We are one of the leading firms in Spain for handling Spanish estates of deceased ex-pats. We can handle the inheritance for you from start to finish anywhere in Spain and we can handle it regardless of the existence or not of a Spanish will, and even if no will exists.

If there is a Spanish will in place, the procedure is relatively straightforward and fast with the only complexity being the correct application of the exemption rates to reduce the inheritance tax as much as possible (the exemption rates are different in each area of Spain and we are familiar with all of them).

Other inheritances are more complex due to the non existence of a Spanish will: this is a specialised area of the law that not many firms are able to perform in a satisfactory way and those that do will very often not deal with all the aspects of the inheritance (i.e the con-validation of English wills and other English documents for Spain, con-validation of English probate or letters of administration, claiming the maximum exemptions permitted for the heirs depending on place of residence, request of certificates of English law where needed etc) ie. making sure that the heirs do not overpay the Spanish tax authorities. We will carefully study the autonomous region of Spain where the inheritance tax is due and make sure that the exemption rates or tax breaks of that particular region are correctly explained to the heirs and invoked on the inheritance deed and tax forms). We handle these cases all over Spain. No inheritance is too complex or too large for us to handle. We have the necessary contacts in the UK to pull the two legal systems together when a complex con-validation is necessary and we are often subcontracted by UK law firms to handle inheritance work for their clients in relation to Spanish estates. We are members of the Probate Section of the British Law Society.

The system of taxation of Spanish inheritance is complex. Expensive mistakes can be made if your work is not handled by an expert. Tax levels are set by the state, but then each comunidad autonoma (area of Spain) has established different reductions and exemptions applicable to certain heirs and circumstances. Inheritance tax is calculated by self assessment. Some people overpay and never even find out that this is what has happened.

What follows is an article written by myself in a local English paper back in 2001 in reference to Spanish inheritance.

Many people have been in my office, asking me what happens when a person dies in Spain, as far as their assets. Some because they have been called to inherit, and others because they are trying to make things as easy as possible for their heirs when the day finally comes.

For those people wanting things as easy as possible for their heirs their is no doubt, you should make a Spanish will. The reasons for this I explained in my first article “Spanish wills”. Too many people think about wills for too long and do not actually get one signed.

I will explain briefly what happens in the three possible situations you have a Spanish will, you only have an English will, you do not have a will.

Whatever people say to you the three possible situations have solutions. A client told me the other day that the he thought that Spanish government would take everything if there was no will. The problem is that it is not the first time I have heard this rumour. Needless to say it is totally unfounded.

There can be three situations:

I. The deceased person has made a Spanish will.

A. You must gather some documentation.

The original death certificate. If the testator died in Spain and we have a Spanish death certificate there is no problem, but if the testator died in England, the death certificate will need the Apostille affixed ( Hague’s Convention ). It will also need to be translated by a Spanish official translator or by the Spanish Consul in England.
You also need to write to the “Registro de Últimas Voluntades”(Register of last wills) in Madrid, so that they certify that a will was made, that the will in question was the last test one, and with which Notary the original can be found. Even if you already have a copy of the will, you must write to the Register, so that they certify that there is no other will, with a later date. Most solicitors have a collaborating firm lined up in Madrid to avoid the procedure by post which tends to go on for an awful long time. In our case we can obtain certification within two weeks.
Gather the original escrituras de compraventa (title deeds) and bank account details. If you cannot find the deeds, do not panic, a certificate from the property register can be obtained and will work just as well.
Your last Patrimonio declaration, or if you have never made one, a written declaration to the effect of not having an estate worth more than five hundred euros.
B. You must then have drafted an acceptance document, which must be signed in front of a Spanish Notary, exactly the same as when you are purchasing a property in Spain.

C. You then have one month to pay the inheritance tax or claim part or total exemption depending on your situation. The tax has to be paid in Madrid if both the deceased and the heirs were non resident. If any of the people involved is a resident , then one can present the forms at the local tax office. If the heirs are group 1 or 2 (spouses or direct descendants),there is a major benefit of Andalucian Jurisdiction (which you can only claim if the deceased or one of the heirs are residents in Andalucia and can prove it ) . The benefit consists of an exemption rate of 125,000 euros for each heir instead of 160,00 euros for each heir.

D. As soon as the inheritance tax has been paid or the exemptions claimed, you can go to the bank where the deceased person held his money, and the bank will release the money to the person the Acceptance Escritura says has inherited.

E. When this is done, you must deal with whatever real estate you may have inherited. For this, you must now go to the property register, and ask to register the Escritura of acceptance (In the same way one does on purchasing a property with the purchase escritura). It will take aprox. one month for the register to hand back the registered title.

II.The testator has made a will in England, which refers to his estate world wide.

A. You must obtain Grant of Probate in England.
You must then get the Hagues apostile affixed and send it to an official translator in Spain, or to the Spanish Consulate in your home country. (If the English will mentions the word trust, then you have a problem, as trusts do not exist in Spain)
B. Then you must take the same steps as if the translated document is a Spanish will.

III. The deceased person has not made a will.

A. If the person deceased is English, his heirs should appoint an English Solicitor, who will need to obtain Letters of Administration in England. You then need the Apostille affixed. Next, the document needs to be translated, by the Spanish Consulate in England, or by an official translator in Spain.
B. Then we take the same steps, as if the translated document, is a Spanish will.


From the moment of death, the heirs have a maximum of 6 months to pay the death duties. If you do not think you can sort things out within that time limit, you can ask for a 6 month extension, but you must ask for it in writing, within the first five months.
Any document signed by an English public official, will need the Apostil affixed, before it is valid in Spain.
Any document that is written in English, will need to be officially translated, before it is valid in Spain (Consulate or Official translator).
The information I have provided, is only a guideline, and in no way substitutes good legal advice for your own particular situation.
As I have said before in a previous issue of The SUR newspaper, there is no doubt that the best situation, is to have a will in England concerning your English Assets, and one in Spain for your Spanish Assets. This will avoid a heavy legal bill later on, plus a lot of time and distress.
In the absence of a last will and testament, you will need judicial or notary documents declaring you a legitimate heir and, what is more, providing evidence of the laws of the late person’s country of origin in order to justify your claim to the inheritance. These documents, together with the rest of the papers required to formalize the inheritance, will then be taken to a notary to allocate the inheritance.

If, on the contrary, and whether there be a will or not, the parties involved should not reach an agreement regarding the inheritance, it would be necessary to take the case to court so as to have the inheritance allocated by a judge.

At Perez Legal Group

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