On this blog, we have commented in the past on the risks of purchasing from a seller who acquired a property by inheritance from a non-immediate family member. Buyers were often not aware of this situation, which entailed legal risks that fortunately have been removed.
The most typical example of this type of inheritance is a single person or widow with no children who, via a will or by law, ends up leaving their estate to a non-immediate family member (under Spanish law: a sibling, nephew/niece, cousin, etc.) or even someone with no family ties. When these heirs accept the inheritance and become the owners of the property of the deceased they, logically, often want to sell it. To sell the property, they first have to register their ownership of it in the real estate register. Until now, this registration recorded with it a charge in the form of a restriction on the owner’s power to sell the property for two years. This restriction existed to protect the rights of any heir with a preferential right to inherit who appears later on (e.g., a child that had not previously been acknowledged).
The buyer, who was unaware of how the seller acquired the property, may have committed to purchasing it via an earnest money agreement, only to later find out that the banks will not finance the purchase owing to the restriction on the property. The legal provision providing for this restriction has recently been repealed with retroactive effect. This means that property buyers can rest a little easier from now on.
However, we still recommend seeking the assistance of a lawyer when purchasing a property to obtain the proper legal advice and avoid the other risks that buying real estate entails.
Carlos Prieto Cid – Your legal adviser in Spain