I am an Executor on a Spanish estate. Do I still need an N.I.E.?

The answer is simple: Yes.

Any person appearing in a Will that is going to be used for the administration of a Spanish estate, whether this is an English or a Spanish Will, requires a N.I.E. number. Obviously, this applies to those who inherit the asset but also to those who are not beneficiaries under the Will but have been appointed as Executors of the estate. In the event of several executors there is no need to get N.I.E. for all of them unless they have been appointed in a joint basis whereby all their signatures are required for any document with legal implications.

The above means that if Joe Bloggs died with no Spanish Will but he had an English Will that covered all his assets around the world and in that Will he appointed his brother and his trusted solicitor as Executors, both of them will need a N.I.E number and both will have to fly to Spain to attend the signing of the deed of inheritance at the Notary’s office. If this is not convenient, they can give power of attorney to someone based in Spain (ideally a lawyer or someone they trust) to sign the deeds on their behalf.

With regards to the N.I.E. this can be obtained in different ways:

– In person at the local police station in Spain

– In person at one of the Consular offices or delegations of Spain in the UK ( Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London or Manchester)

– By way of granting power of attorney to someone based in Spain

For those who are not aware, there is no need to appoint an Executor in a Spanish Will as the heir/beneficiary has the same powers as a UK Executor. This is a mistake that many people make when signing their Spanish Wills. They appoint Executors when these are not necessary. Having said that, there is no harm in appointing Executors on a Spanish Will or in an English Will that is going to be used in Spain. It is just not as necessary and important as in the UK. In the end is up to the Testator or Testatrix to decide.



Can I complete the purchase of a property in Spain without a NIE?


In a clear homage to my youngest daughter’s favourite cartoon: yes you can!

I am talking about NIEs and not laying bricks but contrariliy to what happens in the Bob the Builder’s cartoons, the lack of NIE will not necessarily lead to a happy ending. A NIE number (tax number for non-residents who either live, work or own property in Spain) is very important and has to be obtained sooner or later.

The common  perception is that it is not possible to complete the purchase of a property in Spain without a NIE. This is not true as it is in deed possible to sign and complete the purchase without the said number. The Notary who drafts the deeds will warn the purchaser of his/her obligation to obtain the said number but completion will not be stopped. However, once the purchase has been completed, the purchaser will have 30 days to obtain the NIE and pay the transfer tax as no tax can be paid without a NIE in place. This 30 days window seems wide enough but the purchaser needs to bear in mind that obtaining a NIE is not as straightofroward as it looks and the procedure could take several days and sometimes weeks. In the meantime, the property will continue to be registered in the name of the previous owner. Furthermore, if the tax is not paid withing 30 days from completion, penalties will be applied to the tax due, increasing unneceasrily the tax liability.

This is why although a NIE is not compulsory for completion, it is strongly advisable and we always prefer to wait until the client has a NIE number in place. If the client is in a hurry to complete (imagine a purchase with a large discount being offered on the basis that the purchase is completed in one week) then the lack of NIE will not be an impediment to complete the purchase. It will be sufficient to inform the purchaser of the need to obtain the said NIE as soon as possible or, if instructed by the client to obtain it ourselves on his behalf, take the necessary steps to obtain the said number. 

Once again, not all urbans legends surrounding Spain are true. This is just another example of an urban legend that has been manipulated and misunderstood although, as usual with urban legends, there is some wisdom behind the advice.




Changes in obtaining NIE in Spain

Good news! There has been a relevant development in Spain and from now on it is possible, again, to apply for a NIE numbers in Spain through a representative.  This means that those British nationals who require a NIE in Spain can give power of attorney to someone based in Spain and enable him or her to obtain their NIE on their behalf.

For the last 4 months it was no longer possible to obtain a NIE in Spain through a representative. However, a group of lawyers and professionals, interested in changing the situation, raised numerous complaints with the Spanish Government and managed to change a situation that seemed unfair and unnecesarily complicated.

