Spanish Inheritance without a Will

According to the article 9 of the Spanish Civil Code, the law applicable to an inheritance is determined by the nationality of the deceased. The 8th section of the referred to article specifies that, regarding the applicable law, there is no distinction made as a result of the location of the assets.

Impact of EU Regulation No 650/2012

That said, things have changed as a consequence of the EU Regulation No 650/2012 of 4th July 2012, on “jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession”.

Article 21 of that Regulation establishes, as a general rule, that “the law applicable to the succession as a whole shall be the law of the State in which the deceased maintained habitual residence at the time of death”. Where, by way of exception, it is clear from all the circumstances of the case that, at the time of death, the deceased was manifestly more closely connected with a State other than the State whose law would be applicable under the previous paragraph, the law applicable to the succession shall be the law of that other State.

According to Article 22, a person may choose as the law that governs the succession of their assets as a whole, the law of that State whose nationality they possessed at the time of making the choice, or at the time of death. This Regulation entered into force on the 17th of August 2015.

No Valid Will

As a result, if there is no valid will, that states that the testator wishes to apply the rules of their country of origin, and the testator was ordinarily resident in Spain at the time of death, the the rules of intestacy of Spain will apply.

If such rules do not apply, for instance because the testator was ordinarily resident in the UK, then the rules of intestacy local to their place of residence in the UK will apply.

Documentation Required to Process an Inheritance if no Will

In the UK it is typical, in the absence of a last will and testament, for a close relative to swear an oath and obtain ‘Letters of Administration’ which confer the right to deal with any assets in the name of the deceased, in accordance with the laws of intestacy.

Matters become complicated in Spain as a result of the local notary and land registrar sometimes insisting on Spanish documents, impossible to obtain from the UK.

Ultimately, some notaries will accept the Letters of Administration, duly legalised and translated by a sworn translator. Others will require a certificate of law from a legal source in the UK (such as a notary or a solicitor) which states the applicable line of succession according to the rules of intestacy of that region of the UK.

The above will be required together with a death certificate (if death took place outside of Spain then this death certificate may also need to be translated and legalised) and also identification documents relating to the beneficiaries and NIE numbers.

So, in summary, if you are planning to become resident in a European country other than the country of your nationality, such as say Spain, and you wish the rules of succession of your country of origin, say England, to apply, then you must state this explicitly in your Last Will and Testament. Otherwise, Spanish law will apply and the system of forced heirs that pre-determines the beneficiaries rather than permitting you to elect them, will apply.

19 Lawyers Offering Inheritance Services in Spain

Testimonials for our Inheritance service
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Isabel Albert
    Isabel Albert, Valencia

    Inmaculada has always responded to all my queries and explained and provided excellent solutions. She is very approachable, diligent and professional.


    Sep 17, 2019
  • 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
  • Glynis Stanley
    Glynis Stanley, Dublin

    I appreciated the in-depth information, time and willingness to explore all angles to help what was a difficult situation.


    As I had previously had very unsatisfactory dealings legally in Spain I left my appointment feeling that I had found a Practice that was honourable and trustworthy....very happy to recommend.


    Feb 12, 2014