Managing a Spanish Probate

Spain is the most popular destination for the British looking to retire in Europe and has the largest British born population in Europe, outside the UK. However, despite Spain being the destination of choice for holidays and retirement in previous decades, the British do not integrate particularly well socially. Nevertheless, the steadily rising influx of British retirees since the 1990s and the depressed housing market making it difficult to sell Spanish property frequently results in younger generations unexpectedly inheriting Spanish real estate under Spanish law.

Beneficiaries often find administering an estate in the same country as them is a demanding undertaking, so attempting to deal with tangible assets in Spain can seem extremely daunting.  The inheritance laws in Spain are not the same as in the UK, one of them being that a beneficiary can renounce the inheritance if they are of the view that the property is not viable as it has so much debt attached it exceeds the value of the property.  If this happens the property automatically cascades down to the next in line. It is strongly advised that you appoint an English speaking abogado, the Spanish equivalent of a solicitor. Giambrone has offices in the UK and Spain with Spanish lawyers who are fluent in English who can take you through the procedures, advise on the viability of accepting the property and manage the whole process for you.

Initially, to deal with an inheritance the beneficiary must appear before a notary and inform the notary of their decision whether to accept or renounce the property.  If you are unable or unwilling to go to Spain to do this you can commission a power of attorney and appoint someone else to carry out this task.  Ideally, this should be an abogado. Depending on your decision a Deed of Acceptance is then drawn up and executed before a notary.

The Spanish succession process amounts to nine steps, starting with:


There are at least eight documents you must access and present.

  1. The deceased’s death certificate
  2. The will
  3. The title deeds for the property
  4. Evidence of the most recent payment of rates for the property
  5. Any relevant bank account details
  6. A valuation for the property
  7. The deceased’s NIE – fiscal number certificates
  8. A Date of Death statement

If the deceased died intestate (without making a will) you will also need to show evidence of your relationship to the deceased in the shape of official documents such as birth or marriage certificates.

If you decide to accept the property you will require your own NIE – the fiscal identification number certificate, as anyone who owns property in Spain must have this and you will need this in order to inherit.

Power of Attorney

Unless you are in the position of being able to attend the considerable requirement to attend official appointments in person, you would be well advised to commission a Power of Attorney.  This can be arranged in the UK.

Central Wills Registry

It will be necessary for the will to be searched for in the Central Wills Registry in Madrid where the vast majority of Spanish wills are lodged. This is to ascertain the existence of a Spanish will and to be sure that the will you produce is the current will.  A copy should be available at the notary’s office where the will was originally registered.

Legal Certification and Official Translation

All documents provided in evidence of your entitlement to the inheritance must be translated into Spanish if they were drafted in English.  Furthermore, they must be translated and certified by an official translator.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office usually assists with legalising such documents.

The Execution of the Inheritance Deed

Spanish inheritance tax must be paid within six months of the date of death otherwise there will be interest and penalties applied. The tax can only be paid after the notarial process is finalised and the property can be registered in the name of the beneficiary.  It is in your best interests to make sure that the notarial process is carried out and signed by the notary as quickly as possible.

Tax Payment

You will already have a list of the costs and taxes due on the property so you will be able to be ready to pay immediately.

The Bank

In order to take over the bank account the process will be dealt with by the bank’s central legal department. Regrettably, this stage can take quite some time. Giambrone’s lawyers have established strong relationships with the banking sector which considerable assists with moving the process along.

The Land Registry

As soon as the tax has been paid you are at liberty to apply to the land registry to transfer the title of the property into your name.

The timeframe for dealing with Spanish probate really rests on who you choose to assist you. Giambrone’s wills and inheritance lawyers in our Spanish office have taken the time to establish good relationships with all the other professionals you will need to call upon to facilitate the probate, which considerably helps to shorten the time involved.  Ensuring that you have all the documentation required and that it is in good order also helps to prevent delays. If you make sure that you are aware of all the factors involved, including paying the costs involved extremely promptly, you will have done everything you can.

If you would like to know more about dealing with Spanish probate please click here