Dictionary of Spanish legal terms for Property Law and Inheritance Law

I. Legal terms related to property purchases in Spain

Agente de la Propiedad Inmobiliaria: (API): Real Estate Agent: The Real Estate Agent (API) is a qualified professional who operates in the real estate market and is regulated by Royal Decree 1294/2007. The API has extensive knowledge of the real estate market available to consumers and users.

Arras: (Deposit amount/ contract): The deposit or deposit contract is a private agreement between the buyer and the seller of a property where the parties agree to carry out the future sale of a property at a certain date and under pre-arranged conditions and the buyer delivers an amount of money on account of the total. Money exchanges as the deposit are also named arras.

Bien inmueble(Real Estate): A real estate is anything that cannot move by itself, like a house, for example.

Capacidad jurídica: (Juridical capacity): In civil law, juridical capacity is when an individual does not have a dependence on an external person and assumes rights and obligations themselves.

Cargas: (Charges):  The right of a third party to a property (seizure, mortgage, lease) is considered a property charge. In Spain, the charge must be registered in the Property Registry to make it public, thus guaranteeing legal safety for buyer and seller.

Charging is a limitation of use and ownership. That is, if we find a home that is not free of charges, we must understand that it is not free to be bought or sold until the charge is settled. On the contrary, if the house is effectively free of charges, it means that the owner has free use of this property.

Therefore, before buying a property we must make sure that there are no charges attached to that property, for this, we can go to the Land Registry and obtain info from it.

The most common charge that we find ourselves is the mortgage.

Cedente: (Assignor): The individual responsible to transfer assets or rights to another party. The assignor is usually given compensation for completing this assignment. 

Cesión de derechos: (Rights transfer): This involves the transfer of legal ownership of a company, through a transferer, to an assignee.  

Cesionario: (Assignee): Individual responsible for the transfer of the rights of a company. 

Cláusula abusiva: (Clause): Provisions that compose a legal contract or other legal documents. Clauses define the terms of an agreement and autonomy of the will. 

Cláusula contractual: (Contract clause): A contract clause is each one of the provisions that make up a contract or any other legal, conventional or unilateral document. The Spanish  Civil Code determines the principle of autonomy of the will, which allows regulating any legal business according to personal interests, provided that the mandatory rules are not contravened.

Código Civil (Civil Code): The Civil Code is a unitary, systematized and ordered set of legal norms on Private Law. Therefore, it is a legal text that regulates civil relations between people. 

Therefore, this code includes a multitude of matters such as legal norms and sources of law, the right of people from birth until after their death (such as citizenship, nationality, death, etc.), their family relationships (marriage, divorce, separations, parental authority, adoption, among others), the right to things (assets, property, usufruct, inheritances, etc.) and actions (obligations and contracts).

Private Purchase contracts are mainly regulated by the Civil Code in Spain.

Condonación de deudas: (Debt forgiveness): Where a creditor (to whom the debt is owed) releases the debtor from debt obligations. 

Contrato de compraventa: (Purchase contract): A document where an individual is obliged to deliver one thing to another, while the other is accountable to pay a price.

Defectos constructivos: (Constructive defects): Problems detected in new buildings, which cause material damage to all or part of the property.

Derecho de retracto: (Right of withdrawal): It refers to the right of a person to keep the thing that a second person has sold to a third party, in exchange for the same price that the latter would have paid.

Derecho de tanteo: (Right of first refusal): Typically used in sales. It is the ability of a person to acquire something that another person is going to dispose of. Likewise, It is always for the same price that a third party would be willing to pay for it. 

Two prerequisites: 

  • An agreement between the owner of the right and the person who owns the thing.
  • the holder of the right of first refusal must exercise his right before the owner of the thing proceeds to its disposal.

Derecho real: (Real right): The legal power which gives its holder power and economic advantages. Real rights, therefore, deal with the legal relationships that are created between people and property.

Desistimiento de contrato: (Contract withdrawal): Aright or faculty of a consumer or user to cancel the concluded contract, within the established deadlines. They do not need to justify their decision and there is no penalty. 

