Foreigners and inheritance in Spain

Foreigners should know that inheritance laws in Spain are different, as inheritance laws differ from one country to another.

The first thing to consider is that according to the Spanish law, the law ruling the inheritance will be the law of the country of origin of the deceased, which applies without regard to the citizenship or origin of these assets; in other countries, such as England, determining the law to be applied to the asset is ascertained by the specific characteristic itself of the deceased’s assets. As such, the procedures to inherit these assets take into account the nationality, origin and situation of the assets themselves.

In Spain, unity and universality principles govern and are the foundation of inheritance law; these principles are contrary to legal fragmentation where a law from one country may govern one specific asset, while a law from another country may govern another. The Spanish Civil Code in its  article 9.8, in regards to international inheritance, states that principles of unity and universality apply. As such, inheritors must subrogate themselves in the same legal status as the deceased.

If a foreigner has any connection with the Spanish territory, there are two assumptions in regards to determining his inheritance:

1.- The deceased foreigner has not drawn up a will in Spain.

 Within this assumption, two scenarios can be found:

A) The foreigner has not drafted a will in another country: In most cases, an affidavit or a similar document exists confirming that the foreigner died intestate. In each case, the content of this document will have to be adapted to the law of the deceased’s country of origin and, at the least, will be given deference by the notorial authority equivalent to a document legalized by a Spanish Notary. An exequatur is not usually required, since a document such as this is usually treated as an exercise of voluntary jurisdiction, and as such, the document should be legalized, and if necessary, translated.

B) The foreigner has drafted a will in another country: The inheritors are in possession of a public, foreign document which establishes that they are heirs and they will inherit from the deceased by virtue of an anticipated inheritance or will. They may be determined and named by the will and, as such, will be able to inherit from this will, as established by the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, on the conflict of laws relating to the form of testamentary dispositions, and enforced in Spain since 10 June 1988.

2.- The foreigner has drafted a will in Spain: 

The most common form of will, usually grants foreigner’s inheritance rights in Spain and works in the same way as it does with inheritors who are of Spanish heritage and are granted inheritance rights by the power of this document.

Even though  drafting a will in Spain is not necessarily imperative; it is however beneficial as it will save time and money, since otherwise inheritors are required to prove which assets they will inherit and must show the certificates of inheritance before they are able to take any legal action in Spain. Furthermore, they will have to pay for official translations and the legalization of these documents.

In conclusion, it is in the inheritor’s best interest to contact a local solicitor who will follow up on any inquiries about the inheritance to ensure that foreign inheritors are granted their full inheritance rights.

For further information you can send us an email: or call: 951 082 338

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