COVID-19 means UK Citizens need to get their house in order in Spain
LAPWORTH, UK / ACCESSWIRE / July 1, 2020 / 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 operated by Certainty 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."
Notes to the Editor
About the Author
Mrs. Roser Coll Anglada, MLaw, Spanish Abogado, Masters in International Business Law and Partner of Probate in Spain by Temis & Co.
Roser started off her career in the UK, where she worked for 10 years and specialized in private client and foreign investments in Spain. Based in Barcelona, she advises UK clients with ties to Spain on estate planning and cross-border administration estates between Spain and the UK.
With a view to managing time expectations, it is important to bear in mind that the processes for searches of wills and probate have been suffering serious delays and interruptions. The search of a Spanish Will at the Spanish National Will Register is of essence when dealing with the administration of an estate in Spain, yet the response time from the Central Registry has doubled, from 30 days to 60 days, as many employees of the Registry are working remotely.
Another key point of the execution of the inheritance means dealing with the translation and apostille of relevant documents (to make them valid in Spain) such as the Death Certificate and Grant of Probate. As the Foreign Commonwealth Office has remained under minimum-restricted services, it has proved to be exceedingly difficult to validate such documents within reasonable timeframes. Another area of concern which we have been handling on behalf of executors and beneficiaries is the application for a mandatory Spanish NIE number (Tax Identification Number), required when a foreigner acquires real property in Spain, which in pandemic times has been a major problem, as the corresponding local administration has been closed for such purposes.
All these administrative delays caused by the Covid-19 have increased the necessary time to deal with the Probate Journey, which in turn has slowed down the Sale of the inherited property in Spain, given the requirement of prior Probate completion. Despite the challenges created by the Pandemic, legal practitioners have been able to provide legal solutions to protect client's interests and help them secure agreements with a potential buyer. As always, each case requires full study and consideration before a tailored solution can be implemented.
As announced by the Spanish government, measures in Spain have started to relax, yet we are far from being back to pre-Covid times. One should also note that the restrictions of movement and imposition of remote work may be reinstated anytime by the Government, whenever there is a threat of a new outbreak. Therefore, we would encourage you to discuss with a Spanish counsel should you be the owner or beneficiary of a Spanish estate, so that you are able to manage and mitigate any risk arising from a reinstatement of measures, which potentially would be detrimental for your Spanish assets.
About The National Will Register
Certainty the National Will Register is The Law Society's endorsed provider of the National Will Register for England and Wales, the Institute of Professional Will Writers and the Society of Will Writers and Society of Will Writers Scotland. It is recommended by organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau and Which?.
Used by the public, legal profession, funeral directors, professional indemnity insurers, government agencies and charities to Register Wills and Search for Wills when dealing with a bereavement or writing a Will.
The National Will Register has over eight million Wills in the system currently a large proportion of Wills written by solicitors and Will writers.
The National Will Register provides fundamental protection for executors, beneficiaries and administrators and the probate profession distributing estates by minimising the risk of another Will being discovered after the estate has been distributed or an unknown Will remaining untraced and the estate being distributed without a Will.
In 2019, 12% of estates searched against had an unknown Will attached to them, the search prevented incorrect estate distribution. Either being a later Will revoking the Will being used or the estate was believed to be intestate and a Will existed. A Will Search checks to see if a Will has been registered with Certainty the National Will Register and also conducts a nationwide geographically-targeted search for Wills that have not been registered.
Each and every day we obtain human interest stories that demonstrate how Will Registration and Will Search have been able to assist in the Will writing and probate process, please do get in contact should you wish to receive further details.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak we are extending the period in which you should receive a response back following a search for a Will that is not registered on The National Will Register. Normally we advise that the time you should wait for a response is up to 28 days. We appreciate that there may be a time delay in certain circumstances as many law firms and Will writing companies have correctly implemented a work from home policy for their employees. We are are therefore advising that currently you should wait up to 56 days for a response should a Will that has not been registered be located following your search. NB If a Will is registered usual response times should remain unaffected.
DD: 01564 332513, Tel: 0330 100 3660, M: 07976 439314, [email protected]
SOURCE: Will Certainty Ltd