By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer – Abogado
30th of August 2017
I was recently approached by a distressed English family who had a problem with their ‘Spanish’ will.
The deceased lady had made a Spanish will in 2003, witnessed by a Spanish Notary Public, leaving all her Spanish assets to a close relative. A decade later they had a fallout, and she decided best to make a new will, leaving the assets to someone else.
The logical thing would have been to pop over to the Spanish Notary Public and grant a new Spanish will (it takes at most half an hour). Unfortunately, the lady decided to follow advise from an English solicitor who supplied her the wording for a UK will to be signed in Spain with a Spanish witness.
The lady signed this English will and passed away shortly after.
The reason I was contacted by the family, was because they were having trouble with the Spanish Land Registry and Notary Publics. They refused to accept the English will as valid (which was unnotarized) and claimed the only valid will was the Spanish one from 2003.
Unfortunately, after examining the matter, I concurred with my Spanish colleagues. Had this English will been signed and witnessed in the United Kingdom it would have likely been accepted as valid in Spain and would have overruled the prior Spanish one from 2003. Unfortunately, as it was signed in Spain and witnessed only by the lady’s Spanish chambermaid (who did not know how to read or write in Spanish, much less in English!) she was deemed unsuitable as a reliable witness.
What we can learn from this case is that non-residents should take the appropriate legal advice from local qualified lawyers who are best suited to inform you on your rights in Spain.
Ideally, non-residents should make two wills; one in their home country ruling on their national assets and a second Spanish will which will rule exclusively on their Spanish estate.
Preparing a Spanish will – exclusive to your Spanish assets – will save your heirs considerable time, money and hassle at a time of bereavement. It will greatly streamline the succession procedure in Spain without attracting fines, surcharges and delay interests for late payment of inheritance tax.
If you want to delve further on how inheritance tax works in Spain, I have collated my articles below which cover the Spanish succession procedure from different angles.
Our law firm offers making a Spanish will legal service at a very competitive fee. Ask us, we don't bite!
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