New rules on international successions
As more and more people live and work in another EU member state, the question increasingly arises: Which country's law is applicable at the time of succession? – That of the deceased's habitual residence, say the new rules adopted by the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 8 June.
Around 4.5 million estates are wound up in the European Union each year. About 10% of them are cross-border estates, estimated to be worth over 120 billion euros. The new regulation will give legal certainty to people living abroad who want to plan their succession. It will also help their heirs to avoid many legal and administrative complexities they might otherwise encounter on inheriting property in another member state.
The default criterion will be the habitual residence of the deceased at the time of death. That criterion will determine which law governs the transfer of all the assets, whatever their nature and wherever they may be located, and it will also determine the authority in charge. However, if people prefer to choose the law of the country of their nationality, they may do so by mentioning this in their will.
In addition, the regulation will create a European Certificate of Succession, which will allow people to prove, for instance, that they are heirs to or administrators of the estate. This certificate, which will be recognised throughout the EU, represents a significant improvement on the current situation in which people sometimes have difficulties exercising their rights or powers.
The issue of who is to inherit will be determined by the law applicable to the succession. Tax issues continue to be governed by national law.
The regulation, which was adopted jointly by the Council and the European Parliament, will be applicable - three years after its entry into force - in all member states except Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Regulation on cross-border succession (full text in pdf)
Council adopts EU-wide rules on matters of succession (press release in pdf)
Press conference video (several languages)