It is common to see how many families go through inconveniences when claiming an inheritance without will. And although the first thing we think of when we are close to these problems, is succession planning, there are circumstances that catch us unawares, and it is the law that is responsible for distributing and applying the succession procedure. In that sense, we want to guide you in legal matters so that you know what to do when you find yourself in this situation. And that you know who is entitled to an inheritance without a will in Spain.
What happens when a person dies without making a will?
When a person does not want, or does not have enough time or money to secure his or her last will, his or her legitimate heirs will be protected through the Civil Code. In this case, the law gives priority to direct ascendants and descendants, and even establishes the procedure in case these do not exist. So any inheritance coming from a person who did not make a will, must respect the order and procedure established by law. Therefore, the distribution is applied according to the order of the relatives, due to the lack of testamentary heirs.
What is the order of heirs to an inheritance without a will in Spain?
There are certain degrees of kinship that must be respected when claiming an inheritance without a will in Spain. The Civil Code prioritizes kinship relationships as follows: First degree: children and parents. Second degree: spouse and siblings. Third degree: nieces and nephews. Fourth degree: first cousins, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and great uncles and aunts.
In the event that an external party does not wish to comply with this order, the affected heirs may denounce and file a lawsuit to redistribute the inheritance. And in case there are no direct relatives of any degree or widow or widower, Article 913 of the Civil Code establishes that the estate would become part of the State.
How can the spouse inherit in an estate without a will?
Some Autonomous Communities in Spain have different inheritance orders, where the widowed spouse is in the second degree of kinship and others where he/she is in the third degree. That is why, when claiming an inheritance without a will in the country, you should seek advice from a team of experts in inheritance law. To make sure you are very clear about the inheritance scenario before making the corresponding applications.
The so-called widow usufruct is a legal tool that allows a third of improvement in the inheritance percentage that the spouse commonly has. At the same time it can be claimed in the first degree of kinship, obtaining a third part of the inheritance. But as we said before, it is not present in all legislatures, because the partner does not appear as a direct heir and his only ways to do it is in third degree of kinship or by means of a will.
Recommendations for handling an inheritance without a will
People who have rights over an inheritance without a will must do the procedure with more attention and detail. Because they must collect some additional documents, such as identity documents that prove the relationship, among others. In addition, they must add the time required for the review of each document by a lawyer appointed by the State.
In the event that the deceased has left children, parents and a spouse, inheritances without a will are usually distributed in percentages very far from the will of the person. Because of this and because of the differences between each autonomous community legislation, it is recommended to seek advice from a law firm specialized in the community where the inheritance is to be claimed.
On the other hand, we recommend you to read our articles 5 things you should know about inheritance and successions in Spain. As well as the step by step of everything you need to do to process an inheritance.
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