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Estates with assets across Europe

When a person dies in the UK leaving assets in another EU country this may be affected by the new EU cross-boarder inheritance laws.

The Regulation (EU) No. 650/2012 of the European Parliament and of the council of 4th July 2012 is known as the EU Succession Regulation. UK.
Nationals are urged to review their Wills and make sure they have stated in their Wills (made the relevant election) that the regulation applies to the succession of their estate.  This is applicable to deaths on or after 17th August 2015.
The United Kingdom adopts the idea of testamentary freedom, whereby you are free to leave your estate to whoever you wish under your Will. This means that you decide where you want your estate to go following your death and the law does not dictate where you must leave your estate.
This idea of testamentary freedom is not followed in many European countries such as France and Spain.
In these countries, the law specifies how your estate is to be divided between family members upon your death, whether or not you are happy with that division.
The forced heirship rules tend to apply to “immovable property” such as land and property as opposed to “movable property” such as shares and bank accounts. Moveable property can be dealt with under your English Will and English laws can be applied to the distribution of it.
Since 17th August 2015, it is now possible for a testator (a person making a Will) to override succession laws in the majority of EU countries as a result of the new regulation.
This means that you can now opt out of the forced heirship rules that apply in a number of EU countries.  You can choose either the law of the country of your nationality or the last country where you regularly resided.
It is still advisable to have a foreign Will local to the country in which your assets are held, primarily to ensure that administration matters are dealt with as efficiently as possible, but any clients who live in the United Kingdom and who have assets in any other EU member country, are urged to review both their UK Wills and their foreign Wills, although they should be careful not to revoke one Will with the other.
Consideration should also be given to the inheritance tax consequences of choosing whether or not the regulation should apply to your estate.
For further advice or assistance please contact our Wills & Trust team.