As a law firm serving the international community in Spain, we are often approached by ‘heir-hunters’ or companies who specialise in tracing lost relatives. Over the last 30 or more years of immigration, residence and property purchase by British nationals many properties have been purchased. In some cases these people have lost contact with their families and it is not until their estate in England is dealt with that a Spanish property comes to light.
Another way in which ‘ownerless’ properties appear is when a court in Spain auctions the property to recover debts. Other examples would be where there is a debt with the Community of owners or the Town Hall and after the property is auctioned there is a balance held by the court which can be paid to any heirs or relatives of the deceased. If the owner of the property died intestate there are rules as to which members of the family would receive.
You may have seen the professional heir-hunter programmes on television and perhaps an aunt or uncle or other family members die owning assets in Spain. Searches to trace family are not unduly expensive, though in Spain a date and place of death is required to obtain a death certificate and begin the process of locating heirs and property. However the Spanish property registry can be searched by name only and this can be the first step in obtaining more information about the estate.
Today with the prevalence of internet genealogy and family searches you can often make a start and then instruct professional companies to complete the search. In Spain there is less information available on the internet but agents can often trace individuals relying on property searches and visits to property.
Equally if you are aware of an abandoned property and want to trace the heirs or family of the deceased owner this can be done by tracing agents. One example would be where an abandoned property within a community causes hygiene and safety problems for neighbours.
For more information on tracing relatives and heirs in the UK and Spain contact De Cotta Law on:
Tel.: +34 951 315 161