Spanish inheritance often catches people unawares. Partly because it’s still something we’re uncomfortable in discussing and also because it can be quite complicated in Spain. The rules are different, particularly in relation to Spanish inheritance tax and it often takes people by surprise that there is no automatic transfer of property and belongings between spouses.
In one case a family contacted us due to the death of their mother. As we began to put the transfer in motion we realised that the father had died prior to his wife but there had been no proper transfer of his half of the Spanish property to her. This could have been deliberate or through ignorance. Either way, it meant that we couldn’t just transfer the property straight from the mother to the children. We had to deal with Spanish probate for the late father at the same time.
This ‘double’ inheritance in Spain unfortunately meant that the children had to pay a double round of costs such as the notary, Spanish land registry and last will certificate. It also meant there were increased legal fees for the extra work involved. Together this meant that the overall cost of the process was substantially more. Not what you want to hear at any time but particularly when you are recently bereaved.
The irony is that they could have taken the step of transferring the property directly to the children on the death of the father. Omitting one inheritance stage is a feasible alternative and happens when a member of the family renounces their claim in favour of another family member. It is important that the wording in your Spanish will allows for this.
It’s hard to discuss and we don’t like doing it, but avoiding making your plans for inheritance will not change or make Spanish law go away. The best you can do, on behalf of your family, is be informed and make considered decisions whilst you can.