The European Union news agency  ‘Eur-Active’ on March 1st.  announced an important new item of legislation which might (or might not!) affect the hundreds of thousands  of British citizens in Europe.   It concerns inheritance.  The item is produced verbatim below.

This piece of legislation brings into sharp focus why the British citizen needs some form of representation at Westminster!

Britain has opted out of this legislation.

Queries??   Has it thereby opted out every Briton in Europe? Or not?

Can a Briton in France in future  choose which inheritance rule his inheritance will follow?    French or British?

Can a Frenchman dying in Britain choose? Or must he follow British Law?

Is someone with dual nationality stuck with French law?

Can you choose that your property is inherited under the law of Britain?

But who speaks for us the British Expatriate in these matters?  No one!

European Certificate of Succession inheritances

To view the original

EU citizens living in a different country than their own will be able to choose which legislation applies when their heirs settle legal inheritance matters,  effectively preventing legal disputes between courts.

The legislation represents big progress for European citizens, said centre-right German MEP Kurt Lechner, in charge of the report, which was adopted unanimously by the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee.

”It’s a big step forward for the testator, who will be able to exercise his freedom to deal with his succession, and a huge simplification for the heirs,” said Lechner.
In a nutshell, citizens living in another EU member state will be able to state in a so-called European Certificate of Succession which national system they want their inheritance to go through in order to safeguard the rights of heirs, as well as other parties, such as creditors.

For example, an Italian woman married to a Briton and living in Belgium will have the option to choose whether her heirs inherit assets under Italian or Belgian law, avoiding jurisdictional legal disputes.

The use of the certificate is not mandatory. If the person who dies does not draw up a will or a certificate, his or her succession will be dealt with under the law of the member state where he/she had her residence.

The European certificate avoids conflicts that could otherwise come up if several courts in different member states declared themselves competent to handle the inheritance.
”The death of a family member is a sad and traumatic event, without additional legal headaches,” said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, the Commission’s vice president.
The new law on international successions affects millions of citizens. In 2010 more than 12 million people lived in an EU member state other than their own, an increase of 3 million compared to 2005.

The trend in cross-border ownership of assets is also growing massively. It is therefore likely that more assets may be inherited across borders than in the past and that this trend will continue in the future, with consequent tax problems. Potential cross-border inheritance cases range from 290,000 to 360,000 per year.
“I hope that Parliament and Council will be able to come to a final agreement soon. Notably, the European Certificate of Succession would substantially facilitate the legal formalities for successions in cross-border situations,” said Reding.
The regulation would not apply in
UK and Ireland, as their respective governments decided to exercise their right to opt out.

Views: 1720

Tags: Inheritance, Representation

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Comment by Helen Curran on March 12, 2012 at 9:44

We are resident in France, and have been for 23 years. We have no property and hardly any pension rights in the UK. We have given each other the usufruit on our house here. Does anyone know where we can get good advice about inheriting from the UK? We have elderly parents in the UK and are not keen to pay inheritance tax twice, once in the UK and then again when we bring anything over here.....

Comment by Glen Allsopp on March 11, 2012 at 14:49

Britain has opted out perhaps as it has no need to be in! In the UK you can leave your estate to whomsoever you wish to in your will. In France, the government forces you to leave your property to your children whether you want to or not, you can not disinherit them under French law. I sincerely hope that this legislation covers Brits in France as it simplifies matters when one half of a partnership dies, they can leave their estate to the other half without any children trying to claw at what they see as theirs.

Comment by Brian Milne on March 9, 2012 at 13:59

thanks guillaume, guess we shall stick with the swiss for prosperity

Comment by Guillaume Barlet-Batada on March 9, 2012 at 12:26


I have (quickly) read the proposal (this is still only a proposal so not enforceable as yet) of regulation which is very limited and overall falls short of the expectations raised by the Green Paper from which this piece of legislation stems.

In effect, the proposal is rife with restrictions to its application. This regulation:

-          does not cover tax matters: the only question (partially) covered is therefore, “who receives the estate and in which proportion?” and not “who pays inheritance tax and in which proportion?”

-           does not cover matrimonial property regimes (marriage settlements) so this would have to be dealt with first before applying the rules set out in the regulation (which is a bit pointless if the marriage settlement contradicts wishes conveyed by the Certificate mentioned in the proposal).

