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How do EU inheritance laws impact me?

PUBLISHED: 11:52 22 August 2016

Understand EU succession rules when writing your will © aga7ta / Thinkstock

Understand EU succession rules when writing your will © aga7ta / Thinkstock

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New EU succession rules means there are now more options for Brits when deciding who inherits their French property, but it is important to understand them when writing your will

What is Brussels IV?

The Brussels IV Succession Regulation (EU 650/2012) was passed in 2012 and came into force in August 2015. The new regulation was designed with the aim of unifying the administration of a deceased person’s estate across the EU. It allows you to choose either the law of your nationality to apply to your estate or the law of the place where you are habitually resident, and your choice must be stated in a will. The UK, along with Denmark and the Republic of Ireland, did not ratify the regulation.

Read more: New European inheritance rules explained

How does this affect British nationals owning property or living in France?

Under this regulation a British national can now choose to apply UK law to his or her estate. Previously the French law of réserve héréditaire applied to any French property which meant that the deceased’s children were entitled to receive a portion of the deceased’s estate and couldn’t be disinherited. Now a British national can opt to have UK law apply to their French property and therefore avoid this if desired – however, French succession tax still applies which can be up to 60% for those not related to the deceased.

Read more: Succession tax rates in France

How does it work?

If you are a British national and you want UK law to apply to your French estate then you will have to make this clear in your will. You can have one will to cover all of your assets or a separate will covering your French assets – make sure you use a good solicitor who understands both UK and French law. It is advised to avoid using trusts because these aren’t often used in France and might confuse the notaire.

A notaire will handle the process in France and communicate with the appointed executor. Even if UK law is applied, French formalities still require documentation and evidence of assets and liabilities, some of which may need to be translated and legalised. The following is required:

For the deceased:

• The original will

• An affidavit from a cross-border specialist lawyer stating UK succession law

• A certified copy of the death certificate

• A certified copy of the birth and marriage certificate

• A passport

• A copy of the family register (no such thing exists under English law but a statement of family can be prepared and witnessed by a solicitor or notary in the UK)

• A copy of the certificate of a change of matrimonial regime if applicable

For each beneficiary:

• A certified copy of their birth and marriage certificates

• A certified copy of their passport

• A copy of their family register

• A copy of the certificate of a change of matrimonial regime if applicable

Assets and liabilities:

• Evidence of ownership of the property and whether it is jointly owned

• Evidence of any debts

Once the notaire has opened up the succession, ascertained all of the correct documentation and prepared an inventory, he or she will produce an acte de notoriété succession, similar to a UK grant of probate, which confirms ownership of the assets. At that point the property can be transferred.

If there is a succession tax liability then a declaration de succession must be submitted within six months of the date of death (or 12 months if the deceased died domiciled in the UK) to avoid tax penalties.

Information supplied by Simon Lofthouse, solicitor at Stone King and Matthew Cameron, solicitor at Ashtons Legal

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