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El blog de Maria

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Legal tip 841. European inheritances
18 October 2012 @ 16:22

Here a great link with answers and questions on European Inheritance:


1. Will the new Community rules facilitate pan-European inheritance? What are the most important 

The new rules introduce a number of changes which represent some significant steps forward as far as European 
citizens’ rights are concerned:
- Harmonisation of the rules governing conflicting laws which define the law applicable to inheritance at European 
level. Henceforth it will be principally the law governing the final residence of the deceased which will be applicable. 
This harmonisation will facilitate the planning of inheritance for EU citizens or for those from third countries.
- Possibility for the deceased to choose a legal system other than that of his/her habitual residence to settle his/her 
legacy. While still living, he/she may choose the law of his/her nationality via the will, or, if appropriate, via a 
succession agreement.

- The single nature of the law applicable to the inheritance. The applicable legal system will govern the entirety of the 
inheritance. Thus no distinction will be made between real estate and movable goods, as used to be the case in 
certain States such as France.

- Creation of a European Succession Certificate which will streamline the settlement of cross-border inheritance, 
particularly on matters of proof effects and legitimisation. For example, it will constitute the proof of the status of heir 
in all Member States.
- In the absence of the requirement of legalisation or a similar requirement, acceptance and  circulation  of 
authenticated deeds within the European Union are facilitated by the rules.
2. As a European citizen resident in an EU country other than that of my nationality, I should like at this 
time to draw up a will and select the law which applies to my legacy. Is this possible? 

The rules will become applicable  in the summer of 2015. However, thanks to the temporary provisions of the rules, 
European citizens will be able to select the legal system applicable to their success as soon as it comes into force 
(summer of 2012).
In order to ensure that their choice is clear, they may, if appropriate, call on the services of a Notary. As a general rule,
the website provides an overview of the right of inheritance in the Member States in 23 
languages. This is an ideal tool for identifying basics answers to questions before calling in the Notary.
3. May I select the inheritance law of one specific State even if I do not reside there?

Yes, but this choice is exclusively limited by the rules deriving from the laws of the nationality of the deceased.

4. What happens where there are no immediate heirs? Is an international search for heirs undertaken?
The rules propose no solution to the matter of a search for heirs. The law of the court seised continues to govern the 
matter of discovering whether, and where appropriate, in what way the relevant authority should proceed to search for 

5. Which laws are applicable outside of Europe?

Outside of Europe, the question of the law applicable to inheritance continues to be settled differently. In some countries 
priority is given to the law of nationality, while in others, to the law of last residence. Others still make a distinction 
between real estate (the law of the location of the real estate) and movable goods (the law of the habitual residence). In 
the absence of legislative authority, European regulations are, of course, in no position to settle these differences in 
other countries.
Within the European Union, however, these new  rules on conflict of laws are universally applicable, including for 
residents of non-EU Member States. Hence the legacy of a Chinese living in Poland will henceforth be governed by 
Polish law, notwithstanding the right of the deceased when living to select Chinese law. It should be noted that Denmark, 
the UK and Ireland have not adopted the rules.

6. On tax questions, do the new rules change anything?

The rules do not apply to fiscal matters and have no effect on death duties to be paid by heirs.


We will be happy to assist you with these matters too! If you want, you can contact us at



Playa de Valdevaqueros, Isla de Tarifa y el Puerto de Tanger al fondo

"Playa de Valdevaqueros, Isla de Tarifa y el Puerto de Tanger al fondo", Tarifa, Cadiz, Southern Spain, by Chodaboy, at

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