An EU Regulation, known as ‘Brussels IV’, which seeks to simplify the devolution of estates with connections to more than one member state will take effect from 17th August 2015.
Although the UK has opted out of the Regulation for the time being, it will still have an impact on British people with assets elsewhere in Europe and on other Europeans with assets here in the UK. The UK retains the option to opt in at a later date.
One interesting provision allows an individual to choose which law should apply to the succession of his whole estate. At the moment, broadly, houses and land are governed by the law of their location. French law will apply to a second home in France even if the owner is English, so the house has to be left in a way that is acceptable under French law. This means leaving a certain proportion of it to each child. Under the new Regulation, if the English owner stated in his Will that English law was to apply to his whole estate, he might circumvent French succession laws and dispose of his French house freely.
Although the Regulation specifically states that it does not deal with taxation, its implications will nevertheless become an important consideration in Will drafting in the future.
For more information about preparing Wills and the international element, please contact a member of our Private Client team.