First, we must know that the right of usufruct is a right that can be for life (that is, while you live), or temporary (for a certain time) and that consists of the right to use and enjoy a determined good or goods for a time that as we say, can be limited or lifelong.
The concept of «enjoy» is not the common concept that we all have, but it is the legal concept, which means that we have the right to perceive the benefits of the good (the benefits it generates), for example, if the Usufruct is constituted on a dwelling, it gives us the right to live in said dwelling, and in addition, if we rent it, it entitles us to receive the rents, benefits or profits of the property.
Now, what does this have to do with successions? In principle, when we make a will, we can dispose in it, for example, the universal usufruct (that is, 100%), and lifetime (as long as the person who holds the right), of all the assets of the Inheritance in favour of our spouse. This was mostly done long ago to protect the surviving spouse to avoid leaving him / her with nothing in case of death.
At a succession level this implies that the freehold over the property belongs to the heirs in proportion, but the usufruct would be for the surviving spouse, which translates, for example, that the children as heirs of the property could not have a sell it, rent it or use it, as long as his mother or father lives, depending on who has survived; Unless they came to an economic agreement with their father or mother. The usufruct can be valued economically, can be given a price. The value will depend on:
- if it is life, of the age of who has the right of usufruct,
- and if it is of a determined duration, will depend how much time remains for its extinction.
Once the corresponding economic compensation has been made, and provided that is the will of the owner of the usufruct right, the right will be extinguished and the owners will be able to dispose of the property freely.
For this reason, the relation between succession and usufruct rights is so important, since even if no testament has been made, or no reference to the usufruct right is mentioned, the Spanish civil code grants the right to the usufruct to the widowed spouse (1/3 of improvement).[
The usufruct as we say, is a right linked to a specific person, disappeared this person, the right is extinguished with it, we cannot pass it as an inheritance to our heirs, but we can sell it to the person and/or persons with the right of ownership.