DON'T FORGET YOUR WILL IN SPAIN WITH THE NEW EUROPEAN REGULATION

DON’T FORGET YOUR WILL IN SPAIN WITH THE NEW EUROPEAN REGULATION

Renewing Spanish will 2015
Renewing Spanish will 2015

We wouldn’t want to ruin your day by talking about the “other life”, which we hope is a long way away (fingers crossed). However, because of the European Succession Regulation approved on 27 July 2012 and its upcoming application for the succession of people who die after 17 August 2015, I think it convenient to dedicate a few words to foreigners with assets in Spain.

As a starting point, this regulation establishes which jurisdiction applies to the assets of a EU national in a country of the European Union. The law applicable to the succession of a EU national, according to this Regulation, would be that of the country of habitual residence, with the ability to choose to apply the Law of his or her nationality provided that the deceased has stated this clearly and unequivocally in his or her will.

When it comes to Spain, if you are a national of a different country in the European Union but you reside and own assets in Spain, you must know that, if you do not have a Spanish will that clearly and unequivocally states that you would like the law governing your succession to be that of your nationality at the time of death, Spanish law will apply to your inheritance. What does this mean?

In Spain, there is no liberty to leave your property as inheritance to whomever you want. In Spain, the assets of the deceased are divided into three parts. Two of these parts belong to forced heirs, as follows:

  • The first part goes to each of the children in equal parts or, in the absence of children, to parents or, in the absence of the latter, to siblings.
  • The second part goes to one of the children or, if nothing has been set out, it is divided among all children in equal parts as well, as explained above.
  • The third and last part of an inheritance is the freely disposable part and this is the part that the deceased can leave to whomever he or she wishes but, to do this, there must be a will establishing this because, in the absence of a will, it will also be divided among the children in equal parts.

In Spain, a spouse comes last among forced heirs and would only inherit in the absence of these. In other words, if you are a foreigner in Spain and you reside and hold assets in our country, be aware that, if you die without a will or your will doesn’t clearly state that you would like the law of your nationality to apply, your spouse will probably inherit nothing.

The best way to prevent problems of this type is for you to execute a will in Spain and clearly state the Law you would like to apply at the time of your death.

If you happen to have a will in Spain already, it is important for you to review it and verify that it complies with the provisions of the European Succession Regulation or, in other words, that the will you have signed clearly states that your will is for the law governing your succession to be your personal law, i.e. the law of your nationality at the time of your death.

In my opinion, wills that state that “this will is valid pursuant to the personal law of the testator and said law does not cover the concept of forced heirs…” or contain similar words may cause problems under the New Regulation and, in these cases, my recommendation is to execute a new one that clearly states that you would like your succession to be governed by the law of your nationality.

I would like to clarify something that is often confused in these matters. The law governing the succession of a person in Spain is one thing, which depends on what has been explained in this article, but the tax consequences of succession in Spain are an entirely different matter. In this case, we’re referring to Inheritance Tax, which is regulated as explained in our post from March , as payment of that Tax will be due from the fact of inheriting an asset located in Spain, regardless of the Law governing your succession.

Lastly, we wish that you live for many years and you don’t have to worry too much about such unpleasant matters.

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (Lawyer)

Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

INHERITANCE TAX IN SPAIN AND NON RESIDENT TAXPAYERS: problems and prospects for the future

INHERITANCE TAX IN SPAIN AND NON RESIDENT TAXPAYERS: problems and prospects for the future

Discrimination non-residents inheritance tax
Discrimination non-residents inheritance tax

Currently, non-resident taxpayers face two major problems in respect to the payment of Inheritance Tax in Spain:

1. Discrimination: non-residents pay much more taxes than residents.

2. Double taxation: this tax is payable in two different countries for the same inherited property.

Discrimination

In Spain, taxes are paid for inheritance between non-residents—even though they are immediate family members, spouses, parents, children…, upon application of the government regulations, that is, a progressive scale of taxes based on the transferred property value.

However, regarding inheritance between residents—immediate family members—taxes are much lower or even not paid, as a result of the application of regional government regulations which provide very important tax exemptions.

In respect to inheritance between family members who are not immediate (siblings, uncles, nephews, etc…) and between non-family members, very high taxes shall be paid by both residents and non-residents. In this respect, there is no discrimination.

