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Own a property abroad? Ignore this at your peril!

30 November 2015

If you are already aware of the recent legislative change affecting succession law and think that because the UK has opted out of the change then the new rules do not apply to you, keep reading.

If on the other hand, you are blissfully unaware of the revolutionary step being taken in an attempt to unify succession laws applying to your property wherever it may be situated then… keep reading.

Brussels IV is the new EU regulation (Regulation) that has been a long time coming. It has been widely adopted across the European Union and applies to the estate of any person who dies after 17 August 2015, where that person has a connection to more than one European member state (for the purposes of the Regulation).

Generally speaking every country has its own set of rules which govern who inherits your estate on your death. Furthermore, each country also has its own set of rules to determine which country’s laws will apply to your estate when you die. If you own assets in more than one country, the various sets of rules can often conflict with each other. The Regulation aims to reduce the potential for conflict. One of the ways it does this is to allow you to elect in your will which country’s laws should apply to your estate on your death.

The implementation of the new Regulation could also mean that you may have inadvertently elected the law that will govern your estate on your death in your existing will, even if it does not explicitly mention this. This could mean that your will might not do what you thought it would.

Although the UK has not signed up to the Regulation, Brussels IV will still impact on UK nationals who own property abroad.

If, upon reading this, you know that Brussels IV applies to you, then whilst you should of course already have a will in place, now is the time to review it, to make sure that your wishes regarding your estate are carried out, and to reduce the potential for costly disputes.

If you have not made a will on the basis you will ‘get round to it later’, don’t let later get you first!

For advice, contact our wills, trusts & probate team

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Simon Cook LLB (Hons), TEP
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