Spanish Wills and Probate Law In Light Of European Regulation 650/2012

Photo credit: wundercapo / Foter / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: wundercapo / Foter / CC BY-NC

Regular legal-contributor Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt explains the legal consequences European Regulation 650/2012 has on foreign resident’s Spanish Wills.

By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt

Lawyer – Abogado
8th of January 2015


This article serves as a gentle reminder of the impact European Regulation 650/2012 will have on all foreign residents who live and own assets in Spain and who have made a Spanish will (I am particularly thinking of British and Irish nationals).

European Regulation 650/2012, in force since 2012, introduces significant changes to Succession that may require you to make a new Spanish will. These changes will come into force as from the 17th of August 2015. Anyone affected by it that passes away on or after the said date and who has not updated their Spanish will accordingly may cause devastating problems to their beneficiaries (normally family). Let this article act as a warning to all those affected by it.

These devastating effects on your family include, but are not limited to, protracted, lengthy and expensive litigation besides fights that tear families apart. In my professional experience the bitterest litigation takes place within families fighting over inheritance money.

If you wish to avoid serious problems to your loved ones you should heed the advice given in this article.

This Regulation has EU-wide impact. If you own property elsewhere in Europe, for example in France or Italy, and your habitual residence is located there you may face similar problems to the ones described in this article for those who have taken up residency in Spain. Take legal advice.

If you are looking for an in-depth article on Spanish Inheritance Tax please follow this link.

To close, I have structured my article as a F.A.Q. for ease of comprehension. Please feel free to add any comments below and I will do my best to address any legal queries relating to it.

What Do These Changes Entail?

Prior to this Regulation, British nationals (foreigners in general) had free testamentary disposition in their Spanish wills over their Spanish estate following art. 9.8 of the S.C.C. providing their own national law allowed it (meaning they could leave their Spanish estate to whoever they pleased). This avoided a testator from following Spanish forced heirship rules that establish that 2/3rds of the Spanish Estate would go to their children. Almost everyone buying property in Spain will have been advised by their conveyance lawyer to draw up a Spanish will exclusively for their Spanish assets.

Regulation 650/2012 changes the rules of the game as it introduces that Succession in all Member States will now be ruled by the laws of the land where the testator holds residency status in lieu of his own national law (article 20). The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have opted out of this Regulation.

This change translates in practice, for example, for an English resident in Spain who’s made a Spanish will that his Succession will now be governed by default by Spanish Inheritance Laws instead of England and Wales’ Succession Laws.

Spanish Succession Laws stipulate that both descendants (children or grandchildren) and ascendants (parents or grandparents) will inherit with priority over a surviving spouse. They are entitled, by law, to inherit fixed shares of the estate. Spain’s Civil Code dates back to the nineteenth century and needs to be brought up to speed with modern times.

Meaning that the Spanish will of this Englishman as it stands now, unchecked, may be successfully contested by forced heirs under Spanish Succession Laws unless he has specifically opted that his will is governed by his own national law (England and Wales) in accordance with articles 38 et seq. of this Regulation. In other words, your Spanish will must make express reference that your Spanish estate must be disposed of following your own national law (as opposed to Spain’s which is applied by default unless you make a specific provision in your Spanish will).

Following on the above example, a resident Englishman decides to leave everything to his stunning blonde girlfriend (twenty years her senior) and cut out his three children from a previous marriage. If he doesn’t make a new Spanish will his children (any of them) can challenge successfully his existing Spanish will leaving his girlfriend exposed and unprotected to protracted litigation. It is almost a certainty that his children will win the case under this new Regulation. You can only leave everything to your new gorgeous girlfriend under English law and for that you need to opt specifically for it on making a new Spanish will.

A resident testator can only avoid having their will contested by making a new Spanish will that reflects his personal choice (to have his own national law governing his Succession in lieu of Spain’s Inheritance Laws which do not contemplate free testamentary disposition).

Who Does It Affect?

In a nutshell, Regulation 650/2012 affects all foreigners who have their habitual residency in Spain and die on or after the 17th of August 2015 (articles 23 and 83). Spanish nationals may disregard the whole article as they are unaffected by the changes. Specifically:

Foreigners who have their habitual residence in Spain. It affects Spanish wills witnessed prior to the 17th of August 2015 or else which are non-compliant with Regulation 650/2012 terms i.e. there is no mention that your Spanish estate should be disposed of following your own national law. If you are resident in Spain and have made a will according to your own national laws but it is not clearly reflected within (e.g. there is no specific provision in the Spanish will that your Spanish estate should be ruled by your own national laws) you may need to make a new Spanish will compliant with this Regulation. It really falls to a case-by-case scenario; seek a lawyer’s advice to double-check your Spanish will if you are unsure.

Non-resident foreigners, who have made a Spanish will, and plan to become resident in Spain at some point in the future i.e. British family who bought off-plan property in Spain and plan to sell up in the UK and retire to Spain over the next years.

Can I Choose my Own National Tax Law Besides Opting for my National Succession Law?

Short answer is no.

What this Regulation entitles you is to choose freely the Succession Law of your own nationality (i.e. England and Wales or Scotland’s) in lieu of Spain’s compulsory heir rules which, following this new Regulation, applies by default if your habitual residency is in Spain at the time of your death on or after the 17th of August 2.015.

I stress, to avoid misunderstandings, that you cannot choose what Inheritance Tax Laws apply to your Spanish estate. As a rule of thumb, any beneficiary, whether resident or non-resident, inheriting assets located within Spanish territory has to pay Spanish inheritance tax.

So, for example, an Englishman whose habitual residency is in Spain and inherits Spanish assets will pay Spanish inheritance tax.

And likewise, a non-resident Scottish man who inherits Spanish assets will also pay Spanish inheritance tax.

You cannot opt out or choose your own national Inheritance tax laws on inheriting assets located in Spain. You have to pay Spain’s IHT.

What Can I Do? Can I Simply Update my Existing Spanish Will?

Short answer is no.

After speaking with multiple notaries it is clear that a simple addendum (codicil) cannot be made to your existing Spanish will without incurring in legal risks. In order to avoid your will being successfully contested at the time of your death it is necessary you make a new Spanish will.

Only by making a new Spanish will does it ensure you have a cast-iron guarantee that it will remain uncontested. If you do not heed my advice your outdated will may be challenged by any forced heir under Spain’s Succession Laws. And they will most likely win the case.

If I Make a New Spanish Will What Happens With The Old One? Could there be a Conflict?

No. In Spain the newest will always overrules any prior ones. Spain has a Central Registry of Wills located in Madrid. Any will that is witnessed by a notary anywhere in Spain will have the details sent to this central registry. The original will is stored for safekeeping by the notary himself. There shall be no conflicts.

The only problem is if you decide to make a holographic will instead of having it witnessed by a public notary. I highly recommend this is never done as Spain has very strict rules for these type of wills and they can be easily annulled.

Can I grant a Power of Attorney and have my Spanish Lawyer make a New Will for me?

No. Making a will under Spanish law is a personal act that requires it is made in person and not through proxies.

I am a British/Irish national resident in Spain. Neither the UK nor the RoI have Ratified European Regulation 650/2012, Therefore I don’t Need to Follow your Vested Advice. Thank You Very Much.

It’s beside the point.

Spain has ratified it and your assets are located in Spain for the purpose of this article. When you pass away your Spanish Estate will be unwinded following your own national laws. Both the UK and the RoI make an internal “renvoi” to Spanish Succession laws which happen to follow Regulation 650/2012. So regardless if neither the UK nor the RoI have ratified this Regulation, Spain has and your Spanish estate will be bound by it following European Regulation 650/2012.

I am a British/Irish national and NOT resident in Spain. I Don’t Plan to Become Resident in Spain.

In such a case this Regulation does not affect you. It only affects existing residents in Spain or else those who at some point in the future plan to take up residency in Spain. There is no need for you to make a new Spanish will. You may disregard the whole article.

I am a Foreign Resident Living in Spain. I Plan to Leave All (or Most of) My Estate to My Spouse/Partner. I Have Children (or Grandchildren) and my Parents (and Grandparents) are all Dead. Do I Still Need to Make a New Spanish Will?

Yes, you would need to make a new Spanish will. You should do it before August’s deadline.

It is important to note that Spanish law will govern the estates of all foreigners who have their habitual residency in Spain and who die on or after the 17th of August 2015 as per art 83 of this new Regulation. In other words, Spanish law will govern by default the estates of all foreign residents unless a specific provision is worded in their Spanish will to avoid it.

Children, under Spanish Succession law, have priority on inheriting over a surviving spouse; regardless if they are from a previous marriage or not. They are entitled to 2/3rds of the deceased’s estate. Your children – any of them – could apply to a Spanish court to have your will set aside. They would most likely succeed under this new Regulation leaving your wife or partner in dire straits i.e. they could for example inherit the villa where your wife/partner currently lives in and throw her out leaving her unprotected.

If you care for your partner/spouse’s future well-being act now and make a new Spanish will according to your own choices (providing of course your own national law allows it).

The same rule applies to grandchildren. Grandchildren also have priority on inheriting over the surviving spouse. They would likewise be entitled to 2/3rds of the estate.

In order to legally leave everything to your wife (or partner) you need to override Spanish Succession Laws by making a new Spanish will and specifically opt that your own national law governs the will (E.g. England and Wales’) in lieu of Spain’s Inheritance laws.

I am a Foreign Resident Living in Spain. I Plan to Leave All (or Most of) My Estate to My Spouse/Partner. I Do Not have Children (or Grandchildren) and One (or Both) my Parents/Grandparents are Alive. Do I Still Need to Make a New Spanish Will?

Yes, you need to make a new Spanish will.

If there are no descendants (children or grandchildren), ascendants (parents or grandparents) of the deceased are next in line in the pecking order (arts. 809, 810 and 935 et seq. of the S.C.C.). They have priority on inheriting over the surviving spouse. You run the risk of having one of your parents, or both, contesting your will and leaving your spouse or partner unprotected as a result.

Parents of the deceased are entitled to half of the estate if the deceased wasn’t married to their partner.

Parents of the deceased are entitled to one-third of the estate if the deceased was married to the surviving spouse.

I am a Foreign Resident Living in Spain. I Plan to Leave All (or Most of) My Estate to My Spouse/Partner. I Do Not have Children (or Grandchildren) and my Parents (and Grandparents) are all Dead. Do I Still Need to Make a New Spanish Will?

