Wills and the EU Succession Regulation – Do you know the law?
It is that time of year once again, when thoughts turn to holidays and making the most of any sunshine we may get. For those of us lucky enough to own a holiday home abroad, it is important to think not only about booking our flights and planning days on the beach, but also about the legal implications of owning a property on foreign soil. This is especially important if you would like your loved ones to inherit the property after your death.
Many people are unaware that until August 2015, the local law in Europe on succession applied. So a property located in France would be bound by French succession rules, even if the remainder of your estate was located in England. Not only was this position extremely confusing, it also led to situations that seemed very unfair, such as property passing automatically to spouses or family members irrespective of the deceased person’s wishes.
To try and unify the rules on succession, the EU Succession Regulation (known as Brussels IV) was introduced in August 2015. The default position is now that the law will apply of the country in which an individual is habitually resident at the time of their death. So if a person owns property in France but lives and dies in England having been a resident here, English law will apply. It is also possible to elect the country that you are habitually resident of, by setting this out in your Will. This should simplify matters but many people are still unsure what, if any, action is needed.
The EU rules are complex and so far are untested by the courts. If you own a flat in Spain, a Gite in France or a pad in Corfu it is vital to take steps now. Make sure that you have a comprehensive and up to date Will prepared. You may need a second will in the country where you own property which dovetails with your UK will.
The new EU rule does not help outside the EU. So if for example you have a flat in Florida, then again a properly drafted will is vital. This should be done by a qualified experienced solicitor with specialist knowledge about the EU Regulation, who can advise you about the best way to protect your assets.