The risk in buying inherited real estate

Buying a house is a big decision because it’s a big investment. You need to be aware of the consequences and clear about the risks.

Today we’re going to talk about a common scenario: inheriting the primary residence of a deceased parent, spouse or relative. People finding themselves in this scenario need to sign notarial documents to transfer the property by inheritance. They can also reduce the inheritance tax they owe if they state in these documents that they don’t have any intention to sell the property in the next five years. They may not have to pay any tax at all. This is something they are always relieved to hear when they visit the notary’s office. And they can still register the notarial document for accepting the inheritance in the Land Registry (a requirement in Spain) without any problem.

Time passes. These inheritors forget the statement they made so they could pay less or no tax when they accepted the inheritance. Then someone offers them a good price on the property. They decide to sell, and the buyer acquires the property, theoretically free of encumbrances. But this is not the case. Because of the inheritance, the property was subject to a charge recorded at the Land Registry. But everyone overlooked it. However, the Spanish tax authority, which can review tax declarations made when properties are transferred, won’t overlook it. If the tax authority decides that the wrong amount of tax was paid at the time of transfer, it can impose a new payment of the tax, with the property as security to cover any tax liabilities, regardless of who owns the property today. In the case that we spoke about above, the buyer could get a nasty surprise if the tax authority discovers that the conditions for the tax reduction or exemption taken advantage of when the property was transferred by inheritance were not subsequently met. Thus, tax becomes due on this property, and the new owner must pay it, even though they benefited in no way from the original tax break. This is why we always recommend seeking legal advice before signing any conveyancing agreement or preliminary agreement. You need a lawyer to check for any hidden problems that may come back to bite you. The case we talked about today is just one of the many traps that buyers can find they have fallen into when they sign agreements without seeking advice. There are many other scenarios that also entail great risk.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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The advanced healthcare directive: help your family make the decisions you would want

If you become incapacitated, your loved ones may have to decide what medical treatment you should get and whether to turn off life-support. You can make these decisions easier for them by leaving an advanced healthcare directive, also known as a living will.

Who will decide for you if you become incapacitated owing to illness or injury? You can sign a document before a notary or witnesses that designates who will make decisions on your behalf and talk with the healthcare professionals who carry out these decisions. You can also state the personal criteria that should be taken into account for making these decisions, when, owing to your physical or mental state, you cannot directly express you will.

These personal criteria can refer to, for instance, your wishes regarding life quality in terms of your level of pain tolerance or functional independence. You can also specify where you want to spend your last days and in what health situations the personal criteria apply (dementia, irreversible illness, etc.).

Once you’ve specified who decides for you, the decision-making criteria, and when and why decisions should be made, you can give instructions on the health procedures you want carried out. For instance, you can request that your life not be uselessly prolonged by artificial means. In your living will, you can also state if you want spiritual care in your last moments and if you want to donate your organs.

In Catalonia, to facilitate the access of doctors to this personal information, the advanced healthcare directive can be registered in the Department of Health’s Register for Advanced Healthcare Directives. By registering the document, it is included in medical history shared with patients. This information can also be accessed by authorised professionals elsewhere in Spain.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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New Comprehensive Advisory Service for Property Owners

Owning a real estate property is a big responsibility. To protect your rights as an owner, your property must meet all current legal and technical requirements. To give you the peace of mind that your real estate property does meet these requirements and is fully protected legally — both now and in the event of any change in the law — Tarraco Iuris law firm would like to offer you its comprehensive advisory service for property owners.

Based in Tarragona, our specialist team of lawyers and technical experts are ready to handle all your properly-related legal and administrative needs, including the handling of any mediation process and other procedures and the drafting and lodging of documents for the Spanish authorities (local councils, provincial and regional governments, the cadastral register, the Land Registry, notaries public, the courts, etc.) or any third parties (adjoining property owners, neighbour associations, the community of owners, entities involved in expropriation processes, etc.).

To legally protect your property in Spain, we offer a complete range of technical and legal services that includes:

1. Helping you obtain a NIE (foreigner ID number required for tax purposes in Spain)
2. Drafting all property-related contracts, including preliminary, option-to-buy, purchase and sale, and lease agreements
3. Verifying property charges with the Land Registry
4. Verifying property zoning with the local council
5. Verifying any debts owed by the seller to the Community of Owners
6. Verifying that all tax due on a property has been paid (municipal property tax, tax on income from real estate property, etc.) and drafting and presenting any corresponding tax declarations
7. Providing an estimate of taxes and expenses so you can budget for the cost of transferring a real estate property
8. Verifying the applicable marital or inheritance law and advising you on the legal conditions for purchasing or transferring a property
9. Drafting title deeds for executing property transactions
10. Accompanying you to sign title deeds and any other notarial instruments, acting as advisers and/or translators
11. Assisting your negotiations with the bank for using the property as loan security
12. Registering title deeds with the Land Registry
13. Informing the local council of a change of ownership for the purposes of local taxes and fees
14. For sales by non-residents, preparing and presenting declarations on tax withheld for Spanish income tax and handling the collection of any refund
15. Preparing/lodging applications for:

a. Certificate of occupancy and energy efficiency certificate
b. Building technical assessment report
c. Certificate of structural soundness and certification of construction age

16. Plans and topographical surveys
17. Undertaking boundary demarcation and mediating in conflicts with neighbours
18. Undertaking historical investigations on properties and updating the cadastral record for divided or joined plots
19. Advising you on:

a. Utility connection and the possible use of wells and springs
b. New construction, reform or landscaping projects
c. Business projects
d. Road and path refurbishment
e. Land and building assessment

Are you sure your property is fully protected legally?