Embargo: (Embargo): Otherwise known as a seizure, it is a means of forced execution where a creditor seizes the debtors’ assets and places them in the hands of justice. They aim to obtain money and pay off the owed debt.

Enajenación: (Alienation): The act of transfer of a good or right to another person, whether for profit or for consideration. It is the transfer of real or ownership rights over movable or immovable property. It can be of total or partial scope. 

Error excusable: (Excusable error): An excusable error occurs when, despite an individual acting with due diligence, they cannot prevent a situation from unleashing.

Estado civil: (Civil status): Stable or permanent situation. Where a person finds themselves, in relation to his personal circumstances and with the legislation, and which will determine the capacity to act and the legal effects that each individual possesses.

Can contain the following aspects related to the life of a person: birth and death, filiation and marriage, name and surname, emancipation and age, nationality and neighbourhood, parental authority and guardianship, among others.

Expediente de dominio: (Domain file): The domain file is a procedure taken when registering property. It is the first registration of a property that previously did not appear in the Property Registry.

Extinción de condominio: (Condo extinction): Condominio is the common ownership of an asset by several owners, in which property quotas are assigned to each of them. Condo extinction is the disappearance of the common property of an asset.

Impuesto de transmisiones patrimoniales: (Property transfer tax): An indirect tax proportional to the increase in the value of an asset after a sale.

Impuesto sobre bienes inmuebles: (Real estate tax): A charge that taxes the value of properties based on their cadastral classification, that is, urban, rustic or with special characteristics.

Interés legal del dinero: (Legal interest of money): This is a type of compensation designed for non-compliance with obligations (debts, loans, etc.) when the parties have not provided for such compensation.

Intereses legales: (Legal interests): This is an interest rate established by law, as opposed to the creditor and the debtor. 

Jurisprudencia: (Jurisprudence): Jurisprudence is the established legal system. It sets out the law, which is the doctrine used by courts in order to set legal normalities. These are open to interpretation but are typically set on precedence. 

Ley Orgánica de Protección de Datos: (Law on Data Protection): This law is in charge of protecting and guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of individuals. It is specifically related to personal data, in order to save the privacy of individuals. 

Lucro cesante: (Income Loss): Profit loss takes into account the future income lost as a result of an illegal act, damage, breach of contract etc. There will need to be proof of injury and damage in order for income loss to be taken into account. 

Modelo 621: (Model 621): Used to settle the tax Transfer Tax and Stamp generated by the sale of private vehicles. When selling second-hand vehicles, instead of paying VAT for the sale of new products, the Vehicle Transmission Tax (for cars, motorcycles or boats) is paid.

Novación: (Renewal): The modification or termination of a legal obligation as a result of further obligations which replace the original legal requirements. 

Pacta sunt Servanda: (Pact of fulfilment): One of the most important principles, Confirms that legal contracts will be fulfilled. 

Persona física: (Individual): Refers to every human individual who has obligations and rights granted by law or the Constitution.

Persona jurídica: (Legal body): This is an organization/institution that is composed of many members who have legal powers. As well as the members’ individual rights, the body has extended powers. 

Pleno dominio: (Full ownership): Pleno dominio is a type of property that involves complete possession of a good, such as a house.

Poder Notarial: (Power of Attorney): A power of attorney is a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal, grantor, or donor.

Precario: (Precarious): Typically used for real estate occupation, El Precario is a legal term used to describe individuals who illegitimately occupy the property. They will be neither the owner nor hold a contract.

Proindiviso: (Pro – indiviso): Pro indiviso is a concept in property law that describes the rights of ownership of an asset.  It means that a person has the right of ownership over said good, only partially, sharing the property with other people, not having full ownership.

Rebus Sic Stantibus: (Rebus sic stantibus): This is a clause to affirm that a contract will be fulfilled as long as the established circumstances that were agreed are maintained. 

Reconocimiento de deuda: (Debt recognition): This is where a debtor admits that he possesses an obligation or financial commitment to his creditors.

