spanish probate

S panish probate: What is it and when is it needed?

What can we do when a person dies owning an estate in more than one country (i.e. the UK and Spain)

This is a fairly common situation, where a foreign person dies owning some type of estate (property, bank account, assets, company shares, etc.) in Spain. In such a situation:

How is the process managed and where is the application for probate done?

Let’s see a fairly common example of the above:

Mary passes away in 2020 in a hospital in the UK after spending her last days with her closest family and relatives. She was a UK citizen although for the past ten years of her life was living in the Canary Islands where she had her domicile.

She owns property both in Spain and the UK.

Mary made a will in the UK appointing executor her eldest son and leave all her estate to the four of her descendants who reside in the UK and Australia.

What are the steps to get Mary’s estate transferred to her four sons?

But before anything, let’s clarify, what is probate?

Probate is legal the process where a person obtains permission to deal with the decedent’s estate. Generally speaking, if a person holds interests in several countries application for probate must be done before the authorities in each country.

Following the above we must distinguish two scenarios:

  1. Estate in the UK
  2. Estate in Spain


Grant of Representation

The term grant of representation, which includes the grant of probate, is the document issued by a probate court in the UK which gives the executor capacity to manage the decedent’s estate.

This, in our example, would be mandatory for the executor to liaise with Mary’s estate in the UK; identify the will, check for the executor, locate and value the estate, pay the IHT and distribute the estate according to the will of the testator.

But, can the grant of representation issued by the probate court in the UK be valid to change the ownership title of Mary’s property located in the Canary Islands?

Unfortunately, succession laws in Spain have different requirements than those set out by the UK regulation thus, once the estate is distributed in the UK and because there is no other will than that Mary made in the UK, the executor must apply again for probate in Spain to distribute the estate located in the Canary Islands.


Applying for probate in Spain

In the example we are revisiting Mary did not make a will in Spain, that is why the executors, after applying for probate in the UK, must apply again for probate in Spain.

At Legaliaspain we emphasize the importance of making a will in Spain as part of an estate planning strategy given that succession laws in Spain attribute mandatory heirship quotes of the estate to the decedent’s descendants.

Application for probate in Spain is not done before a probate court but a notary public, in this act:

  1. The content of the grant of representation, which previously would have to be translated into Spanish by a sworn translator, will be reviewed, heirs, beneficiaries and estate referred in the will identified;
  2. Verification that the persons who hold any rights to the decedent’s estate (named in the will and according to the Spanish succession regulations) are present or duly represented;
  3. The decedent’s estate located in Spain will be listed;
  4. The total value of the decedent’s estate in Spain declared;

This process is often done through a solicitor who will represent the heirs and beneficiaries before the notary public through a power of attorney.

Once the probate is completed IHT tax must be paid to the Spanish tax authorities’ and from this moment, change of the ownership in the title deeds of the property located in Spain can be done.

Further questions regarding probate and inheritance in Spain

Probate in Spain usually triggers many questions to the heirs and the descendants who in some cases reside overseas.

  • How long does the process take to complete?
  • How much is the IHT tax in Spain?
  • What am I supposed to do with the estate once it is under my name?
  • One of the heirs is underage; can they sell the estate received?
  • What if the descendent did not leave a will?
  • Can I access the estate to pay the IHT tax?

At Legaliaspain we are expert probate solicitors and tax advisors which with more than ten years’ experience in probate matters with a cross-border component.  This gives us the experience needed to answer all your questions and process your situation with all the guarantees.

Having a team of registered attorneys and tax advisors who speak your language, who can take care of the estate without you having to fly to Spain and are available at all times, is essential to guarantee your peace of mind.

See all Legaliaspain can do for you with your Spanish probate this link or contact us in the contact form on this page.