Making a Portuguese Will is strongly recommended if you have property or other assets in Portugal. This can help to ensure your estate goes to the right people, make the process of administering your estate as simple as possible, and potentially reduce your estate’s inheritance tax liability.
Getting a Portuguese Will also ensures the difference in inheritance rules between the UK and Portugal are accounted for, reducing the potential for unexpected issues which could cost your heirs time, money, and unnecessary stress.
Getting expert advice on making a Portuguese Will can give you peace of mind that all of the legal details are taken care of and that nothing has been forgotten or overlooked.
With decades of combined experience we have been providing our clients with specialist global legal advice related to property and land in Portugal. As well as assisting with buying and selling property in Portugal, we also assist with Portuguese inheritance planning.
Our legal team can assist with all aspects of Wills in Portugal and Portuguese inheritance planning, including:
- Making a Portuguese Will
- Having a Portuguese Will legalised at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- Having a Portuguese Will notarised
- Registering a Will with the Registos Centrais (Portuguese Wills Registry)
- Advice on the effect of your existing Will
- Portuguese inheritance tax planning (to minimise the tax burden on your estate)
- Advice for executors of Portuguese Wills and UK Wills (including assistance with the administration of the estate)
- Advice for beneficiaries (including people who may inherit under forced heirship rules in other countries or under rules of intestacy)
Judicare are headquartered in the UK, meaning we offer the security of dealing with UK-regulated and insured solicitors, combined with comprehensive knowledge of Portuguese inheritance rules.
For specific advice on making a Portuguese Will tailored to your needs or dealing with any other aspect of Portuguese inheritance law, please get in touch with our friendly, legal team in the UK.
How we can help with Portuguese Wills and inheritance
Making a Portuguese Will
Portuguese Inheritance Law states that when you die your property will be shared among your heirs according to the law of your residence, unless you have left a Will stating that it is the law of your nationality that applies.
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 their property to the person of their choice. 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 (Registos Centrais) in Portugal.
Generally speaking, a valid Portuguese Will is sufficient to dispose of the estate as you wish.
There are two types of Portuguese Wills:
- Public Wills – The most common type of Portuguese Will. The Notary writes the Will on their notebook, maintains an original in their office, and makes sure that you understand it and that you are who you are. The notary witnesses the Will. However, the testator is usually accompanied by two witnesses.
- Closed Wills – The person granting the Will writes and signs their Will and the Will is confirmed by the Notary.
Our legal team can help you make a Portuguese Will that matches your needs. With clear, practical advice on all of the issues you need to consider, including how your UK and Portuguese Will interact, we can give you confidence that you are making the right decisions for the future of your estate and loved ones.
We can also assist with having the Will notarised, legalised, and registered in Portugal, so you can be confident that the validity of your Will won’t be called into question.
Having a Portuguese Will legalised at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Portuguese Wills signed in the UK require legalisation at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. We can advise you on how this works and take care of having the Will legalised for you, taking this additional step off your hands.
Having a Portuguese Will notarised in the UK or Portugal
Portuguese Wills are drafted and signed in a different way to the way that they are done in the UK. The format of the Will is different, as is the style.
The Portuguese use Notarial system for the signature of important documents such as Wills, which are deposited in the Notary’s office. The role of the Notary Public is essentially to make sure that you are who you are, that you understand what you are signing, to make sure that you are signing the document under your own free will and to complete certain formalities.
The Notary can be in the UK or in Portugal but must be able to understand the document.
Registering a Will with the Registos Centrais (Portuguese Wills Registry)
All Portuguese Wills can be registered at Registos Centrais, a public entity which is in charge for matters related to citizenship and will matters. If a Portuguese Will is signed in front of a UK Notary it will be valid but can’t be registered at the Portuguese Wills Registry, which will make an inheritance more difficult later on
As well as helping you to make your Portuguese Will, our team can also register your Will at Registos Centrais, making sure it is easily accessible to your heirs when needed. This can also ensure that there is no confusion over which is the correct version of your Will if you have made more than one in your lifetime.
