European succession regulation

This regulation came into force in August 2015 and it harmonizes certain aspects of the law of succession of the majority of the member states of the EU. The UK and Ireland are not signed up to it. Nevertheless, executors who are involved in administering an estate with property in France or Spain or Malta or certain other EU countries, should be aware of its provisions.

In short, the objective of the regulation is to provide a standard test to determine the system of law to govern the succession to a deceased person’s estate and to provide for the courts of that jurisdiction to determine disputes relating to such succession. Although the basic principle under the regulation is that the appropriate law will be that of the state in which the deceased is habitually resident at his or her death, this is subject to the right of a testator to choose the law of his or her nationality at the time of making the will. Accordingly, where a British citizen owns property in a European state (which has signed up to the regulation) of which he or she is an habitual resident it will be possible for him or her to elect for English law to apply with the consequence that English succession law will be applied to that property. Therefore a British citizen owning land in France could prescribe English law to apply to the devolution of the French land.

What impact Brexit will have is yet another uncertainty.

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