Office Dr. Rathenau & Colleagues: Portuguese Property Law 2019


In order to properly set out your wishes regarding the distribution of your estate upon your death, you will need an experienced lawyer.

Since there is no uniform inheritance law in Europe, the lawyer has to be familiar with the inheritance law in all countries concerned.

Also, as a foreign national living in Portugal, you should be aware of recent European legislation ruling that from the summer of 2015, the applicable inheritance law is no longer determined by the nationality of the deceased, but by his habitual residence at the time of death. This applies not only to your assets in Portugal, but to your whole estate! Therefore, if for example you are a Dutch national with real estate and bank accounts in the United Kingdom and die while residing in Portugal, all your assets, be they in the Netherlands, in Portugal or elsewhere in the European Union, will be distributed according to Portuguese and not Dutch Law.

Since these countries have chosen not to adopt this European legislation, this does not apply to British, Irish and Danish nationals.

This can be avoided by making a will that includes a stipulation that the law of your country of origin and not of your country of residence is to be applied.

Checklist for the testator

  • Make a record of all assets located in Portugal
  • Check upon the entry in the land register
  • Check whether a donation inter vivos, that is a donation to your intended heir while you are still alive, is possible
  • Authorize a trustworthy person( procuração), which may act in cases of ailment
  • Examine the legal situation regarding the necessity of a will (testamento)
  • As a foreign national residing in Portugal, it is usually advisable to make a will, if only for the purpose of ensuring that your national law is applied to the inheritance