5 Inheritance Law Changes That Will Benefit You - New Civil Code Of Puerto Rico

5 Inheritance Law Changes That Will Benefit You – New Civil Code Of Puerto Rico

The new civil code of Puerto Rico includes some changes in the inheritance law that could favor you. That is why we’ve gathered the most significant changes regarding inheritance. These adjustments involve:

– Distribution of inheritance under will.

– The right to housing.

– Who inherits when there is no will?

– Debts of deceased persons.

– New forms of wills.


  1. Distribution of the inheritance under a will

In the event that there is a valid will, the inheritance will be distributed in two parts and in the following manner:

  • 50% at free disposal. That is to say, any person or entity can be beneficiary.
  • 50% among the apparent heirs (spouse and children) in equal parts.

If there are no apparent heirs, the totality of the estate can be considered at the free disposal of the testator. Previously, the inheritance had to be divided in three equal parts. One third for the ones that the law said had to inherit in a mandatory way; another third for some descendants who wanted to benefit more, and a third part at free disposal.


  1. The right to housing

One important change is that the new civil code gives protection to the surviving spouse and gives him/her the right to remain in the family home for life. This modification implies that the widow or widower can decide to stay in the house, instead of receiving 50% of the inheritance that corresponds to him or her.

This also prevents the rest of the heirs from requesting the sale of the property in order to divide the money. Additionally, if the home in question exceeds the value of the inheritance, the widow or widower can enjoy of “occupancy rights for life”, which will allow him or her to continue living (at no cost) in the property for as long as he or she lives.


  1. ¿Who inherits when there is no will?

The new civil code establishes that, if there is no valid will, the order of inheritance is as follows:

  • The surviving spouse is first in the order of succession and at the same level as the children (descendants).
  • If the previous group does not exist (spouse and children), the inheritance will be granted to the parents (ascendants).
  • If the ascendants do not exist either, the next in line of succession are the preferred or ordinary collateral relatives. These can be siblings, nieces, nephews or other relatives.
  • In the absence of all the aforementioned groups, the estate will inherit.


  1. Debts of deceased persons

According to the previous civil code, when an heir received his/her inheritance, he/she was responsible for all the debts of the inheritance, even if they exceeded the inherited assets. However, the new code states that the person who inherits is not entirely responsible for the debts and even more so if they exceed the value of the inherited estate. In other words, if the debts are greater than the inheritance they receive, they do not have to pay the excess.


  1. New forms of wills.

Another important change made in the Civil Code is that sealed wills were eliminated; those in which the testator delivered his or her will before a notary under seal. Now, only two types of wills are accepted: open wills, which are those made in public deed before a notary and holographic or handwritten wills. 

Previously, the execution of a will required the appearance of at least three witnesses. But according to the new code, these witnesses are no longer required in the execution of a last will deed, only if they are requested by the testator or the notary.

Finally, in case of imminent danger of death, special wills will be accepted, such as those made by video and with the presence of three witnesses.


 Do you have questions about inheritance rights? 

At Gierbolini Consulting Group LLP we have attorneys who specialize in succession planning. We provide advice to our clients on all aspects of the legal rules regarding inheritance. 

If you have specific questions that have not been fully addressed in this article, or you are concerned that your will may be contested in court, get advice from one of our local attorneys that provide expert consultation on issues of the inheritance law.

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