Reserva de dominio: (Title reservation): This is a pact between buyer and seller, by which the seller maintains ownership and control of the property until the last instalment of the agreed price is paid.

Responsabilidad contractual: (Contractual responsibility): This is a set of legal obligations occurring when a contract is signed. 

All parties are bound by this legally binding document. Anyone who does not comply with the contract has a duty to compensate the other party.

Responsabilidad patrimonial: (Asset responsibility): Refers to the duty of an individual or legal body for having produced some type of altercation in a third party, who will be the one who will receive said property or right.

Servidumbre de paso: (Right of way): This is “the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another”.

Subasta judicial: (Judicial Auction): This is when the procedure where an asset is forcefully seized, in order to pay off debts. This is legitimately court authorized and will result in the debtor losing the assets. 

Subrogación: (Subrogacion): This is the authorisation by a third party of another party’s legal right to collect a debt or damages. It is a legal doctrine whereby one person is entitled to enforce the subsisting or revived rights of another for one’s own benefit.

Sujeto Pasivo: (Taxable party): Within a legal relationship, this is the individual who has to face an obligation in favour of another party.

Tercero hipotecario: (Third party mortgage): The third party is the person/company with the real legal ownership over a sold property, and this right cannot be taken away even if the property is forcefully seized. 

Usucapión: (Usucaption): The manner of acquiring property in things by the lapse of time required by law.

Usufructo: (Usufruct): The right of one individual to use and enjoy the property of another, provided its substance is neither impaired nor altered.

Usufructo vitalicio: (Life interest): Conferring the right to the use of a property and the right to take possession of the income, fruits or production of that property for the period of the beneficiary’s life.

Usufructo viudal: (Curtsey rights): The right to obtain an inheritance that allows the living spouse to receive the goods of the deceased even if the persons’ property belongs to other heirs.

Vicios del consentimiento: (Vices of the consent): Circumstances affecting the nature of consciousness and the free will to conclude a legal act.

Vicios ocultos: (Latent defects): Refers to a hidden flaw, weakness or imperfection in an article which a seller knows about, but the buyer can not discover by reasonable inspection. Generally, this entitles the purchaser to receive the money back or get a replacement.

II. Legal terms related to Wills and Inheritance in Spain

Abintestato: (Intestate): The description of a person who dies without making a valid will or the reference made to this condition.

Aceptación de herencia: (Acceptance of inheritance): The entitled heirs could accept or deny the inheritance, the acceptance of the inheritance is a legal transaction where an individual declares the will of becoming an heir.

Aceptación de herencia a beneficio de inventario: (Acceptance of inheritance for the benefit of inventory): Refers to the option that the heirs have when it comes to accepting the inheritance without compromising the individuals’ personal assets.

Ad cautelam: (Ad  Abundantiam cautelam): It’s where the testator expresses their will and points out that another type of testament posterior will not be valid if it does not follow certain terms.

Albacea: (Executor): An individual who has been designated by a testator, becomes in charge of complying the last wishes of the deceased.

Caudal hereditario: (Hereditary estate): An inheritance that corresponds with the total equity which an individual has left behind post the person’s death.

Causahabiente: (Successor): The successor is the title owner of rights given by another individual who takes over and continues the role or position of another.

Causante: (Causative): The causative will be the primitive possessor of a good or right, which therefore makes them entitled to possess by transmitting to a successor.

Cautela socini: (Socini clause):  It’s used with a relative frequency on the wills to establish a condition on the inheritance, the aim of this clause is for it to be utilized when the testator introduces a condition to the forced heirs to obtain a proportion of the inheritance superior of what really corresponds to them legally.

Certificado de últimas voluntades: (Certificate of last wills): A document that allows an individual to see if the determined deceased concluded  a testament or not.

Colación: (Collation): It’s an input that has to be done by the heirs to the hereditary estate regarding the living donations received by the testator.

Contador partidor: (Splitter counter): The individual that carries out the partition of the inheritance as well as defining its value.

