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Own a property abroad? Your will can still be affected by European law

06 February 2024

Do you own a property abroad? If so, did you know that your will can still be affected by European law? If not, it’s worth reading on.

Despite opting out when it was first introduced – and having since left the European Union altogether – UK nationals with property abroad are still affected by this particular regulation.

Brussels IV is an EU regulation that was widely adopted across the European Union around 10 years ago in an attempt to unify succession laws across the continent. As has been the case since August 2015, it applies to the estate of any person who dies with a connection to more than one European member state.

Every country has its own set of rules which govern who inherits your estate on your death. 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. This 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 regulation also meant 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 didn’t sign up to the regulation, Brussels IV still impacts UK nationals who own property abroad – even in a post-Brexit world.

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.

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Our Legal 500-rated wills, trusts & probate team has the expertise to help you plan for the future and guide you through any difficult challenges that may arise, including those relating to owning property abroad.

Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
Simon Cook LLB (Hons), TEP
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Simon Cook
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