Advice on the effect of your existing Portuguese Will and/or UK Will
If you already have a Portuguese and/or UK Will, we can review this for you and advise on whether this offers the best provision for your estate. Where we believe a new Will or Wills can offer a better solution, we can advise on your options and the benefits.
Our legal team can also advise you on the interaction between different Wills (i.e., a UK Will and Portuguese Will), making sure you fully understand how your estate will be treated upon your death.
Portuguese inheritance tax planning
Inheritance tax rules in Portugal are different to UK inheritance laws, so you must take this into account (and your UK tax liability) when planning your estate. This can allow you to ensure your estate is as tax efficient as possible, both in Portugal and the UK.
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 Agreements you can offset the tax paid in Portugal against the tax payable in the UK.
The rate of inheritance tax payable in Portugal will depend on:
- The relationship between the person who died and the beneficiaries (some categories are exempt);
- The type of goods (some are exempt of tax, such as 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 close relatives who have a tax exemption are:
- Husband / Wife
The rest of the relatives or people who are not directly related to the deceased do not have a tax exemption and pay tax on the full amount of 10%.
All of the heirs benefit from the tax exemption that applies to the specific types of goods referred to above.
It is worth noting that a true 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. Therefore, it is not a special tax for inheritance.
Our legal team can talk you through exactly how inheritance tax rules in Portugal and the UK will apply to your estate, then help you get in place the right measures to ensure your estate is as tax efficient as it can be.
Advice for executors of Portuguese Wills and UK Wills
If you are called upon to act as the executor of an estate that includes property in Portugal, we can guide you through the entire process of administering the estate.
With an understanding of both UK inheritance law and Portuguese inheritance law, we can help you deal with any potential situation, including if there are both Portuguese and UK Wills, if there is just one or the other, or if there is no Will at all.
Using our specialist knowledge, we can ensure every necessary step is taken. We can also work through any issues that arise, making the process of administering the estate as simple and stress-free as possible for you.
Dealing with Portuguese intestacy rules
Intestacy rules set out who should inherit from an estate if there is no valid Will.
If someone does not leave a Will, then it will be necessary to explain to the authorities in Portugal who is entitled to the estate assets in accordance with UK law. This will require a Declaration of Law to be drafted and then translated and legalized. This all increases both the costs and time taken to deal with an inheritance.
Not having a Will may also increase the cost of an inheritance due to the need to draft documents such as the Declarations of Law and obtain other documentation which otherwise may not be necessary.
If you stand to inherit from an estate under intestacy rules, it is important to understand your rights and what you need to do.
Our Portuguese intestacy lawyers can advise you on how an estate will be dealt with under intestacy laws and what you need to do, whether as the person whose estate it is or a beneficiary of the estate.
Advice for beneficiaries of estates containing Portuguese property
If you have inherited or are due to inherit a property in Portugal, we can advise you on everything you need to do.
One of the documents required to carry out an acceptance of inheritance in Portugal is a certificate habilitation of heirs (Habilitação de Herdeiros).
This document proves that you are the heir of somebody, and you cannot carry out an inheritance in Portugal without it
We can assist with securing the Habilitação de Herdeiros allowing for a smooth inheritance process.
If you are unhappy with your position under the terms of a Portuguese Will or need advice on your inheritance rights under the Portuguese law, we can help. Our Portuguese inheritance lawyers can also help if you need to respond to an inheritance challenge from another party.
Portuguese Will fees and costs
For simple Portuguese Wills we charge £1,250 plus VAT per Will. That should cover the majority of typical cases.
More complicated structures may require more work than a typical Will and will therefore cost more. We would give an estimate for this cost prior to instruction.
Our charges include:
- Taking your instructions on what you want to happen with your assets
- Advising you whether your proposed course of action is legal and whether it seems sensible
- Drafting your Will
- Making arrangements for you to sign the Will
- Registering the Will and the Portuguese Wills Registry (If the Will is signed in Portugal or at a Portuguese Consulate)
There are likely to be various additional fees that will need to be paid on top of our professional fees;
- Notary fees – Typically €40 if signed in Portugal and £100 if signed in the UK
- Legalisation fees – £30 per Will
- Wills Registry fees – Free
Common questions about Portuguese Wills
Are the inheritance rules in Portugal the same as the UK?
