This article is based on the assumption that the deceased was a UK national however, we can also assist the beneficiaries of Spanish property from all over the world. If you need help in dealing with the inheritance of a Spanish property or other assets in Spain, contact us on (+44) 01244 470339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are dealing with the inheritance of a Spanish property, one of the first things you will need to do is ascertain whether the person who died owning the Spanish property had a valid will.
It could be that:
- The deceased has a Spanish property and there is only an English will
- The deceased has a Spanish property and there is only a Spanish will
- The deceased has a Spanish property and there is a Spanish will and an English will
- The deceased has a Spanish property and no will
- The deceased has a Spanish property and a will from a country outside of the UK and Spain (this is beyond the scope of this article but certainly something we can assist with contact us on (+44) 01244 470339 or email email@example.com for assistance).
In each case the process of how to deal with the inheritance of a Spanish property is different. We have set out below some information based on each scenario.
You are inheriting a Spanish property and there is only an English will
If the deceased was English but owned property in Spain, you may find that the deceased just had an English will. In this event, it’s necessary to first obtain a Grant of Probate in England.
As part of the application for the Grant of Probate in England you’ll need to provide a list of the all of the assets the deceased owned and their values (this includes the Spanish property and any other assets owned in England or in any other country). Once the Grant of Probate is obtained and the UK inheritances taxes are settled (if there are any due to be paid) it’s then possible to deal with the Spanish assets.
Your Spanish lawyer will require an original death certificate and original Grant of Probate, both of which must be stamped with the Apostile of The Hague at the Foreign & Commonwealth office. These documents must be translated into Spanish, which your lawyer in Spain will usually be able to arrange. In order to act on behalf of the beneficiaries in Spain, your lawyer in Spain will usually require all the heirs/ beneficiaries to sign a power of attorney authorising them to act for you. A power of attorney is a document that can be signed before a notary in either Spain or the UK.
Your Spanish lawyer will deal with the probate process in Spain from there.
There is Spanish property and there is only a Spanish will
You will need to provide your Spanish lawyer with a copy of the death certificate so that a search for a Spanish will can be carried out.
Your lawyer in Spain will then visit the Spanish equivalent of the Births, Deaths & Marriage Registry to obtain a certificado de ultimas voluntades (also known as a certificate of last wishes). This is to ascertain whether or not the deceased had a valid Spanish will and, if so, where the will is located so that a copy of the Spanish will can be obtained.
To obtain a copy of a Spanish will, the beneficiaries will need to appoint their Spanish lawyer as power of attorney or at least one of the heirs will need to visit the Spanish Notary in person with their passport.
Once the death certificate, certificate of last wishes and authentic copy of the Spanish will have been provided the next step is to obtain a list of all the Spanish assets with their values.
With regards to Spanish property you will need to provide a copy of the deeds of the Spanish property also known as the Escritura de Compraventa and a receipt of the Town Hall rates known as the IBI (Impuesto de Bienes Inmuebles), so that the taxable value of the property can be established. Once the valuation of the estate (there may be other assets included such as a bank account, car etc.) has been confirmed, your Spanish lawyer will calculate the Spanish inheritance tax owed.
You lawyer in Spain will then arrange an appointment with the local Spanish Notary to sign the deed of acceptance of the inheritance, which is a document that outlines: the date of death of the deceased; all the Spanish assets; and the beneficiaries of the assets.
If you have given power of attorney to your Spanish lawyer, they will be able to sign the deed on your behalf. If not, then you will need to visit to Spain to sign the deed at the local Notary office. Once the deed has been signed your lawyer will arrange payment of the notary fees and then pay the Spanish inheritance taxes. Inheritance taxes in Spain can be settled using money held in the deceased’s Spanish bank account (if there is one, and the funds are sufficient), which your lawyer in Spain can arrange with the bank. If there are not sufficient funds these taxes must be paid by the beneficiaries.
Once any Spanish inheritance tax owed has been paid and the tax form stamped your Spanish lawyer can arrange either the transfer of the property into names of the beneficiaries or the sale of the property. In order for the property to be transferred into your name and for your lawyer to pay to pay the inheritance tax in Spain on your behalf you will require an NIE number, which your Spanish lawyer can help you obtain.
There is a Spanish property and both a Spanish will and an English will
It is usual for people who own a Spanish property to make a separate Spanish will to make it easier for their executors and beneficiaries to deal with the inheritance of the Spanish property and other assets.
Therefore, if there is both a Spanish will and an English will, it will usually be the Spanish will that is relevant to deal with the Spanish estate. Consideration should, however, be given to the wording of each of the wills to ensure that only one will covers the Spanish property. Ideally the English will should state that it is limited to assets other than those located in Spain so that it is clear that the relevant will to deal with the property in Spain is the Spanish will. Likewise, it should be clear that the Spanish will only covers the Spanish assets (if that was the intention). Otherwise it could be that one will has the effect of revoking the other so that there remains only one valid will.
If there in any ambiguity or conflict between the beneficiaries, specialist advice should be sought.
Once it has been ascertained which will applies to the succession of the Spanish property, your Spanish lawyer can then deal with the estate accordingly as per the Spanish or English will as set out above.
There is a Spanish property and no will
If the deceased owner of the Spanish property did not leave a will, and was a UK national then a Grant of Letters of Administration will need to be obtained in the UK. The inheritance of the Spanish property can then be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the country where the deceased was habitually resident.
Spanish inheritance tax on inheritance of property in Spain
It will need to be ascertained where the deceased was domiciled, where they were registered for tax purposes and where they spent most of the year. Once this information is confirmed it can be determined which inheritance taxes will be owed.
It may be possible that inheritance taxes are owed in both the UK and Spain. There is, however, a double tax treaty between Spain and the UK so inheritance tax on the same assets is not paid twice.
In some circumstances beneficiaries may have to ‘top up’ the inheritance tax payable in Spain as Spain’s inheritance tax laws, the inheritance tax rates and tax allowances differ from region to region.
Dealing with the inheritance of Spanish property can be complicated and in order to ensure matters are dealt with properly it is important to seek proper advice from lawyers who are used to dealing with cross border estates.
If you’re dealing with the inheritance of a Spanish property (or other Spanish assets) and you’re not sure whether you need a Spanish lawyer, an English lawyer, both or neither contact Worldwide Lawyers for FREE no obligation advice on 01244 470339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org