Registering and searching for a Will in Spain quickly and easily from the UK

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The Spanish Wills Registry makes it relatively quick and easy for a suitably experienced professional to both register and search for a Will in Spain. The formal Spanish name for the government organisation is the Registro General de Actos de Última Voluntad, which literally translates as the General Registry of Acts of Last Wishes and is based in central Madrid.

Spanish-based Notaries and UK based Spanish lawyers will routinely register the Wills they prepare that deal with assets in Spain.

A Spanish Notary being asked to witness a Spanish inheritance deed (Escritura de Herencia) transferring ownership of a deceased’s Spanish estate or disclaiming ownership of a deceased’s Spanish estate will always need to see a Certificado de Ultimas Voluntades (Certificate of Last Wishes) issued by the Wills Registry as one of a number of procedural steps following death.

Arranging the search

Any application for a Certificate of Last Wishes will need to be supported by a death certificate. If the deceased died in Spain, then you’ll need an official copy of the Spanish death certificate. If the deceased died in the UK then you’ll need an ‘Apostilled’ UK death certificate, along with a sworn translation.

What does the search result say?

If the deceased made more than one Will registered in Spain, the entries of each of those registrations will show in chronological order. If the deceased did not make a Will registered in Spain, then the certificate will boldly state that the deceased ‘NO OTORGÓ TESTAMENTO’ (‘DIDN’T MAKE A WILL’).

The fact that the deceased didn’t make a Will registered in Spain shouldn’t be a showstopper for continuing with the Spanish Inheritance process. A Spanish inheritance can still be administered using a valid English Will that was not registered in Spain, or under the English or Spanish law that governs who is entitled to inherit what when no valid Will was made (known as intestacy rules).

Using the Spanish Wills registry in specific circumstances

The Spanish Wills registry can be an effective tool within the context of uncertain or contentious inheritances involving estates in Spain.

If the Spanish Wills Registry search confirms there was a registered Will, it will also confirm the name of the Notary who witnessed the Will. So, if you think you could stand to benefit from a Will registered in Spain but are unsure, then you can approach the witnessing Notary and request a copy of the last registered Will. If you are a named beneficiary, then the Notary will issue you with a copy. If not, then your request will be declined but at least you’ll be certain in knowing where you stand.

We have acted for clients who stand to benefit from a deceased’s Spanish estate under Wills executed in England that revoked the last Will registered in Spain. Under the deceased’s last Will registered in Spain, others would have benefitted instead of our clients. The ability to register the superseding Will made in England at the Spanish Wills registry stops others attempting to administer the Spanish estate in their favour based on any earlier Will registered in Spain. Knowledge of the formalities and procedure involved are important to be able to act quickly and effectively.

Professional support

If any of these circumstances sound familiar and you or your clients would like help with making and registering a Will covering assets in Spain or searching the Spanish Wills registry following a death, please speak to Dennis Phillips on 0115 985 3473 or another member of our Spanish team on 01733 888888.