Owning a property abroad will require an update to your will

by Fletcher Day on September 25, 2015

Those who own a property in Europe are now able to exercise their freedom regarding who they decide will inherit their asset but if the owner wants to benefit from this they will have to take a look at their own will.

The EU Succession laws are seeing a change and this means that it has become easier for those families from Britain to handover assets that are located in Europe to anyone they wish through sidestepping prescriptive inheritance laws in countries such as Spain and France. The inheritance laws in Britain are slightly different to the rest of Europe because it is possible for British people to pass their estate on to anyone they wish. However, in the rest of Europe it is a different story because there are forced heirship rules that suggest who should inherit the estate and how much of it they are entitled to.

In the UK, if there is a married couple who have two children and one of the spouses dies then the surviving spouse would inherit the estate but things are different in countries such as France as the surviving spouse would only inherit 25% of the estate whilst the two children would inherit 75% of the estate between them. Estate planning specialists are even stating that the rules around property inheritance are even stricter.

Using France as an example again, if a holiday home is owned by a couple with children, when the first spouse passes away the property transfers to the children but the surviving spouse has the right to live in the property for the remainder of their life. This is called ‘life interest’. These were rules that applied regardless of whether there was an English will in place or not.

The rules were implemented several weeks ago and it now means that those people from Britain now have the right to include any assets they own that are located in Europe to be included under the UK inheritance laws.

This means that those people who own holiday homes and other assets in Europe should update their will so that they make ‘a choice of law’. Following this change of rules, the will shall state that there is a choice of law so that the law in England is applied and you can leave your asset to anyone you wish.

It is important to ensure that the will makes the claim, so it could be worth making the change, therefore, this should act as a prompt for those who do have property in Europe.

These new rules also apply to those who live abroad which means that for someone who is living in France and would like their UK will to apply to their house in France even though they are a resident in France can elect to have nation rules applied instead of residential rules.

The UK chose not to take on the EU rules around succession because there is a freedom surrounding people’s assets and what they wish to do with them but there is still a need for them to update their wills if these rules are to apply.

Fletcher Day
Fletcher Day are a Commercial Law Firm who have a main head office in Mayfair, Central London. They have provided their services for UK and International clients in countries such as Brazil, China, Malaysia, and Russia. We advise many different clients from large organisations, well-established businesses to individual clients on private matters.
Fletcher Day

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