As many people know, a NIE is necessary for several type of transactions such as opening a bank account, buying a property, inheriting an asset, paying taxes, etc. It is therefore a compulsory document for those who either own assets, plan to acquire them or intend to work in Spain.

From now on, those who require a NIE number have 3 ways to obtain it:

1. If the person is in Spain, he/she can go to the local Police Station and apply for the NIE in person.

2. If the person lives in the UK and cannot travel to Spain, he/she can apply through the Spanish Consulate in London or Edinburgh, depending on the territory where the said person lives.

3. Last but not least, the person can grant power of attorney to a third person to obtain the NIE in Spain.

This is a very positive outcome that restores the previous situation and returns UK nationals the right to obtain a NIE through power of attorney and without having to fly to Spain.

It is also a positive development that helps Spain to re-gain, little by little, the confidence of the foreign investor. The road to recovery is, in deed, very long and full of obstacles but hey, this can be a good starting point.


Watch Out: Problems with the NIE

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Some of the readers of this blog already know that there was a change in the law in 2011 and it was no longer possible to obtain a NIE number in Spain through power of attorney. This polemic decision was accepted by most of the local police stations in Spain except for a few of them who were still providing NIE numbers to those lawyers attending the police station with a proper power of attorney. Well, since the beginning of this year it is no longer possible to obtain NIE through a power of attorney and this also applies to those few police stations who defied the previous communicate and still issued NIE numbers.

Ok, so what is situation now? If you are British and you want to buy property or are inheriting assets in Spain, between other scenarios, you will have two way to apply for the NIE. The first one is to fly to Spain and attend the local police station, queue for several hours and eventually get the NIE number (although in some occassions you may have to come back 1 or 2 days later). If you don’t fancy a trip to Spain, your other option will be to go to the Spanish Consulate in the UK. This means that depending on where you live you will have to go to either London or Edinburgh. For further information on the competent territories please have a look to my post of the 16th December 2011.

This is clearly a step backwards and may affect the interest of foreign purchasers considering buying in Spain. It could also prove a real nightmare for elderly people or those who are ill who may have inherited an asset in Spain but do not have the health to travel to Spain or the Consulates to obtain a NIE number.

I hope this decision will be withdrawn but in the meantime there is no other way around it. However, if you live in the UK and require assistance with the paperwork for obtaining the NIE you can contact the Consulates or contact lawyers like ourselves as we are familiar with the procedure and can help to overcome potential problems involved in the procedure.





The Spanish Consulate in Manchester has closed- Now what?

A little bit of bad news this week. The Spanish Consulate in Manchester has been closed down. Apparently, it has been considered redundant as there are Consulates in London and Edinburgh. This means that if you live in one of the following regions (Cleveland, Cumbria, Durham, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyshire, North Yokshire, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, West Yorkshire, Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone) you will now belong to the jurisdiction of the Spanish Consulate in Edinburgh.

Any person from those regions willing to apply for a NIE number through the Spanish Consulate or willing to sign a power of attorney or public deed before a Spanish Consul, will have to travel to Edinburgh.  This can prove complicated for most people, specially if they live in England. However, there are other options. The first one is to travel to Spain and sign there the required documents before a Spanish Notary or the Spanish Authorities, in the case of the NIE numbers. This can prove sometimes unnecesarily complicated, specially for those who are not fit to travel. Fortunately, there is another option which consists in contacting one of the few Spanish lawyers based in the UK such as the author of this article.

The said lawyer will draft the necessary documents and organise the signature before a UK Notary Public as well as its legalisation, saving the person the costs of having to travel to Spain.

So, a combination of good and bad news. It is definetly sad to see the Consulate close after more than 20 years in Manchester but it is good to know that there are a few Spanish lawyers in the UK who are still able to assist with most of the legal work that was previously carried out by the Notarial department of the Consulate.

Photograph from www.freefoto.com