A relative has recently passed away in Spain. I live in the UK.

They have left me 20% of their estate, my brother will receive 80%. I'm expecting this might be 20% of cash and some items such as a mobile home and motorbike, etc.

However they also owned land in Spain that contains an olive grove. I've heard that this land was bought naively when the relative was in the UK (before they went to live in Spain). I think the issue is that the land is undesirable, because it's part of an abandoned village that has renovation laws covering it, i.e. something like it can only be renovated back to it's original form and not flattened and rebuilt with new houses.

Whatever the laws, my relative chose to keep the land and simply harvested the olives each year.

My question is, when inheriting 20% of someone's estate, do you get to pick and choose what you take? I.e. could I take 20% of everything else, but leave my 20% of the land to my brother, or even the Spanish government/crown?

  • Is the will controlled by Spanish or UK law? If UK, is it the law of England and Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland?
    – phoog
    Jun 25, 2015 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


The following is for UK law - no idea what happens in Spain.

The will is a set of instructions that the executor of the will is required to carry out. It is the executor that decides how to give effect to the deceased's wishes.

If the will is as simple as "I give 20% to X and 80% to Y" then this is an unusually simple will (no make, I mean, its a right pain to give effect to). Then to give effect to this the executor must divide the estate by value.

In general, you do not choose what you get, the executor does. However, if you, the other beneficiaries and the executor can reach agreement on distribution then the executor can give effect to that.

Let's say, you can all agree that the value of the estate is (say):

  1. Cash and other negotiable instruments - $20,000
  2. Personal effects
    1. Motor home $15,000
    2. Motor bike $5,000
    3. Other $20,000
  3. Land in Spain $140,000

Then 20% is $40,000.

If you all agree that you will take the Cash, the Motor home and the Motor bike then the executor can give effect to that. If you can't agree then the executor will be required to liquidate the assets and split the cash and/or put the assets in joint names; which makes you "partners" in the asset which you may not want to be.

You can certainly gift anything you own to your brother after you get it but it would probably have to pass through your hands first for tax reasons

  • That's a fantastic answer, thanks so much for adding clarity to something I know nothing about. Jun 26, 2015 at 8:32
  • @AdrianThompsonPhillips I agree that this is a clear answer, but I worry that it may not be applicable in some jurisdictions, and it does not identify which jurisdictions it applies to.
    – phoog
    Jun 26, 2015 at 17:44

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