We are all told that we should make out our last will and testament in good time. Understanding what "good time" really means is anybody's guess. But, I think we all know that it alludes to the fact that we should make out a will well before we "pop our clogs". However, it's something that most of us keep putting off. I guess it's one of those things that we would rather put to the back of our minds. Of course the advice is very valid, and in our heart of hearts we know this to be true; but it doesn't make it any more palatable.
Of course many people these days decide to retire to sunnier climes, Spain being one of the favourite destinations for many. But, Spanish law can be quite quirky, and with respect to things like inheritance tax, the law is quite different to that of the UK, and that is one of the main reasons that you should consider making out a Spanish Will.
There is quite a lot of scaremongering, particularly about inheritance tax here in Spain. Here in this post we are going to separate fact from fiction so that you will be best informed regarding the necessity for making Spanish Wills. Making out a will here in Spain is quite painless and easily affordable, and you will find plenty of help available, particularly if you carry out an online search. There are plenty of English-speaking solicitors who specialise in dealing with Wills and Probate and you will find the whole process of making out a will to be quite painless.
In the UK you will normally appoint a firm of solicitors to help you in recording your last will and testament. There is also plenty of help to be found on the Internet, and indeed you can download packages for a relatively small fee that will help and guide you in making out your will. These "do it yourself" packages are readily available although you will still need to go to a solicitor in order to have your will witnessed and certified. In Spain, they have what are referred to as notaries, and the notaries are qualified to deal with certain matters of law, and in this particular case the recording of Wills.
Notaries are relatively expensive to employ, and as an average you can expect to pay approximately €150 to have your will made out and legally recorded. In theory, as a UK citizen, UK law should be applied to your last will and testament, and the sovereign state of Spain recognises this rule. However, when it comes to the "immovables" of your estate, it is actually UK law that specifies that the country where you hold your “immovables” (property and land) should govern these immovables via its own laws.
In the UK a person making out their last will and testament is entitled to leave their entire estate to anyone they want. That is the reason why the following example you sometimes see lonely old widowers leaving their estates to their cats. This cannot happen under Spanish law, and this is because Spanish law dictates that the family, (the details of which are clearly explained in terms of category of relations), will inherit the entire estate in certain proportions. Generally speaking the spouse is entitled to 50% of the estate, whilst the natural children of the deceased are entitled to two thirds of the remainder.
If you do not have a Spanish Will then the rest of your estate will be distributed in accordance with UK law, but the truth of the matter is that this can take many months or even years in the absence of a Spanish Will. It is therefore in the best interests of all of the potential benefactors to ensure that a Spanish Will is in place as this will speed up the process of probate.
If you have moved to Spain, but have an estate also in the UK, it is advisable to have both a UK Will and Spanish Will in place. This will help to avoid any legal issues that may arise, which you heirs would ultimately have to deal with.
There is plenty of advice and help available online, so if you are considering lodging a Spanish Will, (and this is the firmly recommended), then carry out some of the online research to find a local Spanish notary to advise and help.
Please have a read of our other related article, Spanish Inheritance Tax Explained
Image courtesy of julianrod on Flickr.