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.

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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 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. 

Comment by Sheila Walshe-Blackmore on March 8, 2012 at 10:21

Good idea Brian.  I have no idea who they are as I wasn't in Ireland for the last elections!  Must look up on t'internet.  We used to live in a 5-seater constituency, so will find who got elected by the least votes - in the vain hope he or she will be hoping to improve relations with the voters for next time, which of course could be sooner than we think!

Comment by Brian Cave on March 8, 2012 at 10:14

I have written to Mark Harper (my MP representative) asking him to get clarification from the Minister for Europe (David Lidington).  You may desire to write to 'your' MP.

Comment by Sheila Walshe-Blackmore on March 8, 2012 at 9:40

I'd like to know more.  If Britain and Ireland have opted out, can British and Irish citizens resident in France still use this legislation?  It would be far easier for us to draft our wills, knowing they would be probated in Ireland and thus avoiding the ridiculous inheritance laws that exist in France!

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