Probate in Spain

Understand the process for taking out probate in Spain when the deceased's nationality is from the UK, Ireland or another country.

Probate in Spain

Spanish Bureaucracy

Taking out probate in Spain tends to be more straightforward than in some other countries – however, this is only the case when you have all of the documentation in place.

The Spanish probate process is set-out below, and as you will see, it is predicated on having taking anticipatory steps to ensure all documentation is in place. Needless to say, this does not apply to everyone. In any case, we detail below the probate process and this starts with having created a legally valid Will in Spain:

Wills Drawn-up in Spain

The most straightforward situation is where the testator has drawn-up a will in Spain and in accordance with the legal provisions for creating a valid will.

How to Create and Register a Will in Spain

Making a will in Spain to cover your Spanish assets is a sensible action that will save time, money and stress for your heirs. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Contact an English-speaking lawyer with experience in matters of probate.
  2. The solicitor will draft a will that covers your assets in Spain and will distribute those assets according to your wishes and the law of your nationality.
    • Note carefully,  it is important to highlight the fact that this will applies to your Spanish assets and not any other assets you may have elsewhere – if that is your intention.
    • The will is taken to a notary to have it formally drawn-up in a public document. The notary will hand over a copy of the will and retain the original for storage.
    • The notary informs the Central Registry for Wills in Madrid of the existence of the will.
    • When the time comes, your beneficiaries can obtain a certificate from the central registry that will certify that the will (of which they will have the copy the notary handed over) is in fact your final will and testament.

Creating a Spanish will greatly simplify matters though there still remains a series of actions that need to be carried out in order to have an estate’s assets distributed correctly.

It is not advisable to try to do so without the assistance of a qualified expert in inheritance matters in Spain.

Death Certificate

The first thing that needs to be carried-out is to obtain the Death Certificate (Certificado de Defunción ). If death occurred in Spain then this can be obtained from the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) where the death occurred. The address of the local Registro Civil can be found by going to:  Registro Civil.

If the testator died outside Spain then a death certificate must be obtained from the relevant authority in that state. For example, if the testator died in England or Wales, information on obtaining a death certificate can be requested by clicking on the following links:

England and Wales

Northern Ireland

Scotland

Republic of Ireland

Please note that if the Death Certificate is not written in Spanish then it must be translated and legalised i.e have the Apostille stamp attached. It can then be used as an equivalent to the Spanish ‘Certificado de Defunción’.

RGAUV Certificate

With the Certificado de Defunción or legalised Death Certificate arranged then the next step is to request the Certificado de Registro General de Actos de Última Voluntad (RGAUV). The RGAUV certificate is issued by the central office for wills and testaments in Madrid and verifies the existence or otherwise of a Spanish will.

It will be necessary to wait for a period of 15 days from the date when death occurred before ordering the certificate. If ordering the certificate then there is an administrative charge that requires completing form 790. It will be necessary to send an original (not a copy) of the death certificate and it normally takes around 10 days to receive the certificate.

Life Insurance

It may also be convenient at this stage to acquire any Life Insurance Contract that may exist. If the life insurance contract was taken out in Spain then it will be registered in the same place as the RGAUV certificate.

If however, as is more likely, the life insurance was taken out in a country of origin such as the UK or Ireland then the insurance company will have their own process.

This will typically involve sending an original (not a copy) of the death certificate and completing whatever form the insurance company uses.

Certified Copy of the Will

Having the first two certificates on the list allows us to get a Certified copy of the will from the notary in which the will was signed. This must be an authorised copy and not the simple copy that a testator would typically take away after signing the will at the notary’s office.

The RGAUV certificate will identify the most recent and therefore legitimate will as well as the notary office in which the will was signed. It is in this notary office that the will is kept and where an authorised copy can be obtained by presenting the Death Certificate and RGAUV certificate.

The cost is determined by the age and the number of pages in the will. The persons who are permitted to request this copy are those named in the will as beneficiaries or as executors of the will.

Property & Other Assets

An inventory should be carried-out to determine the final assets of the deceased. To identify property owned by the deceased is relatively simple where the property is registered on the local Property Registry and involves requesting a ‘nota simple’ which will detail the deceased as the current owner. This can now be done online by going to: Nota Simple.

Should the deceased have had bank accounts or share-holdings then it is necessary to request a certificate of the value of these on the date of death of the deceased by presenting the death and RGAUV certificates.

Please note that once these certificates have been obtained no money may be withdrawn from the account as it will be frozen until it has been legally transferred to the beneficiary.

Debts & Rejecting an Inheritance

Should the deceased have accumulated debts then these become the responsibility of the beneficiaries. This liability extends to the personal assets of the beneficiary should the proceeds of the inheritance not be sufficient to cover them.

