COVID-19 means UK Citizens need to get their house in order in Spain.
It is estimated that 800,000 to 1 million homes in Spain are owned by British citizens with 381,000 of those currently residing in Spain. Since the 1960’s, British citizens have flocked to Spain to either migrate or have a holiday home, with many buying in well-known resort towns and areas such as the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and The Balearic and Canary Islands. Many of those who buy Spanish properties are retired empty-nesters so it imperative that they plan how they would wish for their estate to be distributed in the future, both in the UK and in Spain.
With travel restrictions and countries on lockdown, what impact has Covid-19 had on distributing an estate when the deceased had assets in both the UK and Spain?
The pandemic originated by the rapid spread of the Covid-19 has turned the entire world upside down, affecting our daily lives and businesses in ways beyond imaginable. This statement holds true for Spain in particular: for the past three months, Spain has been held in strict lockdown following a state of emergency imposed by the Spanish Government. During this period the legislative arm of the State has been kept busy enacting a wide array of legal measures in order to mitigate the effects on the economy and the lives of Spanish citizens.
Roser Coll Anglada is an international law specialist and Partner of Probate in Spain by Temis & Co who are based in Barcelona, she comments: “Under such challenging times and circumstances, our law firm has seen an increase in requests for help from international clients suffering a bereavement, where assets such as a second home in Spain was owned by the deceased. We have been assisting clients which form part of that generation of thousands of British nationals who bought property in Spain in the 1960s and onwards. They are usually in need of legal assistance when it comes to planning their estate following a property purchase in Spain. However, we are currently supporting many more executors and beneficiaries who find themselves in the unfortunate position of dealing with an estate in Spain following the death of a loved one.”
Roser explains that the pandemic is affecting Wills and Estate Administration in Spain: “Due to Covid-19, the number of Spanish Wills being written and registered by foreign individuals and in particular from owners of Spanish property living in the UK has doubled the work load in our Wills and Estate Administration Department.”
“We always recommend to our UK clients that they have a Spanish Will in place. It is no different to the UK where it is important to have a Will and have it registered with The National Will Register. A Spanish Will and having it registered in Spain at the Spanish Last Wills Registry is equally important. However, some do not get around to writing a Spanish Will because buying a property in Spain is a happy occasion and the start of a new life chapter for most. Writing a Will is the reverse, it documents an end of life chapter, so I can empathise with those who buy a property and choose not to think about the end! The recent pandemic, which may not have an end for many months to come, has forced those who do not have a Will but own a property in Spain, to consider the benefits of writing one.”
“Simply put, having a Spanish Will saves money, time and worries for the beneficiaries and executors of an estate in Spain, making it far simpler to expedite the execution of the inheritance and avoid any unpleasant surprises. Suffering a bereavement is traumatic enough, without having to deal with uncertainty surrounding the estate in the absences of a Will for assets in a foreign country.”
“Managing your assets in Spain correctly is vital if you are to protect the money you have invested in your Spanish home. By way of example, a client had bought a property in Marbella fifteen years ago, who wanted to understand the legal and the inheritance tax implications of transferring their share to their children during their lifetime, as opposed to making their Spanish Wills and appointing the children as beneficiaries upon their deaths. Taking correct advice ensures you make the right decisions for you and your beneficiaries.”
“We are also assisting beneficiaries who have inherited property in Spain and given the recent pandemic are reluctance to travel to Spain but need to deal with a buyer for the inherited property. In such cases the sale can still be handled, but our advice is that it is imperative to deal with an English-speaking Spanish solicitor in Spain whilst you remain in the UK and one that understands cross-border laws and implications. This way you can be sure of a smooth sale without issues. Communication and experience really are key – language barriers leading to misunderstandings and misinterpretation of the law, is a recipe for potential financial disaster and distress.”
“In short, if you own assets in Spain then take legal advice from an international legal and financial specialist on how best to treat them in your Will. Then write a Spanish Will and register it and also write or update your UK Will and register it to reflect the advice you have been given. If you are the beneficiary or executor of a property in Spain following a death, use an international lawyer that is fluent in English and can demonstrate experience in second home sales for UK citizens. Use the countries respective Will register in Spain which is the Spanish Last Wills Registry and in the UK The National Will Register to check if a Will has been registered by the deceased that provides you with the relevant information you require to distribute the estate correctly.”
This article was created by Roser Coll, Partner at Probate in Spain by Temis & Co.