BRACE yourself – European legislation will haunt you to the grave and beyond! New rules on will writing affect UK residents with property in the EU, as well as expats, and it’s essential to get your head around the latest missive – Brussels IV, as it is known – to help you make sure your wishes are carried out following your death.
As you may be aware, some countries, like Spain have inheritance regulations which dictate how an Estate should be distributed following the death of any individual. The new rules mean that individuals can make a choice, through their Will, to apply their own national laws to the relevant succession assets that are in other EU states – this gives people more freedom to name beneficiaries as we see fit.
In England & Wales, we are very familiar with this concept, although this has been challenged recently in the UK by one disgruntled heir who was disinherited. But this is not the case in the majority of Europe, Spain included, where enforced heirship rules exist.
The key point is that no decision is made automatically – you need to be very clear about what you want.
In principle, the law that applies will be the law of the country where the deceased person had their habitual residence; unless either they were demonstrably more closely associated with another country, which is judged on a case-by-case basis; or if the deceased elected in their Will for their own national law to apply.
You should update your will regularly, anyway, but this new legislation should make it an absolute priority for anyone with property or other assets which they wish to bequeath to others on their death.
The new law applies to all deaths from August 17 2015 and applies to all 27 EU countries, with the exception of Denmark, UK and Ireland, all of whom opted out.
But even though the UK opted out, if you are a UK national with property and other assets in another EU states or you are a national from another EU state but living in the UK, then it does affect you.
What’s more, this is the perfect opportunity to review your long-term financial plans, too. Are your assets invested in the right place? Can you make savings or improve returns? It’s the perfect opportunity to make sure you can name your beneficiaries, but also maximise the amount you leave behind.