What Do You Do If You Suffer Bereavement In Spain?

Filed under : Wills, Probate & Inheritance

Many British ex-patriots move to Spain later in life to enjoy their twilight years in a warmer climate. An unfortunate
consequence of this is that when they eventually pass away, the next of kin,
whether here in Spain or back in the UK are confronted with dealing with the funeral arrangements and the inheritance
matters. This can seem overwhelming at what is already a difficult time.

 Following the death of a British national in Spain,
the next of kin, or a formally appointed representative, must decide whether to
repatriate the deceased to the UK,
or carry out a local burial or cremation. If the deceased was covered by
insurance, the next of kin must contact the insurance company without delay. If
there is no insurance cover, the family will have to meet the cost of
repatriation or burial.

The death certificate, is issued by the Civil Registry
(Registro Civil) at the Court Building (Juzgado) or at the Justice of the Peace
(Juzgado de Paz). You should request as many copies as you need. The funeral
director will normally assist with this. The death can then be registered with
your local British Consular office.

If the circumstances of the death were not unusual,
registration of the death is permitted and the body will be released for
repatriation or burial within a few hours. Under a strict interpretation of
Spanish law, burials should take place within 72 hours of death. However, in
the case of foreign nationals, the authorities will normally allow as much time
as necessary, although this should not be longer than a few days.

If the deceased was covered by insurance, the insurance
company will normally have a standing agreement with an International Funeral
Director in Britain to arrange repatriation. If the deceased is not covered by insurance, the next
of kin will have to appoint an undertaker in Spain,
or an International Funeral director themselves. Spanish undertakers have links with International
undertakers in the UK and they normally work well together to ensure that all requirements are met in Spain and in
the UK. Local
undertakers in Spain are equipped to carry out repatriation procedures and will provide the special
caskets required. A local civil registry death certificate (indicating cause of
death), a certificate of embalming, and a certificate giving permission to
transfer the remains to the UK are required to ship the body. The Spanish undertaker will arrange this. The
British Consulate can provide covering certificates for British Customs. Local
formalities for repatriation normally take 8 to 10 days to complete.

If the next of kin chooses to proceed with a local burial,
they will need to instruct a local Funeral Director. The British Consulate can
provide a list of these on request, which includes an indication of costs. Cremation is now widely accepted in Spain and there are modern, well-equipped crematoria, except in rural areas. Ashes
can also be taken back to the UK by next of kin with minimal bureaucracy. If this is not possible, local
undertakers will be able to arrange the necessary paperwork and transportation.
There are no restrictions on movement of ashes within the EU.

As far as dealing with the inheritance is concerned, it is
important to use the services of a reliable Spanish law firm. The lawyer will
then have to ascertain whether or not the deceased died with an English or
Spanish will or whether they died intestate, that is without a will. Depending
on whether or not wills were prepared will determine the legal work required to
realise the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries or surviving relatives.

For more information on this subject, or to make an appointment for a
private consultation, please contact us at De
Cotta McKenna & Santafé

Tel.: +34 952 931 781
Fax: +34 952 933 547