Cuaderno particional: (Records of inheritance): A document that collects all of the operations of the various stages of the partition process of the inheritance.

Declaración de herederos: (Declaration of heirs): The process of which it gets determined who gets called to inherit the goods, rights and obligations of the deceased  .

Derecho de acrecer: (Right to increase): The faculty of which the proportion of the hereditary which gets left without a corresponding destination gets passed on to increase its fee of other heirs, legatees and usufructuary.

Fideicomiso: (Escrow): A succession institution that allows the testator to commission a person of the administration or conservation of the determined goods in order for them to be handed out to another at any point in time.

Heredero: (Heir): A person which has been legally entitled to receive an inheritance of a deceased. 

Heredero forzoso: (Heir apparent): Refers to an individual which has a proportion of inheritance of a testator protected by the law which is called legitimate, making the person who does the testament not freely disposed of.

Herencia: (Inheritance): The mass patrimonial where goods, rights and obligations which an individual acquires due to a person’s death who was the prior owner of the properties.

Herencia yacente: (Inheritance in abeyance): Refers to the period of time between the opening of the occurrence of the person’s death and the acceptance of the inheritance by the heirs.

Impuesto de sucesiones: (Inheritance tax):  An assessment that pays the beneficiaries from an inheritance or legacy, primarily based on a national tax that is managed by the autonomous communities. Therefore regulations could be incorporated.

Impugnación de testamento: ( Testament rebuttal): It allows individuals to change the provisions of what the causant left on their will.

Legado (Legacy):  The term refers to when the deceased leaves a good or rights to several people, in this case, it will be the legatee who will be receiving these assets.

Legatario: (Legatee): A legatee is a testamentary successor, who can only receive certain and determined goods or rights.

Legítima: (Legitimate): In inheritance law, it’s a juridical concept which you have to have in mind when it comes to the point of making a will or receiving an inheritance.

Legítima estricta: (Strict legitimate): This corresponds to a part of an inheritance which should get divided into equal parts between all the heirs apparent who corresponds to the inheritance.

Legítima larga (Long legitimate): This kind of legitimate name is globally and broadly, shaped by two third parties of the inheritance. Mainly aimed to the heirs apparent.

Partición de herencia: (Inheritance partition): The precise process of where the goods get distributed of  the inheritance between the members of the inherited  community.

Tercio de libre disposición: (Third freely available):  This is the part of the inheritance where the testator can freely dispose of the goods, gives also the right to the testator to divide the third-parties of the inheritance of the hereditary estate as a deem appropriate.

Tercio de mejora: (Third improvement): It constitutes one of the third parts of which the inheritance can be divided into.

Testador: (Testator): An individual which freely decides regarding its goods after the person’s death, through a legal document which the testator expresses the last wills dominated.

Testamento: (Will):  A document which a person specifies the method to apply in the management and distribution of the individuals’ estate after his or her death.

Testamento abierto: (Open will): Its a type of will in which the testator manifest  their last wills in the present of who should authorize this act of notarial.

Testamento cerrado: (Closed will): Type of will in which the testator declares their last wills in a secretive way.

Testamento ológrafo: (Holographic will): This will gets handwritten and signed by the testator, the law states that the person granting the will must be an adult.

Usufructo vitalicio: (Lifetime usufruct): It’s the right to buy one person over the property of another over the length of a lifetime, with the obligation to conserve its shape and substance. Except if the law suggests otherwise.

Usufructo viudal: (Spouse´s usufruct): It’s an inheritance that allows the surviving spouse to make use of the goods of the deceased even if the individuals’ properties belongs to other heirs.

Maria Luisa Castro

Director and Founder
María founded CostaLuz Lawyers in 2006 and is the Firm’s Director. María is registered Lawyer number 2745 of the Cadiz Bar Association and is licensed to practice in all areas of law throughout Spain. Working closely with her team, María has developed the firm into one of the most highly regarded and trusted Spanish Law Firms acting for English-speaking clients with legal problems in Spain. We’re here to help. Contact us today for a free no-obligation consultation.
 

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