What to do if my husband or wife dies in Spain?

What happens if my husband or wife dies in Spain? Image - shutterstock

It’s never a nice thing to have to think about the death of a loved one, but when moving to live in a new country like Spain, especially if you’re moving after retirement, it is worth making sure you know what happens if your husband or wife dies while you live in Spain.

Fortunately, The Euro Weekly news has put together this handy guide which covers things like who to inform, how to organise a funeral, and how to deal with lawyers, pensions and credit cards among other things.

To alleviate the added stress and confusion of having to deal with all the legalities and financial side of things if your husband or wife does pass away whilst you’re in Spain, this guide will explain how to deal with all of the technical things you need to do so that you can properly mourn your late spouse.

1. What to do and who to inform?

The first number you should call should always be the police on 112.  They will often arrange for a doctor to come and issue a death certificate.  

Insurance

If your husband or wife dies in Spain, one of the first things you need to do is contact their insurance company as soon as you can. If your husband or wife had life insurance, their provider may help cover the cost of repatriation if you wanted to take their body back to their original country of origin.

If you’re not sure whether or not your late spouse had life insurance, it’s worth checking with their bank, credit card company or employer.

Registering the death of your spouse

You must also register the death of your late spouse with the local Spanish civil registry in order to obtain a death certificate. It is a legal obligation to register the death of your spouse in the country where they died, even if they are British and the country where they died is not Britain. This will usually be done by the funeral director appointed by the company that managed your husband or wife’s life insurance. Insurance providers will also usually help with any medical, legal, interpretation and translation fees that may occur.

2. How to organise a funeral in Spain

Burial

If you want to bury or cremate your late spouse in Spain, this process should also be organized through a local funeral director.

Unlike in the UK, a Spanish burial is not a 6ft deep plot in the ground, but rather an aboveground niche in a cemetery which you would usually have the rights to for 5 years. After this the body will be transferred to a common burial ground.

It’s also worth nothing that in Spain burials usually take place within 48 hours of the death, and it is the law to embalm and preserve the body within this time, so if you have friends or relatives who wish to pay their respects they need to move quickly.

Cremation

Cremation is also a common way of commemorating your late spouse in Spain and will also be organised through a local funeral director. If you do decide to bury or cremate the body of your late spouse in Spain, it is against the law to scatter their ashes in public places. This includes the sea.

3. Do you need a lawyer?

Property and probate

If your spouse dies with certain assets you think you or other friends or relatives would be entitled to, it’s essential that you hire a lawyer to deal with probate, everything from their bank accounts, to their property and pension. You may also wish to appoint a lawyer if your husband or wife dies in suspicious or unknown circumstances.

In Spain, probate, which is the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) when they die, doesn’t work the same way that it does in the UK. The standard procedure in Spain to deal with your husband or wife’s estate depends on whether they had a will granted or not. If they had an English will relating to their worldwide assets, this will include any Spanish properties.

Bank accounts and Credit Cards

A lawyer is also useful to deal with any bank accounts your late husband or wife may have had. These bank accounts will need to be closed and a certificate will need to be obtained from the bank to confirm the amounts in these accounts.

If your late spouse had any credit card debts you will not usually be liable to pay these off unless you are a co-signor for the card or if you shared a joint bank account from which the debts are owed. If the latter is the case, expect the bank to freeze this account until the deceased person’s estate has been settled.

Rental contracts

If your husband or wife dies and you jointly rent your property in Spain, you will have legal rights to the tenancy and can continue to live there if you can afford to keep up the payments on your down payment. The landlord must be notified within three months of the death of your husband or wife. If the landlord is not notified and/or no proof is provided of the death in the form of a death certificate, the contract will be terminated.

4. What about your spouse’s pension?

If your late spouse paid into the Spanish Social Security System before they died, as their widow you could be entitled to a widow’s pension (Pension de Viudedad). They must have been contributing to the Spanish Social Security System (SS), for at least 500 days in the 5 years prior to their death, or have had an overall contribution period of at least 15 years.

You may also be entitled to your late spouse’s pension if they were receiving, or had the right to receive, their pension in Spain before they died.


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