Wills and Inheritance
Firstly, apply to the Registro Civil in Madrid for the Certificado de Ultimas Voluntades. The easiest way to do this is through a gestoría who will send them an original copy of the death certificate with full details of the deceased. However, the appropriate official form, which has to be completed, and an envelope, can be obtained from a tobacconist, if you have sufficient fluency in Spanish to do it yourself. The death certificate will be returned from Madrid with the Certificado de Ultimas Voluntades. This usually takes about two to three weeks.
When the certificate arrives, take it to a notary where the inheritance deed (Escritura de Aceptación de Herencia) will be prepared. This is the deed that has to be signed by all heirs (or their representatives) simultaneously, to confirm that they accept their inheritance. Any heirs not in Spain can appoint a representative (holding their power of attorney) and this can be arranged by their nearest Spanish Embassy or Consulate.
To prepare this deed, the notary will need full details of all assets, deeds and the last Urban Tax receipt for any property, documentation covering bank accounts, shares, etc. Be sure you understand exactly what is required so that the Escritura de Aceptación de Herencia is correctly prepared. Once the Escritura de Aceptación de Herencia has been signed, you will be given an original, plus several official copies. These must be taken to the tax office to pay the death duties. Remember death duties must be paid within six months of death or surcharges will be applied.
If you are unable to complete the Escritura de Aceptación de Herencia within this time, you can present an autoliquidación by going to your nearest Spanish tax office, completing the appropriate form and paying the estimated taxes. These taxes will be adjusted later when the deed is available.
If property is involved, proof that any tax has been paid, plus the stamped inheritance deed must be taken to the Property Registry (Registro de Propiedad) so that the name(s) of the new owner(s) of property can be registered. Another copy of the inheritance deed must then be taken to the local Town Hall to pay the (Plusvalía) tax. This must also be paid within six months. It is advisable that you rely on professional advice in all these matters.
If the deceased made a U.K. will and appointed an executor, that person should be contacted immediately and sent an original copy of the death certificate ratified by the local British Consular Office.
NOTE: The British Consular Office should ratify all death certificates sent to the UK because they will be in Spanish unless, of course, an official translator has already translated them.
If no executor was appointed, or you are the executor, you have two options:
a. You can appoint someone in the U.K. (usually a lawyer) to act on your behalf by power of attorney. b. You can deal with the matter yourself.
In the case of the latter, apply to the Probate Office for the necessary forms. You will have to attend the Probate Office for a personal interview, so it is advisable to select an office within easy reach. The forms come with complete instructions but, if you are unsure of how to proceed, consult an expert.
At present, death duty is payable on estates in the U.K. valued at over £200,000. An extra stamp duty form (for the Inland Revenue) must be completed in this case.
Any death duties due must be paid within six months of death. If, for any reason you are unable to complete the probate forms within this time, contact the Inland Revenue and pay them the estimated tax amount. Any difference will be adjusted later when the probate forms have been completed and probate granted.
A Grant of Probate must be obtained from the Probate Office in the UK in order to prove who has the right to any inheritance. The documents must be translated into Spanish by an official translator and have the ‘Hague Convention Apostille’ attached. To seek a public deed of inheritance, the Spanish solicitor will require the following:
A grant of Probate.
A Death Certificate for submission to the Ministry of Justice to establish if a will was registered with them. A Certificate from the Ministry of Justice, which will certify if a will exists.
The title deeds of any house or property in Spain.
A certificate from each bank where accounts exist stating the details of the balance of each.
The importance of making a Spanish will cannot be stressed enough, because it simplifies the winding up of the estate following a death.
Some couples hold bank accounts in joint names. Inheritance Tax is payable even on these accounts. The account or half of the money in the account may be frozen in the event of one spouse dying, once the next of kin has notified the bank. Therefore, open a new account at a different bank, before advising the bank about the death. The new account should be in the name of the surviving spouse using the money from the existing joint account. However, sufficient funds should be left in the joint account to cover any immediate standing orders and cash transfers to cover future standing orders should be arranged from the new account.
Make sure that any pension companies or other income sources in the UK are advised of the details of the new account.
New contracts should be signed with the central services i.e. water, electricity and new standing orders should be arranged from the new bank account.