Spain Explained

Changing a Spanish will

Making a will in Spain is not compulsory but it’s a good idea. It cuts down on the work and expense for those you leave behind you. However, you need to think carefully about what it might contain not only from the point of view of Spanish inheritance tax but also changing circumstances. Changing a Spanish will is not just a matter of altering a few sentences or adjusting the wording. Instead, the whole document needs to be re-written.

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There is a good reason for this. In Spain, unlike in some other European countries, every will is registered in Madrid. This is a good system that ensures that every will can be easily located. However, it does mean that changing a will in Spain is not so easy to do.  Once your will is legalised and signed by the notary, Madrid is informed and then it is set in stone until the next one.

You cannot easily change your will in Spain. Each will is registered in Madrid and any new instructions require a new will to be made. This does have advantages, as there should be no confusion about when the last will was made or who has it.

When you do make that decision to make a will in Spain, make sure you have done your research. Inheritance tax is a much bigger issue here than in the UK and your relationship to inheritors and whether property is located makes a big difference.

In Spain there are four levels at which ISD (inheritance tax) is paid:

  • Level 1 = children and grandchildren (including adopted) under the age of 21
  • Level 2 = children and grandchildren over the age of 21, spouses and parent
  • Level 3 = other relatives such as brothers and sisters, in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles
  • Level 4 = everyone else including unmarried partners

If you are not married, your partner belongs to the ‘any other person’ level of inheritance tax. Being Spain, it does vary for residents between autonomous regions. It is certainly worth establishing what rules apply to you as it affects both the level of allowance you can have as well as the % of the property value you must pay tax on.

There’s another reason why you should give very careful consideration to your will-making in Spain.  If you should change your mind it’s not so easy to amend the paper work. Once your will is made and legalised by the notary you cannot change it at all. Instead, you have to make a new one.

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The reason for this, is that every will has to be signed at the notary in Spain and the notary must register it in Madrid. This means that there can be no dispute about which is the last will and testament. Generally this is an advantage of the Spanish system. When someone dies, a quick check with Madrid and the whereabouts of the last will and testament can be confirmed.

Unfortunately it does mean that you can’t change your will as easily as you can change your mind. Our recommendation is that when making your will you are cautious about specifying in too much detail or referring to individual properties and possessions. Obviously, there are some circumstances that might alter and cannot be helped, justifying a re-write. You may well move house and sell your property and having to change your will becomes an added complication. Keeping directions more general can help avoid unnecessary expense at a later date. It is much better to keep your wishes more general in the first place so that you don’t incur the extra expense of having to make a new one.

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6 comments

jean

17 November, 2016 8:49 am

My Husband and I are both non
My Husband and I are both non residents and live in the UK.We have a property in Spain At this moment our Spanish will leaves the property to the surviving spouse.We would like to change this to leave the property to our 3 children.I am OK to travel to Spain but unfortunately
due to health reasons my Husband cannot and not in the foreseeable future.Is there a way to do this
Many thanks

Suzanne O'Connell

17 November, 2016 12:05 pm

Dear Jean

Dear Jean

Yes. It is possible to arrange for your husband to sign at a notary in the UK. If you contact our office we will be able to help. 

stuart johnson

27 November, 2019 7:13 pm

Hi

is it possible to do a deed of variation with a Spanish will – my father left a 50% share of a property in Ibiza to our mother who has dementia – can this be changed under a power of attorney arrangement so the property comes to the 3 sons which was his intention

thankyou

Oscar Paoli

29 November, 2019 12:30 pm

Hi Stuart,
First of all, unfortunately we can not change wills in Spain as the wishes of the testator must be fulfilled.
In fact, in Spain we don’t even have the Deed of Variation and when something needs to be amended we must sign a new Deed.
However, if children have been appointed in the Will as substitutes and you mother had a legal guardian appointed with sufficient faculties to repudiate her inheritance rights, then the 50% held by your father may be transferred to the childred directly by substitution.
Another option if there is a legal guardian with faculties to do this, would be to donate, also provided that your national law allows to donate on behalf of an uncapable person.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Gina Brown

22 November, 2020 10:11 am

How much to change or write a new will in spain. I own property but have only small pension no capital.

Oscar Paoli

23 November, 2020 3:30 pm

Hi Gina,

This will depend on the notary and who assists you in the process. We charge 180 € per person to sign a Will in Spain.

Should you need any assistance do not hesitate to contact us at info@abacoadvisers.com or by phone at 0034 966 703 750.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers