Chilean Inheritance Laws

Did you know that if you are a Chilean resident, the state decides who your heirs will be? No cats allowed in wills here–which sounds like a pretty decent policy–but you can’t leave it all to your wife or husband or children or mother or favorite charity either. Surprised? Read on, and then listen in to this week’s “Cachando Chile on the Air” (

Last week on Cachando Chile on the Air we talked about family-related issues, and the topic that generated the most interest was inheritance. Chilean law is based on Civil Law (inspired by Roman law and also known as Continental Law), in which inheritance is determined by the state. This is very different from the Common Law system used in the UK and US, where individuals have the right to decide who will inherit their estates.
(Many thanks to Katina, who wrote to comment that I originally had the civil vs common law bit backwards!)

Each side has its points and drawbacks—and the people who live within each system sees their own as the most fair.

This is an important issue for foreigners living in Chile (as well as for Chileans living in countries with common law systems), so we’ve invited an expert to come talk with us on the show tomorrow (Wednesday, 6-8 pm Santiago time / 4-6 pm EST).

Chilean tax attorney Darío Romero, of the Albagli Zaliasnik law firm here in Santiago will join us on the air and answer our questions about the ins and outs of inheritance laws.

We’ll be asking him just exactly how Chile’s 4 quarters system works and how it’s used to determine who gets what.

And then of course there are all those hypothetical situations we’re curious about, so we’ll ask him some of those too in order to see how the system works when we push it outside the textbook box.

Some practical questions are in order as well, such as whether the proceeds from life insurance policies are included in the estate, what happens with financial gifts during life, whether Chile has “clawback laws” as some European countries do, how you can provide for someone who may not be on the government’s radar, and what happens in marriages with partners from different countries—whose country rules the estate?

It promises to be a great show, and if you have some specific question you’d like us to ask him, please leave a comment here or send a message through “Contact” and let us know what inheritance issues are on your mind!


For more on this subject, see: “Is the Heir a Parent? Demystifying Chilean Inheritance Laws


8 responses to “Chilean Inheritance Laws

  1. Margaret, do you know if there’s any way to record and post this particular show? I know you’re not doing podcasts in general, but I can’t listen live and am really interested in this topic. Hopefully this will be possible, but if not I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a Cliff’s Notes version in a blog post 🙂

    Have fun with the show tomorrow – I’m sure it’ll be great!

  2. I´m sure many of the topics in your show would be of great interest for other foreigners in Chile. If you find a way to record and publish it later on your blog or somewhere else, would be great ^^ (If it´s not already done)

  3. Emily and Marmo-
    We’re working on getting the podcast option together and as soon as it’s done, you can be sure that I will promote it shamelessly! 😉
    But what I will definitely do is prepare a summary of what Darío tells us and publish it here.
    Glad to see there’s interest!

  4. just thought i’d help you out with terminology…chile is a civil law country…the US and UK are COMMON law countries… : ) you seemed to be making a difference btwn civil and Roman law but they are the same!

  5. Katina- me pillaste– I had that absolutely backwards, but will fix it now!
    Thanks for setting things straight!

  6. Thanks for the chance to ask a question, Margaret. My husband and I have a Will in Chile by a local ‘Notario,’ but have received contradictory comments about it not being valid because the local law takes precedence over our Will. We have lived in the US for over 20 years, and have property in both countries. Since we do not have children, we are concerned about what happens when we die. Any insights?

  7. Great question! Let’s see what kind of answer we can get!

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