Many Britons own property in Spain. The majority of them will know by now how convenient is to make a Will to cover their Spanish assets. They will have seen it on TV programs or read about in in the press or on the internet. However, I still find many cases where a Spanish Will has not been made.
Let’s clarify first that making a Spanish Will is not compulsory, as UK Wills can be perfectly valid in Spain. However, in reality, the situation proves to be quite different. The costs involved in having to translate and legalise a UK Will for its use in Spain are noticeably higher than those involved in making a Spanish Will. At the same time, the Spanish estate will suffer unnecessary delays as it will be necessary to wait for Probate in the UK prior to doing any paperwork in Spain. The problem becomes even bigger when the UK Will refers to terms of Common law such as “Trusts” and “Executors” which are not always recognised in the Spanish legal system. If that is the case, then applying a UK Will to the Spanish estate of a UK national could turn into a bureaucratic nightmare.
Last but not least, the British trend to appoint executors in their Wills could also become a problem as now, under Spanish law, any person mentioned in the Will should have a non-residents fiscal number, known as NIE. This implies that the executors would also have to obtain a NIE number, which could prove complicated and expensive when not being able to fly to Spain and request this in person.
It is then no exaggeration when we say that making a Spanish Will can simplify the process of winding up a Spanish estate.
The Spanish Will has to be restricted to the Spanish assets and should be drafted by a fully qualified Spanish lawyer or Spanish Notary. The former can be found in Spain and the UK (as some UK law firms do count with in house Spanish lawyers) and the latter can only be found in Spain. The Will can be signed either in Spain or in the UK and will be valid as long as it complies with certain formalities.
To summarise, there is no obligation to have a Spanish Will to cover the Spanish assets but this is advisable and failing to make one would not benefit the beneficiaries of the deceased who will incur unnecessary expenses and suffer complicated delays that could have been easily avoided.