If you are a solicitor or executor dealing with the estate of someone who died owning assets in Spain or if you are a beneficiary inheriting property or other assets in Spain you will need to be aware of the Spanish inheritance and probate process.
What is the Spanish Inheritance Procedure?
The main steps to be undertaken when dealing with the Spanish probate process are as follows:
Instructing a Spanish Lawyer
The Spanish inheritance and succession process can be quite complicated to deal with, especially if you do not live in Spain or do not speak Spanish fluently.
It is therefore strongly recommended that anyone dealing with the inheritance of an estate in Spain instructs an English-speaking Spanish lawyer who has experience of dealing with estate administrations in Spain for non-Spanish clients.
It is important to ensure that the Spanish inheritance process is dealt with as soon as possible to avoid additional costs and penalties being incurred in relation to the Spanish estate. It is therefore strongly advised that you do not delay seeking advice if you are dealing with an estate which has Spanish assets.
If you would like details of a recommended Spanish lawyer to assist you with a Spanish inheritance matter, please contact Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470 339 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Providing a Power of Attorney
The Spanish inheritance process itself involves a significant number of personal attendances at various offices in Spain.
If the beneficiaries/ executors of a Spanish estate do not live in Spain, it is common for them to provide their Spanish lawyer with a Power of Attorney so that the lawyer may act on their behalf.
Providing your Spanish lawyer with a Power of Attorney will mean that the entire Spanish legal process can usually be dealt with by the Spanish lawyer without the need for the executors/ beneficiaries to go to Spain.
Certification and Translation of the Death Certificate
Any non-Spanish legal documents such as a Death Certificate may need to ‘legalised’ by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in order for it to be legally recognised/ admissible in Spain.
In some cases, the death certificate must also be translated and certified by an official translator.
The legalised and (if required) translated death certificate will need to be presented to the Central Wills registry in Madrid.
Undertake a Spanish Will Search.
Spain has a Central Wills Registry which registers whether or not a person has a Spanish Will. A search must therefore be carried out at the Spanish Central Wills Registry in Madrid to confirm the existence or absence of a Spanish Will.
Obtain an NIE number:
Each executor/ beneficiary is required to have a Spanish tax number before being able to deal with/ inherit from an Spanish estate. This Spanish tax/ fiscal number is known as an NIE Number.
Spanish lawyers with experience of acting for clients in the UK or other countries will be able to assist in obtaining the required NIE numbers on behalf of the executors/ beneficiaries for the purpose of dealing with the Spanish inheritance.
Gather Together Documentation Relating to Estate
You will need to gather together as much information about the Spanish estate and the Spanish assets as possible. In particular it will be helpful to locate the following:
- Title deeds for any Spanish properties (‘escrituras’)
- Spanish registered vehicle documentation for cars or other vehicles owned by the deceased
- Details of any Spanish bank accounts
- Details of any shares/ other investments in Spain
- Details of any Spanish loans, mortgages or other debts in Spain
- Spanish fiscal number certificates (N.I.E Number) for the deceased
Your lawyer should be able to assist you if you do not have all of this information.
If the deceased did not have a Spanish Will but had a will prepared in another country, then an official sealed copy of a Grant of Probate (or equivalent) obtained in that country may be required. Proof of the beneficiaries’ legal status and relationship with the deceased may also be required e.g. Birth and Marriage Certificates etc.
An advantage of the existence of a valid separate Spanish Will (if there is one), is that it generally reduces the complexity of the Spanish probate process and the extent of the documentation which has to be produced to the Spanish authorities.
Sometimes a Certificate of English Law / Affidavit of Foreign Law confirming the legal entitlement of the beneficiaries (or to provide any other legal clarification) may be required where the estate involves cross-border legal issues.
If your Spanish lawyer is used to dealing with British and other international clients, they may have the expertise to be able to provide this themselves or will be able to assist in obtaining this for you.
If you require an affidavit of foreign law / Certificate of Law or details of a suitable Spanish lawyer, Worldwide Lawyers can assist. Contact us on 01244 470 339 or at email@example.com.
Sign the Spanish Inheritance Deed
The relevant documents relating to the Spanish estate will need to be presented to a Spanish Notary together with a deed confirming the beneficiaries’ acceptance of the Spanish inheritance.
This official Spanish Inheritance Deed must be signed by or on behalf of the beneficiaries in the presence of the notary in Spain.
Pay Spanish Inheritance and Property Taxes
Once the Spanish Inheritance Deed has been signed, the taxes relating to the inheritance of the Spanish assets must then be paid.
You should have obtained a detailed estimate of all applicable costs and taxes from the Spanish lawyer at the outset of the case to enable to executors/beneficiaries to arrange for provision of funds so that the tax payment can be made immediately following the signature of the official Inheritance Deed.
In addition to Spanish Inheritance tax (Succession Tax), ‘Plus Valia’ Tax may also be payable to the local Spanish town hall if there is a Spanish property in the estate.
For beneficiaries who are non-resident in Spain, tax payments require a personal attendance at the central tax office in Madrid. A Spanish lawyer can deal with this on behalf of the beneficiaries under the Power of Attorney.
For residents of Spain, attendance is required at the tax office of the region of Spain where the deceased and beneficiaries reside.
Payment of Spanish inheritance tax must be made within 6 months of the date of death. Late payments will accrue interest and payment penalties.
Transferring Spanish Property to the Beneficiaries.
Following the signature of the Inheritance Deed and payment of any Spanish Succession Tax, applications can be made to the relevant Property Registry in order for the Spanish estate assets to be registered in beneficiaries’ names.
The Property Registration process may involve additional queries in addition to to those required by the Spanish Notary.
Releasing funds from Spanish bank accounts.
The deceased’s Spanish bank accounts can only be dealt with once the Spanish Inheritance Deed has been signed and Spanish Succession Tax has been paid. Succession of bank accounts in Spain is usually dealt with by the bank’s central legal department. Dealing with Spanish banks in Spanish probate cases can often be very difficult so it is advisable to have a Spanish lawyer to liaise with the bank on behalf of the executor/ beneficiaries.
Distributing Spanish Assets
Once the above steps have been completed, the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries may be required to open a Spanish bank account in order to receive the funds.
For most beneficiaries who do not live in Spain, these funds will then be transferred to their own bank account in their home country.
How To Avoid Losing Money When Distributing Spanish Assets: There can be a significant reduction to the amount of the Spanish inheritance funds actually received by the beneficiaries when these funds are transferred from Spain to the home bank account of the beneficiaries.
In order to minimise this loss and protect as much of the inheritance funds as possible, Executors and beneficiaries are strongly advised to speak with a currency specialist company before arranging the transfer of the funds. The services of a good currency specialist are free and could save you up to 5% of the transferred amount which could be several hundreds if not thousands of euros. For more information about this see: Protecting Overseas Inheritance When Transferring Money Abroad or contact Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470 339 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are dealing with the administration of an estate in Spain, Worldwide Lawyers can help. Contact us on 01244 470 339 or at email@example.com for further information about the inheritance process in Spain. We can put you in touch with an English-speaking Spanish lawyer specialising in dealing with estates where there is property or other assets in Spain and arrange for a no-obligation quote.