When the Spanish estate is not only made of properties 

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When inheriting assets in Spain, the first thing that comes to mind is property but the truth is that assets also involve bank accounts, shares and other type of properties such as a car or even a boat.

We have written various posts about the procedure of dealing with inheriting a residential property but not enough posts on a related matter like the money in the Spanish bank. These accounts are often used to pay utility bills and taxes related to the property. However, some people who have been living in Spain for long periods of time end up, understandably, gathering important amounts of money in the bank. 

Whether you are dealing with an estate with both property and bank accounts or just a simple estate with a bank account, it will be necessary to contact the Bank in order to obtain a certificate showing the balance at the time of death. In certain regions of Spain, like the Balearic Islands, the bank will also provide you with a statement showing the transactions that took place in the 12 months before the death.

Banks generally will want to see the original death certificate, the certificate of last will and the last will of the deceased. Don’t be surprised if the bank only accepts to release information to a beneficiary or to a person that holds power of attorney from a beneficiary. This is also applicable to lawyers. Contrarily to what happens in the UK, where the solicitor’s word indicating that he/she is acting for the beneficiary or the personal representative is sufficient for the bank, the Spanish Banks will want to see a letter of authority or a power of attorney from the beneficiary to the lawyer. In certain occasions, the bank will only accept to release the information if the documentation is presented at his branch in person by the beneficiary or his lawyer! Finally, some banks will charge a fee for opening a “testamentary file” and producing the certificate, something that is clearly unfair and abusive and that should be challenged if demanded.

All the UK documentation, such as the death certificate, Grant of Probate and UK Will (if applicable) needs to be   translated by an Official Translator and legalised with The Hague Apostille to be valid in Spain.

Once the bank is informed about the deceased’s demise, the account will be frozen until the Inheritance Deed is signed and the Taxes paid. Once all this happens, the beneficiaries or the lawyer holding power of attorney will appear in person at the bank supplying the Inheritance Deed, the certification of the payment of the inheritance tax and they will sign a document agreeing the destination of the money, either transferring this directly to a UK bank account or keeping it in a Spanish account.

The above can seem complicated and the fact that each bank (and branch!) operates differently can make the whole procedure look far more complex than what it really is but in the end everything is down to providing the bank with the documentation requested and fulfilling its criteria so funds can be released as per the beneficiaries wishes.



  1. Karen Seas Avatar
    Karen Seas

    Thanks for the helpful information in the article Antonia, however La Caixa seem a particularly aggresive bank to deal with following a bereavement.

    In the UK the process is relatively straightforward, yet in Spain, it seems like unfair commercial practice to extort money from customers at a time in your life when you are feeling most vulnerable. They charged me a fee for opening a “testamentary file”. I am at a loss to understand why as its now 4 years on, and they are still witholding money from what was our joint account? I always thought that a joint account meant that both account holders could withdraw money at any time, even after the death of the other?

    In addition, I cant understand why EU citizens should have to get death certificates translated and hague apostilled. Surely an official document of any EU country should be equally applicable in another?

  2. AntonioGuillen Avatar

    Dear Karen,

    Yes, some Spanish banks charge a testamentary fee and I agree with you that this fee is unfair and unnecessary as it does not guarantee that the bank account will be dealt properly. You will still have to do most of the work and provide the bank with all the necessary documents and forms, which is not an easy task.

    Unlike in the UK, in Spain any monies in a joint account do not pass automatically to the co-holder of the account on his/her death. A probate process needs to be dealt with and banks are far from supportive with this process.

    My advise would be to instruct a lawyer to help you with this process, specially if the deceased died outside Spain.

    Let me know if you need any help.



  3. Alistair Avatar

    Hi Antonio
    Can you tell me the difference between the certificate of last will and the last will of the deceased?
    Many thanks

  4. AntonioGuillen Avatar

    Hi Alistair,

    All Spanish Wills are registered with a central Registry in Spain. When someone dies, the first step is to check the Wills Registry and obtain the certificate of last will. The said certificate will indicate whether the deceased granted a Spanish Will or not, and if he/she did, will then provide details of that will i.e. where and when it was signed and the name of the Notary.

    Please bear in mind that only Spanish wills are registered in the central Registry. If the deceased had a UK will which dates after the Spanish Will, the former will not be registered. For this reason, the lawyer dealing with the Spanish estate needs to check the Spanish Wills Registry and also check the content of the UK will, if there is one, to ensure that no revocations have taken place.

    I hope this proves of help. If not, please feel free to send me an email on for more information or advice.


  5. Alistair Avatar

    Thank you Antonio, this clears things up as I have a copy of the Spanish will and there is no UK will.
    Your help is much appreciated.

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