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If a family member has passed away and they owned real estate or a bank account in Spain, the following information may be of interest to you. Here is a description of the steps you will need to take to inherit in Spain:

Step 1: Obtain the Death Certificate

If the deceased person passed away in Spain, you can request the death certificate online through the Spanish government’s website or from the civil registry office in the city where the person died. Anyone can request this certificate, and the only required information is:

  • Full name of the deceased
  • Place of death, which may be the same as their residence or different.
  • Date of death

You will need to wait at least 15 days after the date of death to obtain the certificate.

If the death occurred abroad, for example, in the UK or the US, the death certificate will be issued by the authorities of the country of death. In most of the cases, the death certificate will need to be legalized through the Apostille and translated into Spanish by official translator. 

Requirements of foreing official documents to be valid in Spain

Step 2: Obtain the Certificate of Last Will

It is mandatory to obtain the “Certificate of Last Will” to complete the inheritance process before a Notary. You can request this certificate online with the same information as mentioned above. This certificate will allow you to check whether the deceased made a will in Spain.

Step 3: Search for the Will

If the deceased person made a Will in Spain, the heirs will need to obtain a certified copy of it. To do this, you should contact the notary who received the Will. However, the deceased may also have made a Will in his home country with implications in Spain, so it is necessary to check it to apply the correct Will.

In the absence of a Will, the law of the country where the deceased had their habitual residence will apply. In this case, a different document will need to be obtained, for example in the case of the UK the Spanish Notary will request Probate from the UK. 

Step 4: Create an Inventory and Contact All Heirs

Once you have gathered the above-mentioned documents, you can begin the search for assets that belonged to the deceased to create an inventory. This includes real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, etc. The inventory should include the value of the assets, taking into account any debts, to decide whether it its convenient to accept the inheritance. It is highly recommended to be accompanied by a professional expert in the field to guide you through the process.

Additionally, it is essential to ensure that all heirs are present, either in person or represented by a third party through a power of attorney when signing the Deed of Inheritance before a notary.

After these preliminary steps, you must undertake other equally essential procedures to settle the estate:

  • Obtain a NIE (Foreigner Identification Number): This is mandatory for identification as a foreigner in Spain and is required for most administrative procedures, including the payment of taxes and inheritance tax.
  • Schedule an appointment with a notary or divide the inheritance through a private document. The notary’s fees are calculated based on the value of the estate and the number of heirs. If the inheritance consists solely of bank accounts, it is not mandatory use the services of Notary; the division can be done through a privately signed document between the heirs.
  • Payment of Inheritance Taxes and “Municipal plus-valia”: The calculation of inheritance taxes varies depending on the autonomous community of residence. In some autonomous communities, such as Valencia, there are significant exemptions regarding inheritance taxes. The so called “Municipal plus-valía” is a local tax managed by the town hall of each municipality, which corresponds to the increase of the value of the land. It is essential to hire a professional to calculate inheritance taxes, considering the deceased’s country of origin and the heirs, especially regarding treaties signed between different countries to avoid double taxation. The maximum deadline for paying inheritance taxes in Spain is 6 months from the date of death, and it is possible to request an extension of this deadline within the following 5 months to avoid penalties or surcharges.
  • Registering Properties and Unlocking Bank Accounts: After the distribution of the inheritance is defined, either through a notarized deed or a privately signed document, there are formalities that should not be forgotten:
    • For real estate properties, request the registration of property transfers from the Land Registry to formalize the succession.
    • For bank accounts, present all the documents to the bank to release the funds in the deceased’s accounts.
  • Change of Holder for Services (Water, Electricity, Property Management) and Local Taxes with the Town Hall: At the end of the procedure, there are steps not to be forgotten:
    • Inform water, electricity, insurance companies, etc., that you are the new owner to change the contract and the bank account for bill payments.
    • Contact the property management company to provide your contact information and ensure that you receive all important information regarding the community (if applicable), such as fee payments, community rules, etc.
    • The IBI (Property Tax), the Spanish equivalent of the property tax, is an annual tax administered by the Town Hall or a local tax agency (SUMA in the Valencian Community). Contact one of them to register as the new owner and provide your bank details for direct debits.

Remember that from the date of death, you are responsible for the debts of the assets; you become the owner and beneficiary of both rights and obligations.

Our firm specializes in advising and managing inheritances for non-residents in Spain. We will be delighted to guide you through the inheritance process, ensuring that it is settled as smoothly and conveniently as possible for the heirs. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

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