No. Your existing Spanish will leaving all (or most of) your estate to your spouse/partner should suffice.

I have read your article but the 17th of August 2.015 is now past; Is it now too late to make a new Spanish will in compliance with this European Regulation or can I still make a new will?

No, it is not too late. In fact you should make a new Spanish will immediately updating it. You can make a new will at any moment after said deadline. The problem I highlight is only if you die on or after the 17th of August 2.015 and you have not updated your will.

Spanish Wills and European Regulation 650/2012 – Conclusion

To avoid potentially devastating consequences to your loved ones that may lead families to fight over inheritance money it is your duty to have your existing Spanish will checked by a Spanish lawyer and, only if necessary, to make a new Spanish will compliant with European Regulation 650/2012. This will allow your own national law to be applied to your late estate in lieu of Spain’s Inheritance Laws.

Making a new Spanish will typically has an individual cost of between €100 to €250. This is a paltry amount compared to the dozens of thousands of euros your family stands to lose unless you take evasive action now before August’s deadline; not to mention the additional grief and aggravation you will spare them at a time of bereavement. It is in truth a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Surviving spouses or partners are the ones who stand to lose most (or all) under this new Regulation unless you act now.

Remember, you have until the 17th of August 2015 to make a new Spanish will if this Regulation affects you. Do not take chances with your loved ones’ well-being and plan ahead for your demise.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” – Benjamin Franklin.

Founding Father of the United States. Exceptionally gifted scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, printer, postmaster and political theorist. Even politician in his spare time; nobody’s perfect.

Related articles

Succession and WillsEuropean Commission

Making a Spanish Will – 8th August 2012
Buying and Owning Spanish Property through Companies: Pros and Cons (Dispelling Spanish Inheritance Tax Myths) – 7th March 2014
Taxes on Selling Spanish Property – 8th December 2014
Spanish Wills and Probate Law in light of European Regulation 650/2012 – 8th January 2015
Changes to Spain’s Inheritance and Gift Tax Law – 21st February 2015
Spanish Inheritance Tax (Part I) – 21st February 2016
Spanish Inheritance Tax (Part II) – 8th March 2016

Inheritance Tax Novelties in Andalusia. FAQ on IHT – 8th September 2016

Please note the information provided in this article is of general interest only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice. This article may be posted freely in websites or other social media so long as the author is duly credited. Plagiarizing, whether in whole or in part, this article without crediting the author may result in criminal prosecution. VOV.

2015 © Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt. All rights reserved.



149 thoughts on “Spanish Wills and Probate Law In Light Of European Regulation 650/2012”

          1. Dona Mary Collins

            Hi Raymond – we have UK wills that cover our worldwide assets that include the following clause ” I declare that I am of British Nationality and legally domiciled in England and in consequence my last Will shall be governed by English law pursuant to which I am entitled freely to dispose of the whole of my estate”. These have been translated into Spanish in 2013.

            My question is Do we need to draw up an additional Spanish Will for our Spanish assets?

          2. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

            Hi Dona,

            Legally you don’t need to. It is merely optional.

            From a practical point of view it is most advisable as it will save your appointed heirs time and money streamlining the probate procedure from the Spanish side.

            The full list of advantages on drawing, additionally, a second Spanish will exclusive to your Spanish estate is quoted in my article below:


            It is advisable UK citizens, holding assets in Spain, make two wills; one in their home country and a Spanish one exclusive to their Spanish estate.

            Hope that answers your question Dona.


          3. Maddy D

            Hi Raymundo

            My Dad died in Spain on 2/1/15 after living their for 20 years or so with his wife and all his assets.
            Prior to that he was born and lived in the UK.

            His final will (to my knowledge) was done in Gibraltar.

            He has left £10k each to his 3 children, including myself and the remainder of his assets go to his wife.
            Myself and his wife are executors.

            Given that the property he was living in and to my knowledge was previously co-owned by him is valued at £1m plus, my brother is concerned at the fact that we have now been told the property is solely owned by his wife. It is probable that as he had dementia and his wife became sole signatory, that ownership of the property changed during his illness. She has been concerned thoughout that our other brother will contest the will and is paranoid about the tax authoroities.

            The will was completed in 2001 and there is no clause specifying that UK laws apply.
            As Gibraltar is deemed to be the UK, is this not necessary? I understand that the spanish notary is no longer insisting on UK probate being done first (there was an older UK will which is now superseded). Is this because they recognise Gibraltar as british, but it is spanish enough to do away with this requirement?!

            And could the will be contested under spanish successions laws?

            The lawyer working for my step mother has told me my dad’s interest in the properties will have passed by survivorship and does not form part of his Estate, but I am not clear what this means, especially as an affadavit they want me to sign says .”there was no land vested in the said deceased immediately before his death, which was settled previously thereto, and not by his will, and remained settled land notwithstanding his death”. Whilst I’m no lawyer, survivorship and settled appear to have very different meanings

            Many thanks

          4. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

            Morning Maddy,

            Apologies for my belated reply; I’ve been holed up in a lawyer’s congress over the last two days.

            I believe you should seek immediate legal advice on your matter and naturally refrain from signing the affidavit until you have your own counsel.

            As you have come to suspect, it would appear her lawyers want you to relinquish all rights on the dwelling as you would be recognizing that the property did not form part of the inheritance and was settled at a time prior to his death. That is why your stepmother has grown ‘paranoid’; she fears losing the property to you and your brother should you take legal action to overturn this; as you rightly should.

            If your father suffered from dementia and your stepmother took advantage of this, using her power of signature, to replace his will I believe you and your brother have an excellent case at contesting his will. You can find out in less than a minute just who holds ownership at the Land Registry.

            As he died before EU Regulation 650/2012 came into force your case is ruled by the prior legislation. Regulation 650/2012 would not apply to your case; my whole article above does not apply to your case.

            You are certain the will does not make reference to his own national laws i.e. England and Wales? That is very interesting indeed and further bolsters your legal position.

            Waste no time and hire a lawyer to defend yours and your brother’s rights.

            I wish you both good luck.


          5. Teresa

            Hello Raimundo
            Your article is very interesting and l would like to know if l need to make a Spanish will. I am English & my partner Spanish. We have usufructs in place for our home here in Spain. In addition have an English will pertaining to all assets other than in Spain. have l done this correctly? Does an usufruct work the same as a will?

            Thanking you in advance


          6. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

            Hi Teresa,

            Thank you for your kind words.

            No, a usufruct does not work the same or replace a will.

            A usufruct is setting up a right so someone enjoys the use of a property without altering it i.e. for as long as they live.

            It makes no reference to actual ownership as they are disassociated. Normally testators organize ususfructs in wills i.e.
            husband leaves ownership of property to children but arranges that the surviving spouse has a lifetime usufruct on the main house. She can live in it for as long as she lives, but she is not the owner.


          7. Paul

            Hi Raymond,

            I live in Italy but i have clients in Spain who are effected by the new rules. Can you send me your contact details please.

      1. Stewart

        Dear Raymundo,

        What is not clear to me having made two wills, one in English and one in Spanish, in Spain clearly indicating my wish to leave all assets whether in the UK or Spain in my name, to my wife in the first instance, whether or not this requires updating to comply with the changes in the law?

        1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

          Hi Stewart,

          I can see why it may be so confusing.

          What matters is if in your Spanish will you made it clear that your estate was to be disposed of following your own national law. If no mention is is made in old wills there could be problems executing your will. If you did mention it then no action needs to be taken.

          Not every old will needs to be updated; only those that do not fall in line and comply with this new European Regulation.


      2. Peter Kendal

        Hi Raymundo, Thank you for the very good article on this subject. Is there a standard text which should be used for inclusion in a new Spanish Will in order for it to be treated under Reglamento UE 650/2012? I´m not sure that I trust our local notario to be right up to date with this and would prefer to provide him with the clause.

        1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

          Morning Peter,

          You are welcome.

          Every Notary public will have their own template for this.

          All new wills fall under 650/2012 template or no template. What matters is that there is a mention to your own national law on succession to waive Spanish succession laws.

          I believe all notaries are aware of the change as they have been notified of it.


      3. libby

        hi raymundo would you be able to email me? i have a few questions regarding my fathers death and his assets. i would very much appreciate it. thank you for your time.

    1. Eva

      Hi Raymundo,

      Excellent articles.
      I am hoping you can help me, my mother is Spanish and lives in Spain, she has 3 children, I am one of them, we were born in Britain. Two of us live in UK and one lives in Asia.
      My mother has made a will and left me all her money of 25,000 euros. She has no property. She gave my brother 18,000 euros a few years ago and my sister stole 23,000 euros when she sold her property recently. Can my
      brother and sister contest the will for a share of her money left in the will and should she put in the will that they have already received monies? How can she be sure that I am the main beneficiary? I would appreciate your help in this matter.

      1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

        Hello Eva,

        Thank you for your kind words.

        I will reply to you in English as you have chosen this language in which to make your query. It feels a tad awkward corresponding with a Spaniard in a foreign tongue mind you!

        You are correct. Your two siblings can contest the Spanish will successfully. Your mother absolutely cannot make a Spanish will leaving all her money to yourself. The only qualified exception is if she lives in one of our historical Autonomous Communities where a major degree of freedom is exercised on bequeathing assets to offspring. In Spain testators are constrained by forced heirship rules.

        Legally at most, your mother can leave you 2/3 of her estate plus 11%. So in total she cannot leave you more than 77% of her late estate.

        However, there is a legal way round this so you ‘pocket’ 100%. To avoid forced heirship rules your siblings would need to bring their amounts as “bienes colacionables” following article 1.035 et seq. of the Spanish Civil Code. This procedure allows the moneis they have received whilst your mother lived to be ‘deducted’ from her estate when she passes away. Meaning you could inherit all.

        However, I gather, from what you write above, that it may be rather ‘challenging’ in the case of your sister to prove this. But it should not be a problem in the case of your brother providing there is supporting evidence (i.e. documents, a deed) that your mother donated 18k to your brother.

        If her will is contested then you will ALL inherit 1/3 regardless. So it is in your best interests to avoid the will being contested. Because if it is, you would lose out.

        Hope that helps.

