie in the sale with the inheritance. Doing this can save money and time.

In practice, however, this can be difficult as often Estate Agents will refuse to list the property until the deed of acceptance of Inheritance has been signed. It can also be dangerous to wait for a buyer as this can often take you over the voluntary period for paying the inheritance taxesâ€â€meaning that you end up paying a fine and interest.

Our Portuguese inheritance lawyers will be happy to advise on the options for dealing with a property in Portugal that you have inherited, allowing you to get the outcome you want as quickly as cost-effectively as possible with the least stress possible.

What are the typical steps an inheritance will follow?

From the date of death to the sharing of the estate several steps must be taken by the heirs. These steps can take even longer if the right services are not used. Here is a comprehensive – although not exhaustive – list of some of those steps:

Obtain a Portuguese death certificate (whether it is online or before a Civil Registry office). If the deceased died in the UK then the Britsh Death Certficate must be Legalized (Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legislation Judicare (judicaregroup.com) ) and translated into Portuguese. Under the Portuguese Law that translation must be Certified.

Obtain a certificate from IRN (Registries and Notary Affairs Institute), stating if the deceased has left any Portuguese Will, when this was left and in which Notary’s office.

Request a Wills certificate at the Notary’s office (the Will must be “opened” by the Notary and the date of death must be added. This will involve some additional costs).

Schedule the Deed of Acceptance of inheritance (“Habilitacao de Herdeiros”) at any Notary's office. This is to identify who the Heirs are and who will administer the Estate until it is shared.

Property enquiry procedures to be underataken and requests made for official Land Registry certificates at the Registry offices and “Cadernetas Prediais” before the Tax office.

Investigation of assets – this would include the investigation of existing Bank accounts, a request for a statement and supporting information from Banco de Portugal and also requests from existing Banks to provide account balance certificates for stamp duty purposes.

Should the deceased have left any stocks or shares, the competent certificate should be requested and issued by the relevant entity (CMVM).

Obtain NIFs (Numero de Identificacao Fiscal ) Portuguese Tax numbers for the deceased and/or the Heirs.

Collect all the relevant information and paperwork to complete the forms and submit the Stamp Duty declaration to the Tax office. This must be done within three months following the death).

Submit the final documentation to the Registry according to the Will and register the assets in the name of the Estate. In case the Heirs wish to distribute the assets among themselves, they must complete a Deed of sharing.