No, the way that Inheritance Tax in Portugal works is very different to the UK. Therefore, the way that you leave your assets in the UK is not necessarily the best way to leave your assets in Portugal.
However, there is an interaction between UK and Portuguese inheritance laws when you inherit a property in Portugal. That is why the best person to advise you on your purchase in Portugal is somebody who understands both Portuguese and UK law.
Do I have to make a Will for my Portuguese property?
No, you don’t as it is possible to deal with an inheritance that is intestate (i.e., without a Will). However, if you don’t make a Will then you run the risk that your assets go to the wrong person. It can also make the process of inheriting from you more complicated and/or expensive than it needs to be.
Under Portuguese law, if you do not have a Will and die resident in Portugal, all your assets will be distributed by the “forced heirs”.
Can I just leave my assets in Portugal in my UK Will?
Yes, it is possible to leave assets in Portugal using a foreign Will as Portuguese Law recognises Wills that are made abroad. Therefore, you can draft your UK Will to include your Portuguese assets.
However, this may not be the best way of dealing with your estate as the two legal systems are very different and it may be better to leave assets to different people in different countries.
An important point to bear in mind is that the cost of translating a UK Will into Portuguese (which is required on an inheritance) is generally more than the cost of making a Portuguese Will in the first place.
It is therefore usually cheaper to make a Portuguese Will, as well as this being the better option for a number of reasons.
Using a UK Will for Portuguese property 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.
Further to this, the process slows down as you have to wait for the Grant of Probate to be issued in the UK before you 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 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, trustees, and the like.
For all of these reasons, making a Portuguese Will is always the best option.
Can I have a UK Will and a Portuguese Will?
Yes, you can have a UK Will and a Portuguese Will, but they must be well drafted to ensure they work together effectively.
If drafted incorrectly, one of your Wills might accidentally revoke the other Will, so it is essential to have a lawyer with experience of these situations draft your Wills for you.
Do I have to leave my Portuguese assets to my children?
This is the most common question we get asked about Portuguese Wills. In short, if you are not Portuguese or not resident then no, you don’t. If you are resident in Portugal, then you can get around this requirement in your Will.
According to the Portuguese law, you can leave to anyone you want a part of your assets, which is called “Quota Disponível”, and it will not collide with the “forced heirs”. For this purpose, writing a Portuguese Will is the best way to proceed.
Why choose Judicare for advice about Portuguese Wills?
We can handle both your UK Will and Portuguese Will expertly
Our legal team are skilled in both UK and Portuguese inheritance laws. This means you only have to instruct one lawyer for your Portuguese Will needs and we can help you create Wills in both the UK and Portugal to account for every part of your estate.
Plain English advice
We speak English – when it comes to Wills and probate advice you should never take the chance of instructing a lawyer who does not speak fluent English. As we are based in the UK, we speak English as our primary language, with no unnecessary legal jargon.
UK-regulated solicitors. Real peace of mind.
Judicare 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.
Complete understanding of how Portuguese inheritance laws and UK inheritance laws interact
One of our key selling points is that we understand the laws in multiple jurisdictions (including Portugal) and regularly advise clients on how those laws interact with UK law. As such, we can provide clear, seasoned expertise on situations other law firms likely will not have the experience to handle effectively.
Property is one of the most common assets people have in their Will, so working with a law firm with strong international property expertise is usually a good idea when dealing with Portuguese inheritance. 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 in Portuguese inheritance law
Our legal team have many years of experience dealing with all aspects of Portuguese Wills and cross-border inheritance planning. 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 Portuguese inheritance planning goes ahead as smoothly as possible.
Need expert help with a Portuguese Will?
Looking for a highly experienced, trustworthy, and reliable team of Portuguese Will lawyers in the UK?
Need expert guidance and plain English advice on making, varying, understanding, or executing a Portuguese Will?
Want peace of mind that everything has been properly taken care of?
Then get in touch with the team at Judicare today!