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The Implications of an English Will in Spain

- Updated: 01/04/2013
The Implications of an English Will in Spain

You would be surprised how many people this issue relates to. Although there is no requirement for anybody to make a Spanish Will, by having one you will ensure a cost effective means of simplifying the handling of your affairs once you do pass away. There are many ex-pats who intend to rely upon their English Will exclusively to deal with their Estate in Spain. Unfortunately if you do not have a Spanish Will no action can even begin in Spain until the probate of your English estate has been finalised. In many cases this can take a very long time – regardless of whether your English Will or affairs are complicated or straightforward. You then need to consider the expense and hassle of preparing an official translation of the English Will into Spanish , which together with the overall cost of the procedure itself , will cost significantly more than preparing a Spanish Will in the first place.

An English person prepares his or her SPANISH Will in accordance with ENGLISH law. This means that you can make exactly the same provisions in both of your wills – it is essentially a duplication. English law also states that marriage revokes a Will unless specified otherwise so the advice to anyone who has married since making their Will is to chat to lawyer to clarify the situation.

Another matter to consider is inheritance tax. In many cases the Spanish authorities impose tax penalties if Inheritance Tax issues are not resolved quickly. The beneficiaries of an Estate are given 6 months to pay any taxes due on the deceased’s SPANISH estate following the date of death, after which a surcharge will be levied and interest will start to be applied. It is rare for the English probate to be dealt with in sufficient time to meet this 6 Months point and as such it is an almost certainty that this will need to be thought about. Equally so in some cases you may hear about Spanish Wills which cover an Estate in other Countries. This too is problematic outside Spain, for example an English bank, will not readily accept a Spanish Will and may request an English Grant of probate. As in Spain ,obtaining an English Grant with a Spanish Will is just as difficult as the reverse and should be avoided if at all possible.

As with all legal & financial issues, it is strongly recommended that you seek the appropriate professional advise as soon as your position in Spain becomes clear. It can save time,money ,stress and inconvenience and only then can you really claim to have left your beneficiaries with a simple way to carry out your last wishes.

Comment on this Article

Can we do an English will from spain?
Rhonda - Sun 5th Feb 2017
I am a British citizen residing in Spain. I have made a British will and filed this with my solicitors in the UK stating the usual in case of my death, that everything is for my spouse, in case of the death of both of us then the estate is for our two children from this marriage. I do, however, have a daughter from a previous marriage but she is to all intents and purposes disinherited and not included in my UK will. However, the Spanish law would like to dictate what in fact happens to my estate after my death (ley de herederos forzosos) and as a matter of course they would automatically include the disinherited daughter as having the right to an inheritance. I want above all else to keep my British will and that I myself dictate what happens to my assets and not a foreign country where I may happen to live. I would appreciate your advice on what to do in this case to ensure that all will go the way that want it to in the event of my demise.
N. Crane - Mon 19th Sep 2016
I'm afraid thats not quitet true. If you are a UK citizen, Spanish resident and have a UK will as well as the Spanish one then your Spanish will defers to UK law. Therefore you leave your goods and chattels to who you want to.
J Jones - Fri 20th May 2011
Spanish succession law is designed to protect the interests of the wider family, and as such the norm is to insist that around 2/3 of the estate of the deceased is passed over to the children, by-passing the spouse. There are certain things that can be done to circumvent this, but I would strongly recommend that you spoke with a specialist in these matters.

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Tumbit - Admin - Thu 21st Apr 2011
My wife and I have an English & Spanish Will leaving the estate to each other on death, We have two daughters each from our a previous marriage, I have just been told that if I die first my daughters will have first claim to the estate, and if my wife dies first, her daughters will have first claim. Is this correct. We have all our assets in Spain and our Spanish Wills are rgistered in Madrid, and are written in Spanish with an English translation. Thanks and regards David Foster
David Foster - Thu 21st Apr 2011