Spain Explained

National Law and Spanish wills

Last updated on March 19th, 2020 at 03:18 pm.

It’s easy to forget or not even realise that a country’s habits, laws and customs might not be the same as your own. You can quite easily expect things to work the same as they do in your own country. An example of this is the Spanish will and Spanish inheritance. Residents and non-residents in Spain can assume that the same laws apply in both countries. However, Spanish inheritance law is very different from  inheritance law in many other countries  with tighter controls about who you can leave your inheritance to. The fact that a British person bequeathing property in Spain can revert to British national law when making their will in Spain can be a great advantage.

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Spanish national inheritance law requires that property is left shared out between children as well as the remaining spouse. You cannot just leave your home to your partner or spouse in the same way as you would expect to in Britain.  In Britain, once you make your will, according to British national law it is up to you who you bequethe your property to. If you should die without making a will then your property goes to your next of kin. This does not happen in Spain. Fortunately as a British national living or owning property in Spain you can choose to apply your own national law when it comes to Spanish inheritance and making your Spanish will.

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It’s not a task that anyone looks forward to doing, but it does make sense to make a Spanish will. That way, the process is much simpler and quicker for your inheritors and you will feel confident that you understand what the implications of your decision will be on them. Spanish inheritance tax is still thriving in Spain. Making a will can help ensure that you have taken the right measures to keep it as low as possible for those you care about.

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24 June, 2020 2:05 pm

This is correct email:

My aunt in Madrid passed away in March. The last Will listed on the Civil Last Wills Registry is from 1989. However, she sent me the front page of a Open Testament Will dated 1994 in which she names myself Universal Heir along with a letter explaining her wishes..

1. Can a 1994 Will be valid even if it isn’t listed on the National Registry, but the Notary who made it has the original?
2. Does the inheritance get divided with my brother in either case?
3. If by law only the 1989 Will is valid, my deceased mother would be successor. Do I need to provide my mother’s death certificate? Do I need to provide a copy of her Will from USA?
4. If I need to provide my mother’s Will and it states my brother is disinherited and disowned, does my brother not have a right to receive half of my aunt’s inheritance?

Oscar Paoli

25 June, 2020 1:43 pm

Dear Diane,

First of all, please accept our sympathies for your loss.

In this case, there is many information that we need to obtain from you and we would also need to check the wills you mention, but we will try to answer your quetions in general terms:

1. Yes, the 1994 will could be valid even if it is not duly registered. We would need to chekc it.

2. No, in case your brother was, for example, disinherited.

3. In that case, your mother’s original death certificate and authorised copy of the will would need to be obtained.

4. If your brother was legally disinherited and can be proved here in Spain, you could be the sole inheritor, but we would need to check first the way your grandmother drafted her will.

Please, contact us at to discuss your case in detail.

Kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers