As in many other countries, living together when not married or as common law partners generally does not give rights to property in Spain or other assets. It can also give rise to huge inheritance tax on assets inherited.
More information is given below but we strongly recommend all common law partners with assets in Spain to draw up Spanish Wills and take advice. Secondly, you should consider inexpensive private agreements to be drawn up to cover their situation.
In Spain, there is a very important difference to the UK, for example. A common law partner owning half of a property in Spain is NOT automatically going to inherit the other half of the property. In the UK, for example, they would upon the joint owner’s death. This is because property in Spain is owned in shares. The assets of the deceased will go firstly to their heir/s according to their testament or to their official next of kin, not necessarily to the joint owner.
This will not be their common law partner unless they are named in a testament. Or if there is no testament they are only official next of kin because of an official civil partnership “pareja de hecho”. Or they will be if the marriage has been registered.
“Pareja de hecho” is a law in Spain allowing a common law partnership to be registered, whether homosexual or heterosexual. By registering the partnership officially, there is more likelihood of legal rights and for tax allowances.
Otherwise, even if the common law partner is named in a Testament, there are serious tax implications for a union not being registered. Common law partners are unrelated. Therefore they fall into the most expensive category for inheritance tax. Simply, not being married can cost you many tens of thousands of euros in taxes.
By officially registering the union, there is the likelihood of you being able to obtain the tax allowances as if married. Although rules can vary in different regions. Any common law partners with assets in Spain should seek our advice. Non-Spaniards can register at a town hall as “pareja de hecho” if they have been residing in Spain for more than 10 years and are officially registered at the town hall (on the padron).
Spanish law does not automatically recognise claims by a live-in partner to assets. If a couple part company then the legal owner of the assets originally retains ownership. Unlike in marriage, the law does not allow for when the other party may have been contributing towards those assets.
However, if the property was purchased in a sole name after the couple got together then it could be recognised that they are jointly entitled to half the property. It is a good idea for unmarried couples to get a lawyer to draw up a private agreement between them. It is legally binding and inexpensive and can avoid a lot of problems. Especially if there are also children in the relationship regarding their care and residence.
If you have children or more complicated arrangements you should consider a private agreement between you and should seek legal advice. In many cases you should not discount marriage for tax reasons in Spain.