EU Succession Rules
  • 22nd Feb 2016

If you have a connection with any of the EU member states listed below, or expect to have a connection with any of them in the future, the EU Succession Regulation may affect what happens to your estate when you die. You may need to amend your Will or make a new one, and advice you have received in the past in relation to your assets may no longer be true.

What is the EU Succession Regulation?

Regulation 650/2012 (Brussels IV) applies to deaths occurring on or after 17 August 2015.

The aim of this Regulation is to clarify which country’s law will govern who inherits your assets after you have died.

Does the EU Succession Regulation apply to me?

The Regulation will apply to you if you satisfy both of the following requirements:

  1. You have connections with more than one country (eg you own property abroad or you are a national of one country but live in another); and
  2. One of those countries is an EU member state where the regulation applies

At present, the Regulation applies to all EU member states apart from Denmark, Ireland and the UK.

The following countries are candidates to join the EU and it is expected that the Regulation will apply to them if they do join: Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey.

What does the EU Succession Regulation say?

The general rule is that the law governing succession of your assets will be the law of the country in which you are habitually resident at the time of your death (in other words, the law of the country you are living in and consider to be “home”), unless:

  1. You were more closely connected with another country when you died; or 
  2. You specified in your Will or Codicil which country’s law would apply. This does not have to be the law of a country to which the Regulation applies.

If the Regulation applies to you, we strongly recommend that you review your Will to ensure that your estate will pass in accordance with your wishes and in the most tax-efficient way.

What if the EU Succession Regulation does not apply?

Countries where the Regulation does not apply will continue to apply their own conflict of laws rules.

Under English Private International Law, succession to a person’s buildings and land (known as “immoveable property”) will be governed by the law of the country in which it is located. Succession to everything else in a person’s estate (known as “moveable property”) will be governed by the law of the country where they are domiciled when they die.

Making an election to choose which law will govern succession of your assets

When you instruct us to draft your Will we will always ask whether you have any foreign assets. If you do, we will discuss with you whether it would be appropriate to include a provision in your Will setting out which country’s law you wish to govern succession to these assets to ensure that your estate will pass to your chosen beneficiaries in the way that you intend.