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Inheritance in Spain - Glossary of Spanish Legal Terms

Acceptance of Inheritance

This is a process similar to the process of obtaining Probate in Spain.  All of the assets of the estate in Spain are described, and the beneficiaries are set out in accordance with the will, if there is a will, or in accordance with the declaration of heirs if there is no will.  The document is signed in the presence of a Notary in Spain and you will usually grant power of attorney to a Spanish lawyer to allow them to sign the documentation on their behalf.  
 

Administering an estate

This is the process of collecting in the assets of an estate and distributing them to the beneficiaries.  
 

Assets

An asset is an item which is worth money and which is owned by an individual.  A property is an asset, but so are funds from bank accounts.
 

Beneficiary

A person entitled to inherit from the estate of a person who has passed away.  A beneficiary may be named in a will or they may be a beneficiary as a result of an intestacy.  
 

Certificate of Last Will

This is a document issued by the Registry of Last Wills in Spain stating whether a deceased person made a will, on what date it was signed and the name of the Notary
 

Declaration of Heirs

This is the document that is signed where there are assets in Spain and the owner has passed away without signing a will.  It sets out those who are entitled to inherit the assets.  Supporting documentation is required in the form of birth, death and marriage certificates.  If there is no will it will not usually be possible to sign an acceptance of inheritance without first signing a declaration of heirs.  
 

Escritura 

This is the Spanish word for the document which is signed in the presence of a Notary in Spain.  When a declaration of heirs or an acceptance of inheritance is signed, the Notary will issue a copy of the document that you can retain for your records.
 

Estate

All of a person’s assets are known collectively as their estate.  A Spanish estate is all of a person’s assets in Spain.
 

Executor

Under English law  you must name someone in your will to administer your estate.  That person is called the Executor.  They are subject to strict rules to collect in the assets and to distribute them in accordance with the will.  In certain circumstances an Executor named in an English will may need to sign documentation in relation to a Spanish estate.  It is not necessary for an Executor to be named in a Spanish will as the beneficiaries can receive the funds directly.  
 

Inheritance Tax

Tax payable upon the inheritance of assets in Spain.  Please read our page on the subject here.
 

Intestacy/ Intestate Estate

When a person passes away without a will they are said to be intestate. An intestate estate is also known as an intestacy.  
 

NIE

The Número de Identidad de Extranjero or NIE is a Spanish tax number for non-residents of Spain.  You need to have this number in place in order to be involved in any official process in Spain, this includes inheriting assets in Spain.  Your Spanish lawyer should arrange to apply for this on your behalf.  
 

Notary

The Notary in Spain is a professional witness to agreements and transactions.  The role of the Notary in Spain in the context of an inheritance matter is to witness the signature of the declaration of heirs and the acceptance of inheritance.  The Notary will issue a stamped escritura following the signature of documentation.  
 

Power of attorney

A power of attorney is a document that is signed by one person in which they appoint another person to carry out certain tasks on their behalf.  In the context of an inheritance in Spain, your Spanish lawyer will usually ask you to sign a power of attorney authorising your lawyer to administer the estate on their behalf.  This means that your Spanish lawyer can take all of the necessary steps to ascertain the value of the estate and to sign documentation on your behalf.  
 

Testator

When someone makes a will they are called a Testator.  
 

Will

A will is a document in which an individual sets out who they want to receive the assets they own at the time of their death.  It is possible that if a person owns assets in Spain they may have a Spanish will or an English/Scottish will, or both.
 

Testimonials

E&G Solicitors in Spain took on the process (of my property purchase in Spain) from end to end and supported me through it every step of the way. I never felt like I didn't know or understand what was going on.

Julie Collins, Glasgow