        Saludos cordiales

  1. Peter Purvey

    Dear Sir,
    Thank you for your informative article.
    My wife died 7 years ago and at the time my lawyer Informed me that I did not need to make another Spanish will as the original stated solely our Spanish assets and it was a reciprocal will with the only beneficiaries being our two children. This is still the case, on my death my two children will inherit equally.
    Do I need to make a new will or is the original advice I received still valid?
    Your advice would be much appreciated.
    Peter Purvey
    LA Cometa III, 21 L
    03710 Calpe

  2. John Roberts

    My wife and I have just up-dated our UK will and live permantly in England where all of our assets are based. We are leaving all of our assets equally to our three children. The only asset we own abroad is our house in Spain. Do we really need make a Spanish Will?

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi John,

      It is not mandatory to make a Spanish Will but it is highly advantageous you do so exclusively for your Spanish property.

      The main reason is because UK Probate takes long and normally exceeds the six-month deadline to file and pay Spain’s Inheritance Tax. This attracts surcharges and penalty interests as a result. These could have been easily avoided on having made a Spanish Will exclusively for your house in Spain which greatly streamlines the procedure and avoids paying any extra charges as the tax is paid within the deadline.

      Just to clarify on the above, making a Spanish Will does not avoid or reduce in any manner whatsoever paying taxes. It only helps your beneficiaries not to incur in extra charges and penalties on late payment on exceeding the six-month deadline to file and pay Spain’s Inheritance Tax.

      You can read further in my article “Making a Spanish Will” which lists in detail the six advantages on making a Will:

      A Spanish Will costs, on average, between £120 to £200. Both you and your wife will have to make Wills separately. These Wills will be according to your own national law (England’s).

      It is in truth a paltry amount considering that you will avoid your beneficiaries having to pay for surcharges and penalty interest for delayed payment on exceeding the six-month deadline to file and pay Spain’s Inheritance Tax. Only this offsets the costs of making two Spanish Wills.


      1. Simon Harris

        Raymond, If John Roberts (above) did not make any will relating to his and his wife’s property in Spain (and it was not mentioned in any UK will) would, as each dies, their property in Spain fall under Spain’s rules of intestacy and be divided between their three children, i.e. just as they wish, in any event?
        I am not suggesting they should not write a Spanish will in their cirumstances – which could include lifetime use for the survivor following first death, but, I am wondering what will happen to people whose position is like John’s, but who just ‘do nothing’. Simon.

        1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

          Afternoon Simon,

          Tricky question as in truth it relates to UK law, not Spanish law in my humble opinion.

          John specifically mentions he has a UK will. It is not mandatory for him to make a Spanish will in addition but it would be highly advantageous for his beneficiaries as it would save them time and money as explained in my above article “Making a Spanish Will”.

          Going back to your original question Simon, John is a UK national whose habitual residency is in the UK. Therefore England and Wale’s law would apply (as he mentions he lives in England) should he die intestate following the new European Regulation. But then the UK specifically opted out of this Regulation, so it does not apply to the UK.

          I guess England and Wale’s law determine what happens in the event one of their nationals dies intestate (without having granted a will, either in in the UK or Spain). My point of concern would be if England and Wale’s law makes a renvoi to Spanish laws in such a case. But I strongly doubt it given the fact his personal connection, his ties lie with the UK; he lives there, he works there, his family lives there, his main assets and centre of interests are located there. The Spanish property is merely incidental. It stands to logic England and Wale’s law should rule his late estate in such a case.

          To be honest I have never had such a case in practice as people are fairly diligent and write up wills, either in the UK or in Spain.

          I am unsure I was of much help addressing your query Simon.


          1. donna mccabe

            Hi Raymundo

            Just wondering if you could help my father recently passed away and has a Spanish property.
            Sadly no will was made in Spain (however he did have an English will which we are in the process of getting translated)
            However we have not informed the Spanish Authorities???? Are we able to sell the property in my fathers name and what percentage would we have to pay in inheritance tax.
            From a worried Donna

          2. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

            Hi Donna,

            You cannot sell a property inherited still under your father’s name. More on this and the procedure to follow in my article:


            You must first follow UK probate (without a Spanish will this can take over twelve months). Then pay Spanish Inheritance Tax which will allow you to lodge the property under your name at the Land Registry. Only then will are you free to sell on the property.

            To avoid penalties for late payment of Spain’s IHT your appointed lawyer ought to request an extension (a further six months). There is only a six-month deadline to file and pay this tax as from the time your father passed away. Surcharges and penalty interests are rolled on after said deadline.

            Hope that helps.


  3. Roger Wheaton

    Dear Raymundo, your article on the August 2015 Succesion Law change is extremely good and clear. However, we all have different circumstances and I would appreciate your advice on mine. My wife and I have lived in Spain for 16 years, we own a villa here on the Costa Blanca. We have a UK bank account which receives my personal pension but we have no other ties with the UK. We pay tax on all our income to the Spanissh Tax Authorities. We have two offspring girls aged 52 and 54 who live in the UK
    and who would not wish to live in Spain. We have a UK will written before we left the UK and a Spanish drawn up since. We have no parents alive.I have two sisters in law who have offspring. My wife has a brother who has two daughters. Both wills state the same,that whichever partner dies first, property and investments go to the remaining partner. Upon the death of the surviving partner, property and investments go to the two daughters in equal shares.
    I hope I haven’t missed anything out and my question is do I need to draw up another will before August or does all the above seem satisfactory to you. If I need to draw up another will, what would be the wording to ensure the above wishes are carried out. Both daughters have much more money than we do and have never squabbled in their entire lives.
    I look forward to your response. Thanks for reading……..Roger Wheaton

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      In principle yes, both you and your wife would need to draw up new Spanish Wills.

      Your case is the typical one I try to address in the above article. This new Regulation affects all foreign residents living in Spain. Any Spanish will made prior to this 2012 Regulation or else non-complaint with it may cause serious problems to beneficiaries.

      In your particular case your daughters could contest the Spanish will and rightfully claim their inheritance share regardless if they are better off than yourself. That’s beside the point.

      I would never take chances with a surviving spouse’s well-being and leave her unprotected should I pass away first. I strongly advise you protect your wife (and vice versa) and make new Spanish wills following your own national law in lieu of Spain’s forced heirship rules.

      Your daughters may have partners or husbands that may influence their future decision-making. Life throws curbed balls from time to time and personal circumstances change greatly i.e. divorce. Simply play it safe and protect yourselves by making two new Spanish wills. Do not take chances.

      Notaries are fully aware of the new wording that needs to be added in compliance with the new European Regulation, don’t worry Roger.

      You are welcome.


  4. GarySFBCN

    Thank you for this information, Raymundo. I am a US citizen and own a home in Spain with my Spanish spouse. I am a resident, but not yet a fiscal resident – I’ve never spent more than 4 months in Spain and I still am working in the US and also have a home in the US. I probably will become a fiscal resident in 3-4 years, planning to live in Spain about 10 months each year.

    We have no children. My parents are gone but both of my in-laws are still alive. Are there any special considerations for us? Do we need wills? If so, can we do our wills together as one legal entity or do they have to be separate?


  5. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    Hi Gary,

    You are welcome.

    I strongly advise both you and your spouse make separate Spanish Wills.

    Making a Will is regarded as a personal act and must be done individually, not jointly. Each of you will have to make one and have it witnessed by a Notary.

    Following art 809 of the S.C.C. (Spanish Civil Code) should your Spanish spouse pass away first, your in-laws are entitled by law to one-third of her estate in equal shares between both of them. This is called “legítima de los padres”. This right of your in-laws cannot be waived. The remaining 2/3 of her estate would presumably go to you.

    As for your own national law, I am not qualified to advise as each of the 50 states constituting the US has different laws governing inheritance.

    Hope that helps.


  6. Gudy

    Hi Raymundo,

    your article was very interesting and so easy to understand, thanks a lot for it.

    Our situation is a bit different and I hope you can help us to find an answer :-).
    My nationality is German and my husband is currently taking out the Spanish citizenship and holds a South African passport.
    Bureaucracy takes time so we will have to make a new will before he gets his new citizenship.

    We have decided to leave the estate to each other and later it should be divided between my son from a previous marriage and his children and my husbands sister.

    Does the fact of being a Spanish citizen has any effect on using the South African citizenship to draw up the will with our Spanish notary? Or has my husband to draw up his will as a Spaniard (at a later stage)?

    Hopefully it is not too strange a question 🙂

    Thanks again for the informative article and have a great weekend.


    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Gudy,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Your case is straightforward; you are free to arrange your Spanish Will following your own nationality (German).

      Your husband’s case, as you suspected, is somewhat trickier. When your husband attains dual citizenship his Spanish one will overrule the South African in Spanish territory.

      Art 9.9 of the S.C.C. (equivalent to Germany’s B.G.B.) states the rule that when someone holds dual nationality, and one of them is Spanish, the latter takes pre-eminence. Specifically if the other nationality is not allowed under Spanish law.

      Spanish laws only allow double nationality for South American countries and for Sephardi Jews for historical reasons. A South African nationality would not be allowed jointly with a Spanish one. In theory he would need to renounce to his South African one to attain Spanish citizenship.

      In practice however this is not enforced strictly and Spanish authorities turn a blind eye on such cases as long as the other nationality is not used within Spain. Everyone knows of people who hold dual or triple nationalities from countries that Spain does not allow.

      Your husband cannot use his S.A. nationality in Spain as the Spanish one takes precedence in Spanish territory. So on drawing up a Spanish Will he would need to follow Spanish Succession Laws, not South African.

      Should he make a Spanish Will under South African rules he runs the risk that any beneficiary/heir can have his Will set aside by a Spanish court so that Spanish law is enforced. The list of beneficiaries include descendants (children and grandchildren) as well as ascendants (parents and grandparents).

      As you specifically mention that your husband has children there is always a risk of any of them contesting a Spanish Will that happens to follow South African Succession rules. To be on the safe side he would need to make a Spanish Will following only Spanish Inheritance rules.

      Hope that clarifies Gudy.


  7. Susan

    My husband as died suddenly and as left me (his wife of 12 years but we’ve been together over 20 years) his flat but he has children from a previous marriage who are in there 30s and have good jobs x I really think they are going to contest the will even though hes always supported them over the years. He wanted them to have it if we both died, what are the chances of them claiming?

  8. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    Hi Susan,

    I’m sorry to hear your husband passed away.

    My article above mentions the problem will occur for those who die on or after the 17th of August 2015. As you mention your husband has died before August’s deadline then you are subject to the old rules which still hold.

    I will take for granted the will you refer to in your query is actually a Spanish one. His children’s chances at contesting said will would be slim providing we are talking of a Spanish will that has been professionally drafted (lawyer, Notary or consul).

