Spain Explained

Making a Spanish will

We recommend to all our clients that at some point they make a will in Spain. It is true that a will made in your home country can cover all your world wide belongings, including any you have in Spain. However, if you don’t have a Spanish will it means that an official translator, the Foreign Office and lawyers will have to be involved before inheritance can be sorted out. A time-consuming and additional step for your family to take at a difficult time.

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If there is no Spanish will but a will granted in another country, your heirs will have to follow a complicated procedure. This includes obtaining, legalising, validating and arranging sworn translations of all foreign documentation. These documents will only be accepted in Spain for inheritance proceedings if they have been officially translated.

If there is no will at all, your own national law concerning assets abroad will be applied to your property in Spain but this will also require a process of authentication. Whatever applies to you, however complicated the circumstances might be, Ábaco can help.

Who is entitled to my estate?

Spain’s inheritance laws make stipulations for Spanish people as to who their heirs must be. Your obligations depend upon your national law. In some legislations e.g. Spain, Sweden and Norway, children and surviving spouses are entitled to a certain percentage of the estate. However, in other law systems, such as the British, ‘obligatory heirs’ do not exist. This means that there is total freedom to leave your possession to who you like.

Other reasons for making a will

In Spain, paying inheritance tax is still a requirement. This applies even when the inheritor is the spouse of the deceased. When preparing your Spanish will you will receive advice about how to keep Spanish inheritance tax to a minimum.

Once you have made your will you should ideally inform your inheritors about what to expect and whom to contact. They need to know that the requirement in Spain is to pay inheritance tax before the names on a title deed are changed. They cannot sell or bequeath the property themselves until this happens. This requires some forward planning.

If your inheritors are not prepared and are unable to settle Spanish inheritance tax demands there can be a number of additional difficulties that they face. For example, they cannot change utilities into their own name or bequeath property on to their own inheritors. If they do not notify the correct organisations they might even find themselves still receiving the deceased person’s pension which can incur a severe penalty.

Preparing the will

Any foreigner, resident or non—resident can make a Spanish will leaving Spanish property to anyone he/ she chooses – as long their national law allows this. A husband and wife must each make separate wills, as they each own property separately.

The will is prepared in two columns – one in Spanish and the other in the chosen language. The will is then taken to the Notary’s office where it is signed and certified. The Notary keeps the original and you will be forwarded a copy for your records. The will is then recorded in the central will registry in Madrid (Registro Central de Ultimas Voluntades).

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Any will you might grant later on in your home country should clearly state that it only refers to assets in that country. When a will made in your home country includes reference to ‘everything’ and is dated after the Spanish will, it will take precedence. This can mean that your Spanish assets are distributed in the same way as your assets in your home country, which may not reflect your wishes.

Changing your will

As mentioned, all Spanish wills are registered in Madrid. This has advantages and disadvantages. It does mean that a copy of your most recent Spanish will can always be located. However, it also means that you can’t just make changes to it. The whole will must be re-written. Because of this we advise our clients to be cautious about specifying distribution of assets in too much detail.

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