Upon consideration of this discriminatory unfair condition, it is necessary to inform that the European Commission is putting pressure on Spain to avoid this discrimination, as it is contrary to the free movement of persons and capital, one of the basic principles of the EU single market. This fact may provide a significant reduction of the inheritance tax for non-residents, at least for EU residents, because, otherwise, periodic penalty payments may be imposed to Spain.

There are some examples which can guide you to understand this issue over the figures.

Double taxation

Significant cases of double taxation are also occurring. For example, non-resident heirs are bound to pay a high inheritance tax in Spain for inherited property in Spain (money or real estate) and they shall also pay inheritance tax on the same inherited property in the country where they reside, without deduction of the taxes paid in Spain.

The problem is that Spain only has a convention for the avoidance of double taxation with France, Greece and Sweden for inheritance purposes. Double taxation conventions with United Kingdom, Germany, etc… only refer to income tax and property tax, so that double taxation conditions may occur in relation to inheritance tax.

Accordingly, the UE presented last year a global package regarding inheritance tax system just to avoid these two problems of discrimination and double taxation mentioned above.

 

At this stage and regarding that these serious problems seem to be at least in the process of being resolved in the medium term, C&D Solicitors would like to make the following recommendations:

1. If anybody loses a relative before regulations are modified and is bound to the payment of a high and discriminatory inheritance tax, a procedure could be initiated requesting the refund of the excessive tax which has been paid.

2. It is not appropriate at this moment to hurry and carry out certain actions in order to avoid or reduce inheritance tax in the future—gift inter vivos, contribution to companies, etc. These transactions may involve significant tax consequences to be analysed and as result of them you may pay now higher taxes than taxes to be saved in the future.

C&D Solicitors would rather advise you to make a will for your properties in Spain. This would be an early solution to the above mentioned problems.

“It is an unfortunate fact of life that eventually we all die. It is also unfortunate that no one can predict when that will be. It is because of these two certainties that you are never too young to make a Spanish Will.”

 

 

Author: Francisco Delgado Montilla, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

 

HAVE YOU ALREADY PLANNED YOUR INHERITANCE TAX?

HAVE YOU ALREADY PLANNED YOUR INHERITANCE TAX?

Residency avoids Andalucian inheritance tax
Residency avoids Andalucian inheritance tax

The Inheritance tax imposes taxes on an inheritance received because of death. This tax is paid after a person’s decease and the heir is the taxpayer legally bound to pay it. It shall be paid within the following 6 months since the person deceases. Here below we present an example in order to obtain a better understanding on this tax:

Mr. Smith deceased last January 2012; once he retired and sold his home in England in 2003, he moved together with his wife to Andalusia. Then, they bought a small semi-detached house with very nice views to the sea, which they enjoyed together for all these years.

After Mr. Smith’s decease, his wife initiated the testamentary procedures and she was surprised when she found out that she had to pay 15,490.82€ for the Inheritance tax when inheriting her husband’s estate.

Why did she have to pay such an amount?

Assessed value of the 50% of Mr. Smith’s property__125,000.00 €

Money in Mr. Smith’s current account____________10,000.00 €

Total amount of Mr. Smith’s estate______________135,000.00€

Mrs. Smith’s Inheritance tax payment total account: 135,000.00€ minus 15,956.87 € (reduction allowed because of the beneficiary’s relationship), equals 119,043.13€ (taxable income). According to the current assessment scale, the result is a total tax due of 15,490.82€. That is to say, the widow had to pay 13.01% of the estate total value awarded.

How could this payment have been reduced? First of all, Mr. and Mrs. Smith should have been registered as residents in the municipality of the Town Hall, called in Spain Padrón Municipal, when they bought their home because heirs are allowed to benefit from some tax reductions for Inheritance tax purposes when proving their residence in Andalusia for at least two years and a half during the last five years. A certificate of registration as a resident in the municipality is required to prove this fact.

If Mr. and Mrs. Smith had been registered as residents in the municipality, the widow would not have had to pay any Inheritance tax, because the heirs-residents in Andalusia next of kin of spouse are tax exempt from paying Inheritance tax when the value of the awarded estate does not exceed 175,000.00€, and the heirs pre-existing wealth is less than 402,678.11 €uros.

