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When a person dies intestate (i.e. without a will) and owns property or assets of any kind, the process that should be followed is complicated and can take time.  The inheritance process in Spain should be completed within six months, so it is best contact your lawyer as soon as possible.

When the death occurs a death certificate will be issued, you will need several original certificates for official entities and if the death certificate is not in Spanish,  it has to be officially translated and legalised (apostille) by the foreign office, this part of the process can be simplified if you request an international death certificate which is already translated.

If the person died abroad their death will be registered in according to the laws of that country.

In cases of intestacy, to be able to deal with someone’s estate, you will need to get a grant of probate (letters of administration) from the Probate Registry; this can be applied for via your solicitor in the UK.  The probate also needs to be legalised by the foreign office.  These documents including the apostilles need to be translated by an official translator before taken to the notary public in Spain for the inheritance deeds to be drawn up following your lawyer’s instructions.

The rules regarding inheritance in the UK changed on the 1st February 2009.

If you are married or in a civil partnership and your estate is worth less than 250.000 pounds including your house, your spouse inherits everything. The rest will go to either the children (if any is under 18 years old, this share will be held in trust until the child reaches 18) or if there are no descendents, to the parents.

If the person who died in Spain was a British national, the death can be also registered with the British Consul.

Your lawyer in Spain will need: – Death certificate, translated and legalised; Copy of the passport (if any) and N.I.E (if any); Probate translated and legalised; Power of attorney from the heirs; Copy of their passports; N.I.E of the beneficiaries;  and a list of assets.  In some cases, copies of birth and marriage certificates and a certificate of law to confirm to the Spanish authorities that the dispositions in the will are lawful are also needed.

Your solicitor in Spain will request certificates from the Central Registry of Spanish Wills for the inexistence of Wills and life insurance policies.

If the deceased had a bank account either open in their name or in joint names with someone else, then you will need to get a certificate from the bank stating how much was in the account at the time of death, as soon as you notify the bank of the death, the account will be frozen until the inheritance is completed.

In Spain the amount to be paid is calculated by reference to each beneficiary.  Under Spanish Law inheritance tax is paid also between spouses, so if you and your spouse are the joint owners of a property and your spouse dies, you will have to pay inheritance tax on the half of the property that your spouse owned, the tax free allowance and rates are different in according to the beneficiary relationship to the deceased, and if you are resident in Spain.  If you die intestate in Spain and there are no claims, there is always the risk the estate will go to the Spanish Government.

It is always best to have a Spanish Will, not only to speed up the inheritance procedure but to protect your property and prevent complications.