New Civil Code of Puerto Rico, Act 55 of 2020
On June 1, 2020, the new Civil Code of Puerto Rico, Act 55-2020, was signed into law, to be effective on Nov 28, 2020.
The New Code was long overdue. Efforts to overhaul the outdated 1930 Civil Code started more than 20 years ago. The 1930 Civil Code was based on the Spanish Civil Code of 1889, which in turn was based on the Napoleonic Code of 1804. The Napoleonic Code, which abolished the centuries-old feudal system, was the first modern civil code to be adopted with a pan-European scope, influencing laws throughout the world.
The New Code is now the main source of private law in Puerto Rico. It regulates numerous aspects of a person's life, including legal relations, marriage, contracts, obligations, torts, real and personal property, estate rights and successions.
Some of the most notable changes introduced by the New Code deal with the statute of limitations of personal claims, revision of contracts and regulation of adhesion contracts. Following are some of the most relevant changes that affect inheritance issues:
- Elimination of the surviving spouse usufruct quota and the recognition of the surviving spouse as a forced heir, with the right to receive, in equal parts with the descendants, from the legitimate portion of the estate
- Climb in position of the surviving spouse in the succession order in the event of absence of descendants (position currently occupied by the deceased's ascendants)
- The right of preferential attribution of the primary residence to the surviving spouse
- The legitimate portion is set as 50% of the estate, eliminating the structure based on thirds (legitimate, betterment and free disposition)
- Increase of the portion of the estate that can be freely distributed (50% of free disposition)
- Elimination of the requirement for the appearance of three instrumental witnesses during the execution of a last will and testament before a notary public
While the New Code does not invalidate wills executed before Nov 28, 2020, the amount inherited may be reduced if it is not possible to give each forced heir what corresponds to him or her under the New Code. Therefore, we're recommending clients revise their wills.