When you live in Spain, how to ensure your Estate will be inherited by your Chosen Beneficiaries

Spain still remains one of the most popular destinations for British Nationals to consider retiring to. Over one third of the British nationals living permanently in Spain are of retirement age. The obvious advantages of the wonderful climate, relaxed pace of life and affordable lifestyle make Spain the country of choice for many British retirees.

The changes in society have changed the face of relationships, couples often do not take up the option of marriage, particularly after a divorce and blended families, including step-children and partners’ children from a previous relationship are commonplace, which unfortunately can lead to unforeseen issues when it comes to inheritance when a person dies. Real estate is usually the biggest asset that most individuals acquire and usually forms the largest asset within a will. There are several adverse and frequently unexpected consequences when a person owning overseas assets as well as UK-based assets dies intestate in Spain or has made a will some considerable time ago and has not updated it to reflex any changes of circumstances.

Gonzalo Butori, a Gonzalo Butori, Partner at Giambrone & PartnersPartner, points out the laws of succession are different in many countries. If you permanently reside in Spain and you have not made a will all your assets will be divided in accordance with the Spanish law of succession, also known as “forced heirship “which controls how much and to whom your assets can be disposed.” Gonzalo further observed, “if you have failed to update or make a will, close family rather than your new(unmarried) partner may be the unintended beneficiary.”

In the event of failing to draft a will, the law that will apply to your estate will be the laws of succession in the country of your habitual residence, meaning if you are permanently resident in Spain, Spanish law will prevail. Broadly, the laws of succession in Spain stipulate that designated portions of the entire estate, including assets in other countries, are automatically inherited by the remaining close relatives. There are some regional variations. 

For British nationals who have retired to Spain in order to ensure that your estate is inherited by the people you intend to benefit, the most sensible course of action is to draft an English will setting out your assets and the people that you wish to be beneficiaries and stating that your estate must be dealt with under the law of England and Wales. For complete security a Spanish will should be drafted also stating that your estate should be dealt with under the law of England and Wales.

This strategy will remove any ambiguity and largely mitigate any challenges. Having dual wills can simplify the probate process, but it requires careful coordination to ensure there are no conflicts between the two documents.

Giambrone & Partners have multi-jurisdictional, multi-lingual lawyers both in the UK offices and the Spanish offices. Our lawyers have years of experience in advising and guiding British nationals on how to protect their assets and how to ensure that their wishes will be carried out. Also, having a multi-jurisdictional lawyer eliminates to risk of misunderstandings that can arise if two separate law firms draft the dual wills as it is imperative that the clauses are the same.

Transferring assets to beneficiaries in different countries can involve additional legal and tax hurdles and it is crucial to have legal guidance and to understand these processes to minimise delays and complications. Your choice of executors is very important. Choose executors who are capable and trustworthy. If your estate involves significant assets in both Spain and the UK, consider appointing executors in both countries to facilitate the probate process. Provide clear instructions in your will to minimise confusion and disputes amongst beneficiaries. Specify how assets should be managed and distributed, and point out any specific wishes you have.

It is also important to review your will periodically. Circumstances and relationships change, younger beneficiaries may pre-decease you and you will need to add new beneficiaries or expand the percentage of your assets to the existing beneficiaries. 

Gonzalo has acted in a wide range of international and domestic commercial disputes. He has experience dealing with complex, high-value cross-border litigation.

He has particular proficiency with regard to dispute resolution and represents claimants and defendants in all jurisdictions on civil and commercial matters and regularly appears at mediation and arbitration hearings. He has acted as co-advocate in international commercial disputes under ICC and LCIA rules as well as in other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) proceedings.

Gonzalo is recognised for his pragmatic approach and solution-based strategies as well as his robust capacity when pursuing his clients’ best interests. When heavy disclosure in foreign languages is required, he develops and delivers technical solutions to ease the cost burden for clients.

He has assisted in a number of cross-border transactions involving various EU jurisdictions and achieved successful results. He also specialises in the conflict of laws and jurisdiction.

Gonzalo regularly advises international clients in connection with family and inheritance-related cross-border matters. Throughout his experience, he has dealt with high-value and complex matters both contested and non-contested which have given him valuable exposure and experience.

The lawyers in Giambrone’s trust, succession and inheritance disputes teams have extensive expertise in navigating contentious situations involving tangible assets in Spain and the UK and internationally. Having an enviable record of successfully advising and assisting clients with complex contested inheritance matters, frequently involving multiple jurisdictions.

If you need assistance with ensuring that your loved ones will receive the inheritance that you wish to give them, contact Gonzalo’s clerk Sam Groom or please click here.

This article is intended to be informative and does not constitute legal advice.