After 25 years as a Spanish inheritance lawyer and having handled over 400 inheritance cases for ex-pats in Spain:
These are the 7 most common mistakes when dealing with Spanish inheritance that you must try and avoid:
1. Not claiming the correct inheritance tax exemptions you are entitled to. This mistake can cost you a lot of money. Each regional government in Spain has established exemptions for beneficiaries resident in their region. These exemptions can now also be claimed by non-residents thanks to various varios sentences by the E.C.J and the Spanish supreme court. In these cases as non resident beneficiaries you will need to present the returns to the national tax office instead of the regional government but claiming the exemptions you would have been entitled to under the rules of the regional government where the assets are situated. If is very easy to not claim the correct exemptions. A expert in probate for ex-pats is the way to avoid this.
2. Not presenting tax returns within the 6 months deadline. If you feel that this is not going to happen you will need to request an extension.
3.Not presenting the tax returns to the correct tax authority. (i.e. presenting returns to the regional government when as residents you should have presented to the national tax office )
In addition to these problems above related exclusively to the probate procedure we have these other 4 problems related directly to the Spanish will:
4. Relying on a U.K will or even no will. ( there is plenty of room for disaster Not having a Spanish will,
5.The Spanish will is not up to date with changes to the laws. Changes have taken place recently . Directive 650/2012 in relation to who you can leave your assets to and Sentence of the ECJ of 3/9/20014 in relation to inheritance tax for non residents receiving assets in Spain. (call the solicitor that prepared it or call us and we will prepare new wills.
6. Investments in a Life policy and no beneficiary named on the policy.
7. When there are children from a previous marriages not having a Spanish will that avoids claims by children from a previous marriage based on the Spanish system of obligatory heirs. Before the directive 650/2012 these claims could not be avoided 100% but now they can with correct wording of the Spanish will.
Conclusion: These are 7 mistakes in relation to probate and inheritance that come to mind. These and other pitfalls can easily be avoided by hiring a specialised Spanish probate lawyer to handle the inheritance for you .
If possible we recommend a family meeting before probate is actually needed to make sure the Spanish will is in good order and to go through basic matters that sometimes are overlooked like making sure that somebody can locate paperwork to all the assets etc.