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International estate planning

Contributed by Dennis Swing Greene

International Fiscal Consultant, EuroFINESCO S.A.

ONE OF the essential steps in international estate planning is to determine the domicile of origin or of choice of the individual. In accordance with the Portuguese Civil Code, one must first determine the Lei Pessoal (statutory law or domicile) of the individual. This defines the laws of the jurisdiction that will govern the succession.  

It may be helpful to distinguish several related, but very distinct issues.


Conceptually, residency is ephemeral in nature and is normally measured in terms of physical presence during a tax year. An individual is generally considered resident if present for 183 days or more. This can be a single continuous period, or spread over a number of visits during the tax year.

Domicile of origin

In law, domicile designates the law of a person for purposes of determining legal matters. A person may have many places of residence, but may only have one domicile. At birth, a person assumes the domicile of their parents. The law of the domicile will govern the law of inheritance applicable at death.

Domicile of choice

Sometimes an individual may take specific steps to renounce the domicile of origin and adopt a domicile of choice. This usually requires a series of concrete measures to be taken in each of the respective jurisdictions. Unfortunately, most tax authorities will only rule on the admissibility of such a profound change when there is a chargeable event.

Where to start

Since the abolition of Inheritance Tax in 2004, Portugal has become a potential tax haven for those who wish to avoid death duties when passing on their estate to future generations. In addition, recently proposed changes in traditional Inheritance Tax avoidance vehicles, such as trusts and potentially exempt gifting rules, make a domicile of choice status in Portugal more appealing then ever before.

To help you in your planning, the Association for Foreign Residents and Visitors to Portugal, AFPOP, is sponsoring a seminar entitled: International estate planning: establishing domicile of choice in Portugal, on November 8, 2006 at the Tivoli Marina Hotel, in Vilamoura. Presented by Dennis Swing Greene, International Fiscal Consultant at euroFINESCO, s.a., the forum is designed to provide comprehensive background information concerning Portugal as a partner in your international estate planning.

For more information about the seminar and registration, contact the AFPOP office on 282 458 509, e-mail: [email protected] or see page 7 of The Resident.

Dennis Swing Greene is an International Fiscal Consultant for euroFINESCO. Private consultations can be scheduled by calling 969 102 813, via e-mail at [email protected] or on the internet at