Inheritance Laws in Spain

Updated on Thursday 23rd April 2020

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Nationals and foreign citizens living in Spain have numerous rights, according to the Civil Code. Among these, the rights to own various assets and disposing of them as they want are two of the fundamental ones. When it comes to the disposal of assets, no matter their form, it is advisable for a person to make a will in Spain by respecting the national legislation.

There are several inheritance laws that need to be respected in Spain and, below, our lawyers provide important information on the most significant provision of these laws. You can rely on our inheritance lawyers in Spain if you need assistance in claiming an estate or drafting a testament.
 

The main laws that provide for inheritance in Spain


The first and foremost law which provides for inheritance in Spain is the Civil Code, as mentioned above. However, Spain also follows EU Directives which in 2018 determined the local authorities to make some important changes in respect to the disposal of inheritance in case foreign citizens legally living in Spain.

The following laws need to be considered when it comes to inheritance in Spain:
 
  1. the Civil Code which contains most of the provisions of the division of an estate and the creation of a will in Spain;
  2. the Rules of Civil Procedure which provide for litigation cases related to inheritances;
  3. the Hague Convention of 1961 on the Conflicts of Laws relating to the Form of Testamentary Dispositions;
  4. the regional rules and regulations of Spanish Autonomous Communities.

We left the regional regulations last in order for you to know that these are Aragon, Catalonia, Galicia, Navarre, the Balearic Islands, and the Basque Country. In these communities, special regulations apply with respect to inheritances.

If you need information on any of the laws applicable in any of these regions, our lawyers in Spain can guide you. They can also assist in the making of a will in accordance with the national legislation in Spain.
 

The will in Spain – the most important legal provisions


The first thing to consider when considering the Spanish inheritance laws is that in order for an estate to be divided according to a person’s wish, the respective person must draft a will. There are also cases where no will is prepared, and the estate is divided under the strict provisions of the law.

One must consider that there are three types of wills in Spain:
 
  • the open will or testament which is drafted before a notary and which is legalized immediately;
  • the closed will which is drafted before a notary or a lawyer, without these knowing the content of the document;
  • the holographic will which is written and dated by the testator.

Out of all three forms, the first one – the open testament, is the most employed in Spain.

No matter the type of will you want to have drafted, our inheritance lawyers in Spain can advise you.


Disposal of the estate under the Law of Obligatory Heirs


The Spanish Inheritance Law contains specific provisions on the distribution of the estate left by testament by a national citizen. According to this law, in the case of a person who was married at the time of death, 50% of the joint estate is left to the living spouse. The other half will be divided as it follows:
 
  • 1/3 of the assets will be equally distributed among the children;
  • 1/3 of the estate can be freely disposed of, according to the wishes of the testator;
  • 1/3 of the estate can be reserved for children and administered by the spouse and passed on to them after the administrator dies;
  • where the deceased has no spouse or children, 50% of the estate will be left to the surviving parents.

Because of this division of the estate, it is important for Spanish citizens to draft wills. This way, 1/3 of the assets can be distributed according to their wishes.

Other aspects to consider is related to the taxation of inheritance which is subject to progressive rates in Spain. Our lawyers can also help you make a will.
 

Foreign citizens and the Inheritance Law in Spain


According to the law, foreign citizens have the right to acquire property in Spain and then leave it to their heirs through a will. Upon the distribution of assets, the foreign testator can decide if the Spanish Inheritance Law applies or his/her home country’s law applies.

An important aspect to consider when buying a property in Spain is for the foreign citizen to notify the Ministry for Industry, Trade and Tourism for purchased with a value of more than 3 million euros. Also, in order to obtain the estate, a foreign heir must obtain a Spanish tax identification number.

If you need information on the Inheritance Law and want to make a will in Spain, please contact our lawyers.