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:: Who are the heirs? The heirs apparent

To know who will succeed the deceased, a distinction must be made between two situations:

  • The deceased has made a will
    In such case the heirs will be:
    • The specified heirs: Those individuals that appear as such in the will and succeed the testator in the ownership of the properties and rights that make up his/her estate.
    • The heirs apparent: Those individuals to which the Law acknowledges the right to inherit at least one third of the estate of the deceased, known in Spain as the legítima.
      The heirs apparent include, in the first place, the children of the deceased (both natural and adopted, marital and non-marital) and their descendants, and in their absence, the parents and ascendants.
      For his/her part, the widow/er will inherit in accordance to that set forth by Law.
      If there are no heirs apparent, the specified heirs may acquire the whole inheritance, and if they concur with the former, they may acquire everything in excess of the third of the estate designated to the heirs apparent by Law.
  • In addition to the heirs (apparent and specified) there may also be legatees who only inherit certain objects or assets of the inheritance (for example, "apartment X in such-and-so street", the "car with licence plate X", etc).


  • The deceased has not made a will
    In such case, the statutory intestate succession will be opened. This is also known as intestacy or abintestado, in Spain.
    The Law also specifies the order in which the family members of the deceased must succeed him/her, and in absence of family, the State. Thus:
    • The descendents: The children and their descendents succeed the parents and other ascendants, with no discrimination of sex, age or filiation. Therefore, no distinction is made between natural children and adopted children, marital and non-marital children, giving all the children the same rights to inheritance.
    • Lo The ascendants: They inherit in the absence of the children and descendants of the deceased.
      In such cases, the father and the mother inherit the estate in equal parts, and if only one of the two is alive, he/she will inherit the whole of the inheritance.
      If the parents are not alive, the next closest ascendants (the grandparents) will inherit the estate. If both the maternal and paternal grandparents are alive, the inheritance will be divided equally between both families.
    • The spouse: He/she inherits in the absence of descendants and ascendants and will have priority over the siblings and collateral family members (brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews)
    • The siblings and collateral family: If there are only brothers and sisters, they will inherit the estate in equal parts. However, if there are brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, the nieces and nephews will divide among them the portion of the inheritance that would otherwise have corresponded to the deceased sibling (brother or sister of the deceased testator and father or mother of the nieces and nephews in question).
      If the inheritance involves full siblings and half siblings (siblings that share only a father or a mother), the former will inherit twice the amount of the inheritance of the latter. If all those involved are half-siblings or stepsiblings, some on the father’s side and others on the mother’s side, they will all inherit equal amounts of the estate.
      The rest of the family members up to the fourth degree (cousins) will inherit in the absence of all the family relations described hereinabove. Beyond this fourth level of kinship, it is impossible to inherit if no will has been made.
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