When someone dies, the first thing their heirs have to do with the bank is to obtain information on the banking products held by the deceased, in order to execute the inheritance.

The execution of a will is the procedure carried out at the bank to ascertain any bank accounts, deposits, cards, securities, pension plans, insurance policies or other products held by the deceased at the bank, and then pay them or share them out among the heirs.

Do you know what steps have to be taken to manage execution of a will? What documentation is required, and what are the most frequent doubts arising during the process? We explain it to you.

Steps to manage execution of a will with the bank

Step 1: notification of the death and application for a certificate of positions

The first step the inheritance parties must take is to notify the bank of the death of the person concerned and apply for the certificate of positions, a document from the bank certifying ownership and balances of the products held by the deceased. This certificate is necessary for payment of inheritance and donation tax. Heirs who are Banco Santander customers can submit their request via online banking, through the following route: "Mailbox – Testamentaries – Certified Application for Positions". Heirs or applicants who are not Banco Santander customers must go to a Banco Santander branch. Click here to arrange an appointment.

In addition to the certificate of positions, the bank will give you informative notes about the insurance policies taken out by the deceased with the bank.

At Banco Santander, notifications of a death may be made at any branch, along with the death certificate issued by the Civil Register. The certificate of positions may be applied for at branches, in addition to the death certificate, the documentation to be submitted includes the certificate of last wishes and the testament or statement of notoriety.

If the deceased did not write any testament, if the statement of notoriety is not forthcoming, the spouse and children of the deceased (i.e. the forced heirs) may apply for the certificate of positions accrediting that no testament exists with the certificate of last wishes, along with the family record book.

Step 2: signature of forms supplied by the bank

To go through the procedure for execution of a will, the party concerned must sign a number of forms that will be supplied by the bank. In all cases, the parties concerned must fill in the application for execution of a will, a document which provides the contact data of parties concerned, who must state their relationship to the deceased, and the data of the deceased. Download this document here

This form is used to ask the bank to make the necessary arrangements to award or change the title of deposits and accounts held by the deceased.

For cases in which the deceased was the holder of pension plans, benefit plans or life/accident insurance, the parties concerned must fill in other forms:

This will authorise the manager of the pension plan or the insurance company to carry out procedures in relation to the death.

At Banco Santander these forms are available in any branch.

Step 3: delivery of documentation

Along with the forms stipulated, filled in and signed, the person arranging execution of the will must provide the bank with certain documentation. In addition to the aforementioned death certificate, certificate of last wishes, and testament or act of notoriety (or a firm judicial statement of heirs), the party concerned must furnish the following:

  • Notarised deed of acceptance and division of property (or the private document signed by all the heirs with proper acknowledgement of their signatures by a national financial institution or an official body).
  • Payment of inheritance and donation tax by the beneficiaries of the positions at the bank, accrediting payment, exemption or expiry of this tax.
  • IDs of the heirs.

Additional documentation for specific cases: pension plans or insurance

If the deceased held a pension plan or insurance at the bank, there is more documentation for managing execution of the will. It will be necessary to submit a photocopy of the full family record book, and if the deceased was married at the time of death, an updated copy of the marriage certificate issued by the Civil Register. If the beneficiaries of the pension plan or the insurance are other than the heirs, they must also attach a photocopy of their tax number, and if they wish to collect pension plans or insurance in a bank account with another bank, they must present an account ownership certificate.

For pension plans, the parties concerned must add a photocopy of the registration document signed by the holder designating the beneficiaries.

Additionally, to collect pension plans, they must submit personal income tax form 145 for withholdings against the contributor, albeit only in special circumstances with justification for a smaller withholding (in the case of disability, for example).

If insurance is being collected, the parties concerned must attach a medical report if death came about due to a previously diagnosed illness or pathology, and a copy of possible judicial action, of the autopsy or the toxicology report, if the death was an accident.

