Different countries have widely differing rules on succession to the assets of deceased persons. The EU Succession Regulation (known as Brussels IV) has been introduced to harmonise rules within the majority of EU countries.
When and where does it apply?
The Regulation applies to the succession of assets in the EU, except for the UK, Ireland and Denmark who have opted out. The Regulation applies to deaths occurring on or after 17 August 2015.
How does it affect succession?
– The default position is that assets will pass in accordance with the law of habitual residence of the deceased.
– That can be overridden by the law of another state “manifestly more closely connected” to the deceased.
– Furthermore, a person can choose to apply the law of their nationality by making a statement in a Will.
How does this affect British nationals?
– The opportunity to elect English law to apply to assets in relevant EU states will allow you to have the freedom to leave assets as you wish. For example, many continental regimes require that a fixed percentage of assets have to go to specific family members, while English law is more flexible.
– Even if you are a British national, if you are habitually resident in an EU country which has opted into the regulation, you should bear in mind that your place of residence is the default law of succession for participating states, unless you make the nationality election.
– As the UK has opted out of the Regulation, UK law will continue to apply to the succession to UK land. If you have UK land, you should therefore have a UK Will in place.
– Although a nationality election overrides rules of succession, it does not have any impact on continental regimes regarding matrimonial property.
– Although the Regulation states that where you have more than one nationality you can elect whichever of those you wish, that may be tested in member state courts on grounds of public policy if you are most closely connected to one of those nationalities.
– If you are a British national who owns assets elsewhere in the EU, you should consider putting in place or updating a UK Will to elect English law to apply to those assets, if appropriate.
– If you are not a British national and own land in the UK, you should continue to put a UK will in place, as the UK has opted out from the Regulation