Foreign Wills | How to find out if a Spanish Will exists

March 24, 2022 2:50 pm Published by

How can I find out if a Spanish Will exists?

If you own assets in another country, it’s often best practice to make a Will in that jurisdiction. There are exceptions to this rule however and specialist advice must be taken. So when you’re looking at the wishes of somebody who’s died, make sure you have access to all of the Wills they made.

In this article, we’ll look at how you find out whether or not a Spanish Will exists, and how to view it.

Finding out if there’s a Will in Spain

You can find out if the deceased made a Spanish Will by searching the Central Registry of Wills in Spain (the Registro General de Actos de Última Voluntad). If a Spanish Will was signed before a Notary Public then you’ll find it registered here.

Your search will also uncover the name of the Notary who witnessed the Will. That’s helpful because you can contact the Notary to request a copy of the Will. If that particular Notary has retired or moved on, then another Notary in the same municipality will hold the Will. It will be bound into a volume of original documents signed before that Notary during the year in question.

If you’re named as a beneficiary, then the Notary can send you a copy of the Will. If you’re not a named beneficiary then you request will simply be declined unless you can show an interest in the Estate or some other valid reason.

What happens if there is no Spanish Will?

You may know that the deceased had Spanish assets, but your search of the Central Registry of Wills tells you that there is no Spanish Will. What happens next?

Ordinarily the estate will then be administered according to the deceased’s wishes set out in any English Will. But this can get complicated. The lawyers need to unravel the differences in the jurisdictions, and the varying laws relating to inheritance, intestacy, and tax. You’ll need a lawyer experienced in administering cross-border estates.

Perhaps the deceased made neither a Spanish, nor an English Will. In circumstances in which the deceased made no Will at all, then the assets will be distributed in line with intestacy rules.

Whether UK intestacy laws apply, or it falls to Spanish intestacy laws, depends upon a number of factors including where the deceased was ‘habitually resident’ at the time of their death. This is not as straightforward as working out where they spent the majority of their time. It’s multifactorial and again, best left to a lawyer experienced in cross-border succession.

How to make a Spanish Will

To avoid unnecessary complications in handling your Spanish estate, simply draft separate Wills for your Spanish based, and UK based assets. There are occasions where one Will for both is the best option but that’s quite rare.

To draft a Spanish Will, you’ll need to:

  • Instruct a lawyer to draft your Will. They’ll make sure your Will is compliant with Spanish inheritance laws. Our lawyers can do this for you.
  • Sign your Will before a Notary in Spain, or before a Notary Public in the UK (or any other country)
  • The Notary will then register the Spanish Will at the Central Registry of Wills in Madrid.

Please get in touch if you’d like any help with finding a Spanish Will for someone who has died, or drafting a Will for assets based in Spain. Our team of cross-border lawyers have expertise in Spanish law and we’d be happy to help.

Graphic by Danny Jenkins and belongs exclusively to Marc White & Co and Danny Jenkins.

© 2022

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This post was written by Marc White