On 17 August 2015 Regulation (EU) 650/2012 (known as Brussels IV) becomes effective. This will have a material effect on anyone in England and Wales who has assets in another EU member state.
The aim of Brussels IV is to remove obstacles for the free movement of persons in relation to cross border estates and to allow EU citizens to organise their affairs on death to ensure that their chosen beneficiaries are provided for.
Currently each EU member state has different rules which apply to a person’s assets when they die. In the UK, in principle, it is possible to leave your estate to whoever you wish. This is different to other EU countries who operate a civil law system. Often in these countries, the law determines who will benefit when you die (often known as forced heirship rules). In many cases there is a conflict of laws, practices and definitions of property between the various states.
From 17 August 2015 it will be possible to elect to apply the law of your nationality (eg England and Wales) for succession matters in other EU member states. Although the UK has not opted in to Brussels IV, it will still apply and it will be possible to elect for the UK law to apply to assets in another EU member state. This legislation is new and complex and it is still unclear how in practical terms the relevant authorities in different member states will apply it.
It is important to note that if you do have assets in another EU member state, that this legislation will be in force from August 2015 and you need to ensure that you have a new valid will in place which properly governs the succession of all your EU assets.
Naomi Turner of the Contemporary Wills Company Limited will be able to review your current will, if you have one, and advise of any changes required in the light of this new EU Regulation.