Wills in Spain

Understanding the Critical Importance of Wills in Spain and Property Ownership

Owning property brings with it a responsibility that goes beyond maintenance and taxes—it involves planning for the future through estate management, particularly the drafting of a will. The significance of having a will becomes even more pronounced when considering the complexities of inheritance laws, which can vary greatly from one country to another, such as between Spain and Northern European countries.

The Legal Landscape of Inheritance in Northern Europe vs. Spain

In Northern European countries, such as Belgium, The Netherlands, UK etc, the inheritance laws generally offer a degree of flexibility that allows individuals to distribute their estate with relative freedom. Although these countries can ensure that a portion of the estate goes to direct family members, there is often room for testators to express their wishes in diverse ways through their wills.

In contrast, Spain adheres to a more stringent set of rules. Governed by the Código Civil (Civil Code), Spanish law enforces the concept of “forced heirs” (herederos forzosos), which typically includes the children and the surviving spouse of the deceased. These heirs are legally entitled to at least two-thirds of the deceased’s estate, ensuring that a substantial part of an individual’s assets are distributed in a predetermined manner, regardless of the testator’s wishes.

The Risks of Not Having a Will

The implications of not having a will in Spain can be severe. In the absence of a will, the Spanish legal system dictates the distribution of your estate according to the national laws of succession. This often leads to a distribution that may not align with your personal wishes and can also spark lengthy and costly legal disputes among potential heirs. Such disputes can not only drain financial resources but also cause rifts within families, making an already difficult time even more stressful.

The Importance of a Properly Drafted Will

Given the rigid structure of inheritance laws in Spain, drafting a will that is legally sound and reflects your wishes is crucial. This is particularly important for expatriates and non-residents who own property in Spain, as their home country’s laws might offer more leniency compared to Spanish laws. The process of drafting a will in Spain requires careful consideration of various factors, including how your residency status affects inheritance taxes and rights.

For those unfamiliar with Spanish law, navigating these waters can be daunting. It is advisable to seek advice from someone with experience in both Spanish and international estate law. This guidance ensures that your will is compliant with local laws and tailored to your specific situation, potentially saving your heirs from unnecessary legal complications.

Steps to Take

  1. Legal Consultation: Engage with a legal professional who has experience in inheritance law, particularly someone familiar with the nuances between different legal systems if you’re an expat or non-resident. Just ask us to find out more about this.
  2. Understand the Law: Educate yourself about the differences in inheritance laws where your property is located versus your home country. This knowledge can dramatically impact your estate planning.
  3. Tailor Your Will: Ensure that your will is specifically tailored to meet the legal requirements of the country where your property is located while still honoring as many of your wishes as possible.
  4. Regular Updates: Update your will periodically to reflect any changes in your personal circumstances or adjustments in local and international law that might affect your estate.


While the task of drafting a will might seem daunting, especially with properties in jurisdictions like Spain, the peace of mind it provides can be invaluable. Not only does it ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, but it also protects your loved ones from potential legal disputes. Estate planning is not merely a bureaucratic necessity but a crucial step in safeguarding your legacy and providing for the future of your heirs. For those seeking to navigate these complex waters, professional advice is not just useful—it is essential.

Here at Hola Properties, we have vast experience in helping people with this, so if you do not currently have a will or require a review of your current will, just get in touch and we will be happy to help you.

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