So, this can be a very important aspect of inheritance to consider if inheriting a property that is in significant negative-equity. The benefit of inheriting will need to be balanced against the liabilities to decide whether it is worth accepting an inheritance.

Such acceptance can be tacit and so it is advisable to formally reject the inheritance via your lawyer.

Assets & Liabilities

On the basis of the inventory previously carried-out, a ‘manifestación de herencia’ is drawn-up which is a list of the assets and their valuations as well as any debts and obligations.

A ‘cuaderno particional’ is then drafted which, following the provisions of the will, stipulates how the assets are to be distributed and any debts satisfied.

In certain cases this document may be drawn-up privately, for example where there is only one sole heir or where the asset to be inherited is a property which is not to be divided for the time being. Otherwise, the document must be drawn-up publicly in the presence of a notary.

Inheritance Taxes

Once the ‘cuaderno particional’ has been drawn-up then it is necessary to pay any taxes due under the inheritance.

In Spain the liability for inheritance tax depends on the existing wealth of the beneficiary and the proximity of their relationship with the deceased. There are major differences with UK and Irish tax laws and, for example, there is no  automatic exemption for spouses.

A major factor determining the tax payable is whether the beneficiaries are resident in the province as this can almost eliminate the tax payable. More information is available on: Spanish Regional Inheritance Tax Rates.

Distribution of the Assets

With the matter of taxes out of the way it is then possible to transfer the assets into the name of the beneficiaries.The exact requirement here depends upon the nature of the asset.

For example, a property should be registered in the name of the beneficiary in the local Property Registry (typically near or may also be located in the town-hall or Ayuntamiento).

A car should be registered at the nearest department of ‘Traffico’.

Both of these processes will require all of the standard documentation: in the case of the car – details of the car such as the log book, mot certificate, as well as the ‘cuaderno particional’, original (not a copy)death certificate etc; in the case of the property you will need to bring the deeds of the property as well as the death certificate and the ‘cuaderno particional’.

In both instances you will require original and copies of your DNI or passport.

Please note that following a judgment by the European Court, the Spanish government has passed into law Ley 26/2014, which came into force on January 1st, 2015. The new legislation provides that European Union citizens, ordinarily resident in another European country, may apply any deductions available to residents of the region in Spain in which their assets are located.

31 Lawyers Offering Services in Spain

Testimonials for Probate Law
  • Peter Morgan
    Peter Morgan, Mallorca

    Following our father's death, my brother and I asked Rosa to act for us and guide us through the Spanish probate legal process. There were several obstacles and Rosa was always there for us, explaining what was required and liaising with professional bodies e.g. the notary, to ensure that everything was done in a timely manner.


    Rosa also helped us immeasurably when my father’s estate was sold. The pandemic meant that it was difficult for us to travel to complete the sale paperwork but to overcome this Rosa became our Power of Attorney and again liaised with professional bodies e.g. buyer’s solicitors, the notary. Her English is excellent and her patience is inexhaustible. Thank you Rosa.


    Dec 02, 2020
  • Gail Maher
    Gail Maher, Fuengirola

    Hi, I would like to thank Alvaro very much for all his expertise. We had a very long journey from dealing with the inheritance will for my mother's apartment in Torrenueva to dealing with sale of the apartment.


    He was brilliant in every aspect. Nothing too much trouble. Very professional and would definitely recommend him to anyone in the future.


    So a big thank you and wishing you to continue delivering an excellent service. Regards Gail Maher


    Oct 21, 2020
  • Johanna Count
    Johanna Count, Benidorm

    Consuelo explained and took care of everything. She is easy to get in touch with and a pleasure to deal with.


    Having to deal with Spanish probate laws and procedures was overwhelming but Consuelo made it so straight forward.


    Oct 07, 2020
  • David Stevens
    David Stevens, Seville

    Rafael has provided us with excellent service for us as we relocated to Spain. He guided us through the NIE application and subsequent switch to TIEs. He assisted us through the process of our house purchase and also helped us with our wills.

    We found his help invaluable. His approach was friendly and professional throughout. We would recommend him to anyone looking for English speaking legal services.


    Sep 21, 2020
  • Michael Armstrong
    Michael Armstrong, La Manga del Mar Menor

    Consuelo has the highest praise and gratitude from this family by somehow reclaiming inheritance tax from Madrid. Previous solicitors left a mess,partial/incorrect and missing documents were received very late.


    Despite obstacles such as denial from tax office and virus Consuelo promptly, courteously and professionally simply got on with the job and succeeded against all odds. We cannot thank her enough!