Step 4: distribution and collection

When all the documentation has been received and verified by the bank, the bank will draw up a report and will distribute or change the ownership title of the deceased's deposits and accounts among the heirs, as per the provisions of the public or private document of acceptance and distribution of the inheritance. It will also pay beneficiaries the position on any pension plans that may have been in force, and where appropriate any compensation in the event of death set out in risk life insurance policies, savings life policies and accident policies.

At this point of the process of execution of a will with Banco Santander it must be considered that if the properties of the deceased at the bank were awarded to the heirs undivided, and the heirs wish to receive the positions individually, they must sign the pro indiviso cancellation document.

If the balances of the bank accounts have changed between the date of death and the time of distribution, the heirs must jointly sign a form with the instructions for distribution of the current balances.

If the balances in bank accounts were awarded in usufruct and bare ownership, the heirs must sign another form awarding the balances in full ownership, since an award in usufruct and bare ownership is not possible for operational reasons at the bank.

Moreover, if the deceased's legacy contains securities and investment funds, the heirs must go to the bank branch to sign the contracts. In the case of shares, they may be transferred to a securities deposit opened with another financial institution, and to this end the certificate of ownership must be submitted.

Finally, if the deceased held any loans or credits, substitution of the owner must be accepted by Banco Santander and treated as subrogation of the borrower at any of the bank's branches.

FAQs for arranging execution of a will

Who can apply for execution of the will?

This procedure may be carried out by anyone with a legitimate interest in the inheritance, who must accredit this status with a death certificate, certificate of last wishes and the testament or act of notoriety.

What is the certificate of last wishes?

It is a mandatory document issued by the Ministry of Justice accrediting whether a person has made a will, and the notary with whom it was drawn up.

What is the act of notoriety?

For a person who has not made a will, the act of notoriety is a notary document stipulating the heirs.

How can I formalise acceptance and distribution of the inheritance?

This can be carried out in a public document (drawn up by a notary) or in a private document signed by all the heirs. Their signatures must be acknowledged by a bank or authenticated by a notary.

What is the timeline for payment of inheritance and donation tax?

It must be paid within six months of the death.

Can I charge the inheritance and donation tax against the positions owned by the deceased?

Yes, it is possible to use the property of the deceased at the bank to pay taxes. Death and inheritance rights must be accredited to do so, and all the heirs must issue instructions in this respect.

Do bills continue to be paid by direct debit from the deceased's account?

Yes, unless instructions to the contrary are issued by all the heirs.

What happens if the balances in the account have changed at the time of distribution?

The heirs must issue new instructions for distribution in relation to the current balance. It is advisable to do this in percentages on the existing balance at the time of distribution.

Who is the usufructuary?

This is the person who is entitled to use and enjoy property, without owning it.

What is bare ownership?

This is the right of a person to an item of which the person is merely the owner, but has no right to possess or enjoy it, as these will be the rights of the third party entitled to usufruct.

What happens if the account balances have been awarded in usufruct and bare ownership?

New instructions must be issued to award the balances in full ownership.

How are usufruct and bare ownership assessed?

In tax regulations, usufruct is assessed using the following formula:

89 – age of the usufructuary

The result obtained will be the percentage of the value of usufruct.

Whereas bare ownership is assessed with the following formula:

100 – value of usufruct

The result obtained will be the percentage of the value of bare ownership.

Example: if the usufructuary is 60 years old, the value of the usufruct is 89-60 = 29. The value of the usufruct is 29% of the balance in full ownership. And the value of bare ownership will be 100-29 = 71. In other words, the party with bare ownership will be awarded 71% of the balance in full ownership.

What happens to the debts of the deceased?

All the heirs are subrogated for debts, and they are all jointly liable. Any undertaking of debt other than a joint undertaking must be expressly approved by the bank.

If you are in a situation in which you have to administer execution of a will, you can download the Practical guide to executing a will for heirs and beneficiaries:


Do you still have doubts concerning any of the legal aspects of the process?

Banco Santander operates a guidance service for heirs on 900 10 49 28 (from 09.00 to 19.00 Monday to Friday, except public holidays). Here we will inform you of all the steps to be taken in the execution of a will, and the documentation to submit for the procedure and to determine the beneficiaries of insurance.

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