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Official Translations of Probate Documents

The demand for official translations of English and Spanish probate documents continues to grow as a result of many British citizens having assets in Spain; either properties or bank accounts or Spanish citizens moving to the UK.

English and Spanish legal systems are very different and therefore English and Spanish probate documents also differ.

There are important differences between Spanish and English Wills that official translators must take into account when translating an English Will which disposes of a property in Spain. English Wills are granted before a solicitor, but this fact is not indicated in the Will – sometimes the English Will is simply a form. On the other hand, Spanish Wills are granted before a Notary. The Notary states in the Will whether the testator has the necessary legal capacity to grant the Will, something which is not indicated in English Wills.

Official translators need to think of ways to reflect and explain the differences between English and Spanish Wills so that the official translation of the English Will is accepted by the relevant Spanish authorities (in most cases, a Spanish Notary).

Normally, official translators will translate the Grant of Probate enclosing a copy of the English Will. The Grant will have to be affixed with the Apostille.

An Apostille is an official form attached to documents to be used in countries which are signatories of the Hague Convention.

The Apostilled Grant, enclosing a copy of the Will and the official translation of the Grant and the Will, should be submitted to the Spanish notaries, registrars or banks if the deceased had assets in Spain.

There is no document like the Grant of Probate in Spain, so official translators will have to produce an official translation of a document with no Spanish equivalent.

In Spain, once the testators have granted their Wills before a Notary, the Wills have to be registered by the Registro de Actos de Última Voluntad.

Registro de Actos de Última Voluntad is the Spanish Probate Register

Every time a Will is granted, even by the same testator, the Will must be registered. When the testator passes away, the death certificate will be submitted to the aforesaid register. If the death certificate is a British certificate, for example, an official translation of the death certificate will be submitted as well. The death certificate will have to bear the Apostille.

The Spanish Register will issue the Certificado de Actos de Última Voluntad. This Certificate confirms whether the deceased granted a Spanish Will, when and the name of the notary who executed the Will. An official translation of this document into English may be necessary if the deceased had assets in the UK but did not grant an English Will because he or she was domiciled in Spain.There is no equivalent of this certificate in the UK. It may also be necessary to submit the official translation of the Spanish Will to the relevant bodies in the UK.

Only official translators are authorised to certify official translations. In Spain, official translators are appointed by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. An official translation certified by an official translator, appointed by the Spanish Ministry, does not need to bear the Apostille.

Author: Dalila Segador

Nockolds Solicitors

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to Nockolds Solicitors directly.

Published on 3rd July 2015
(Last updated 7th May 2021)