    Jul 27, 2020
  • Abbie Orsini
    Abbie Orsini, England

    Rosa responded efficiently I was extremely happy and satisfied with this !


    She explained everything I needed to know and more to help me understand. At the beginning I found the process daunting Rosa took this feeling way and helped me feel at ease.


    Paying was straight forward and I was well informed with fees etc. Rosa took a very professional approach and I felt comfortable approaching her about any issues I had.


    She is a credit to advocate abroad !!!!! Thank you for your help !!!!!!!!!❤️


    Jun 18, 2020
  • Jonathan Mackay
    Jonathan Mackay, Jaca

    Francisco was extremely professional and answered our many questions promptly and clearly, both by phone and email. We feel very lucky to have had Francisco handle our Spanish Fiscal declaration.


    The service was perfect, and we are very happy with the whole process.


    Mar 12, 2020
  • Gail Maher
    Gail Maher, Torrenueva

    Alvaro is brilliant.


    He comes across very professional and friendly,nothing too much trouble.


    As I was unable to go to Spain initially all communication was via phone and was put at ease straight away as he understood exactly what was required to deal with my case, and all went exceptionally well. I was able to meet Alvaro in August to pass over documents required and made me very welcome.


    I have been so pleased with everything I have now engaged him on a further instruction on our property in Torrenueva..


    Dec 11, 2019
  • Andrew Hales
    Andrew Hales, Fuengirola

    We dealt with Angela, and had a superb service - she was efficient, clear, timely and exceptionally helpful. We would recommend this respectable Solicitor who has excellent English.


    Trustworthiness is so important, and step by step help was very much appreciated. Thank you Angela of myAdvocate Fuengirola.


    Oct 23, 2019
  • Luis Gonzalez Lunden
    Luis Gonzalez Lunden, Canada

    Rosa responded very promptly to our inquiry, grasped our needs immediately, and provided an excellent solution which was delivered seamlessly. Rosa thoroughly explained the intricacies of the local legal system, providing options and considerations.


    Overall Rosa provided outstanding service through a professional and mindful approach to our needs. We really enjoyed our interaction and it is without hesitation that we recommend her to future prospective clients. Thank you Rosa!


    Sep 21, 2019
  • Irene Hyde Christie
    Irene Hyde Christie, Coin

    I am very pleased with the service provided by Francisco. He has been most helpful and responded very quickly to all my emails.


    Jul 26, 2019
  • Franco Trio
    Franco Trio, United Kingdom

    Rosa always responded promptly to any email I sent.


    She kept me informed and provided alternatives and 3rd party services (translation).


    Thank you Rosa for your assistance, perseverance and honesty in helping my mum and I. We will definitely recommend you.


    Apr 10, 2019
  • Claire
    Claire, Valencia

    Ramon was very helpful and professional. He listened to our requests carefully and we will be using him again if we need anymore legal services.


    Mar 28, 2019
  • Colin Johnson
    Colin Johnson, Sevilla

    Very helpful, especially as English and Spanish law has it's differences and my final document - a testament -  required the services of a notary and the final translation.


    A pleasure to meet Rafael and to discuss my needs and he made the whole process straightforward with lots of common sense solutions. ***** 5 stars and highly recommended.


    Mar 15, 2019
  • Gary Moore
    Gary Moore, Gandia

    Fransisca is 1st class and very professional and extremely caring


    Mar 12, 2019
  • Gary Moore
    Gary Moore, Gandia

    Francisca is a first-class Professional ' puts u at ease.


    100% up to date and reliable.  I would not consider using anyone else.


    Feb 28, 2019
  • Marcus Bond
    Marcus Bond, Fuengirola

    Proactive, great communication, thoroughly recommend.


    Feb 14, 2019
  • Alison Hamilton
    Alison Hamilton, Fuengirola

    Kept us informed every step of the way, very efficient and very pro active.


    Absolutely excellent!


    Feb 12, 2019
  • Michael Bates
    Michael Bates, UK

    Francisco was very easy to deal with. Very professional. Would not hesitate to recommend him to friends.


    Jul 27, 2018
  • Patrick Crean
    Patrick Crean, Almerimar

    Juan was fantastic. Very easy to understand and very pleasant. I would definitely use his service again.


    Jul 05, 2018
  • Nigel Bateman (Fuengirola)
    Nigel Bateman (Fuengirola)

    Excellent service, very reasonable, fluent English and totally professional. I would not hesitate to recommend this highly skilled team.


    Apr 09, 2018
  • John Crompton
    John Crompton, UK

    Very satisfied with the service that Oliver provided.


    Oliver was professional, approachable and his fees were very reasonable.


