New case law from the Spanish Supreme Court on wills
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Unlike what happens in England, until last month, in Spain divorce, did not have an impact on testamentary dispositions. In Spanish intestate estates (where there is no Will) once the spouses separated or divorced, they ceased to have a claim on the other’s estate. But this was not the case where there was a Will.
The Spanish Supreme Court has now adopted a different view. In a recent case a wife left her estate to her husband. The testatrix stated in her will that her husband Mr X was her sole beneficiary.
The husband and wife divorced prior to the wife’s death. Her legal beneficiaries (who would inherit on an intestacy) challenged the will on the grounds that the spouses were no longer married and therefore the ex-husband should not be entitled to the estate. Both the First Instance and Appeal Courts ruled in favour of the ex-husband. The courts applied the literal interpretation of the Will on the basis that the testatrix did not express her clear intention to change her Will.
The legal beneficiaries brought the case to the Supreme Court which took a different view. The court ruled that the fact that the testatrix used the term “my husband” was key in this case; the testatrix was appointing the husband as a beneficiary on the basis that they were married. The court ruled that there was a change of the testatrix’s circumstances which had an impact on her testamentary dispositions. The legal beneficiaries inherited the estate.
Wills are living documents and as such should be reviewed periodically... that means every few years, but also after any major life events.
Álvaro Aznar Azcárate
Solicitor and Spanish Abogado