Administration of a Spanish estate

If you are the beneficiary of a relative or friend who leaves behind a Spanish estate, we can oversee its administration. Taking into account the EU Succession Regulation, we will advise you who the beneficiaries are and whether or not the deceased had made a Will and their choice of law that applies to it.

If English law is applicable to the Spanish estate, it is necessary to provide evidence to establish the identity of all beneficiaries. If the deceased left a Spanish Will this can be straightforward because the named beneficiaries can sign a deed formally accepting their inheritance.

Where there is an English Will that covers Spanish assets, this can also be enforced in Spain. In that case, it would be necessary to produce an original copy of the Probate with copy of the Will attached, duly stamped and translated. This satisfies the Spanish Notary and Land Registry that the Will is valid, lists who the beneficiaries are and who is entitled to administer the estate. On occasion a certificate of English law may also be requested.

The role of an executor is different in Spain where the estate passes directly to the beneficiaries without passing through the executor as it does in the UK. Where there is a Spanish Will, the person writing it can name an ‘albacea’ who has power to administer and partition the estate, without taking possession of the assets.

The beneficiaries must accept their inheritance by signing a deed before a Notary and we usually suggest a Power of Attorney be signed by each beneficiary appointing agents in Spain to act on their behalf. As English Probate gives authority to the personal representatives, they may also need to provide a Power of Attorney. Trusts do not exist under Spanish law.

Every beneficiary and executor will need to apply for an NIE number which is a foreigner’s fiscal identity number. The NIE can be obtained in person at a Spanish police station, or by our agents using a Power of Attorney. The police stations normally issue NIEs within a couple of days.

Inheritance tax is payable on Spanish assets and must be paid within six months of the date of death to avoid a penalty. Inheritance tax is payable by each individual beneficiary on the value that person receives, rather than on the estate as a whole and there is no general spouse exemption from inheritance tax. The exemptions and inheritance tax rates vary widely across different parts of Spain and it is relevant whether the deceased held Spanish residency.