RDT Abogados offer a prompt and efficient probate service to foreign nationals with assets in Spain.
We offer a complete probate service relieving you of what can be an onerous task at a time when you have lost someone close to you.
These situations can be even more difficult and tedious if the deceased person owned assets abroad.
Dealing with legal matters in a different country with a completely different language and legal system can be hard. However, RDT provides a service that includes the possibility of meeting clients in England while the work is done on the ground, in the city or location in Spain where the assets are located.
Is there a probate process in Spain similar to that one in the UK?
Not really. Spain has a process to inherit that comes from the classical Roman times and it´s also very much influenced by the Catholic tradition and heritage.
It is called the “inheritance process” (and not “the probate”) and it is quite different to the UK probate. For starters, it is very formal and strict, and it always requires the intervention of a Public Notary.
It involves more documents of the assets and intervening parties, and it is longer the UK – at least three months.
A relative of mine has passed away in Spain, but there is not a will in place, is this a problem?
No, it is not a major problem. The wills and last testaments are not mandatory and actually not everybody grants a will. If there is no will in place the inheritance will be “intestate” (which is Latin for “no testament”), and then the rules set by Law will apply.
The will is merely a set of instructions and in absence of it, the Law sets who will inherit the estate.
What are these rules? Who inherits when there is no will in place?
The beneficiaries are, in the following order: the descendants (with no distinction of children within or out of the matrimony and biological or adopted), the ascendants, the spouse, the siblings and from there the nephews and aunts / uncles.
Only when a person dies without any of these relatives, the State inherits the estate.
Will you deal with all the estate in Spain?
Yes, absolutely. The main part of a estate is usually a property, but a person also leaves many other things after he or she dies while residing abroad: a bank account, a car, valuables (jewellery, furniture, tangible possessions, etc).
RDT will deal with all of these items and will make sure these are legal inherited.
Can a person have more than one will in place?
Not in the same country. A person can have one will in place in Spain and another one in the UK (and then one in any other country), but only one.
Normally, by granting a fresh valid will, the previous is automatically made non-valid (even if it´s not mentioned).
How do I know if I am a beneficiary of a will?
The inheritance process, once a person has passed away, always starts with assessing whether the deceased person granted a will in Spain or not.
All wills and last testaments, once validly granted, must be lodged in a Central Registry (in Madrid) by the Spanish Notaries who authorised the wills.
This Registry is public and anyone with a legitimate potential claim on an estate is entitled to know if a person granted a will.
The Registry does not hold copies of all wills, but rather a note on the will which is in place: in which Notary was it granted and when. To obtain a copy of the will, the interested person must go to the relevant Notary.
How does the inheritance process work in Spain? What actually will you do for me, as a beneficiary of an estate?
Once you have handed over all necessary paper work we will do the rest, collecting in the estate, submitting the Inheritance Tax return, settling the debts of the estate, paying out to the beneficiaries, arranging the sale of assets, advising on minimising Inheritance tax and accounting.
I´ve heard of a sort of reserve for the children. Is it true that there´s a limitation on what can be left to the beneficiaries of a will?
That is a correct notion.
The Spanish inheritance system is rooted in Classic and Medieval times, so it tries to keep the family wealth together and within the family.
This is why according to Spanish inheritance Law two thirds of the assets of a person must go to the descendants.
Many do not know this, but when somebody makes a will and names a person alien to the family as a beneficiary, they can only obtain the one third not reserved for the family. Two thirds of the estate, whatever the will might say, must go to the children.
That seems very strict. Is there a way around it for non Spaniards?
Yes, there is. Since August 2015 anyone who grants a will in Spain can make a different Law to apply to his or her inheritance.
So if, for instance, an English person wishes to leave a house he owns in Marbella to his friend (without any limitation) then he can state in the will that he prefers the English Law to apply.
When he passes away, the inheritance will be carried out in Spain (as the estate – the Marbella house- is in Spain) but with English rules.
How long does the inheritance process take?
It varies, but it does take a minimum of three months. It is important to note that the Law sets a deadline of six months to complete the process; the days are counted from the date of death. If this deadline is not met, then fines and penalties will apply.
In some circumstances it is possible to ask for an extension of this term.
What about the inheritance tax? Am I liable for it?
All the beneficiaries of an estate are liable for inheritance tax. The rate varies considerably, as in Spain there are 17 different tax regions, each of which has its own tax rules and rates.
Also, the taxes vary depending on how far removed the beneficiary is from the deceased – for instance a son or daughter pays less taxes than a niece; and a niece pays less taxes than a friend who inherits.
Please feel free to contact us to discuss your situation.
We are happy to receive copies of either UK or Spanish wills. We will review the document free of charge and provide advice on the best course of action.
Wills can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Probate” as the title. Please also include your full contact details.
UPDATE: RDT Abogados offer finance for those clients needing assistance with completing probate in Spain. Please see article for further information.