Following the death of a loved one who owned assets in Spain it is important to establish whether or not they left a will. It may be that they left an English/Scottish will, or a Spanish will, or both. Whatever the situation it is important to be clear as to who is entitled to sign documentation in Spain.
As with all legal matters in Spain, it is vital that you take expert independent Spanish legal advice at an early stage. The advice of a Spanish lawyer who specialises in cross border succession will save you time and money in the long run.
Inheritance in Spain
It is often claimed that when you die, your estate and assets will be left to your heirs whether you like it or not. In actual fact, the law of your country of habitual residence may dictate which of your heirs receive what.
Inheritance in Spain - Stage One
In order to establish whether a will was made in Spain a search must be made of the Spanish register of last wills. The Spanish civil registry will issue a document called a “Certificate of Last Will” which provides confirmation of the date of the last Spanish will signed by the deceased, and details of the Notary before whom it was signed. In the event that you are named in the will you will be able to apply to a Notary for a copy of that document.
In the event that there is no Spanish will, only an English will, it will be clear who is named as Executor and who is a beneficiary of the estate. In the event that there is a Spanish will it will become clear when the document is received who has been named as a beneficiary of the estate.
In the event that the deceased left both Spanish and English wills it may not be immediately clear which will applies to the estate. Your independent Spanish lawyer should be able to advise you as to which document applies and the law that is applicable to the estate.
For more information about Spanish wills and how they differ from English wills, as well as why you should consider making a Spanish will if you own assets in Spain, please take a look at our Spanish wills pages.
Inheritance in Spain - Stage Two
Once it has been established who is entitled to sign documentation the process of administering the estate in Spain can commence. Your independent Spanish lawyer will commence obtaining certificates in respect of the balance of funds held by Spanish banks and financial institutions. In addition a valuation of any property in Spain owned by the deceased will be obtained.
Simultaneously it will be necessary for the beneficiaries of the estate, as well as any Executors named in an English or Scottish will, to sign powers of attorney in order that your independent Spanish lawyer can sign documentation to administer the estate on your behalf.
When the value of the assets in Spain has been established it will be necessary for the inheritance tax to be calculated.
For more information on Spanish inheritance tax, please see our page here.
Inheritance in Spain - Stage Three
When the taxes have been calculated and all powers of attorney have been signed, the acceptance of inheritance can be signed. This is similar to obtaining Probate in the UK. A document is prepared in which all of the assets of the estate in Spain are set out, together with a copy of the will and any other necessary supporting documentation. This document is then signed in the presence of a Notary in Spain.
Once the acceptance of inheritance documentation has been signed the inheritance tax becomes payable immediately. This can make matters tricky where there are no assets in the UK from which to fund the inheritance tax payment in Spain. If you find yourself in this situation we can assist. Please contact us for more information.
Once the inheritance tax has been paid the tax agency must stamp the documentation and only after that will it be possible for the Spanish banks to release funds and for the beneficiaries to be registered as the new owners of the property.
Inheritance in Spain - Stage Four
Once the acceptance of inheritance documentation has been approved by the Spanish tax agency it will be possible to ask the banks to release funds. Please note that in some cases this can be the part of the process that takes the longest. Spanish banks can and do take an inordinate amount of time in considering documentation and in making the arrangements to release funds. Rest assured that you will receive interest for the time that the funds will be held.
If you are planning to sell the property once the acceptance of inheritance has been completed please note that it will not be possible to register a sale of the property until the inheritance has been registered. Hence, it is best to avoid marketing the property for sale too early.
Find out more about Spanish inheritance law
What are the inheritance laws in Spain?
Spanish Inheritance Law provides that both descendants and ascendants may inherit with priority over a surviving spouse. Remember that if you make a will in another jurisdiction however, it will be recognised in Spain.
Who inherits property in Spain?
In Spain, in the absence of a will, any children and a spouse are the legal beneficiaries. Because of this, depending upon where you are habitually resident immediately before you die, you may only have one third of your estate to do with as you please if you have no will from either Spain or the UK.
Is an English will valid in Spain?
Spanish law recognises a will made lawfully in any jurisdiction. That means that if you make an English will relating to all of your worldly assets, it will include your Spanish property.
Inheritance in Spain - Next Steps
If you are administering an estate or you are a beneficiary of an estate with assets in Spain feel free to contact us for a free initial consultation. E&G Solicitors in Spain has considerable experience and expertise in this area. You can reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
, by telephone on 020 3478 1420 or by completing our contact form