In today’s article, we are going to talk about how to inherit bank accounts in Spain. Whether the bank can demand payment of inheritance tax. What happens if an heir does not pay the IHT. The freeze of the accounts, etc.
1. The blocking and freezing of inherited bank accounts
Normally, when the beneficiaries of an inheritance try to dispose of and access the money in the inherited bank accounts, the bank demands:
1. Documentation proving the acceptance and adjudication of the inheritance.
2. That the payment of the inheritance tax is accredited.
Blocking the accounts until this happens.
2. The reason why banks demand payment of Inheritance Tax (IHT)
The inheritance tax law, indicates that the banks can be subsidiarily responsible for the payment of the IHT. This will happen if they allow access to and disposal of the funds in the inherited accounts. Without the corresponding inheritance tax having been paid.
Therefore, in order to avoid this liability, the banks require proof of payment of the tax in order to be able to access the funds.
This possibility is disputed by the doctrine and the courts. Not all courts think that they can deny access to the funds if the inheritance taxes have not been paid. In practice, however, this is habitual.
3. ‘Debatable’ requirements of banks when inheriting bank accounts
3.1 Withholding of all funds
Although the requirement for proof of payment of inheritance tax can be considered justified. It is only really justified if the bank retains sufficient funds for the payment of the tax. It is therefore questionable whether they do not allow access and retain all the funds and not only the necessary funds. This is what happens in practice.
3.2 Proof of payment of the tax by all heirs
It is also debatable whether banks require all heirs or beneficiaries to provide proof of payment of inheritance tax in order to access the account.
If one of the heirs wants access to his or her part of the account, it should be sufficient for him or her to provide proof of payment of the IHT. It should be sufficient if he/she can prove that he/she has paid his/her taxes for access to his/her part of the account. But it is not justified for the bank to demand that all heirs provide proof of payment.
This is what the Bank of Spain itself has stated in its report on claims.
4. Charging direct debit bills to inherited accounts
It is common for banks to allow direct debit bills to be charged to accounts. That is to say, water, electricity, etc bills. And this makes sense, as they usually relate to assets that are part of the inheritance: properties, etc.
Normally, these charges are only not allowed to get paid, if there is an express order from the heirs that the bank should not pay them.
If you are the heir or beneficiary of an inheritance. Or if you have doubts about how to inherit bank accounts in Spain. If your bank makes it difficult for you to access the money. If you need legal advice from a lawyer, in relation to the processing of inheritances, please contact us.
The information provided in this article is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys information relating to legal matters.
Carlos Baos (Lawyer)
White & Baos.
Tel: +34 966 426 185
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