    Had your husband passed away on or after the 17th of August this year and his will was not properly updated – as per my article – you would find yourself in dire straits with his children having an almost assured victory at contesting the Spanish will. But luckily this is not your case.

    My article’s goal is precisely to act as a pre-emptive warning to all those surviving spouses and partners who may be left bereft should their partners not update in due time their Spanish wills in compliance with the new set of European rules I outline. It is crucial they act now ahead of August’s deadline to ensure their financial safety.

    Hopefully my reply has reassured you Susan.


  9. Olive

    Hello, thank you so much for your article, but would appreciate your help and advice on our situation please
    My husband and I are both residents and fiscal residents in Spain, we made a Spanish Will on taking up residency 7years ago leaving our assets to each other and then on both deaths to our 3 daughters, but 2years ago we sold our villa and now rent a home. We have no property here or anywhere else in the world. The money on the sale of our villa is in the UK, and we have no other assets in Spain,
    What happens about the Will registered in Madrid, and are assets in the UK, will it be necessary to update our Will before 17th August.? We have just recently updated our English Will .

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Olive,

      You are welcome.

      I take for granted you both hold British citizenship; if not, please correct me.

      In short, yes, you both need to make new Spanish wills; not update them. Updating them is not an option following my own article. You must make new ones; one each.

      The reason is because you both hold your habitual residency in Spain. If either of you die on or after the 17th of August this year what you have stated in your wills cannot be done. There will surely be a conflict as your three children would be entitled to 2/3 of the inheritance (the money that is now in the UK).

      As both you and your husband are resident in Spain you will be liable, as beneficiaries, for Spanish Inheritance tax which is taxed on the worldwide assets you receive from your late spouse; including those sitting in a UK bank on account of your residency in Spain. Besides the Spanish authorities are already aware of the existence of the sale proceeds as it is compulsory for you to complete tax model 720 (in which you disclose and report to the Spanish Tax Office all your assets).

      If both you and your husband desire peace of mind and that your last will is respected and carried out to the hilt you must make new Spanish wills. Only then will you have free testamentary disposition to bequeath your assets freely, following your own national law (England and Wales’ or Scotlands’ as you do not specify which), in lieu of Spain’s constrained forced heirship rules that would entitle your children to 2/3 of the inheritance.

      The new Spanish wills you make in 2015 will overrule the prior ones you made seven years ago; don’t worry.

      Hope that helps.


  10. Steve

    My father has been in contact for the first time in 27 years. He has requested my sister’s and my address siting the new requirements of Spanish will law. Is this a requirement?

  11. Gemma

    Hi hope you can put me straight, I made a will in 2012 I am none resident and still live in the UK. I travel back and forth quite a bit, I am divorced over 17 years and stared that my ex if still alive no way gets anything nor my home. It all goes to my 4 grown up children and not to their husbands, wife’s or my grandsons because some of my children do not have children yet. Do I have to make another will I would rather be safe than sorry, and is it advisable to make a uk will as I been told it can over rule the Spanish will as its stronger… Hope you can help

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Morning Gemma,

      So you are non-resident in Spain and already have a Spanish will from 2012. In this case this excerpt of my article applies to you:

      “I am a British/Irish national and NOT resident in Spain. I Don’t Plan to Become Resident in Spain.

      In such a case this Regulation does not affect you. It only affects existing residents in Spain or else those who at some point in the future plan to take up residency in Spain. There is no need for you to make a new Spanish will. You may disregard the whole article”.

      You also ask if you should make a UK will besides your Spanish one.

      The straight answer is yes but not for the reasons you list in your post.

      UK nationals should always have two wills drawn up; one for their UK assets and a Spanish will which is exclusive to their Spanish assets (and does not preclude in any manner whatsoever the UK one and vice versa). When you die this will greatly facilitate and speed up the process for your four children (saving them substantial money and time in the process).

      I wrote a detailed article in 2011 on why non-residents should have two wills drawn up explaining the six advantages if you care to read it:

      Hope that answers your queries Gemma.


  12. Annette Alborough

    Hi, my husband and I have been in spain now for 8 years and own our own villa worth about 250, 000 euros and both of retirement age and do not intend to be spanish residents do we need to have a will made leaving our property to two daughters as we do not have an english will regards Annette

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Morning Annette,

      I do not quite follow your query.

      You mention that both you and your husband have been (living) in Spain for 8 years yet you add you do not plan to become a Spanish resident (?).

      You already are a Spanish resident after having lived in Spain for 8 years. In fact, following my article above, your habitual residency is in Spain following your own words. Therefore this new European Regulation applies to both of you.

      If you have not made a Spanish (or English) will when either of you passes away on or after the 17th of August 2015 Spanish succession law will apply be default.

      If you would rather have your own national laws apply to your estate (that is England and Wale’s laws) then you must make a Spanish will where you specify that it must follow your own national law.

      Alternatively you can only make an English will but this will cause serious practical problems to your heirs (your two daughters). If you do not hold any assets in the UK and only in Spain it makes sense only to make one will, a Spanish will complaint with this new European Regulation.

      I always advise all UK nationals to have two wills made; one in the UK for their UK assets and a second Spanish will that deals only and exclusively with their Spanish estate (the villa in your case). The reason is because on you, or your husband, passing away the Grant of Probate exceeds the six-month deadline that Spain has to file and pay Inheritance tax. Your daughters, on inheriting the Spanish estate, will be liable to file and pay Spanish tax. This tax is not paid by the estate itself, unlike the UK.

      I have written an article on why UK nationals should have two wills made (UK and a Spanish one) listing the six advantages: “Making a Spanish Will”.

      Hope that clarifies your query Annette.


  13. Terry

    I am a British national, living in Spain and have updated my English will recently. My UK adviser put in what he called a declaration that the law of my nationality is to apply. He said that I should check this with someone in Spain – is the declaration in the English Will enough

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Morning Terry,

      I cannot currently advise on UK legalities.

      The UK has opted out of this Regulation so it does not apply to the UK. It does apply to Spain however.

      If you own assets in Spain, besides the UK, I strongly recommend you also make a Spanish will in addition to your existing UK will.

      The reason is because it will help your beneficiaries (inheritors) to safe considerable time and money on filing Spanish inheritance tax. This Spanish will would be exclusive to your Spanish estate and would not clash or preclude in any manner your existing UK will.

      I list the six advantages for UK nationals on why they should make two wills; a UK willl, and a Spanish one in my article: “Making a Spanish Will”.

      If for any reason only want to have one will – the existing English will – to rule over your Spanish estate then the clause your adviser has added would suffice, yes.

      But again I insist that the beneficiaries of your Spanish estate will pay a price for this when they inherit by way of paying extra money and extra time filing Spanish taxes. A Spanish will cuts to the chase and streamlines the procedure reducing time and saving money in the procedure.

      Hope that helps Terry.


  14. Janet Stelnicki

    Hi Raymundo

    My husband and I made a Spanish will about 10 years ago. We stated our wishes as whoever died first, the spouse would inherit and on the death of both of us, the remainder would be passed to our only son.
    I could never imagine our son challenging the Spanish will as he knows that eventually he will receive his inheritance following the deaths of us both. We also have a very trusting family relationship.
    Do we need to draw up new Spanish wills or would the wills as they stand be carried out in accordance to our wishes?

  15. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    Morning Janet,

    To answer your query I need to know more.

    Where is your habitual residency? Do you live in Spain permanently, all year round?

    What about your husband, does he live permanently in Spain?

    What’s your nationality? And your husbands’?


  16. Di

    Hello,I wonder if you can help. My mother passed away in January 2011,leaving a Spanish will as she was a resident of Spain, the abogado has settled the estate and sent all monies to a UK bank account in the name of the administrator/executor however it seems as if this person has run off with all the money,as even though I am a beneficiary I have not been contacted nor given this share,after all this time. All beneficiaries and the administrator live in the UK.

    Is there anything I can do.or just have to accept this situation?

    Thanking you in advance.

  17. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    Hi Di,

    I am sorry to hear of your case.

    Your case relates to UK law, not Spanish law. I cannot advise you on UK law.

    You would need to contact a UK qualified lawyer to assist you recovering the embezzled funds.

    I would never accept this situation and fight it.


  18. D Wood

    Hi there, we have just bought a property in Andalucia. I am keen that we proceed correctly with regards to our wills. We have both been married before and I have 2 daughters from my first marriage, no children from our 2nd. My husband has no children. We will be using our Spanish home as purely a holiday home and staying resident in Scotland. I would wish that my husband and I make mirror wills leaving everything to each other. How should we proceed? Mirror wills drawn up in Scotland and then also mirror wills in Spain? The intention is that when we both are dead then the estate in its entirety would pass to my daughters and their children, currently 2 grandsons.

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Morning Dora,

      I see no problem in doing as you write and it is in fact advisable. You make a set of wills in Scotland following your own national law and then you make two separate Spanish (mirror) wills, which will only deal with the property in Andalusia.

      As you are not resident in Spain, nor plan to become resident in the future, and are making a Spanish will for the first time you haven’t got the problems I list in my article above. The Spanish wills you make will be compliant with this new European Regulation.

      You can read my following article which lists the six advantages of having a UK (Scottish) will and a Spanish will drawn up:


  19. Brian Williamson

    Hola Raymundo. My wife and I are planning on making new English wills to cover our monies which are invested in Britain. We do not own property in Spain, we do rent here on a mainly permanent basis and have a car and some money in a Spanish bank. My question is if I have a completed will form sent to me here in Spain for my signature do I have to have my signature witnessed by a notary or would my Doctor be sufficient ?. My English solicitor was not clear on this point This will is purely to cover my British investments, not my limited.Spanish stuff.
    We have no children, no parents or grandparents, our monies would be going mainly to a niece in Canada and to a charity in the UK. Basically do we have to use a notary as a witness to our signatures. This is possibly not really the sort of question you deal with, but would appreciate your advice. There must be others who would benefit too. Brian Williamson.

