Wills celebrated in Portugal and their validity in foreign countries
It is known that an individual may dispose of the destiny of their estate after their death through a will. However, if the will is executed in Portugal, the question may arise as to whether it will be valid abroad, especially when there are assets or heirs outside of Portugal, and the inheritance distribution must be recognized by the courts of another state.
A will executed in Portugal may not necessarily be subject to Portuguese law, so to assess the validity of a will executed in Portugal according to the common forms of will, it will first be necessary to determine which law applies to the will in question based on the rules of the foreign state where the will is intended to be enforced.
If the foreign state decides to apply Portuguese law to the will, generally, it will suffice that the will executed in Portugal is formally and materially valid according to Portuguese law for it to be equally valid in the foreign country.
If, on the contrary, the Portuguese will is subject to foreign law, and even if such will is valid under Portuguese law, it will only have effects in the country where the issue arises if it complies with the formal and material validity requirements imposed by the relevant legislation.
Thus, a will executed in Portugal according to the common forms of will provided for in our country will be valid abroad when Portuguese law applies to it and it complies with the national rules of formal and material validity or when, if foreign law applies to the will, it complies with the formal and material validity requirements imposed by the applicable law.
In addition to the common forms of will in Portugal, namely the public will and the closed will, to which the above regime applies, a will executed in Portugal may adopt the form of an international will, in which case it will be valid and recognized in all other states bound by the Convention on the Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will. The international will may be written in any language and by any means, however, it is necessary for the testator to declare in the presence of two witnesses and a person authorized to deal with matters relating to international will that the document in question constitutes their will and that they have full knowledge of all provisions contained therein, subsequently signing the will before the witnesses and the authorized person.
The approval of international wills in Portugal is the responsibility of notaries and Portuguese consular agents serving abroad.
Nuno Cardoso Ribeiro