When you first buy a Spanish property with your partner, husband, wife or even friend, you have no idea what might happen in the future. In the excitement of making the purchase your thoughts are to the here and now and not the ‘what might be’.
Unfortunately the unthinkable does sometimes happen. People split up, fall out, meet someone else. The co-owner you are so enraptured with in 2014 could become the bane of your life in a few years time. People become estranged for many different reasons and sadly, they also die. When this happens, there can be confusion about who might inherit a property in Spain.
It’s not often that we celebrate Spanish bureaucracy, but this is one time when it really does come into its own. All Spanish wills are registered in the will registry in Madrid (Registro Central de Ultimas Voluntades). This can appear at first to be another case of bureaucracy gone mad. In fact, it is really beneficial. Perhaps it’s best if we give you an example.
Mr and Mrs. Grant were a married couple who decided to move to Spain on their retirement. After ten happy years, sadly Mr Grant died leaving his share of the house and assets to his wife. Distraught at his death, Mrs Grant no longer wanted to continue living in Spain in the house they had shared so happily together. She decided to return to the UK and moved in with her cousin. However, her health soon deteriorated and not long after her husband, Mrs Grant died too.
Before she died, Mrs Grant had made a will in the UK. The new will left all her belongings to her cousin, in gratitude for the care she had given her following her husband’s death. However, it gradually transpired that the will Mrs Grant had made in the UK clearly stated that it only covered her assets there, and did not cover those in Spain.
So who was now entitled to Mrs Grant’s Spanish house? Originally Mr. and Mrs. Grant had made ‘mirror’ wills in which they would each inherit the other half’s property and which also included Mr. Grant’s children by a previous marriage. However, it was thought that Mrs. Grant may have made a new will in Spain too following Mr. Grant’s death, leaving the property to her cousin.
In order to settle the confusion the family asked Ábaco to apply to the central will registry in Madrid. They provided a copy of the death certificate and waited for confirmation of whether a new will had been made or not.
The outcome was not a happy one for Mrs. Grant’s cousin who discovered that no new will had been made and that the original will, which included Mr. Grant’s children, was still valid.
It is an unfortunate train of events. Mrs. Grant had never been close to her husband’s children and since he had died their links had become even more fragile. It is probable that she would not have chosen to leave the property to them.
She may have been under the impression that her UK will would cover her Spanish assets too. Whatever the case, it would seem that the new inheritors have little intention of sorting out their inheritance just yet. Who knows whether the house in Spain will ever come to be as loved and cared for as it once was.
This shows just how important it is to make a will and keep it up-to-date if your circumstances change. An endorsement too of having a central will registry.