Apart from this tax exemption, other tax exemptions are applied, as for example, 99.99% reduction when the transferred home has constituted the habitual residence of the deceased. The certificate of registration as a resident in the municipality is required one more time to prove it.

In Spain, Inheritance tax is administrated and collected by regional governments, so that they establish their own regulations to be applied within their own region. In this case, the above mentioned tax exemptions are applicable in Andalusia.

Mr. Smith’s example has been presented above, because many of the foreign citizens who are resident in Spain declare in their Last Will that the survivor spouse inherits the whole of the deceased’s estate. Then, we wanted to provide a simple and practical example related to Inheritance Tax, taking into account that it is essential to make one’s will in Spain only for the estate placed in Spain in order to make the legal procedures easier.

In addition, the Inheritance Tax in Spain is considered a progressive tax; therefore, the higher the value of the inherited estate, the bigger the tax burden for the heir. Furthermore, the heirs’ degree of kinship may be also penalized, so that the deceased’s cousins or friends may pay more than his wife or children for the same awarded estate. For example, if the total value of the inheritance is 400,000.00€, the deceased’s wife or child non resident may pay 27%-28%  approximately of this amount for Inheritance Tax, that is, 112,000.00€; on the other hand, the deceased’s cousin or friend, resident or not resident in Andalusia, may pay the double—about 224,000.00€.

Some financial products, as Life Insurances, are very interesting in order to reduce the tax effect for heirs—pursuant to legal provisions, this type of products are firstly planned to pay the heir’s Inheritance tax and any residuary estate may become part of the heir’s estate.

A good tax planning is important to minimize the fiscal effects of the Inheritance tax. Most of the times, it is a question of looking at the figures and analyzing what is the most interesting decision depending on each particular case.

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

MAKING A WILL IN SPAIN IS ESSENTIAL

MAKING A WILL IN SPAIN IS ESSENTIAL

Importance Spanish will for heirs of both residents and non-residents
Importance Spanish will for heirs of both residents and non-residents

According to our legal and professional experience, there are many reasons for advising our clients to sign a Will before a Notary Public in Spain with regard to their property in Spain.

You cannot imagine how complex it may be for the heirs of a deceased to formally take the assets situated in Spain (properties, current account deposits, insurances, company shares or stakes … etc). when the only Will available is the one made by the deceased in his/her country of origin, or even worse, when the deceased did not make a Will in his/her country of origin.

In order for the heirs to take the said assets when the Will has been granted in the decesased´s country of origin, the heirs must have a number of documents legalised in the said country. For example, if the decesased is British, documents such as the probate and the grant of probate, among others, are required in order to distribute and formally take the property of the deceased in Spain between the heirs, in accordance with the Will made in the deceased´s country of origin.

However, if the deceased had not even made a Will in his country of origin, the procedure turns out to be more complex, as the rules of intestacy in Spain would be the ones applicable. According to which, only the deceased´s descendants and his/her widow/er would have inheritance rights, and the consent of all the interested parties would be required.

Therefore, the importance of making a Will in Spain is based on:

1)  Economic reasons: if you make a Will in Spain, the inheritance proceedings will be more economic for you heirs, as they will not have to apply for any documents in your country of origin.

2)  Time saving: If you have not made a Will in Spain, it will take longer to obtain all the necessary documents; on the same line, in the absence of a Will on the deceased´s country of origin, the intestacy procedure in Spain will take several months.

3)  Family reasons: Easier legal procedures make everything more agile and less stressing for the heirs.

To finish with, I must remind you that inheritance in Spain is subject to Inheritance Tax. Different regulations apply in each region. In Andalusia, there are a number of benefits and exemptions for a resident who dies in Andalusia, provided certain requirements are met. Therefore, residing in Andalusia (which differs from fiscal residency or from obtaining the residency card) can save a lot of money tax wise. I can assure you that I know of many people who have been living in Andalusia for a long time, and whose heirs will not be able to receive such Inheritance Tax benefits and exemptions for not having seeked professional advice.

In conclusion, if you have any assets in Spain, always make a Will and get professional advice. A professional will study your personal and family circumstances properly in order to draft a Will that suits your interests, minimising at the same time the tax implications for your heirs.

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)

Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

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