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Title deed

Sometimes, foreign customers contact our law firm in Marbella, requesting a copy of the “contract of purchase” for their property or their Spanish will. It is sometimes unclear what they are really asking for because they cannot distinguish a private document from a public deed.




When a foreign client comes to Spain to buy a property, it is not unusual that, prior to signing the deed, a private contract of sale is signed. This is often celebrated in the offices of the lawyers who advise both the purchaser and the vendor.


Title deeds in Spain: All you need to know


We are going to provide a summary of the documents (and variants) that are usually signed before a notary in Spain.


The “matrix,” or “protocol,” is the initial document signed by both parties before a notary. This original document contains the original signature of all the parties and the authorising notary for the deed. It is deposited in the notarial office under the notary’s protocol, or in case of disability or death, under the custody of the notary of the place that corresponds by law.


From this matrix deed, the notary in Spain will issue an authorised copy for the parties involved. The signatures of the parties, which appear on the matrix, do not appear on this copy. This authorised copy is issued on stamped paper: official sheets suitable for notarial documents. Each sheet is duly numbered and is unique so that any subsequent copy is unique.


The authorised copies may be total or partial, depending on whether the copy is issued in its entirety (as a literal reproduction of the matrix) or partially (without all the elements or documents included in the matrix). In both cases, these copies are authorised by a notary.


The authorised copies, in turn, can be issued in paper or electronic format. The authorised copy in paper format will bear the signature of the notary and the official seals. The electronic copy of the title deed is used by the notary to communicate with other public institutions and registries.


The interested party may request the authorised copy as an executive title or not, for use before the courts of justice.


In addition to authorised copies, the notary may issue what are called simple copies. These are issued on paper by the notarial college (although many notaries use common paper). Their function is merely informative, without having the validity of an authorised copy. Simple copies usually are used as an attachement to the settlement of Spanish taxes and the contracting of certain supplies. These supplies might include electricity, water and gas when referring to real estate, for example.


There is a special assumption when we talk about Spanish wills. If I wish to grant a will in Spain, I will take a simple copy of it once it is signed. The original will remains in the notary’s protocol; authoritative copies of it will not be issued. The notary authorising the testament will communicate it to the Spanish Register of Last Will Acts.


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