We thought that a case study regarding probate and inheritance may be helpful related to the death of a spouse or a Family Member with Assets in Spain, sadly. Most frequently it is a husband or wife that contacts us for help, or often one of the children.
We obviously realise that the family is grieving and try to help as sympathetically and professionally as possible. Our aim is to make matters as easy as possible for the family explaining the steps and helping with the process of a probate or inheritance.
To use a recent example, a lady contacted us whose husband sadly had passed away over Christmas. She has just received the death certificates, one of which we will need an original to apply for a Certificate of Last Will. In this case the certificate was a Spanish one. If it was a UK, Irish or from another country, we would maybe need a Hague Apostille on the back of it.
Contacting us early helps as then we can explain the process and timing of a probate.
I explained to our lady that we need to start the process by asking her for various documentation which is important to have. Firstly, to calculate any inheritance tax she may need to pay. In addition, to calculate the overall costs of notary, land registry, solicitor, town hall tax (plusvalía) and other related costs. A client should always have a breakdown of costs and have it explained.
If contacted we can advise what is required to work out the value of the assets owned by the deceased, who is/are the heir/s and any tax allowances applicable. We will help all we can. In this case, the lady arranged an appointment and brought all the paperwork we had requested to the office. With this, within a day, we were able to calculate the inheritance tax and breakdown to transfer the assets of half a property, a car, and half a bank account into her name. She accepted the costs, paid an initial provision of funds to cover the work we would start with. She was advised that we only need the balance a week before completion. There is no need for all the costs for a probate to be paid at the beginning. Especially when it could be months before completion.
Next steps are for us to send the original death certificate to Madrid for a certificate that evidences the Last Will in Spain (if there was one). If no Will in Spain this certificate confirms this. If we have a copy of a Spanish Will and are clear regarding the inheritor (s) then we can start to prepare draft powers of attorney if needed. These are often signed in the inheritors’ home countries (wherever they may live in the the world) and after they are received, we can apply for NIE numbers if appropriate on their behalf. NIES for inheritors are required.
If there is a Bank account, we will leave it to the last moment to contact the Bank to order a certificate of balances as at date of death, as when they know, they usually freeze the account. Different banks have different policies. Then we can start to prepare for completion of the probate at the Notary. We then request the balance of the funds from the client, just before we need it. This will include any inheritance tax, which unfortunately, needs to be paid before assets can be used.
We complete at the Notary, either with the client, for example, our lady. Or using powers of attorney. The inheritance deed then has to go to the Land Registry and Tax Office. Not until it all comes back stamped can we send the information to the Bank for it to be unblocked. Please note that Banks need to meet new customers due to money laundering, but we can help if we have power of attorney to a certain extent. If there is a car to be sold or taken off the road, then this can now be done also. And any property can be sold. It might take one to two months for the final deeds to come back stamped. Then it is very important that the inheritors write their own Spanish Wills and decide what to do with the property.
If we can help any of your family or friends with probates and inheritance like this lady, please let us know.