Spanish legal advice in plain English

What happens if I inherit a house in Spain?

Legal costs, tax liabilities and language barriers are just some of the common Spanish inheritance law issues that you can face if inheriting a Spanish property.

Here are the things you need to know if you inherit a house in Spain.

Spanish inheritance laws

Spanish inheritance laws can be confusing for British citizens. In the absence of a valid will, Spanish intestacy rules will apply, which means that property is inherited according to strict rules, which favour the closest relatives of the deceased.

However, there are certain situations where British citizens may be exempt from these rules. For example, if the deceased died without a will and was habitually resident in the UK at the time of their death, their estate will be subject to English and Welsh, Scots, or Northern Irish inheritance law instead, depending upon where they were habitually resident. It is therefore important to seek legal advice if you are unsure as to the law of which country apply to your situation. 

Your lawyer can help you to understand the inheritance rules from the start.

What to do if you inherit a house in Spain

If you are the beneficiary of Spanish assets, you will need to follow Spanish procedural rules in order to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.

The first step is to prove that you have a right to inherit.  You may do this by showing that you are named as a beneficiary in the last will of the deceased.  If there is no will, then you will need to show that you are a family member with a right to inherit the assets. If the valid will is an English will, or a will from another common law jurisdiction such as anywhere else in the UK, or the USA for example, then you will need to obtain a Grant of Probate.  This is the legal document that proves who is the executor of the will and, together with a copy of the will, shows that you have a right to inherit the Spanish assets.

You can then start dealing with the property. You will need to decide what you want to do with it – whether you want to sell it, live in it, or keep it as an investment.

How to find out if the property is legal

Before you do anything with the property, you need to make sure it is legal. In Spain, there have been a number of cases of people receiving gifts of unregistered properties, or properties that have been built without planning permission.

The best way to check if a property is legal is to ask a lawyer or conveyancer specialising in Spanish property to carry out a search. They will be able to tell you if the property is registered and if there are any planning issues in Spanish law that you need to be aware of.

A lawyer or conveyancer will obtain information from the Spanish property registry, which provides key information about the property, e.g. is it a jointly owned property, boundaries, size and any rights and charges relating to the property under Spanish law.

The process of registering the inheritance

Once you have established that the property is legal, or that you want to inherit it,  you will need to accept the inheritance. The process of accepting an inheritance in Spain can be complicated and it is best to get professional help.

A lawyer specialising in Spanish succession law will be able to help you with the paperwork and make sure that all steps are carried out correctly. They will also be able to advise you on the inheritance tax implications of accepting gifts of Spanish assets.

The acceptance of inheritance must take place before a Spanish notary.  A lawyer specialising in Spanish succession law wil be able to communicate with the Notary and ensure that all necessary steps are taken and that the property is registered in your name.

The costs of Spanish inheritance

There are a number of taxes and other costs that you need to be aware of when inheriting a property in Spain.

First, there is the cost of accepting the inheritance, which may include an application for a grant of probate. This can cost several thousand Euros, including a lawyer’s fees and other professional fees including Notary’s fees and the cost of the property registry.

Then there is the inheritance tax payable. This varies depending on your relationship to the deceased and the value of the estate, as well as where in Spain the assets are located.

It is important to get professional advice on the taxes and costs that you will need to pay when inheriting a property in Spain. A lawyer or conveyancer specialising in inheriting Spanish assets will be able to advise you on the best way to minimise these costs.

Understanding Spanish inheritance tax

The amount of Spanish inheritance tax you have to pay will depend on where the property of the deceased is located. The tax rates vary depending on the region. The amount of inheritance tax you have to pay also depends on how close a family member the beneficiary is to the deceased.

The amount of inheritance tax in Spain depends on the value of the inherited assets. The higher the value, the more inheritance tax you'll have to pay.

Find out more about Spanish inheritance tax.

Things to consider before deciding whether or not to keep the property

Before you decide whether or not to keep the property, there are a few things you need to consider.

Think about the costs of keeping the property. These include the costs of maintaining it and tax liability.

Think about whether you have the time and energy to deal with a property in Spain. If you are a British national and don't travel to Spain regularly, it can be difficult to manage a property from afar.

If you are not planning on living in the property, you may want to sell it. If you are planning on living in the property, you need to make sure you can afford the costs of doing so.

If you are not planning on living in Spain permanently, you may want to sell the property at some point in the future. You need to make sure that the property will be easy to sell when the time comes.

What to do if you decide to sell the property

If you decide to sell the property in Spain, there are a few things you need to do.

Make sure you choose a reputable estate agent who has experience of selling property in Spain.

Second, you need to find an independent specialist lawyer who can help you with the legal aspects of selling the property.

Third, you need to get a valuation of the property. This will help you to set a realistic asking price.

Fourth, you need to prepare the relevant paperwork. This includes the contract of sale and the deeds of the property.

Do I have to pay inheritance tax on my parents’ house in Spain?

The answer to this question depends on where in Spain the house is located and the value of the house. Inheritance tax rates in Spain vary depending on these factors. You should get professional advice to ensure you pay the correct amount of tax. A specialist independent lawyer will be able to help you with this.

What happens to a property in Spain when the owner dies?

When the owner of a property in Spain dies, the property will almost always be passed on to the heirs of the deceased. The process of inheritance in Spain can be complex, and there are a number of costs that you need to be aware of. These include the cost of administering the estate, inheritance taxes and legal and professional fees. You should get professional advice to ensure you understand the process and the costs involved.

Who inherits property in Spain?

This depends on whether there is a will or not.

Under Spanish law, where there is no will, property is usually inherited by the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased. If there is no spouse or child, the property will be inherited by the parents of the deceased. If there are no parents, the property will be inherited by the siblings of the deceased. Other relatives may also inherit the property if there are no close relatives. You should get professional advice to ensure you understand who will inherit the property.

How can you avoid inheritance tax on property in Spain?

Settling property in trust, gifting the property to a charity, or selling the property before you die can all help to reduce the impact of paying inheritance tax.  However, each option may be costly. You should get professional advice to ensure you understand the options available to you.

Can I avoid inheritance tax if I live in Spain?

Whether or not the deceased or the beneficiaries of the estate are resident in Spain, whether you can avoid inheritance tax on property being inherited will depend upon where in Spain the property is located.. This is because each autonomous community in Spain offers different exemptions and reliefs for residents. You should get professional advice to ensure you understand the options available to you.

Last updated: 17 November 2022

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