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European Succession Regulation, Dorset and Somerset Solicitors, Humphries Kirk

Holiday home in Europe – European Succession Regulation

| Published on September 22, 2015

Holiday Home in Europe – European Succession Regulation

Do you own a second home in Europe? If you do have you considered what will happen to that property when you die?

Many European countries, but not England, apply what are called ‘forced heirship’ rules which mean that, on someone’s death, close relatives, commonly children, have shares reserved to them which cannot be overridden by a Will.

For instance, in the case of a French property, the children of the deceased owner will usually take priority over a spouse or civil partner and cannot be disinherited. Until now this has been the case even if the owner is British.

However, since August 2015 there is good news for owners who live in or who are members of most EEA states.

The new European Succession Regulation provides that, where a person owns real estate in one of most other European countries, the law of the country where the owner habitually resides will apply on death.

In the case of an English national who lives in England and owns a house in, say, France, it is not at present clear, however, whether France will definitely accept that English law applies when the owner dies, meaning that the owner can leave the house to whomever he likes in a Will. This is because English law, in turn, has always provided that the law of the country where the property is situated takes precedence. Does this mean that, notwithstanding the new Regulation, French forced heirship provisions will still apply in these circumstances?

Until the position becomes clearer there is a way to ensure that French law does not look to English law which then refers the matter back to French Law (the technical term for this is renvoi). The English national in this position should make a new Will now specifically opting for English law, being the law of his nationality, to apply to his French property when he dies. This will remove any doubt that English internal law will apply, without the question being referred back under renvoi to the French position.

A separate question is whether someone owning assets (whether a house or other assets) abroad should also make a separate Will in the other country. We consider that this is important, not least in order to ease the administration of the foreign estate. It is essential to co-ordinate wills and estate planning in each country concerned.

We can advise on wills and other estate planning tailored to your specific circumstances, taking into account your residence, domicile and nationality status as well as any changes that you expect in future, and we can where needed also liaise with foreign lawyers on your behalf.

It is important with the introduction of the new European Succession Regulation for foreign owners to take expert advice on these questions. Do contact your local office of Humphries Kirk solicitors offices in Bournemouth, Poole, Parkstone, Dorchester, Swanage, Wareham and solicitors in Somerset for further advice.

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