Wills for use in Spain

Let's be clear. If you have any assets in Spain - a house, a business, a car, a bank account or pretty much anything else - you should make a Will valid for use in Spain. If you live in Spain this is even more important. This guide tells you how to go about making a Will in Spain.

This guide covers…

This guide is about how to make a Will that will be valid for use in Spain.

It describes, in particular, how to make a Will in the area of Andalusia/Andalucía – which contains the Costa del Sol. See a map here. Please note that certain aspects of the law in Spain vary from one “autonomous community” (comunidad autónomalightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject to another.

It covers both Wills prepared in Spain and those prepared in your home country.

This guide does not cover the process of dealing with an inheritance in Spain. See our Guide to Inheritance in Spain and our Guide to Dealing with a Death inn Spain for related information.

Introduction

Making a Will is one of the most important things that you need to do, especially if you own any property in Spain. It can save you a huge amount of money. It costs very little. It gives you peace of mind. It is easy to do.

Yet very few people do it. It is estimated that fewer than 25% of foreigners with property in Spain have made a relevant Will.

This is a big mistake.

Video guide to making a Will in Spain

You can learn about making a Will for use in Spain by watching this full-length interview (below) with Spanish legal expert Mari Carmen, or by scrolling down and reading the detailed guide that she has written with us.

The video guide below is a playlist – split into several parts. One part will play right after the other.

Why do I need to make a Will for use in Spain?

There are four main reasons. Each of you will probably rank these in a different order of importance.

The first is that it can create a great opportunity for planning your affairs to reduce your liability to inheritance tax in Spain and elsewhere. This can save you very large amounts of money. See our Guide to Inheritance Planning in Spain.

The second is that making a Will helps make sure that the people who inherit your property when you die are the people you want to inherit: not those the Spanish government thinks should benefit.

The third is that it will make dealing with your affairs in Spain much quicker. In Spain, if you do not deal with an inheritance and pay the taxes due on it within six months after a person passes away, there is a penalty to pay.

The fourth is that you will probably sleep more easily knowing that your affairs are in order.

Which Wills are valid in Spain?

The law of Spain recognises any Will that is valid under the law of Spain, valid under the law of the place where the Will was made, valid under the law of the place where you are habitually resident or valid under the law of the country of which you are a national.

This means that they will recognise pretty much any Will that you have made – whether it’s a Spanish Will or a Will from overseas.

If you have made a Will in your home country then, technically, you do not need to make a new will in Spain. However, there are good reasons for doing so – as explained above and below.

For most people, the choice will be between using their ‘home’ Will to deal with their affairs in Spain or using a Will drawn up in Spain. However, using a Will made abroad makes the process much longer and more expensive for your heirs. It may also give surprising results! Generally, it is better to make a Spanish Will.

How do you make a Spanish Will?

In Spain, there are several permitted ways of making a will but the only realistic way for most people – and almost all foreigners – is by making the Will is in front of a Notary Public.

Making a will in front of a Notary Public in Spain is very simple.

  1. You decide what you want to put in your Will. It is always worth taking advice about this from your lawyer or specialist accountant. This might cost €200-300. This can save you tens or hundreds of thousands.
  2. Once you’ve decided what you want to say in your Will, you go to the office of your local Notary Public. Notaries’ addresses can be found on the College of Notaries website. It is helpful to choose one who speaks your language. You explain to them (or, more likely, their clerk) that you want a Will and what you want to put in it.If you’ve sought legal advice about the contents of your Will then your lawyer will probably write a letter to the Notary saying what you want to do. In this case you only need to attend the Notary for the signing of the Will.
  3. You attend, in person, at the office of the Notary at an agreed time in order to sign your Will. You will need to take with you your passport as proof of identity.
  4. When you arrive at the Notary’s office either (if you speak Spanish) the clerk will go through the contents of your Will to check that it reflects your wishes or (if you don’t speak Spanish) you need to attend the Notary with an interpreter (usually provided by your lawyer or the notary) who will translate the Will for you and check that it reflects your wishes. Either way, if the Will is not quite right, it will be amended whilst you wait.
  5. You will then be taken into the Notary’s room where the Notary will read through the document to you. If he speaks your language, he will do so in your language. If he does not, it will be in Spanish but translated via the interpreter. In either case, the Notary will make sure that you understand what you are signing, and that you have the mental and legal capacity to make a Will.
  6. The Notary will then examine your proof of identity (if he’s not already done so) and you will then sign the Will in his presence.
  7. The Notary will then witness the Will and state on it that, in his opinion, you have adequate mental capacity to make the Will. He will also state on it that he has identified you by reference to your passport number.
  8. You will then be charged a fee for the Notary’s work. The average cost (including the Notary’s fee and the interpreter’s fee) is around €200 to €350.
  9. The Notary (or, more likely, their clerk) will then register your Will at the Wills Registry. This allows it to be traces easily when you die. Spanish Notaries always keep the original documents in their files. You can normally take with you an official copy of the Will on the same day of signing.

As with all documents that are witnessed by a Notary Public, the Will is a public document. It is registered at the Wills Registry. However, it cannot be read by others until after your death.

Once you have received the Will, it is a good idea either to let your children or other heirs have a copy of it (the better solution if you are not concerned about privacy) or, at least, to tell them that you have made a Will and which notary prepared it. An easy was is just to send them the first page of the Will, which will have the notaries details on it but little else.

Whilst you’re doing all of this – though it’s not strictly needed – it’s an extremely good idea to put the Will in a big envelope marked ‘Will’ and also to put in the envelope instructions about what you want to happen about funerals etc and a list of all of your assets including, in the case of investments, the relevant contact point and reference number. Once again, this will make dealing with your affairs very much easier and cheaper. See our Guide to Dealing with a Death in Spain for more about this.

Every lawyer will tell you that their heart sinks when a distraught son or daughter, following your death, brings into their office a suitcase full of old bank account statements, share certificates, correspondence about investments etc. They then have to follow up every single one of these leads in case you have €1million in the account; yet they know in their heart of hearts that most of them will have long since been closed. This housekeeping is nothing to do with making a Will but something you really ought to do at the same time.

How much does it cost to make a Spanish Will?

This depends on whether you need a translator. See above.

It also depends upon the length and complexity of your Will and whether you seek legal advice before drafting the Spanish will. See above.

How long does it take to make a Spanish Will?

From telling the Notary or the lawyer what you want to say in your Will to signing and receiving the copy of the Will, typically about five days.

In cases of urgency, it can be a great deal quicker. The Notary can even visit you – for example, in hospital.

The Will is effective as soon as it has been signed in front of the Notary.

What happens to the Will in Spain?

Unlike in many countries, where the Will itself is a valuable document, under the Spanish system it does not matter if you lose your Will. The original is always with the Spanish Notary and registered at the Wills Registry.

What if you want to change the Will?

You simply make a new Will. That is then recorded at the Wills Registry, and the valid Will is always the latest one made.

What happens when you die?

The process for dealing with an inheritance in Spain is fully explained in our Guide to Inheritance in Spain.

Conclusion

Make a Will. Better still, make a Will in Spain that covers only your affairs in Spain and make sure that your ‘home’ Will is updated so that it is clear that it deals with your affairs everywhere else except Spain.

You will be surprised by just how much money, time and trouble this will save your heirs.

You may also want to read:

European Directory of Notaries

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