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Atypical expat family living in Spain

By Charles Hutchinson - Topics: Moving to Spain, Spain
This article is published on: 15th May 2020

Once upon a time there lived a British family in Southern Spain. I say British but in fact the wife had dual nationality, being both American and British. In fact they are still here.

They have 3 children, one adult son from her previous marriage living in the Middle East, their second son in boarding school in England and the youngest, their daughter, with them in Spain. His last position had been as an eminent surgeon in a well known teaching hospital in London. She had been a very successful realtor (estate agent) on the East coast of the USA. They had met through mutual friends when he was at medical conference in Boston. She brought with her to the marriage a respectably sized share portfolio which she had accumulated over the years.

They have a large five bedroom house in leafy suburbia in Surrey, UK. They have owned it since the arrival of their first child, several years after marrying. He sold his flat in central London a couple of years after their wedding and commuted to work every day from Dorking. Summer after summer brought nothing but rain and unpredictable weather. They finally decided to throw in the towel and move, lock, stock and barrel to Andalucia where they purchased a lovely house with gorgeous views over the Mediterranean. There in their retirement they play golf and have grown a circle of good friends, enjoying the lifestyle they had dreamt of in the UK. They rent out their Surrey home to visiting foreign film crews and have it managed by a competent agent.

They have a fair sized investment portfolio with a UK stockbroker who has underperformed their peers over the previous decade, which he learnt from talking to fellow golfers in the 19th hole at the club. He has become keen to change his broker and the portfolio, but is very concerned about the potential Capital Gains Tax.

estate planning

Relations with their eldest son have become increasingly strained due to his stepfather’s disapproval of her son’s lifestyle in Dubai. It has reached a point whereby he has changed his English Will to exclude him from his half of the joint estate. The parents do not have Spanish Wills.

Also growing is the worry about their house in the UK with rising maintenance costs and property taxes. The decision has been made to sell it. In any event, over the years they have owned it they are sitting on a very fine profit. But it seems that they can no longer label it as their prime home. After all, they have been resident in Spain for some considerable years.

Brexit arrived rather suddenly and they have become aware of their potential position as non EU citizens after the final deadline in December 2020.

While they have appointed a UK estate agent to handle the sale of their UK home, Covid-19 has arrived on the global scene. They watch with horror as their portfolios tumble in value. Before the arrival of the virus, they had a sale agreed and their lawyer has taken a large deposit on exchange of contracts. Now the property market is falling away.

Several of their acquaintances both in the UK and in Spain have contracted the virus and they are getting nervous of their own position, their children’s and what to do if they catch it. He is over 65 and becoming more vulnerable as time passes.

UK share portfolio

This couple faces several significant problems:

  • She has a US share and bond portfolio which is fully exposed to US taxes
  • He wants to sell out their UK portfolio and change holdings. It still shows a considerable gain
  • They want to sell their UK home which is still showing a considerable gain
  • They have no Spanish Wills which would cause problems in the event of first death, not least if the eldest son invoked Spanish Succession Law, to inherit his share
  • Although resident in Spain from several angles, they are not actually tax resident here but still tax resident in the UK
  • Apart from tax considerations, their residence status would become questionable in December 2020 (if the Brexit negotiations deadline is realised)
  • They need to complete the sale of their UK home as soon as possible before the market falls much further and their buyer pulls out (despite the hefty deposit he has made)

You might think this is just a story, but with only a few changes this was the reality of two of my longest held clients. Not all of the above may apply to you, but I’m sure certain elements of this brief bio resonate with many of you. The important thing to remember is that every element of this situation has a solution. As advisers here in Spain, we are expats too, and over the past years we have come across all (and more) of these situations. And we have always delivered a solution.

Do you relate to, or are you faced, with any of these issues? Do you know someone who does? They all have a solution. Why not call me for a chat over a coffee? If we are still in lockdown, we can talk about it on the telephone, all in the strictest confidence, of course.

Article by Charles Hutchinson

Charles HutchinsonIf you are based in the Costa del Sol area you can contact Charles at: charles.hutchinson@spectrum-ifa.com for more information. If you are based in another area within Europe, please complete the form below and we will put a local adviser in touch with you.

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