Holiday home wills with Humphries Kirk Solicitors

Holiday home in Europe?

| Published on March 3, 2017

Holiday home in Europe?

Do you own a second home in Europe? If so, have you considered what will happen to that property when you die?

Many European countries, excluding England, apply ‘forced heirship’ rules meaning that, on someone’s death, close relatives (commonly children) have shares reserved to them which cannot be overridden by a Will.

For example, in the case of French property, the children of the deceased owner will often take priority over a spouse or civil partner and cannot be disinherited. This has previously been the case even if the owner is British.

However, since August 2015 there is good news for owners who live in, or are members of, most EEA states.

The new European Succession Regulation states that, where a person owns real estate in one of most other European countries, the law of the country where the owner usually resides will apply on death.

There is currently some uncertainty exists as to how the resolution will work in practice.

For example, in the case of a British national who lives in England and owns property in France, it is uncertain if France will accept that English law applies, allowing the owner to leave the house to whomever they wish in a Will. This is because English law has always ensured that the law of the country where the property is situated takes priority. Does this mean that, despite the new Regulation, French forced heirship provisions could still apply in these circumstances?

Until the position becomes clearer there is a way to ensure that, in such a scenario, French law does not look to English law. The British national in this position should make a new Will specifically opting for English law to apply to his worldwide estate when he dies.

A separate question is whether someone owning assets (whether property or other assets) abroad should also make a separate Will in the other country. It is essential to co-ordinate Wills and planning in each country concerned to ease the administration of the foreign estate.

We can advise on Wills and other estate planning tailored to your specific circumstances, taking into account your country of residence, domicile and nationality status as well as any changes that you expect in future, and we can where needed liaise with foreign lawyers on your behalf.

It is important with the introduction of the new European Succession Regulation for foreign owners to take expert advice on these questions. Please contact your local branch of Humphries Kirk for further advice.

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