Property overseas? Get ready for big changes to EU inheritance law

If you are lucky enough property in Europe then you need to be aware of changes coming into effect from 17th August 2015 and make sure you act on them to take full advantage of these new rules.

From this day forward anyone who owns property in an EU country can select which inheritance laws they choose to apply to their estate.

This means that if you own a home in France you can either do nothing, allowing that property to be distributed according to French inheritance laws, or you can specify in your Will that you would like it dealt with under English Common Law just as if it was located here in the UK.

Why should I choose between EU and English inheritance laws?

The inheritance rules in England differ hugely from the ones in the EU. Under English law you can choose to leave your property to whoever you wish, however in Europe things are very different.

A ‘forced heirship’ rule means that at least 50% of your estate in that country must be equally divided between all of your children.

If for some reason you don’t want to do this then you must update your Will to specify that you want your estate dealt with under English Law.

What if I have already given my property away to one of my children?

Under EU ‘Clawback’ Laws any property given to a sibling can be clawed back and redistributed according to the ‘forced heirship’ rule.

These can range in time from 2 year in Austria to 10 years in Germany. Some countries even have no time limit applied to the clawback rule.

Therefore even if you have given away your foreign property it is advisable that you still update your UK Will to stipulate that you would like this property dealt with under English Common Law.

What if I don’t live in the EU but own property there?

Even if you live in America or Australia and own property in Europe you can still specify that you want your EU propertydealt with under your home-country law.

If you are a resident in England the same applies, even if you live mostly abroad.

The key rule is that you can choose either the country of your ‘habitual residence’ or ‘nationality’In other words, you can put a provision in your Will stating that you wish English law to be the applicable law for your assets situated in an EU State.

What if I live in the EU but still want my property governed by English Common Law?

This rule applies even if you are living full time in the EU. For example you’ve retired to Spain and live their full-time.

You can still specify that you want your Spanish property distributed under English Common Law by having a provision in your Will saying something like:

“I, John Smith, wish the devolution of my property in Spain to be governed by the law of my nationality”.

How do I make sure my EU assets are distributed under English Common Law?

To take advantage of this new rule you must have your Will amended with the necessary clause. Speak to your Will Writer today and arrange to have your Will reviewed.

Known as the ‘selection of the law of nationality’ it is advisable that you have this clause inserted into your Will by a professional Will writer to avoid any complications or problems further down the line.

What do I do next?

Contact Hillman Legal Team on 0800 29 88 66 1 and speak to a member of the Wills Team today.