It is said that approximately two-thirds of people in the UK die without making a will. It is an unfortunate fact that many foreign nationals with assets in Spain fail to make a valid will either in Spain or in their country of origin and as a result their assets must be distributed according to the rules of intestacy.
Normally the appropriate rules of intestacy are those of their country of origin i.e. Scotland or Republic of Ireland for example. At times however the Spanish rules of intestacy apply. This is typically where the deceased was domiciled in Spain.
The determination of where a person is domiciled is a very technical legal question but often a person who is living in Spain and has only Spanish assets and no financial or other ties to another country may be considered to be domiciled in Spain.
Process to follow if no valid will
The first step to take if there is no will is to apply to the probate registry for Letters of Administration. Normally, if there are no complications, this should take approximately three to five weeks. The forms that you need to fill in depend upon where the application is being made, but useful information can be found here here.
As well as completing the relevant forms and payment of the administration fee, it is necessary to send the death certificate.
One you are in receipt of the letters of administration the next step is to have them legalised and then translated into Spanish for use in Spain. Translation can be carried-out by the Spanish consular office and the Apostille stamp attached by any registered notary public.
Once this is all completed the process is the same as with a Spanish will and can be dealt with by an experienced lawyer in Spain.
*** Please note that the rules relating to the law that is applied to the inheritance of an estate of a citizen of the European Union have changed in important respects – see this article on the New European Regulations