A NEW EU inheritance law will come into effect this August, overriding existing local laws.

Antonio Flores
Antonio Flores

The law will apply to the succession of people who die on or after August 17.

While the main concepts of this new law may seem simple, the name given to it is truly mind-boggling:

Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession.

Now, let’s not get carried away with legalese.

Let us get straight to the most relevant points of the law – by doing so maybe we can kill the expat rumour mill before it wreaks havoc.

The major change is that people will be able to choose whether the law applicable to their succession will be that of their habitual residence or their nationality.

This is on the understanding the former law will apply by default if they do not choose.

This has great implications in Spain where children have an automatic entitlement to two thirds of the estate.

This choice shall be made expressly in a declaration in the form of a disposition of property (will or codicil), or shall be demonstrated by the terms of such a disposition.

If you already have a will, check if it contains terms that indicate that the national law – sometimes described as personal law – will apply.

Most wills state this when noting that “the testator’s wishes are in accordance to his or her national law”, which in my opinion will suffice.

Where there is no provision to the effect in a will and the testator wishes to avoid the application of Spanish succession laws, we recommend drafting a new will.

Finally, we still recommend property owners to have a Spanish will as well as one in the countries where they own assets, at least until we know how easy (or not) it will be to enforce wills in other EU states.

This applies to the UK and Ireland in particular, as neither country is bound to the application of this new regulation.


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