      1. James

        Hi Raymond

        I hope you can help me. My Father Passed away last year in 2014 and lived around 6 months each in both countries in Spain with our Step mum of 20 years. They made a mirror will both in Spain and in the UK. They are properties in both countries. The Spanish will was made in 2010. They told us that when one or the other or both passes together away, then all shall be divided and split equally between both parents children.
        It has now come to light that our step mother has now changed her will and left everything to her children, leaving nothing for us upon her death.
        We have nothing from our father by way of personal items even when it was said that he was to left it to us in his will. She refused to give them to us and never seen anything again.
        Our father was the love our our lives and and his intentions were quite clear to the whole family including his gran children and witnesses alike that this was not to happen, and that we would benefit equally .
        We are broken hearted and believe our father was not advised accordingly by the notary covering all the bases ( making provisions for us ) if, his wife didn’t play fair.
        Do the new rules apply to us? What are our chances of contesting the will, successfully? What are our chances of suing the notary for not advising our father correctly covering all the bases. Any more advice from you would be much appreciated.

        Desperate to hear from you.


        Thank you

        1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

          Hi James,

          There is nothing you can do regarding your step mother’s will. She can change it as many times as she sees fit.

          Regarding your Spanish will the first step would be to request a copy of his last will both in Spain and UK.

          The Central Register of Last Wills located in Madrid can supply you the details of the Notary before whom it was witnessed in Spain. You can then request from him/her a copy on proving your kinship. Only then can you be certain your father did bequeath you assets.

          In reply to your query, no the Regulation only affects those who die on or after the 17th August 2015.

          That said heirs still challenged wills before this Regulation was passed as long as they had a solid case.

          Hope that helps.


  20. Linda Murphy

    We are Spanish residents and made two Spanish wills in 2002 which state that “our national law recognizes the right to dispose of our estates by will without any limitations, and using of it we order our last will according to the following” which is to each other. Is this good enough for the 2015 law? We have two properties in Spain, one of which is rented out. We also have a property and assets in UK and we made new wills in UK in 2006.which say we revoke all other wills and testamentary dispositions previously made by us. I think the revoking was for any other UK wills not the Spanish one but we are a little concerned about this sentence. Also as Spanish residents would our UK property fall under our UK will or our Spanish will? We are extremely worried as we have five children, two from my first marriage and three from my husbands two previous marriages.

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Linda,

      The part of your query up until you wrote “revoked” was ok. I think that wording in your two Spanish wills of 2002 would have sufficed. To make sure take a copy to a Notary Public and query it.

      As from the time you revoked “any prior will” in your 2006 UK will you have introduced uncertainty in the Spanish wills as there is a conflict. If you hadn’t added this your two Spanish wills would have probably been fine.

      As Spanish residents, your UK assets will be taxed in Spain, yes, at the time of your death. In fact, all your worldwide assets (both Spain and UK) regardless if you have a UK will for your UK assets and a Spanish will for your Spanish assets. Your heirs may also have to pay HRMC’s IHT but that will come from the UK estate itself.

      If you don’t mind me writing this, I honestly believe this is such an important matter that one should not be penny-pinching when it comes to wills. To be on the safe side of things, query it to a Spanish Notary Public, and if still unsure make two new Spanish wills compliant with the new European Regulation (couple of hundred euros).

      This will ensure there are no problems at the time of your demise.


  21. Brian Marjoram

    Dear Raymundo, Hopefully you can provide some guidance. I work with a UK based charity and we are helping the widow of man who died in the UK in February this year. He died intestate (no will in Spain either) and the deceased and his wife owe a considerable amount of money in the form of rent arrears; eviction is looming. They are both pensioners. No assets in the UK to speak of and widows only income is a small pension. They have a property in Spain some 60kms north of Zaragoza (valued at 164,000 Euros in July 2013). Husband and wife owned 50% each of the property. They moved back to UK in 2010 due husband’s ill health. There are two adult children. The lady tells me that she has ‘Residentia’ status (apologise for the spelling. I am assisting the lady with obtaining letters of administration which I understand will be needed by the Spanish authorities. I understand that she has informed the local authorities in Spain of the death. The intention is to sell the property if possible to clear her debts in UK. Can you assist as to what if any inheritance tax may be due? Will this have to be paid before the property is sold (which will be difficult as she has no money)? Once she has the authority to administer her late husband’s estate what would be the next step? I am sorry for asking so many questions but the widow is at her wits end. Kind regards, Brian

  22. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    Morning Brian,

    The lady cannot have ‘residencia’ if she moved back to the UK in 2010.

    Probate needs to be carried out first in the UK and only then can Spain’s inheritance tax be filed and paid (if applicable).

    The lady can only sell her 50% share. The 50% belonging to her late husband needs ton be sorted out. she cannot sell her husband’s 50% until she has sorted out inheritance tax first. Who are the heirs under English law? Her? The two children? All three? If there is no will I assume England and Wales intestacy laws kick in.

    Because there is no will the procedure will likely take more than 6 months (close to twelve) in which case penalties and surcharges will be applied by the Spanish Tax Office.

    Depending on which autonomous region the property is located there may be no inheritance tax to pay. You do not specify the region in your query.


  23. Brian Marjoram

    Good Morning Raymundo
    Thank you for your prompt response. Under English rules of intestacy the mother will inherit all of the late husband’s estate including his 50% share of the house in Spain. Am I right in assuming that Spanish law applies to the house and the children will each inherit 33% of their fathers share with the other 33% going to their mother? It would be useful to know what if any inheritance tax would be due. I do not want to name the village where the house issituated as it is very small and someone reading it may know the family. Can I send you a private message with the address? Kind regards, Brian

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Brian,

      You are welcome.

      What interests me is the name of the region, not the village. There could be hundreds of towns in Spain sporting the same name. Spain is divided administratively into 17 regions and each is empowered to pass their own laws on this matter.

      In her case, Spanish intestacy rules would apply. Both children would inherit the property in equal shares (50% each). The surviving spouse doesn’t inherit anything except personal belongings, It’s the children that need to sort out the inheritance filing and paying inheritance tax if applicable.


      1. Brian Marjoram

        Hi raymundo
        Thank you once again. The property is situated in the region of Aragon and located in Comarca de las Cinco Villas if that helps?
        Kind regards

  24. Claire Glaves

    Hi Raymundo,

    My mother unfortunately passed away 10 years ago. Since then my father has married a Thai Bride, much younger than himself, and me his daughter. I have a copy of the will my parents originally made, which stated that their villa was to pass to the remaining spouse after one of their deaths, and then pass to the eldest child upon the remaining spouses death. Now that my father has re-married, does this mean that she will inherit the villa rather than it passing to me, and my sister? As my father has nothing to do with us anymore, can he make a new will and leave the villa to his new wife, rather than what the original will my parents made stated.

    Thanking you in anticipation

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Claire,

      Unfortunately a will can be reversed at any point by a new will. So if your estranged father makes a new will leaving all assets to his new young spouse he can in fact do so legally.

      If he dies and he hasn’t made a new will, then the original will holds; the estate will pass to you and your sister.

      In my article above I give an example that is very similar to your case.

      You could challenge his will however if, for example, when he grants it he’s in a hospital for example and his new wife is taking advantage of his ill health to force him to write a new one.

      Hope that helps.


  25. carlota

    Hi Raymundo,
    My mother is of Spanish nationality but has been a resident in the UK for over 30 years. With the death of her parents she has recently acquired a property and land in Spain (Valladolid). She also has a property in London. She is now terminally ill and is worried that the 40 % inheritance tax according to British law will be applied to her Spanish estate, given that the London property is worth more than the inheritance tax threshold. Can´t her Spanish property be subject to Spanish taxes as opposed to British ones?
    I would really appreciate any advice on this matter.

    Kind regards,

  26. Jacqueline

    Hi Raymundo,

    I have really enjoyed reading your article and subsequent questions and answers….and wondered if you could answer something for me? I know this is not your field as it does not refer to Spanish Wills but I live in Germany and wonder if the clause about “following your own national law” with the regard to the Succession Law is now an option for all European Wills?

    We are both British but live permanently, at present, in Germany and have no physical assets in UK. As my husband is older than I, we want to ensure we are able to pass our estate to each other and then eventually our children – in other words, we do not want the German Succession Law to be implemented if possible. We were looking into making a Berliner Testament (I know lots of German’s in Spain have this to avoid the Spanish Succession Law but it will now not be recognized and I think they will have to make Spanish Wills. I am not sure if the Berliner Testament is still recognized in Germany due to the new Law but I wonder if a joint or mirror German Wills with the clause relating to “following our national law with regard to Succession” will be the best option or indeed possible?

    I do totally understand if you are unable to answer this but thought I would just ask anyway. If not, I found the article very informative and interesting particularly as we had originally planned to live in Spain and still have many friends there..I will be informing them of this website.


    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Morning Jacqueline,

      As much as I love German and Germany, my expertise is not extensive to their laws, sorry.

      Having said this, in my article’s introduction, fifth paragraph, I specifically mention this is a EU law with European-wide effects. The only countries that opted out were the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Denmark. The remainder of Member States signed it and are a party to it, including Germany.

      So the same principles and warnings I made to expats resident in Spain are extensive to expats residents in Germany, yes. I am not familiar with the BGB’s (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch or German Civil Code) succession provisions. Not to err and to be on the safe side I strongly recommend your dual mirror German wills make a clear reference that you want your German assets (or located elsewhere) to be distributed following your own national law, presumably England and Wales’ rather than German succession laws.

      In the UK, case law country, we have free testamentary disposition. I could leave everything to my pet squirrel or to my hot blonde Russian girlfriend if I willed it cutting out my estranged children. However continental law countries are traditionally protective of next-of-kin and establish mandatory or constrained heirship rights which may clash with what you have worded in your (German) will.

      So for us expats who are resident in European countries I strongly advise you to revise your will making a clear reference that your own national law is to be followed (UK) in lieu of the local succession law. If your German will does not include such a provision you ought to make new dual mirror wills stating it to avoid problems to your loved ones as outlined in my article above.

      I close stressing once more I do not claim to be an expert in German law, God forbid. I am merely referring to a EU law that is applied EU-wide with the aforementioned exceptions (UK, RoI and Kingdom of Denmark). So in a nutshell, yes, this law applies to you as a German resident. Please take legal advice from a Rechtsanwalt.

      Hope that helps Jacqueline.


      1. Jacqueline

        Hi Raymundo,

        Many thanks indeed for your reply, I really appreciate it, particularly as my question was regarding Germany which I know, is not your area of expertise, but thank you. I shall be making an appointment to make German Wills with “a clear reference that we want our German assets to be distributed following our own national law”. Thanks again!

        Kind regards,


  27. Profile photo of rojoybagorojoybago

    Hi there,

    I’m confused !!

    just come back from the notary who tells me that WILLS made before this date (ie last August) don’t need to be amended or updated. ie the law prior to the recent change will be applied.

