New Developments in the Spanish Law of Succession
Recent legislative reforms of law of succession in Spain affecting both the Spanish Civil Code (mainly from 2003) and the six civil laws of the Autonomous Communities (including changes in 2006-2007 in Galician law) give rise to a need to revaluate and reassess some of its central features. This reassessment should, consider not only changes arising from legislative intervention, but also from case law and everyday practice, as these reveal new trends in a number of areas including the legal position of widows and widowers, the rights of unmarried couples when one of them deceases (with very different approaches depending on the Spanish regions), the impact of marital crises on succession, the formal requirements of wills, the validity of inheritance agreements, estate planning, substitutes for testaments, succession of family businesses and enterprises, and the scope of a testator’s freedom of disposition and the role of the forced share (on which there is an intense debate). This study explains these developments taking into account those three sources (legislation, case law and practice) and provides both an up-to-date summary of the existing legal framework and some reflections on the future based on recent proposals for further reform suggested by scholars and notaries. Finally, the experience of the Spanish jurisdiction, which comprises seven different laws of succession within one legal system, also allows observations to be made as the role of comparative law in legal development and the possibilities of harmonising law of succession in the European Union.