Our Spanish abogada and specialist in Spanish wills and inheritances, kicks off her series of articles about inheriting in Spain with a step-by-step guide of the action to take when a friend or relative has unfortunately passed away. If you are a relative who is inheriting or an executor under the terms of a will signed outside of Spain and you are aware that there are assets in Spain, finding out whether there is a Spanish will and who the beneficiaries are is the first step to take.
In Spain there is a public registry (Registro de Últimas Voluntades) where you can check if the deceased had a Spanish will so long as you have an original death certificate (legalised with the Stamp of the Apostile of the Hague and translated into Spanish). The registry will issue a certificate which confirms the existence of a Will, or not, and the name of the public notary before whom the deceased signed their last Spanish will. The second step would be to contact the notary where the last will was signed to request a copy of the last Spanish Will signed by the deceased. Obtaining an authorised copy of the will usually takes several days especially if the will was signed many years ago.
If the registry confirms that there is no will in Spain, then it will be necessary to check if a will was signed outside of Spain and whether that will refers to the assets in Spain. If the will refers to Spanish assets, then the will has to be accepted in Spain. If there is no other will or reference to Spanish assets, then the deceased died without a will, the estate is intestate and it will be necessary to consider which law applies to the distribution of the estate and who inherits in accordance to such law.
Gathering information about Spanish property, bank account and taxes payable is the third step. If the deceased owned a property in Spain it be will be necessary to check the land registry records to verify this ownership and find out if there are any mortgages or charges on the property. In addition it is important to confirm if there are any outstanding bills such as the town hall rates (so called IBI and usually Basuras). It will be important to ascertain the property value so you could either instruct a valuer or obtain the so called “minimum tax value” of the property which is the value as assessed by the local tax office.
Having a value for the property at this early stage will allow you to calculate any estimated inheritance tax and the local capital gains tax known as Plusvalia which is payable upon inheriting a property in Spain. It is important to be aware of the possible tax payable which in some cases can be significant. When someone owns a property in Spain it is usual that this person had a Spanish bank account to pay utility bills, so it would be advisable to gather any bank documents the deceased held in relation to bank accounts in Spain.