Connections with Europe?

If so, your Will may take effect differently post 17 August 2015.

On 17 August 2015 the European Union Succession Regulation (known as “Brussels IV”) came into effect. Nearly every European country signed up to this, the exceptions being the UK (of course), together with Denmark and Ireland.

While the UK is not a party to the agreement, other European countries are likely to interpret Wills made in the UK differently in light of the new laws. So, if you hold assets in Europe, or if you are from or live in another European country (or have done so) you should review the terms of your Will to see how this will now take effect.

Here is a back-of-an-envelope summary of the changes.

Where were we before?


Before 17 August 2015 the position was often fairly straightforward. A Will made in England (for an English domiciled person) would take effect for all assets in England, and for “moveable” assets in other countries (broadly everything save for land, or rights relating to land). Land would usually pass in accordance with the law of the country in which it was situated. A holiday home in France, for example, would pass under French law, and not to the person named in the English Will. This is crucial because French law includes “forced heirship rules” under which you are required to provide for your family in your Will. By comparison under English law you are broadly free to leave your estate to whoever you wish.

Where we are now?


Post 17 August 2015 it may be possible to choose the country whose laws will be applied to the distribution of your estate. For example, an English Will choosing English law, is likely to be applied to all the assets of the estate, including land held in other European countries.

Under the new rules, the position as to where assets in Europe pass where no Will is left is complex and uncertain. The starting point is that the law of the country in which you are “habitually resident” (usually live) will be applied to your estate if you hold any assets in this country. However there are exceptions to this rule and a person may be deemed to be more closely connected to a country other than the one in which they usually live, and in this case the laws of this country may be applied instead.

By making a valid Will including a clear choice as to which country’s laws are to be applied to the distribution of your estate, you could be saving your family or friends considerable uncertainty and complexity on your death.

If you do have assets in or connections with Europe, you are strongly advised to review the effect of your Will post 17 August 2015 with a competent specialist solicitor.

The AMD Solicitors private client department includes full members of ‘STEP’, the leading provider of specialist accreditation in this field. For advice on inheritance tax, administration of deceased estates, wills, lasting powers of attorney and all private client issues contact Florence Pearce or another member of the team on 0117 9621205, email, or call into one of our four Bristol Offices.

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This article is provided for general information purposes only and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at the date of uploading. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.

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