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Wills on the Costa del Sol

This guide was written by Manzanares Abogados S.L. (info@manzanaresinternational.com) in collaboration with Guides.Global (office@guides.global).

It was written on 21 April 2016. The law and practice in Spain change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.

Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.

The advice and opinions contained in the guides are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Guides.Global.

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The scope of this guide

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 autónoma) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject to another.

It covers both Wills prepared on the Costa del Sol and those prepared in your home country.

This guide does not cover the process of dealing with an inheritance on the Costa del Sol.

See our Guide to Inheritance on the Costa del Sol and our Guide to Dealing with a Death on the Costa del Sol 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.

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

There are three main reasons.

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

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

What types of Wills are valid on the Costa del Sol?

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.

For most people, the choice will be between using their 'home' Will to deal with their affairs on the Costa del Sol or using a Will drawn up in Spain. However, using a Will made abroad makes the process much longer and expensive for your heirs.

How do I make a Spanish Will?

In Spain, the only way of making a 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. This might cost €200-300.

  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 signing.

  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) 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 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, the lawyer's fee and the interpreter's fee) is around €200 to €250.

  9. The Notary (or, more likely, their clerk) will then register your Will at the Wills Registry. 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.

Once you have received the Will, it is a good idea to let your children or other heirs have a copy of it (the better solution if you are not concerned about privacy).

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 to add to it a list of all of your assets including, in the case of investments, the contact point and reference number. Once again, this will make dealing with your affairs very much easier and cheaper.

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 about whether your seek legal advice for 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.

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

In cases of urgency, the Notary can visit you - for example, in hospital.

What happens to my Will on the Costa del Sol?

Unlike in many countries, where the Will itself is a valuable document, under the Spanish system it does not matter if you lose or even burn your Will. The original is always with the Spanish Notary.

What if I want to change my 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 I die?

The process for dealing with an inheritance in Spain is fully explained in our Guide to Inheritance on the Costa del Sol.

Expats' Tips

Have you made a Will in Spain? Have you decided not to? Tell us about it and share your story by emailing office@guides.global.

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 to deal with your affairs everywhere else except Spain.

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

Other guides of interest

 Description Link 
Inheritance on the Costa del Sol
This guide covers the rules in Spain concerning who inherits what when you die.
inheritance in the Costa del Sol
Inheritance Planning on the Costa del Sol
This guide is about preparing your inheritance in a way which can save your heirs a great deal of time and money.
Inheritance Planning in the Costa del Sol
Dealing with a Death on the Costa del Sol
This guide is about the process of dealing with a death on the Costa del Sol. It covers the steps you need to take locally and any steps you may need to take in your home country.
Dealing with a Death in the Costa del Sol
Notaries on the Costa del Sol
This guide explains the roles of Notaries on the Costa del Sol and how to contact a Notary if required.
notaries in the Costa del Sol

You may also want to read:

 Description Link 
European Directory of Notaries
Find a Notary wherever you are in Europe (including on the Costa del Sol, of course!)
notary directory

Readers' Comments

 

Further information?

We hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact us.

Manzanares Abogados S.L.

21 April 2016


 

This guide was co-authored by John Howell (Email: John.Howell@Guides.Global or John@jhco.org. Web: www.jhco.org or www.Guides.Global)

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