    They advise that ONLY new wills effected after this date should include the clause (if you wish) that the law of your country applies upon death –

    this notary is a big fish in marbella and spent time with us and didn’t charge us a penny for his time.

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Rojoybago,

      I believe you may have misunderstood or maybe something went amiss in translation.

      My article reflects strictly what the European law states, nothing more; just read it in English Art.83 (page 27):

      If the deceased had already chosen his personal law (in lieu of Spanish law) to rule his estate there is no need for a new will. I write this two or three times in my above article. This is known as professio iuris expresa. It is specifically mentioned in Art. 22 of Regulation 650/2012 (page 14).

      However… if this choice was not made then, under Regulation 650/2012, Spanish Succession Law will be applied by default with the potential problems I have already highlighted above (specifically to UK expats as they have free testamentary disposition as opposed to Spain).

      Bottom line, not everyone who made a will before the 17th of August 2015 needs to update it (making a new one). Only those who did not word into their wills a specific mention to succession being ruled by their own national law (in lieu of Spain’s).

      If still in doubt, and for peace of mind, just take your old will to a Notary and ask them if it conforms to this new Regulation. If it does, you are fine. If not, I advise you to make a new Spanish will.

      As I write above, at the time of writing this article, I spoke with Notaries to find a solution to the problem. I was told categorically that a new will needed to be made when the choice had not been made to avoid potential problems. Hence whet prompted me to bother writing up the whole article in the first place. Unless there has been a legal change since I wrote it back in December last year of which I am unaware.

      And please, I would kindly ask you do not resort to name-dropping in this forum. Thank you.


      1. Profile photo of rojoybagorojoybago

        Thanks R,

        your article is rather esoteric for us “on the street” ….

        Prior to the change in this law, it wasn’t necessary to stipulate “professio iuris expresa” as it was the de facto position …….and therefore not necessary to amend wills written beforehand??

        name dropping?

        kind regards,


        1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

          No problem.

          I take on board your comment. I always try to ‘tone’ down my articles to make them as simple and accessible to a broader audience as possible. If this article has not been properly understood then I have done a poor job.

          Before this new Regulation Art. 9.8 of the SCC allowed foreigners to make wills following their own laws. Some wills (for example the ones we did at our law firm) always included this specific mention to their own national law. But not all did as it was not necessary at the time.

          The problem when this law has came into force is that some people, who are resident in Spain and have their habitual residency here, will have wills which are non-compliant with the new Regulation. The new Regulation establishes that the succession law applicable will be that of the habitual residency of the deceased (by default Spanish law) unless they made a specific provision (Art. 22) for it to follow their own national law.

          We can see the problem more clearly with an example. Say I’m an Englishman and have remarried with two children. I have one estranged grown up child with whom I am not in good terms and have not had contact with for the last twenty years. In my Spanish will from 1997 I left everything to my new spouse and my two children. I made no specific provision to choose my own national law at the time as it was unnecessary.

          If I die after the 17th of August 2015 my estranged child could challenge my Spanish will and claim one third of my estate. Legally they would be entitled to as my habitual residency was set in Spain so Spanish succession laws apply by default. Spanish Succession Laws force a testator to leave assets to all their children. So a judge would overturn my last will and award this estranged child one third of my estate, in equal terms with his two brothers.

          Now if instead I take my 1997 Spanish will to a Notary and he picks up on this problem he will advise me to draw up a new one. Takes half an hour and it is cheap. Problem solved. My estranged child won’t get a penny.

          I could put more serious examples. An Englishman who cuts out from his Spanish will his lawful wife and three children leaving everything to his new Eastern European girlfriend and the son they have in common. His lawful wife may contest his will overturning it. Not a penny would go to his girlfriend despite cohabiting with her for well over a decade.

          The point of my article is to raise awareness on this matter. You can read similar articles from other lawyers/law firms or even from Notaries themselves warning on it.


  28. Murray

    My wife and I have been residents of Spain for the last 12 years and updated our previous Spanish wills in July this year in compliance with current European Law. We are currently updating our wills in Scotland which leaves the assets in exactly the same way as stated in our Spanish wills. My concern is that the current drafts of our Scottish wills may cause conflict with the Spanish wills. Our solicitors in Scotland have included the following clauses. -A) I instruct my Executors specifically not to deal with any of my assets in Spain in terms of this will, but instead to allow my Spanish lawyers (or anyone else acting in that capacity on my behalf in Spain) to wind up all of my Spanish assets as required separately by Spanish Law. B) And I revoke all prior testamentary writings. I don’t really see any other reference making it clear the will only covers the assets outside Spain. My Question: What wording really needs be included in my Scottish will which will be dated after the Spanish will, to ensure no conflict with the Spanish will?
    Many thanks

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Morning Murray,

      Your query relates to Sottish law, which is not my area of expertise.

      I understand your concern. It’s only the second clause that I find problematic; it would seem to revoke the Spanish will.

      As probate will be carried out from the UK you should query your solicitor if such a clause may revoke your Spanish will. Can’t they just word in as an exception the Spanish will?


      1. Murray

        Hi Raymundo
        Thank you for your input. I agree with you particularly re the revocation possibility of the Spanish will and have asked for inclusion of wording to exclude the Spanish will.
        Best regards

  29. thomas

    My parents have jointly owned a property in spain for 12 years however they are resident in the UK. They made Spanish wills and were advised by the Spanish lawyer due to Spanish law upon the death of either of them the property goes to the children. My father died in july and now the lawyer is saying the property must transfer to me and my siblings name (a great expense) however neither me or my sibling want to take ownership of the property and would like our mother to solely own it. Does the English law override the Spanish will? or is there a way we can refuse to inherit so that it automatically goes to our mother?

    Thank you

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Thomas,

      That advice does not sound correct. I can’t really confirm without examining the will myself.

      UK citizens have free testamentary disposition. They can leave their assets to whomever they please unlike Spanish citizens.

      I could for example leave everything to my pet squirrel whereas a Spanish citizen must follow constrained heirship rules that force them to leave their assets to their children (at least 2/3).

      Now that your father is dead the Spanish will must be executed. You and your siblings are the beneficiaries. You must take ownership of the property and arrange for your mother to live in it i.e. setting up a life usufruct in her favour. For as long as she lives she can live in the property but the ownership is yours and your siblings.

      If you renounce to the inheritance then someone else other than your mother will be appointed as beneficiary of the property i.e. yours and your sibling’s children; if you do not have descendants then it will go to your father’s parents or grandparents. Surviving spouses are neglected by the Spanish Civil Code in the pecking order as explained in detail in my article above.

      Bottom line, this problem could have been avoided if at the time the will had been worded properly. Now I’m afraid it is too late; you must take ownership unless you want to lose control over the property.


  30. David

    Hi Raymundo,

    I am not sure if I need a Spanish will. I am a British citizen, resident in Spain with my Spanish wife and our young son. All my assets, other than a couple of months living expenses are in the UK. We rent our house here. My UK will states that all assets should pass to my wife.
    What do you think?
    Thank you.

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Afternoon David,

      If you were resident in the UK, a Spanish will would not be necessary.

      However you specifically mention you are resident in Spain. Making a Spanish will is most advisable in your case. Think that when you die your worldwide assets are subject to Spanish inheritance tax on account of your residency. UK IHT mat apply as well as there is no double taxation treaty regarding succession with the UK.

      All the reasons/advantages on why a Spanish will is necessary are collated in my below article:

      Making a Spanish Will:

      If you have further queries, let me know.

      You are welcome.


      1. Anne

        Thanks for such an educative article. My question is, if the husband is spanish national but resident in the UK for 20+ years with his non EU wife, does the Spanish laws apply?
        May I add that the Spanish national hadn’t been in Spain for 3+ years and last country of residency was UAE.

  31. Nicola Roche

    Dear Raymundo
    I have read your many replies to people with queries and I’m hoping you may be able to help me also
    I’ll try and keep it strictly to the facts my father lived and resided in Spain since 2001 he is of Irish nationality
    He owned property and had the usual life assets we all accumulate
    My father passed away 10 months ago leaving no will made
    We after weeks of his death we informed he was married over 10 years beforehand much to our shock
    The house where he lived and we knew as home his wife is living in
    Naturally we want to keep our family home but we are unsure of what rights we have as a family
    The house in Spain was filled with many of our late mothers possessions and this individual is now denying us any access to the property also
    Can you help ?

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Nicola,

      The possession, and maybe even the property, belongs to his surviving spouse. Should you try and disturb her in her possession she is entitled to seek the police’s protection against you. You could be criminally prosecuted for illegal trespassing and be remanded into custody awaiting prosecution. Bottom line, make no attempt to enter that property without her express permission.

      My advice is that you hire a lawyer and initiate a succession procedure. This procedure will likely involve both an Irish solicitor and a Spanish lawyer working in tandem as your father died intestate (RoI intestacy rules apply). It is going to take quite some time to sort out (one year plus). A Spanish lawyer can easily confirm under whose name is the Spanish property and if there is a last will made in Spain unbeknownst to yourselves.


      1. Nicola

        Dear Raymundo
        Thank you so much for the reply I truly appreciate your help
        Yes we had a feeling this would be the case and thus have remained away from our home
        We are aware there is no will that was made either in Ireland or Spain
        What we are are unsure of is do we have any claim over the property we have been informed by the embassy here in Ireland that Spanish succession laws should be enforced and not Irish as he lived there for numerous years and had no assets in Ireland
        Is this correct ?
        Sorry for the additional questions but it’s a very difficult situation and proving hard to find answers

        1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

          Hi Nicola,

          I’m not sure you realize, but you are actually asking me on Irish law.

          Spanish law makes a renvoi to his own national law (Irish) in such cases ex Art. 9.8 of the SCC (Spanish Civil Code). I’d need to study the Wills Act 1837 and Succession Act 1965 to have an idea on whether the RoI makes a renvoi back to Spain (as does England and Wale’s law in such cases). Double renvois are forbidden in Spain in which case Spanish Succession law would apply.

          Under Spanish law a surviving spouse in an intestate scenario is not entitled to anything (if there are children, as is your case). The children would inherit the Spanish estate in equal shares: Arts. 912, 913, 921, 930 and 932 of the SCC.

          Under Irish law, section 67 of the Succession Act of 1965 (bear in mind I am NO expert in Irish law) rules that the surviving spouse is entitled to two-thirds of the inheritance and the children to the remaining one-third.

