In Spain, hereditary succession presents notable differences between the common civil neighborhood and the Catalan civil neighborhood. We will explore these divergences, focusing on the consequences of the absence of a will and testamentary peculiarities in each context.

I. Succession Subject to COMMON Civil Law:

I. A. Consequences of death without having made a will:

The regulation of legal heirs without a will is found in the Civil Code from Article 912. This is the order of heirs in case of not having made a will:

  • The heirs are the descendants, that is, the children; in their absence, the inheritance passes to the grandchildren. If there is a spouse, they receive 1/3 of the improvement part in life usufruct.
  • In the absence of descendants, the ascendants inherit, the parents, and in case of predecease, the grandparents. In this case, if there is a spouse, they receive half of the assets in life usufruct.
  • In the absence of children, grandchildren, and parents, the spouse inherits the entirety.

II. B. Having Made a Will:

     a) Under common law, the following have the status of legitimate heirs:

  • Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (forced heirs), whether born in wedlock or not, or adopted, have the right to one-third of the assets and debts of the parents, divided equitably.
  • Father, grandparents, great-grandparents: in case there are no children or other descendants of the deceased, the portion that the law reserves for them with mandatory character will be half of the inheritance.

     b) A “third of improvement” of the inheritance must be allocated among the descendants, whose distribution may be uneven among them. Participation in this third is not uniform, as the testator can determine how it is allocated among the legitimate children.

    c) The “third of free disposal” of the inheritance allows the testator to allocate it to anyone, even to a third party who is not a relative.

    d) The surviving spouse, in the absence of legal or de facto separation at the time of the spouse’s death, only receives the usufruct of the improvement third if there are children or descendants, as mentioned earlier.

In the absence of children, the surviving spouse receives the usufruct of half of the inheritance if there are present parents and two-thirds if there are neither children nor parents of the deceased.

II. Succession subject to Catalan Civil Law:

II. A. Consequences of death without having made a will:

  • Descendants, i.e., children, inherit the naked ownership of the assets; in the event of the death of a child, their share passes to their children, the grandchildren of the deceased.
  • The wife or common-law partner has the right to the life usufruct of all hereditary assets.
  • In the absence of children or descendants, the deceased’s wife or common-law partner becomes the UNIVERSAL heir, with the right to a legitimate share for the living parents.

II. B. Having Made a Will:

      a) The testator can freely choose heirs, maintaining the legitimate share established at 1/4 of the inheritance, except in the case of disinheritance.

  • Legitimate heirs in Catalonia are the children and their descendants (grandchildren, great-grandchildren), with the right to the legitimate share divided equitably.
  • If there are no descendants, the legitimate heirs will be the deceased’s parents. Finally, in the absence of descendants and parents, the legitimate share would not pass to the grandparents.

      b) The surviving spouse or surviving partner has the right to use the marital home and, if applicable, receive maintenance from the deceased’s estate during the year following the death. Requirements include not having separated, not being a universal usufructuary, not remarrying or cohabiting with another person. In addition, they must not neglect the common children before the end of the year of widowhood to maintain the right.

In conclusion, in the Catalan succession regime, the spouse is placed ahead of the ascendants, unlike the common regime where they are behind the children and ascendants. Additionally, the common-law partner does not inherit in the common law and is not called in an intestate declaration.

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