Matters of Life and Death in Spain

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Posted and filed under Legal Issues in Spain.

Matters of Life and Death in Spain

Probate, Wills and Inheritance

One of the last things that anyone thinks about when they move or buy a property overseas is the fact that the laws of succession abroad can differ greatly to those we’re familiar with back home.  

Getting the correct legal advice about matters of life and death in Spain relating to probate, wills and inheritance can seem difficult, especially as not many firms communicate well in English.

It is important that you understand your position and that of your future heirs and beneficiaries if you want to save them time, stress, and money and if you want to organise your affairs properly.

Following the loss of a loved one, thinking about an inheritance process is not easy – having to deal with all the legal and administrative aspects can be quite daunting, and the whole process is quite alien at a time in life when someone is already having to adjust to a significant loss as well.

On top of all of this, to then be faced with the fact that it is all in an unfamiliar language and with everything differing a good deal from at home, it can be quite bewildering.

In Spain, following a bereavement, your heirs are going to need a legal representative. Someone who is knowledgeable both in Spanish law and succession procedures, who can explain exactly what is involved in the process and provide an accurate indication of the costs and timescale involved; and most importantly, with whom they can communicate easily.

Preparation

I tell my clients that preparation is the key to a successful inheritance process in Spain.

Most people want to ensure that their families or loved ones are caused the minimum amount of stress possible when they die. Proper planning will reduce the family’s exposure to costs and also reduce the risk of time delays, which lead to higher taxes.

Key points for you to consider if you have assets in Spain: –

  • Make a will in Spain. It is essential to ensure that your assets are covered by an up to date will in Spain, (and usually a separate will is required for each country if you have assets in different jurisdictions).
  • Keep your paperwork in order, such as information about bank accounts, investments and ownership of other assets. These should be readily accessible in the event of your death. Copies of all legal documentation should be kept together, (including wills, title deeds, etc.) with a note as to where the originals can be found. This is a key way to avoid delays in an inheritance process. For each asset, property, car, bank account, your beneficiaries will have to produce a document such as title deeds, log book, bank statement. (There are no executors in Spain).
  • This is not urgent but your heirs will need NIE numbers. It is now obligatory when owning any registered assets in Spain for all parties involved to have NIE numbers. If your heirs are coming to Spain, then consider contacting us in advance for them to arrange an NIE number (at the moment we need about 3 weeks notice).
  • Keep copies of your NIE numbers with your deeds.
  •  Keep your tax receipts. As well as needing to produce title deeds for properties or vehicles and any other Spanish assets in the inheritance process, it may be necessary to demonstrate that all applicable taxes have been paid up to date, such as Suma (road tax) for a car. 
  • Keep your old, cancelled passports. Passports are generally renewed every 10 years. In some cases, the original (albeit by then cancelled) passports can be useful in terms of proving identity.
  • Hold joint bank accounts if possible. In many cases, it can be both more tax efficient and easier for joint owners of a Spanish property to hold a joint Spanish bank account to cover the running expenses of the property, rather than holding individual bank accounts. Tell your heirs to speak to us before contacting the Bank.
  • Tell your heirs to contact us shortly after death for advice as there are only six months from the date of death for payment of inheritance tax. As many of our clients know, to have everything ready by the six month cut-off point is sometimes not easy. 
  • Consider purchasing a funeral plan. It is important when making your estate planning arrangements that you carefully consider the arrangements for (and funding of) your funeral.

Even now you can help the process and make the experience that your beneficiaries will have to face so much easier if you follow the above advice.  I recommend making a folder with copies of all documents relating to assets in Spain. Even if a bank statement is old it will show your account is there and the number.

Above all, my number one tip is to make a Spanish Will. Not only does Grant of Probate take a very long time to obtain sometimes at home, but I am aware that Letters of Administration can cost 10 times the amount you would pay for a Spanish Will!

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Amanda Thomas

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