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New EU rules to ease cross-border successions


450 000 cross-border successions occur in the EU every year representing a considerable value, estimated to be worth more than EUR 120 billion.

Successions with cross-border elements are usually characterised by their high complexity. Succession law varies considerably from one EU country to another (find more information on national legislation on www.successions-europe.eu ). A major step to facilitate cross border successions was the adoption on 4 July 2012 of new European Union rules, which will make it easier for European citizens to handle the legal side of an international will or succession. Following a transition period, most of these new rules are applicable to successions as of 17 August 2015.

These new uniform rules of Regulation (EU)

No 650/2012 on jurisdiction,

applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession) will make sure that:

  • a given succession is treated coherently, under a single law and by one single authority;
  • citizens are able to choose whether the law applicable to their succession should be that of their habitual residence or that of their nationality;
  • parallel proceedings and conflicting judicial decisions are avoided;
  • mutual recognition of decisions relating to succession in the EU is ensured.

However, the initiative in no way alters the substantive national rules on successions.

The following issues continue to be governed by national rules:

  • who is to inherit or the share of assets going to children or spouses;
  • property law and family law in an EU country;
  • the tax arrangements for assets making up a succession.

The Regulation also creates a European Certificate of Succession to enable a person to prove his or her status and rights as heir or his or her powers as administrator of the estate or executor of the will without further formalities.

This represents a considerable improvement compared to the situation in the past where people sometimes have great difficulty exercising their rights. The results are faster, easier and cheaper procedures.