-          does not cover questions relating to the creation, administration and dissolution of trusts so, like the marriage settlements, the consequences of a trust would have to be dealt with first which makes the use of a Certificate irrelevant or very limited at best.

-          does not cover immovable property (i.e. houses and equivalent assets).

-          does not cover gifts including lifetime gifts: this is a very sensitive area as many bilateral treaties do not cover this topic either, leaving the subject in legal and tax limbo.

Considering the above limitations (only the main ones have been mentioned but many others are included in the proposal) and since the UK and Ireland opted out, it is very difficult to see when this regulation would be efficiently applicable without incurring additional formalities and costs. The regulation mentions the determination of the applicable law is usually made according to the concept of habitual residence whereas the concept of domicile is retained from a UK perspective. The addition of a Certificate in the procedure when an individual is deemed UK domiciled will only increase the possibilities of dispute which is the opposite goal of the regulation.

I know the original intentions were honourable but I would be very surprised if (like many elements of European legislation on succession matters) this regulation will be in any way applicable in practice.

I hope this helps.

Comment by Sheila Walshe-Blackmore on March 9, 2012 at 10:57

I'm sure Guillaume will be able to offer some clarification here.  However, under Irish law (and I imagine it is not too dissimilar to UK law), you have the right to leave both "personal" (i.e., money, shares, assets, etc.)  and "real" estate (i.e., land, property, etc.) to whomsoever you wish. There is a tax issue for any beneficiaries who are not your children - the tax threshold is much lower. 

My understanding of French inheritance laws is that regardless of whether you make a will, any "real" property is automatically bequeathed to your children - this can become an issue for couples who were married before and with children from the prior relationship. 

Comment by Jane Williamson on March 9, 2012 at 10:47

Steve, it sounds as though you have made a will, but was it made in England or France?

We have not altered our English will as it is very straightforward, it leaves everyting to our daughters and neither of us has been married before or have other children.

If you are concerned, why not have a french will made.

The only inheritance conditions which may affect us are proposed changes to the assurances vies.

Comment by Brian Milne on March 9, 2012 at 10:04

go with celeste all the way there. because I am a couple of decades older than my OH we have habitually made her own everything, nonetheless 'things' occasionally come to me which despite carefully explained phone conversations we are told I must deal with. my OH is swiss and children dual uk/swiss so all doubled up testaments, etc are fr and ch. the two countries are very different and actually ch from canton to canton that we have been unscrupulously thorough. however, we have avoided uk anything because of the good old phenomenon of all strands leading back to the inland revenue... if the uk is out of the european certificate then my sniffly little scots nose says stick with the french and one lot of tax. anyway, nice as it seems for those we leave behind, does it really matter once we have shaken off the mortal coil? as long as tax people can be deprived, fine by me.

Comment by Steve YATES on March 9, 2012 at 10:02

Will the French tax authorities really accept that I leave everything I have here to someone in the UK to whom I'm not married without trying to grab their share ?? 

Comment by celeste vogel-dillon on March 8, 2012 at 23:16

This has huge implications for EVERYONE --it makes making a Will soooo much easier --- funny we are in the process of drawing up a will here, we already have one -- but discovered that it is not valid here  !!!!! Yes i agree with you Sheila --- it would make things so much easier, as in Irish law you decide what how you want to dispose of your wealth  --- and how you want to distribute it ---

for us a will is easy ,1=1 , and when both of us are dead then the property  etc is divided equally  amongst our children--- but even that under french law is not recognised and causing us a lot of problems!!!!!!!   but for others it can be more complicated , especially  people with step children etc ,here in france , where there is automatic succession for children and very little right for the partner in the marriage -- on the death of one  of the partnership --- Napolionic law  may have been fine in that era --- but times have moved on ----  the demographics of families have changed --- wealth has changed --- it is about time that France was brought into the 21st century

Comment by Rodney Philip Harper on March 8, 2012 at 21:15

If the UK's decision to opt-out of the European Certificate of Succession Inheritances means that a British expat resident in France but still domiciled in Britain is not able to use this certificate to avoid UK inheritance tax, it makes a mockery of the government's claim that after 15 years away the expat has essentially severed all links with his/her country of birth and has thereby lost the right to vote in UK national elections. 

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