          So as you can see Nicola it is very relevant to determine which law applies to your case as the outcomes are very different. Which is precisely why on my first reply I mentioned that an Irish lawyer, or at the very least a legal opinion, is required to confirm which law applies as it pertains to Irish law, not Spanish law.

          Your query exceeds the object of a forum devoted to Spanish law.

          You are welcome.


  32. Roy Kirtley

    Hi Raymundo,

    My Spanish girlfriend inherited her aunt’s apartment in central Madrid, in 2009. After taking possession she rented it out as she lives in Andalucia, and did not want to sell because we’d like to retire there eventually. In 2010 she received a tax bill of 156,000 euros from the Community of Madrid – which she raised by remortgaging. She was told that this was a one-off payment. She has now received a further bill of 82,000 euros. This all seems a bit arbitrary to me – is it legitimate? Thanks, Roy

  33. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    Hi Roy,

    Without examining the documents myself I couldn’t really tell, sorry. But it does sound strange, yes, specially six years after.

    It could be that the tax bill is time-barred and they are trying to chance it. Administrations do it all the time. It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to allege the debt has timed out to avoid payment.


  34. Yvonne

    Hi Raymundo

    My husband and I are both British, I live and work in the UK and my husband lives in Spain, he’s retired.
    We have a Spanish property – how does this effect us because at the moment we both have Spanish wills from when we were both resident, but I was only resident for 2 years before moving back to the UK for work. All very confusing? Many thanks Yvonne

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Morning Yvonne,

      Following your words, you are non-resident in Spain so this European Regulation would not apply to you. The reason being is that the UK, along with Denmark and the Republic of Ireland, opted out so it doesn’t apply to them. However, should you move back to Spain and become in the future resident you would have the problem mentioned in my article.

      As for your husband, he lives all year round in Spain. This is where his habitual residency is. Should your husband pass away, God forbid, if he has not specifically mentioned in his Spanish will that his own national law is to be applied (England and Wales’ or else Scotland’s) then Spanish Succession Laws will apply. Spanish Succession Laws differ considerably from British standards. In Spain, by law, you must bequeath assets to descendants or ascendants which have priority over a surviving spouse (!).

      So, in order to avoid YOU problems, as I surmise you stand to inherit should he die, it is advisable your husband double-checks that in his Spanish will there is a provision whereby his estate will be distributed according to his own national law in lieu of Spain’s. If there is no such provision I strongly recommend a new will is made specifying it. This will avoid you the problems highlighted in my above article.

      Hope that helps.


  35. Linda bird

    My husband died in Spain 2009 it is far to long to tell you the full story,so I no I AV to keep it short he was a good buisness man but very stupid as he did not take life insurance out he left me all assets and 650 thousand euros . At the reading of the will the bank came forward to say I could not have the money as my husband got the mortgages on the collateral he had .i excepted this and my oldest daughter lived in our villa doing her damm best to sell them to Clair the debt ( another story ).the buisness side of things I never gave much thought of it as they were leased and my youngest daughter was running it and paying me 500 euros a wk that payed my oldest daughter to live there as we had rescue animals to care for ,children and getting no help .6 years on my youngest daughter fell out with me 3 years ago over the most trivial thing another story .everything was planned by her with a corupt soliciter. ( I can prove) he is that powerful others won’t take him on.the buisness is in her name and it ernns thousand of euros it is a gambling buisness.she as scince got a legal licence with bwin a Spanish consortium something my husband worked for over the years .i don’t feel for myself I feel it for my other children.they my daughter stopped giving me money as soon as everything was in place ( taken it from me ) the other children acused me of signing it over to her I have never signed anything all it was I trusted her

  36. Jessie C

    Hello Raymundo
    Please would you be able to advise me how I can read my father’s Spanish will online? He died in July 2015 and I know that in the UK, once a will is probated, it is a public document and can be found online (for a fee). Is this the case in Spain? Where would I begin to look for it?
    Thank you so much


    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Morning Jessie,

      I am afraid we are not as advanced as in the UK.

      Your starting point is Madrid’s Central Registry of Last Wills (Registro General de Actos de Última Voluntad). Any will that is witnessed by a Notary anywhere in Spain will have the details sent to this Central Registry. The original will is stored for safekeeping by the Notary himself.

      So basically this Central Registry will supply you with the date, name of Notary and basic details on when the Spanish will was witnessed. They will NOT disclose its content or hand you a copy.

      Using the supplied contact details, you must then contact the Notary before which the will was witnessed and justify a legitimate interest to either view or obtain a copy of his last will i.e. that you are his daughter.

      I will supply you with a link, in English, from the Spanish Ministry of Justice which explains step-by-step what you must do to find out before which Notary your late father made a will:

      Hope that helps.


  37. mick

    Hi Raymundo
    We would like to make a will in Lanzarote can you tell me how much it will cost and the time frame Please we are in Lanzarote over the Christmas period
    Kind Regards

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Mick,

      Making a will, without a lawyer, directly at a Notary Public costs approximately €40 and takes 20 minutes or less.

      However it will not be in English and you will require a translator if you are not fluent in Spanish.

      If what you want is a Spanish will that is in double column, English and Spanish, you need to hire a lawyer and will cost €150 – €200. The lawyer can act as translator.

      You are welcome.


  38. Chris Wallace

    hello raymundo
    great article. my long term partner and I of twenty years updated our will this year. however my lawyer advised us to get married because the surving partner would end up with a huge inheritance tax bill. is that correct ? we are both permanent residents in Spain with no UK assets, only bank accounts.
    kind regards
    Chris Wallace

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      The advice is good. Lawful spouses stand to gain much on mitigating Spanish Inheritance Tax as opposed to de facto partnerships. Unfortunately Spain is only four decades into a modern Democracy so there is still a heavy legal bias in our Regulation towards ‘traditional’ Roman Catholic values & institutions i.e. marriage.

      In time this will change. However, in the meantime and being pragmatic, the best course of action is to get married to mitigate IHT. On doing this you jump from Group IV to Group II with all the associated perks this has; chiefly a lower tax bill.

      I would have given you the same sound advice.


  39. Anne

    Dear Raymundo,
    I have a query and thank you for your wonderful articles.
    Kindly advise, if a Spanish national left Spain 20+ years and made UK their residency and married a non EU spouse and they continued living in the UK. Years later the Spanish national gets a job in the UAE and moves there and becomes resident there even though the Spanish national still has his address in the UK with his spouse, where the non EU spouse still lives.
    The question is in the event of death, does the Spanish law apply here?

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Good morning Anne,

      Thank you for your kind words, much appreciated.

      Spain’s Civil Code rules in art. 9.1 that the personal law that applies to physical individuals is the one determined by their nationality. This law will rule on such matters as succession. Specifically art. 9.8 of the SCC stipulates that succession will be ruled by the national law of the deceased at the time of his death regardless of in which country his assets may be located.

      In your query you always make it clear your spouse remains a Spanish national. At the time of your husband’s death his succession will be ruled by his own national law, that is Spanish law regardless if this takes place in the UK or elsewhere.

      Spanish law establishes forced heirship rules i.e. 2/3 of the inheritance must go to his children and the remaining 1/3 to whomever he wants.

      Spanish nationals, in general, do not have free testamentary disposition of assets in their wills. Quoting what I write in my article above:

      Who Does It Affect?

      In a nutshell, Regulation 650/2012 affects all foreigners who have their habitual residency in Spain and die on or after the 17th of August 2015 (articles 23 and 83). Spanish nationals may disregard the whole article as they are unaffected by the changes

      At the time of his death, UK authorities ought to apply Spanish law to rule his succession.
      Hope that helps.


  40. david

    dear raymundo great article hope you can help our dad died on 22 october 2015 left every thing to his second youger wife which was diserponting as this was our family home but we decided to except as dads wish it then came back when she died mirror wills.we have now been told new wills was not updated properly and new spainish law 650/2012 takes over and we get 2/3rds of his estate,our query is do we need our owen notary or use the same one that is deling with dad estate at the moment and is his wifes notary?.we have been asked to renounce our inheritance in here favor we decided no as she may not make new will in our favor and follow dads wish? we also dont want to make here homeless as dad would not wish this what are our options? there is money as well plus other asets, can you give eney advice thank you

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Morning David,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      As your father died after the 17th of August 2.015, and taking for granted he was a Spanish resident, you can successfully overturn his will if it was not updated as per my article above. You wouldn’t just get 2/3 of his late estate; you are mistaken. You would in fact get the full 3/3 (all his estate) as you are effectively nullifying the will. The younger wife will not get anything. Hence why I wrote my above article to warn on this scenario so people updated their wills ASAP.

      As I write in my conclusion: “Surviving spouses or partners are the ones who stand to lose most (or all) under this new Regulation unless you act now.”

      I’m afraid you can’t go cherry picking; it’s take it all or leave it be. If you decide to challenge the will there is no turning back and his younger wife will lose ALL the money/assets. She won’t be entitled to anything. So think carefully what you are going to do. Wills can be changed at any point in time so there is no guarantee that “you will get back” the assets in her mirror will; that is absurd. In fact, I would never bank on it. Wills are not cast in stone.

      It is not a Notary that organizes this, much less her Notary; do not be foolish. You must hire your own lawyer immediately to challenge his late will and represent your interests.

      Your father should have read my article above and acted upon it. Now her young wife will pay the price on losing it all; just as I had predicted repeatedly.

      Hope that helps David.


      1. david

        Thank you very much for your reply. Just to confirm the Notary e-mailed us to say our Dad’s will was not updated so new Spanish Law takes over so we’re entitled to 2/3rds of his estate. We haven’t contested the will, we assumed that his wife will get the other 3rd under this new law? Am I misunderstanding you? Yes Dad was a resident

        1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

          You are welcome.

          You are presuming wrong. You are not following my advice – hire a lawyer!!

          His children are entitled to all, not just 2/3. The 2/3rds rule only applies if a will is valid – which is not the case.

          His will is null and void as per my article above. That is precisely the whole point of my article!! When there is no will, children get all. The will needs to be contested legally under this new Regulation and for that you must hire a lawyer. The Notary is not a lawyer.

          That’s why I write it’s take all or lose all. There is no in-between or middle ground. You must make a decision with your siblings (if you have any). You or her.

          I can say it louder but not clearer.


