UPDATED 7th June 2023
1. Births in Spain
2. Deaths in Spain
BIRTHS IN SPAIN
Every birth that takes place on Spanish soil must by law be registered in Spain. Even if you unexpectedly give birth whilst on holiday in Tenerife, you must report the birth at the local Registro Civil (Civil Registry) for the relevant borough in Tenerife. The attending doctor or hospital official (or a midwife if the birth took place outside a hospital) must certify the birth.
Once registered, the Registry will provide you with a Spanish Birth Certificate. This can then be registered back in your home country on your return, or at your home country’s consulate if you are resident or otherwise staying on in Tenerife.
Many non-Spanish are puzzled by the Spanish practice of using 2 surnames. Basically, Spain will register your child’s surname as being the Father’s surname followed by the Mother’s surname. So, if the mother is Mrs Wetter and the father is Mr Bed, the child is going to have a very rough time at school.
A child may choose to use his mother’s surname first when he reaches legal age.
Where either parent is of Spanish nationality, a child born in Spain is automatically awarded Spanish nationality. However, where both parents are non-Spanish, being born in Spain does not automatically grant the child Spanish nationality. However, the child may apply for Spanish Nationality between his or her 18th and 19th birthday, which is nearly always granted, particularly if the child has been primarily resident in Spain throughout childhood.
DEATHS IN SPAIN – RECOMMENDED STEPS, LOCATING ANY WILL(S) AND APPLYING FOR PROBATE
At some point, the paradise of life on our fair isle must come to an end for all of us when we finally shuffle off this mortal coil. So what happens when we die in Tenerife and what can we do to sort out our affairs to make things easier for loved ones and friends that we leave behind? We will now take you through the key steps, covering
(a) recommended steps to take before you die,
(b) the immediate process on or after a death and
(c) subsequent steps in sorting out a deceased person’s personal effects and financial affairs.
A. RECOMMENDED STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE YOU DIE
The key steps recommended for everyone living in Spain are:
1. To make a Will (a separate Will in each country that you hold assets, limited to that country only)
2. Select a cemetery (for burials), or crematorium (for cremations)
3. Take out a funeral plan or similar insurance (if required) or ensure next of kin have sufficient funds
4. Inform trusted relatives or friends of your chosen arrangements
B. THE IMMEDIATE PROCESS ON OR AFTER DEATH
In cases where someone dies in hospital, the procedure is fairly straightforward. The hospital will deal with all the paperwork and process the death certificate. However, if somebody dies at home or in a public place, the first step is to inform the Policia Local (Local Police) of the death. Where the death arises in an emergency situation, the number to call is 112 (English speaking operators are available if you say “English please” at the start of the call). For non-emergency reporting of a death, you should instead dial 091.
If the deceased had a family doctor, then that person should be called to visit and inspect the body, confirm the death and prepare the death certificate (“Certificado de Fallecimiento”). If there is no family doctor, then any doctor should be contacted to carry out the above function. The Local Police may be able to arrange this on your behalf or give you a contact to call.
To request a copy of a Death Certificate, you will need to apply to the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) in the borough where the death took place. A list of Registries can be found HERE (scroll to the bottom of the page).
Meanwhile, the Police will contact a local Coroner who will arrange to inspect the body. They will then either release the body for funeral preparation, or in case of any queries or evidence of a suspicious death, they may order a Post-Mortem examination.
Once the body has been released (or after a Post-Mortem has been carried out), the next step is to contact a Funeral Director (“Pompa Funebre“) who can arrange the burial or cremation. If the deceased had a Funeral Plan or similar insurance, that company should be contacted as soon as possible after the death, so that they can help arrange funeral plans and liaise with a Funeral Director etc. However, if you need to select one yourself, a list can be found: HERE
We recommend checking that the Funeral Director speaks fluent English (or that you have a friend available who can translate). Otherwise, difficulties can arise during what is already a very stressful time.
For those wishing to scatter the deceased’s ashes, please note that it is illegal to sprinkle ashes in certain public places in Spain. Rules vary from region to region, so anyone planning this should first check with their local Town Hall (“Ayuntamiento”) for the local rules. Many boroughs have dedicated locations or beauty spots where sprinkling ashes is permitted/encouraged.
Ashes can be transported by air after the cremation. However, please inform the Funeral Director of this intention, so that the ashes can be placed in a container that can be X-rayed at the airport and which cannot be shaken open by turbulence on a plane.
C. Subsequent steps in sorting out a deceased person’s financial affairs
For those not fluent in Spanish and conversant with the substantial bureaucracy involved in arranging probate of a deceased’s estate, we would strongly recommend that you instruct a solicitor to handle this process for you.
Tenerife Solicitors, a firm of English Solicitors and Spanish Lawyers based in Tenerife South have substantial experience in such matters and aim to make the process painless from start to finish. As practising English Solicitors, they can also assist with obtaining probate back in England or Wales, thereby avoiding the need to instruct Solicitors in two separate countries. They also have experience with overlapping legal issues that might crop up between Spain and the UK following a death (challenging Wills, Inheritance tax issues etc etc).
For more information, visit their website: https://tenerifesolicitors.com