Spanish Wills for Non-residents

Are Spanish Wills for Non-residents important? If you have assets in Spain it is advisable to have a Spanish Will, learn why from experts.

Spanish Wills for Expats

Whether you are a Spanish resident or not, if you have assets in Spain it is advisable to have a Spanish Will. Spanish Wills for Non-residents shall never overrule the one you have in your country of origin, but will serve as a complement dealing only with your Spanish assets.

Subsequently it is advisable to have a UK Will to manage your assets there if you still haven’t drafted one, and another one in Spain.

Having Spanish Wills for Non-residents, if you have assets here, especially real estate assets will avoid many problems for your beneficiaries and will be very useful for various purposes:

Your legal heirs will have to pay Spanish Inheritance Tax on any assets you might leave in Spain and they have 6 months from the date of death.

Even if you are non-resident in Spain, and your national or last residence law applies to determine the rules of succession, this does not mean your legal heirs will avoid having to settle Inheritance Tax in Spain for the assets located here that they have inherited.

That means a valid Spanish Will is your best option as such a document can be easily enforceable in Spain, and will allow your heirs to comply with the deadlines to file and settle the inheritance tax thereby avoiding having to pay interest, penalties and surcharges to the tax Authorities.

Whereas a Spanish Will can be executed immediately, a UK Will can exceed the six-month deadline, so in this case, saving time means saving money. This is because, in order to be valid, and to be able to execute a testamentary document in Spain, if you only have a UK Will, it will need to go through the Grant of Probate, which can be a long and expensive procedure.

Problems Caused by the difference in National Probate Systems: Certification

The system in Spain is different, since in Spain you do not need to go through a Grant of Probate as all wills are Notarized, and there is a public Registry of Wills called the ”Registro de actos de últimas voluntades”  or “Last wills Registry” where the legal heirs can get easy access once the testator has passed away, where your information will be stored free of charge, in order to certify:

1.-That the testator has passed away having made a Will

2.-Which Will made by the testator is the last and subsequently the valid one

3.-Which Notary assisted the testator in drafting the Will and when.

4.-It will also provide information in case the deceased person has not drawn up a valid will, meaning that intestate rules of the Spanish Civil Code should apply in default of a Will.

In our experience, many legal problems arise due to the fact that there is not an equivalent in the UK system.

Accordingly, your heirs will be asked by different Spanish Public and Private entities to certify that the Will they are presenting is the last and valid one, (or in case there is no Will, they will be asked to provide a Court resolution granted by the country of the deceased stating who are the legal heirs according to the deceased´s home country intestate rules. in order to be able to gain ownership over the deceased’s assets.

Problems Caused by the difference in National Probate Systems: Translation

Documents such as your English will, death certificate, Court rulings, etc will also have to be translated into Spanish by a sworn translator  and in case you belong to a non EU country, they will have to be apostatised with the official Stamp regulated in Le Hague Convention, in order to make it a valid and enforceable official document in Spain.

Drafting a Spanish Will

In practical terms, failure to draft a Spanish Will for your Spanish assets will result in higher costs, far more time to resolve and lots of hassle for your heirs, that you could have easily sorted it out by drafting a Spanish Will for your assets here spending very little.

  • Drawing up a Spanish will is simple, and cheap. Your solicitor can easily prepare a will tailored to your needs and specific requirements. Such a Will is drawn up before a Notary Public giving it more guarantees, as the Notary will have to check your capacity to grant the Will, and make sure you have fully understood its content and consequences, and such a Will, as already pointed out is held in a Public Registry.
  • Spanish succession laws based on legal heirship allow little room to choose to whom you can bequeath your inheritance, as opposed to the UK system which is based on freedom of disposition.

According to Spanish law, you are only entitled to dispose of 1/3 of your total inheritance, with the remaining 2/3 rds. reserved for your legal heirs or 1/2 in case your parents are your legal heirs.

Bearing this in mind, you would probably prefer to have your national laws applied to the regulation of your Wills.

A ‘Confusion’ of Laws

Since you will not be resident in Spain, and your national law or law of the country where you are resident should apply, you might consider you are safe and everything seems to be under control at this point, but nothing could be further from the truth, and failing to draft a Spanish Will as a non-resident taxpayer in Spain can be a huge mistake, because you still have properties and assets in Spain.

Both the UK and Ireland have rejected European regulations of succession rules and have their own rules.

To add more complexity, many foreign laws, including English and Wales’ laws on this matter revert to the Spanish applicable laws in cases where the deceased had properties in Spain, so you could find that Spanish regulations may apply to part of your succession and properties here, even though you are not resident.

Spanish Court rulings on the matter have been not very clear, considering that Spanish legislation is more protective to legal heirs with the system of forced heirship where there is not an equivalent system, so if you have, for instance, legal heirs in Spain because you have remarried, they can challenge the UK will to get their rightful share from the properties and any other assets located in Spain even though it was not what you wanted.

If there is no Will at all, it could pos­sibly be chal­lenged that you were res­id­ent in Spain when you died, and Span­ish rules of en­forced in­her­it­ors could ap­ply.

If we add to the above all of the regulatory uncertainties contingent on Brexit, we could have what we might call, the perfect storm.

This can be sorted out if you make a Spanish will stating that even for the assets in Spain, only the rules from your nationality shall apply.

In this case the content of your Spanish Will is only governed by your own national laws, so you keep your free testamentary disposition without having to apply Spanish  forced heirship rules, and it will be the same as if you had drawn up the Will in your country .

If you need advise in detail about Spanish Wills for Non-residents, do not hesitate getting in touch with us.

Related Services

33 Lawyers Offering Will Drafting Service Services in Spain

Testimonials for our Will Drafting Service service
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Alison Hamilton
    Alison Hamilton, Fuengirola

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


    Absolutely excellent!


    Feb 12, 2019
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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