Since 17th August 2015, the Law relating to handing on your European property on death has radically changed. In one sense it has become a lot simpler, in that assets in member states will pass according to where the person owing that property is “habitually resident”, rather than different countries having different rules, but in reality the position has become a great deal more complex and it is vital to have good professional advice.
Even though the UK has not opted into this regulation, it will still affect anyone who has assets in a member state other than the UK, Ireland and Denmark. It is important to note, though, that it only relates to the succession to assets, not tax or ownership structures for instance.
One of the problems is the question of deciding where a person is “habitually resident” and this is not helped by the fact that this phrase is not defined in the legislation. The safest option will usually be, instead of relying upon this test, for anyone with property in a member state, such as France or Spain, to make an election that the law of your nationality, for instance England and Wales, will apply to the succession to your assets, which means that the “habitual residence” test will not apply.
However, this is not the end of the matter, for instance some people may have made an implied election without realising it and, if so, a further such election, this time an express one, might just confuse the situation.
Additionally, there is no clear answer now as to whether, if you are affected by the regulation because, for instance, you have assets in France or Spain, you should have separate Wills in both the UK and that country or you should have one worldwide Will or, as a third option, you again have two separate Wills, but this time both are made in the UK, with one covering UK assets and the other the overseas ones.
If you are affected by this, because you own property or other assets in Europe, it is vital that you take professional advice dealing with your specific situation and Adam Bruce would be pleased to help with this. Please contact him on (01267) 237441 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org