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A guide to inheriting in Spain

Added by Berlad Graham
June 4, 2020

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It is already a distressing and difficult time when a loved one dies and more so if this occurs abroad. In respect of those cases where assets are held in Spain then the inheritance process comes with added complications. Not being familiar with the inheritance laws, issues of not being physically present in the country and with the added language barrier means that dealing with a Spanish estate without guidance is extremely difficult. 

The first step in dealing with an inheritance in Spain should be to contact an English speaking local lawyer where the assets are located or where the deceased resided.  They should be able to guide you through the process and they will be familiar with the local organisations such as the town hall and land registry. It is likely that you will have an official copy of the death certificate either from the UK or Spain depending on where the death occurred. If not, then an application can be made for an official copy.  The next step is to locate any last will made in Spain. There is a central register in Madrid which keeps a record of the last will and the corresponding notary known as ‘ultimas voluntades’. In order to apply for the ‘ultimas voluntades’ an official copy of the death certificate needs to be presented. Once the last will is obtained from the notary the beneficiaries can then be identified. 

If there is no will in Spain but there is an English will in place or from elsewhere this can be checked to see if they deal with worldwide assets. If the deceased died intestate or there is no will dealing with assets in Spain the intestate procedures will need to followed which can be a complex and lengthy process and therefore it is always advisable to make a will as this saves the beneficiaries significant time and money. 

For the cases where there is a will in place in Spain the next step is for the beneficiaries to apply, if they don’t have one already, for a NIE number (Tax identification number). If the beneficiaries do not reside in Spain they should consider granting a power of attorney to their appointed lawyer. This will allow the lawyer to apply for a NIE number on their behalf. Further the lawyer will be able to accept the inheritance on behalf of the beneficiaries. In Spain a beneficiary is entitled to renounce or accept an inheritance. The process of acceptance means that a deed of acceptance needs to be signed at a notary. 

Once the inheritance is accepted then the appointed lawyer will be able to pay any taxes due and deal with the deceased’s bank account and check any unpaid debts or cancel contracts such as those in respect of telecommunications. 

In respect of immovable property, with the deed of acceptance and the will the ownership details at the land registry can be changed and the utility contracts can be dealt with. Further if the beneficiary or beneficiaries decide they wish to sell a property they will be able to do so.

In conclusion, the most important advice for those inheriting in Spain is to contact an English speaking locally based lawyer at the earliest opportunity. For those with assets in Spain you should ensure that you have a Spanish will in place. Your beneficiaries will thank you for making life easier for them.