Julio 13

The Voice of the Child

Recently, Christopher Lee was invited to speak at the University of Genoa on the highly sensitive issue of gauging the views of children in Spanish court cases involving the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.  Following the conference, Christopher was asked to write an article (below) for The Judges’ Newsletter on International Child Protection, a journal that has for twenty years aimed at securing judicial education and co-operation in this highly specialised field.

Marzo 6

Expats die too…

Whether your great-aunt leaves you a coastal villa in Marbella or your grandfather bequeaths you his fashionable Madrilenian flat, one thing is certain: the hassles have just begun. The funeral over, you must begin to unravel Spanish red tape and prepare to pay your newfound Spanish tax liabilities…

Administering Spanish and UK estates differs greatly. Who pays inheritance tax (“IT”) is an example: Spanish IT is paid by beneficiaries, whereas in the UK it’s the deceased’s estate that foots the bill. To have Grandpa’s flat registered in your name (essential if you’re ever to sell it subsequently), you must first pay Spanish IT. Rates vary throughout Spain and depend on the familial relationship that links the beneficiary to the deceased (if related). Contrast this with the UK, where IT is paid at a flat 40% rate above a sizeable non-taxed sum.

To move in to your great-aunt’s villa, in addition to Spanish IT you must also pay local value increase tax (known as plus valía) to the town hall in Marbella, as well as Land Registry and Notary’s fees. The villa itself and all her other Spanish assets of significant value must be listed in an inheritance acceptance deed, including her Spanish bank accounts, her red Ferrari and her collection of Salvador Dali lithographs.

Enero 8

The International Child Abduction Lottery

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980 (the Convention) is one of a large number of conventions signed in the Hague but it stands out as possibly the most well-known – why? Probably because it deals with the emotional and sometimes highly publicised issue of child abduction.

The Convention’s aim is to have children swiftly returned to their country of habitual residence when someone – usually a parent – takes them from, or prevents them from returning to, that country in breach of the other parent’s rights.

When the Convention was first conceived, it was expected that it would mainly prevent fathers from turning up at school gates, bundling their children into fast cars and taking them off in clouds of dust. But the last four decades have shown that the reality is very different: most abductions involve no physical violence or spiriting-away of children in the middle of the night. Instead, the typical abductor is the mother and abduction occurs when – perhaps after a stay with the children in her original home country – she can’t bear to return them to the country where they were being brought up, her relationship with the children’s father having ended.