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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.