Thursday, March 8, 2012


The European Union news agency  ‘Eur-Active’ on March 1st.  announced an important new item of legislation which might (or might not!) affect the hundreds of thousands  of British citizens in Europe.   It concerns inheritance.  The item is produced verbatim below.
This piece of legislation brings into sharp focus why the British citizen needs some form of representation at Westminster!
Britain has opted out of this legislation.
Has it thereby opted out every Briton in Europe? Or not?
Can a Briton in France now choose which inheritance rule his inheritance will follow?  French or British?
Can a Frenchman dying in Britain choose? Or must he follow British Law?
Is someone with dual nationality stuck with French law?
Can you choose that your property is inherited under the law of Britain?
But who speaks for us the British Expatriate in these matters?  No one! 
We have no voice! 

European Certificate of Succession inheritances

EU citizens living in a different country than their own will be able to choose which legislation applies when their heirs settle legal inheritance matters,  effectively preventing legal disputes between courts.
The legislation represents big progress for European citizens, said centre-right German MEP Kurt Lechner, in charge of the report, which was adopted unanimously by the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee.
”It’s a big step forward for the testator, who will be able to exercise his freedom to deal with his succession, and a huge simplification for the heirs,” said Lechner.
In a nutshell, citizens living in another EU member state will be able to state in a so-called European Certificate of Succession which national system they want their inheritance to go through in order to safeguard the rights of heirs, as well as other parties, such as creditors.
For example, an Italian woman married to a Briton and living in Belgium will have the option to choose whether her heirs inherit assets under Italian or Belgian law, avoiding jurisdictional legal disputes.
The use of the certificate is not mandatory. If the person who dies does not draw up a will or a certificate, his or her succession will be dealt with under the law of the member state where he/she had her residence.
The European certificate avoids conflicts that could otherwise come up if several courts in different member states declared themselves competent to handle the inheritance.
”The death of a family member is a sad and traumatic event, without additional legal headaches,” said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, the Commission’s vice president.
The new law on international successions affects millions of citizens. In 2010 more than 12 million people lived in an EU member state other than their own, an increase of 3 million compared to 2005.
The trend in cross-border ownership of assets is also growing massively. It is therefore likely that more assets may be inherited across borders than in the past and that this trend will continue in the future, with consequent tax problems. Potential cross-border inheritance cases range from 290,000 to 360,000 per year.
“I hope that Parliament and Council will be able to come to a final agreement soon. Notably, the European Certificate of Succession would substantially facilitate the legal formalities for successions in cross-border situations,” said Reding.
The regulation would not apply in
UK and Ireland, as their respective governments decided to exercise their right to opt out.