  41. Stephen

    Hi Raymundo

    I am hoping you could give me your advice on a rather difficult situation me and my siblings have been left in. My father died suddenly at the end of last year, he and his wife not my mum live in Valencia region and have been residents since 2003. In 2005 he and his wife made mirrored wills leaving each other there entire estates upon either of there demise and then to my fathers five children I’ve me and my siblings. I have been recently contacted by my late fathers and wife’s solicitor informing me that as his will was not renewed to include his national law me and my siblings are entitled to 2/3 of his part of the estate. The solicitor has asked if we would renounce our inheritance in her favour or if we want our share of his part of the estate. My siblings and I have concerns that his wife will honour my late fathers wishes that we would inherit the property after her demise even tho she has no children of her own.
    My question to you is do we need to hire a Spanish solicitor to act on our behalf and our best interests? As none of us live in Spain how would that work.
    I would also like to know if we would have to contest the will in court and is that very expensive and lengthy?
    I am very confused as what to so I very much appreciated your input on this matter.

    Thanks Stephen

      1. Stephen

        Morning Raymundo

        Thank you for your quick and honest response on this matter. My siblings and I have a big discision to make.

        All the best for the new year.

        Regards Stephen

        1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

          You are welcome Stephen.

          As I write above, the will is null and void; it has no effects. Only a judge has the power to declare a will as null and void which is why you need a lawyer to instigate legal proceedings to contest the will. Once the will is declares void, you and your four siblings will be entitled to all, not just 2/3rds as you are being misled to believe. Remember, you are being told this by your stepmother’s lawyer… It is actually your young stepmother who is NOT entitled to anything under Spanish law.

          You must hire a lawyer to contest the will; yes it is a lengthy legal procedure, but you are bound to win following this new Regulation.

          If you, and your four siblings renounce to the will there is zero guarantee your stepmother will bequeath these assets in the future… moreover, wills can be changed at any moment.

          So yes, you and your siblings need to make a decision on this soon, one way or the other. It is yourselves that inherit all or you all renounce and she gets it all. Your choice.


          1. Stephen

            Hi Raymundo

            Thank you very much for your help on this Matter.

            Can you please just answer one more question on this matter please.

            What happens if one or more of my brothers or sisters renounce there inheritance to her can one of my other brother or sister contest the will and get it all or do we all have to contest the will together?

            Regards Stephen

  42. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    You are welcome Stephen.

    Any one of your siblings can contest the will; you don’t all have to do it.

    Whoever renounces, has renounced; there is no turning back. Once the will is contested, by any of the siblings, the share that was renounced will be split among the remaining siblings, who did not renounce; put simply, they will inherit more. The renounced share will not go to your young stepmother (unless of course the will is not contested by anyone).

    Hope that answer your query.


  43. Mary from Glasgow

    My husband and I have owned a Spanish property jointly since 2007. It was purchased as a holiday home and we are both U.K residents. We both made Spanish wills at the time of purchase naming each other as sole beneficiary in the event of The death of either of us. Sadly my husband passed away suddenly four weeks ago and I am sole executor and beneficiary of U.K will. I intend to travel to Spain in April to settle his estate there. The only asset us the apartment and a small bank account used to finance electricity, insurance, water, and factoring costs for the property. Is this allowing enough time to settle the Inheritance Tax due by me within the allotted time scale. The property us now worth around £90,000.

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Mary,

      You can request a one-time extension of six months to settle Spanish Inheritance Tax (total time to file and pay Spanish IHT would now be 12 months without attracting penalties and surcharges). I would request it if I were you.

      You must hire a Spanish lawyer to settle this tax and request the extension so you do not incur in penalties for late payment..


  44. Andy W.

    Hi Raymundo

    This is a great article and it’s something that we were made aware of when we bought a property in Spain a few years ago. I have a quick query if I may.

    I am a British national and my partner is Spanish. We are both resident in the UK and have been for many years. Our existing Spanish wills allow me free disposal of assets as per UK law but my partner’s assets are allocated along the lines of Spanish inheritance laws (siblings etc). I think that we now need to update our wills to enable us to both take advantage of the EU law referred to in this article. Am I correct in thinking that the UK wills should refer to all UK ans Spanish assets and the Spanish will should be updated to simply say that we wish all assets to be distributed in line with the UK wills (i.e. free disposal of assets)? Could this be carried out by a notary only or would we need to engage a Spanish lawyer again?



    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Andy,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      If you both intend to remain in the UK there is no need for you to make a new Spanish will.

      However, if at some point later on in your life, you decide to settle in Spain and become habitual residents then you must make a new Spanish will making a mention that you want your own national law to apply (England and Wales) in lieu of Spain’s succession laws.

      Correct, a UK will should deal with UK assets or elsewhere in the world other than Spain. The Spanish will deals exclusively with Spanish assets.

      Your wife doesn’t need to change her Spanish will as this European Regulation does not affect her in any way as she will never enjoy having the liberty of free disposition of assets; that freedom is only reserved to UK nationals and other nationalities, not to Spanish citizens who must abide by forced heirship rules. As I write: “Spanish nationals may disregard the whole article as they are unaffected by the changes.” This European Regulation does not grant Spanish nationals free disposition of assets.

      You will never be able to have mirror wills as you hold different citizenships which are ruled by their own laws.

      I advise you to hire a lawyer as a Notary will not lay out a will in double-column English and Spanish.

      Hope that clarifies.


  45. Jessie C

    Hello Raymundo

    I have received my father’s Spanish will. He has left everything to his spouse, and her children. My siblings and I (from his previous marriage) are left out and he specifically states he wants British law to apply. Is there any point in contesting this? My sister in particular worked tirelessly for him sorting out his UK affairs while he lived in Spain, and we are all upset that her efforts are not rewarded in the smallest way.
    My father suffered with cancer in the last year of his life, when this will was written. Do you think there is any way his treatment and drugs will have affected his decision making? Or could his wife have convinced him to do this? Is it worth questioning the will in any way?
    Also, there is no signature on his will (the notary sent me a copy). Is this normal? Will the signature be on the original? Or is no signature required in Spain?

    I hope you can help in some way.

    Best wishes

    1. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hi Jessie,

      I am sorry to hear your case.

      All wills must be signed in Spain by he who grants them. It is a personal act.

      This was his last will; you are certain of this? Have you already checked the last registry of wills in Madrid to verify it is the case?

      If your father expressly worded that England & Wales’ laws apply then, following British law, he had free disposition of assets. He could bequeath his assets to whomever he pleased as I stress in all my articles.

      You would need to prove that he was mentally unfit to make a will in which case it could be challenged. Normally this is self-evident as testators are delusional and there are medical records that back this up; it is a long protracted process. I am unsure being treated for cancer qualifies as such and you would have the burden to prove it.

      If it makes it you feel better you could try hiring a lawyer to make a consultation and see if it could be challenged on these grounds. Personally, following what you write, I find it highly unlikely that you’d succeed; sorry.


      1. Jessie C

        Yes, I understand. Thank you Raymundo. I don’t want to go through all that anyway. I had just hoped that my father would have done the right thing. Unfortunately not! Very many thanks anyway for your advice. You do such a great job!
        Best wishes

  46. Profile photo of BDeluxeBDeluxe

    Hi Raymundo,

    I just want some clarification on an open will, I have read in several places that a ‘testamento abierto’ requires 3 witnesses to be valid, is this indeed the case?

    My Father made an open will but it states ‘he renounced the presence of witnesses’ so the Notary was the only person present. I’m concerned he may have been pressured or rushed to change the will in light of the regulation changes (English law applies) and has given no protection to his children should his spouse (2nd marriage) change her will or didn’t include his children in her will in the first place.

    When he was alive he told me that we would eventually inherit the Spanish property but I can see there is big question hanging over this as his widow can do whatever she pleases, I’m sure that isn’t what he intended.

  47. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    Morning Deluxe,

    I do not know where you have read that but it is wrong.

    An open will does not need witnesses’ to be signed, only the Notary.

    The exceptions, in which witnesses are required, is for example when the grantor does not know how to read or write, when he is blind etc.

    I myself have an open will and there were no witnesses. This is the most common type of will in Spain.

    There are many types of will in Spain, perhaps you are confusing it with another type or your father had some special mental or physical condition which required a witness.

    Hope that clarifies.


    1. Profile photo of BDeluxeBDeluxe

      Thanks for the clarification Raymundo, there was nothing wrong with my father other than him being naive and a spendthrift. If he’d have gone to a solicitor rather than saving a few Euro at a notary I’m sure he would have had better advice and put a ‘usufruct’ clause in the Will. This oversight will probably cost me and my family dear and I’ll have a lifetime feeling of injustice.

      I hope people who read this take note of the potential pitfalls of not getting good advice.

  48. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    You are welcome.

    Have you had access to his last will? Did he pass away already?

    Thing is that wills in Spain cab be changed at a moment´s notice. It is always the last will that is valid.

    Establishing a lifetime usufruct in favour of the surviving spouse is a smart way to protect them. Besides if she7he needs the money, for whatever reason, they can always cash in on the usufruct so long as the heirs can come up with the money to buy them out.

    I am sorry to hear your case. As you write, and as I care to highlight in my articles, it is very important to protect your loved ones adequately on drawing up a will correctly. Mistakes have long lasting consequences.


  49. Profile photo of BDeluxeBDeluxe

    Yes he passed away a few months back, I had spent some time and money getting an NIE number in anticipation but I when I read the Will I could see there was no protection for his eventual wishes. It states that the entire estate goes to his wife, I’m named as a substitute along with my stepbrother should she have died first. She may have the same in her Will but there’s nothing to stop her changing that.

    I can only hope she has some morals but from past experience I wont hold my breath. This is just one of many cases I’ve read about, I really feel ‘usufruct’ should be the default with the option to opt out if the testator so wishes.

  50. Profile photo of BDeluxeBDeluxe

    Yes he passed away a few months back, I had spent some time and money getting an NIE number in anticipation but when I read the Will I could see there was no protection for his eventual wishes. It states that the entire estate goes to his wife, I’m named as a substitute along with my stepbrother should she have died first. She may have the same in her Will but there’s nothing to stop her changing that.

    I can only hope she has some morals but from past experience I wont hold my breath. This is just one of many cases I’ve read about, I really feel ‘usufruct’ should be the default with the option to opt out if the testator so wishes.

  51. Profile photo of Raymundo Larraín NesbittRaymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

    I´m sorry to hear this is your case. Unfortunately British nationals have freedom of disposition to bequeath their assets to whomever they please; there are no restrictions safeguarding the interests of their next-of-kin unlike Spanish succession laws.


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