Do not hesitate to contact us for further information. Please contact us for any service you require that is not listed

Tarraco Iuris global management

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More detailed information about the new Spanish law on the coasts

Last month we discussed about the main features of the new Spanish Coastal Law and its impact on the environment and the legal status of real estate close to the sea. This month we continue our analysis of the issues related to the details of this Directive.

Restrictions of the right of ownership in the case of real estate land adjacent to the public domain or being a part of it: regarding the use of beaches, it is decided that future regulations of the government should establish a different legal regime for the urban beaches (adjacent to an urbanization), and for areas of natural beach (adjacent to protected areas or rural areas). For the natural beaches applies a high level of protection, limiting any activity. It is important to maintain in a natural state the beaches located far away from urban centers and, on the other hand, to keep the city beaches accessible to the public.

Owners of real estate that legally occupies land in the area of ​​special protection (subjected to the legal servitude or easement) will be allowed to carry out works to improve, modernize and strengthen the real estate, but only if they are not associated with an increase in height, volume or area of ​​the building. This is not new, but now the permission of the regional administration is replaced by a responsible statement, which should include evidence that these buildings meet the legal requirements of energy efficiency and water savings. This is to avoid the license of regional autonomous powers being juxtaposed to municipal licenses. In any case, the Spanish government may suspend the administrative acts and agreements adopted by local governments affecting the integrity of public coastal protected area or its easement. The law introduces a fast and effective precautionary measure to prevent the execution of illegal activities, despite the fact that within ten days, the local decision must be challenged by the State in the courts of administrative disputes.

Changes in the regulation of concessions and permits related to coastal public property: The prorogation or extension of existing concessions is subject to an economic report, which is to determine the impact that the use of the area has on the environment. Thus, the duration will depend on the concession environmental sustainability.
The law also changes the maximum term of public concessions to 75 years and also allows to transfer and to sale them. In the case of transfer through inheritance, the period given to the heirs so that they can declare that they agree with the subrogation of the rights of the concession is increased from one year to four years. This prevents the risk of losing the property of the concession if the decision is not taken in a short term of up to one year, given the difficulties that may be especially faced by foreigners. In the case of transfer of rights between living persons, the validity period shall require the prior approval of the Administration.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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Impact of the new Spanish Coastal Law in existing buildings and coastal preservation

The last revision to Coastal Law pretends to achieve an economic use of the coasts sustainable over time and respectful with the environmental protection. The changes introduced give more legal certainty and clarity and solve some short-term problems created by the previous legislation, but in practice, they reduce the chances of preserving the coastal strip.

The Coastal Law was adopted in 1988 and assumed significant changes in relation to the former regime. Nevertheless, the legislator was very cautious and therefore decided that the legal changes should not immediately entry into force but be delayed over the time. This has led to a conflicting application of the rule and even to its retreat: the law of 1988 failed to defeat the established social realities and that is actually why the government decided that it should be corrected. On the other hand, this law of 1988 created significant legal uncertainty that caused the resolution of the European Parliament in 2009, asking the Spanish authorities to “urgently review and, if necessary, modify the action of the Coastal Act to protect the legal rights of dwelling property owners and those who own small plots in the coastal areas, which do not adversely impact on the coastal environment … “.

Let’s analyze the key amendments of the reform:

1 – Clarification and specification of the concept of marine and coastal public property and improvement of the procedure of demarcation of boundaries:

The littoral is legally defined as the strip where the sea meets the land. The Spanish Constitution establishes that the littoral (including the coastal zone, the territorial sea and the beaches) will always be in any case public domain. Thus, it is important to recognize how far this common property extends, especially when we consider that the Spanish coast is the most densely populated area in the country and it concentrates the most strategic economic activities of the nation, such as tourism and fishing.

The law states that the coastal protection zone will be the land strip within reach of the biggest waves recorded during strong storms. This recording depends on technical criteria that should be created to give more confidence, reliability and stability at the borders.

The main innovation introduced in relation to the protected coastal zone is to reduce the width of the legal easement from one hundred to twenty meters, but only in settlements which were not classified in 1988 as an urban area although they had the characteristics of such. This reduction also applies exceptionally   in the upper shores of the rivers, sensitive to the ebb and flow, in order to avoid that at sites far away from the river mouth, this easement of100 metershas to be respected.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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