New Recruit Lynn Vowles Advises Foreign Property Owners To Make A Will

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It’s time to up-date your Will this Summer, says Solicitor Lynn Vowles.

This Summer the European laws on succession (what happens to your property when you die) are due to change with the introduction on 17th August of the EU Succession Regulation (known as Brussels IV).

This potentially will have a huge effect on those British citizens who own property abroad in the EU zone as the rights of succession for the citizens of the EU member states (except the UK, Ireland and Denmark which have opted out) is set to change.

The effect of this is that instead of the member states individually deciding whether to apply their own succession laws there will be a uniform approach by the 25 European Countries. If the last place of habitual residence of the deceased was a member state it will be the succession law of that member state which will apply to the property of the deceased.

Although the UK has opted out of this regulation, it is still of significance here because anyone can nominate the law that is to apply to their assets on death under a ‘choice of law provision’ in their Will, provided they nominate the state whose nationality they possess at the time of making their Will or at death. The law of that country will then apply to all of the deceased’s assets across the Brussels IV zone. This is obviously of significance to UK nationals who have property both here and elsewhere in the EU.

If a UK national is habitually resident in England and has assets both in England and elsewhere in the EU, then in order to ensure that English law applies to all of their assets they would have to elect for English succession law to apply by making a statement to this effect in their Will. If this is not done then it may be that the law of the country where the assets are located that will apply. This can cause huge problems, particularly when assets are held in countries such as France and Spain where succession laws require that assets are divided between children.

For a UK national habitually resident elsewhere in the Brussels IV zone then the succession laws of where they are habitually resident will apply to the assets there. Due to the UK’s opt-out, any English assets will still pass in accordance with English law.

Any person who lives in, owns property in or is moving to a Brussels IV state who does not already have a Will should ensure to make one and any such person with a Will should review that Will to take into account the forthcoming changes.

For further advice on this issue please contact Lynn Vowles at Andrews Ritson Solicitors on 01746 769700 or