Your Will – is it up to you or EU?

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Having assets in the EU (aside from the UK) can have a dramatic effect on your Will following your death, and if you have not taken the correct advice when you made your Will, your assets may not end up going to the people that you were expecting.

The EU Succession Regulation applies to deaths after 17 August 2015 and applies in all EU Member States except the UK, Republic of Ireland and Denmark.

This means the regulation may apply when you die if:

  • you own assets in the EU (perhaps a holiday home in France or Spain?)
  • you are a national of an EU Member State
  • you were living in an EU Member State before your death.

The regulation was designed to simplify the situation when someone dies with assets in more than one Member State. Instead of applying the rules of each of those different countries, a person can use just one set of rules to apply to the whole of their estate wherever their assets are located.

The problem can come when the Member State has rules setting out who must inherit your estate (this is known as “forced heirship”). In England and Wales we are free to leave our assets to whomever we wish to in our Will (with only a few exceptions). It may come as a shock to know that some countries in the EU do not allow the same freedom and their laws specify how a person’s estate must be divided up. If those country’s laws apply to your estate then what you have written in your Will may not be carried out, and your assets may be distributed in a way that you were not expecting.

By getting some detailed and tailored advice to your own particular circumstances you can rest assured that your Will is prepared in the best way to navigate these rules so that your wishes will be carried out.


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