    I will definitely use his services again!


    Nov 25, 2017
  • Sarah Finnagan
    Sarah Finnagan, England

    Francisco was fantastic and helped me through every single step and helping understanding everything.


    Price was very reasonable i have no complaints at all.


    Very easy to get hold of and very quick at responding would definitely go back to him - thankyou so much Francisco for everything.


    Sep 21, 2017
  • Michael Tenerife
    Michael Tenerife, UK

    Rosa excelled in all of the criteria listed for evaluation.


    Extremely responsive, understanding, professional, and offered great value for money. Rosa explained the situation clearly and provided the clearest solution every time.


    I just can't imagine how Rosa could have done more. Truly excellent service.


    Aug 07, 2017
  • Aziz Oudjida
    Aziz Oudjida, Mijas Flores

    We couldn't have hoped for better lawyer than Mr Francisco. He is always responsive, always available and approachable, with a remarkable ability to explain and provide legal solution. But more important, he strikes me as a very good and genuine person, honest and very competent.


    I can say without a doubt in my mind that Mr Francisco stand well above all these lawyers.


    Jun 02, 2017
  • LM
    LM, Ibiza

    Cristina was amazing and very helpful and i would highly recommend her services again.


    I am very satisfied and I definitely would use the same lawyer again in the future.


    Mar 10, 2017
  • Mrs. J.B.
    Mrs. J.B., Cordoba

    Welcoming manner and kind comments about the fact. Extremely approachable.


    Highly competent understanding of and patient explanations regarding my many questions.


    Very fairly priced to do with the making of a Will.


    Jan 12, 2017
  • Diana Rawstron
    Diana Rawstron, London

    Domingo provided an excellent service on this matter and I was very pleased that I had found him through your website.


    I definitely use the same lawyer again in the future.


    Nov 03, 2016
  • Mrs. Irene C Price
    Mrs. Irene C Price, Acton Trussell

    It was a pleasure to deal with Francisco. He spoke excellent English. He was professional and courteous at all times, and responded to any queries I had by return, taking time to explain complicated legal procedure in a manner I could understand.


    For the work Francisco did, his charges were good value for money. I would recommend his services without hesitation.


    Oct 12, 2016
  • JMH
    JMH, Mallorca

    I was able to talk things through and my lawyer was able to help me find solutions and alternatives to my problems without it costing a fortune but providing me with what I needed.


    Rosa was very approachable and professional.


    Oct 11, 2016
  • Caroline & Kevin
    Caroline & Kevin, UK

    Alvaro was approachable, reliable and his instructions were clear. He was easy to communicate with and we felt he had our best interests at heart.


    His English is excellent and he offered excellent value for money.


    Sep 02, 2016
  • Brian Eastwood
    Brian Eastwood, Ibiza

    Extremely professional and able to convey everything perfectly in English. The service provided was very efficient, quick and friendly.


    The rate quoted for the work was better than similar legal practices in Santa Eularia del Rio and Ibiza town.


    We have already recommended Cristina to several other people.


    Mar 07, 2016
  • Alan lewis
    Alan lewis, UK

    Our lawyer was friendly, took trouble to understand our problems and charged a reasonable fee. The whole process was easy and efficient.


    Nov 01, 2015
  • Brian Thomas
    Brian Thomas, Priego

    A very fast response to my inquiry, Francisco has excellent English and gave us a very friendly and professional service that we feel was value for money.


    We do recommend him to our friends.


    Oct 31, 2015
  • Peter H David
    Peter H David, Mallorca

    Rosa could not have been more helpful and professional in providing us with what we needed accomplishing in very short space of time.


    We will certainly be in touch with her again the next time we need legal service.


    Oct 30, 2015
  • Neil Coates
    Neil Coates, Mallorca

    Our lawyer listened attentively to what we wanted, was pleasant and efficient. There were no linguistic problems.


    Although I speak some Spanish, all our business was conducted in English.


    I was very satisfied with the service provided.


    Feb 13, 2015
  • Evelyn Lindsay
    Evelyn Lindsay, Aberdeen

    As I am elderly and do not speak Spanish I found the service I received was excellent, everything explained in easy, understandable language and Rosa’s English was fantastic.


    Also the cost was very reasonable as I am only on a state pension. In the future if I need any legal advice I will contact her again.


    Sep 15, 2014
  • Keith & Sandra Brown
    Keith & Sandra Brown, Villaviciosa

    Our lawyer was friendly and helpful with a very good command of the English language.


    Even payment for their services could be paid, by bank transfer, directly into their nominated bank account.


    We would definitely use their services again whenever necessary.


    Aug 07, 2014